Apart from a few exceptions (which are vivid enough memories and such unique experiences they deserve their own post) the last I remember of going to local haunted houses, usually sponsored by a local rock radio station, you would get shuffled through a maze and some people with creepy make-up/costumes would come springing around a corner, go RAAAAWWR! or scream at you and sometimes grab you. This is actually scary if they put some care and showmanship into it, which they did much of the time.
But this, this horrifying shit, takes it to a whole new level. I realize that this is Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights (this was taped in 2012, if they still have the attraction when we can afford an actual vacation in a couple of years, we are going, paying extra for some VIP pass if we can) and they have unlimited money and talent. Well okay, not unlimited, but the budget allows for a lot more. Not just actors, but animatronics. BIG ones.
But let’s get to the back-story of La Llorona (which translates as ‘The Weeping Woman’). I love that they based it on not just a folktale/legend, but a Latino one, and a simple one at that. No elaborate, intricate back-story, just the right amount of the basics to let your imaginations fill in the blanks. This attraction would be scary as hell without the legend, now that I think of it, but they fill you in on the basic version while you’re waiting in line or entering the maze.
Here’s their version, and here’s a link to the Wikipedia page to read more. I am sincerely glad I did not hear the legend of La Llarona when I was a little girl, and already had my nightmares full of stories about licked hands, dead boyfriends with signs around their necks saying YOU SHOULD HAVE OPENED THE DOOR, and hooks dangling from car doors, among many others. I didn’t need this on top of the huge terrifying library of urban legends (mostly told to me by friends at slumber parties) that were stored neatly away in my head, where they stay to this day
“Immerse yourself in the horrific tale that has tainted the dreams of children for centuries, with new twists and turns, spawning countless excruciating nightmares.
Succumb to the bloodcurdling screams of Maria, a mother tortured by the guilt of drowning her children, forced to suffer for an eternity as she wanders the Earth hunting for the souls of her children. Beware, for those who hear her weeping are marked for death!
If you think you know how it ends, you’re dead wrong!”
Well, they got THAT shit right.
I watched several taped versions and this one was the best quality (for night vision). I hope to GOD there’s an age restriction on this. Fortunately I didn’t see anyone that looked under 18 going through the ‘maze’. Universal Studios calls it a maze –I know they have to classify all the attractions– but it looks more like a very frightening walk-through of a series of increasingly disturbing locations, including a fly blown butcher’s shop and a bridge over a body of water with the drowned corpses of children floating in it face down, and that blood-curdling bedroom with the first giant La Llorona creature – look at how long those horrible spindly arms and fingers/claws are, almost big enough to pick up the bed.
If you’re curious, there’s a version in Universal Studios Florida where they took a different approach and used only (I think) live talent. You can see it below (it’s also terrifying), and there are some pretty frightening images, especially when they use the strobe light effect. The sound effects are especially haunting.
However, sorry, those giant animatronic creatures (bigger than you are, in some cases), are just complete show-stoppers for me… not that it’s a contest, they’re both effective.
There’s also behind the scenes daylight walk-throughs with the head of the production team for this attraction on You tube (Sharp Productions has a really great YT channel), and those things STILL look scary as hell. I didn’t watch more than a couple of minutes because I didn’t want to spoil the illusion. The sun is currently up, though; after it gets dark tonight, I may change my mind.
Here’s the short version of the Wikipedia entry of the legend. The page linked to also mentions that “Parents often use this story to prevent their children from wandering out at night.” Hell, they probably don’t want to wander out from under the bedcovers after their parents tell them this is a true story:
Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in order to be with the man that she loved. The man would not have her, which devastated her. She would not take no for an answer, so she drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. Challenged at the gates of Heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona.” She is trapped in between the living world and the spirit world. Often it is said that if you lock the doors to a room with a mirror, light red candles and say her name a couple of times in front of the mirror, you may see her. [Ed: that’s okay, we’ll take your word for it]
In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or lakes in Mexico. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death… She is said to cry, “ay mis hijos!” “oh my children!”