Robcowie

As the story goes, workers were digging when they unearthed an old, decrepit house. Slowly, the workers dug their way down until the house was completely uncovered. The aura around the house drew the workers in, yet none came out.

Fact or fiction? SeaWorld won’t tell. The organizer of the annual Howl-O-Scream event at the theme park is sticking to its history of scares and fun during this year’s newest attraction, “Unearthed: Scarlet’s Revenge.”

From the moment you step into the park, your eyes flit around nervously at the ghastly sights the park offers.

In addition to eyeballs, cobwebs and a lot of dust, patrons will see gruesome and unusual sights including a fox with a stake through its abdomen, a black bear poised to strike and a cat mid-scare.

The new direction of this year’s event aims to put the story back into the scare, and what better person to help tell the tale than Robin Cowie?

Cowie, the creator of eight horror movies, two TV horror series and one of the producers behind the horror classic “The Blair Witch Project,” is the creative director behind this year’s event.

The idea for “Unearthed” was birthed when Cowie and Brian Knowlton, SeaWorld’s creative director, met at a haunted house in Florida.

After a few brief conversations, Knowlton was convinced that Cowie was the best person to direct the project.

“He was an avid storyteller,” Knowlton said in praise of Cowie, “and just the man to bring narrative to a haunted house to make it a richer experience.”

Cowie, originally from South Africa with a slight accent to prove it, was influenced to become a filmmaker by his father, who was a documentarian.

Though he is known primarily for his forays into horror, Cowie didn’t believe in the paranormal until an experience while filming in a house from the pre-Civil War era.

Cowie reminisced on a particular experience in which the cast and crew tried to film upstairs in the old house.

“None of the equipment would work,” stated Cowie, “so we called in paranormal experts, who deduced that we had not asked permission from the spirits and thus offended them and therefore had to apologize.”

Although Cowie felt odd going through with it, he went upstairs, apologized and asked for permission to film. After the séance, all the equipment worked, leaving Cowie bewildered and a believer in the supernatural.

Cowie immediately jumped on the opportunity to be involved with Howl-O-Scream.

“I’ve been to the Howl-O-Scream in Tampa and saw how seriously they take their scares,” Cowie said. “So when they asked, I was ecstatic.”

The “Unearthed” project was unlike any of Cowie’s previous endeavors. In film, a director works within a frame, but in this case, Cowie had to work with an entire house, paying attention to every detail and making the story truly 3-D to match the haunting atmosphere.

Scarlet, the attraction’s antagonist, is a tortured soul and a healer who turns to the dark arts when the townspeople kill her husband.

The townspeople proceeded to bury Scarlet inside her own home, which had not been disturbed until now, where horror seekers may witness her fury.

“The design process was sophisticated,” said Knowlton on the making of the park. “People want something fresh, and so we have to up the scare level, combine it with the production process and then you have a Howl-O-Scream.”

The park will be open to the general public every weekend, including Friday, starting Saturday, Oct. 3, with all of the original attractions and rides still available to visitors. Knowlton is excited for the new direction Howl-O-Scream is heading.

“It’s a science,” explains Knowlton. “Horror gets the adrenaline, endorphins and juices going, and we see people come out of the haunted houses holding onto each other, yet still laughing.”

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