A Petrified Forest

A Petrified Forest

A Petrified Forest
Casselberry, FL

THIS is why we can’t cast nice shows in October. Once a dead zone in the Parks and Local Arts calendars October is now the month every actor in town is guaranteed full employment so long as they are willing to slather on the fake blood and yell “Boo!” at the punters. This Forest’s scare trails are on the grave site of the long lost “Uncle Toms’ BBQ”; that’s just west of the new 436/17-92 flyover. It’s easy to miss, it took me two passes to get in the parking line. The parking lot for this show is the dustiest place in Central Florida; parking attendants wear face scarves that look more “Sand People” than “Syrian Rebel.” Wear neutral clothing; it hides the dust. The Forest in its sixth year is a popular event; a gruff Parking Captain complains about needing to get 400 cars in here and “could I park a foot or two closer?” Thank you, now move along. Once through the rather chaotic ticket line there’s a park-like enclosure with a moderately good band, some food options, lots of LED driven tchotchkes, and the real reason you came: Two different Horror Walks!

Neither “Walk” disappoints; I strongly suggest you do both of them. Just roll with the complicated entry process involving colored disks and a woman who will argue about just what “blue” is. Arguing décor with a strange woman: now THAT’S scary. The wait was reasonable, no more than at a Saturday morning Bagel shop. Walk #1starts by putting you into your own personal Auschwitz Train Car; a hefty roustabout pushes you behind the curtain where you are quickly extracted and lined up for a Disney Cruise Ship-like picture. It’s just a plus up; and if the scares don’t stick with you why would you want a murky image of yourself with four other strangers?

“A Petrified Forest” makes a bit more sense if you recall the oeuvre of 1980 through 2010 horror; I recognized a few scenes here and there but I’m no expert. But the creep / scare / intimidate ethos prevails; highlights include an entire field of “hand grown corn” infested with Steven King clones, a woman swimming in a bathtub of blood, and my favorite: a guy hiding in a hollowed out couch. Take THAT, Community Thrift! Scenes roll by quickly; it’s hard to register everything before it’s off to the next abattoir or circular saw. The expert cast knows how to position themselves in the dark and aim for maximum shrieks, scares and premenopausal pants wettings. Pro tip – if you want to avoid being targeted, hang back toward the end of your group. These guys take time to reset.

Walk Two takes a more nautical turn. Jack Sparrow’s evil twin gives instructions, and of course there’s another photo op. Once the thrills start you visit the Marie Celeste and the Titanic and The Wreck of the Hesperus as well as a whale’s skeleton. A very cool effect of green lasers and smoke makes it look like you’re walking under water, and while there’s a lot of sneaking and peaking, the cast may intimidate yo but not touch. Obviously there will be breeches of etiquette in this tight space, but a jaunty “And how are you this fine night?” from you can manage your stress. Personally, I found it a bit disconcerting to be greeted by name but that’s the gig I signed up for and if I failed to acknowledge anyone I know in real life: well, that’s how good your performance was. The Petrified Forest walk is a fun and fast moving but very small children may be scared. Parental advisory for bumps in the dark but it’s a great date night if your precious has the jumps. Just wear comfortable closed shoes and don’t pop for this if you are terribly claustrophobic.

For more information please visit: www.apetrifiedforest.com

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