Friday, October 31, 2008

Your Fear Factor Index is?

Today is Halloween.

This western festival, which has its origin from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, is not commonly known in Singapore. Vaguely, many associate it with ghostly masks and pumpkins known as Jack-o'-lanterns. Other activities during Halloween include costume parties, ghost tours, watching horror movies and the all time favorite with kids, trick-or treat.

Halloween originated in ancient Europe as a celebration of the end of the harvest. However, thanks to movies and commercialization, the festival is now filled with imageries of the dark and mysteries. Such imageries tend to involve ghosts, witches, black cats and skeletons.

I do not get many reminders of this festival in Singapore. The sight of
Halloween merchandise in shops suggests that the festival is round the corner. Beyond that, I believe today is a pretty ordinary day for most of us in Singapore. Ya, nothing very special.

Yet, there are some sporadic attempts to commercialize the festival.

A 5m-by-5m giant pumpkin is seen sitting on the spindle of the Singapore Flyer. The big helium balloon will be there to greet visitors for 2 weeks, giving them a special Halloween experience.

If that sounds too mild, the Singapore Night Safari will up the spooky factor for you. They have hired actors and actresses, dressed up as ghostly characters standing by the tram rail. They also turned a section of the popular attraction into a 'haunted' forest.

Their special Halloween program, the Singapore version, does not go well with all.

A reader wrote to the Straits Times saying that it is not a good idea to have a program with 'bloody ghosts to scare the daylights out of visitors, adults and even children'. She prefers the 'fun' version with costume parties and trick-or-treats. She was also concerned that the animals would have to put up with all the screaming. Rather thoughtful.

She thinks that such a program is more suited for the Hungry Ghosts Festivals (中元节) only to be rebutted by another reader. The rebutter feels that the traditional Chinese festival is not about scaring people.

Well, just another case of cultural perception difference in this multi-racial and multi-cultural island state.

I do not think that the Night Safari is paying much attention to the significance of Halloween or whether the designed program is better suited for the Ghost Festival. I am sure they put in nothing more than commercial consideration.

In their response, the Night Safari assured that the 'Halloween Horrors' is an optional program out of the view of those who prefer to stick the safer 'Trick or Treats'. They also assured that the 'horrors' will take place away from where the animals reside. How thoughtful again.

Whether it is your cup of tea or not, ghostly stuff do have some commercial appeal to businesses. How do you explain the long queue for ghost trains in theme parks and the Chamber of Horrors in the wax museum?

Singapore is not well known for its film industry but has put in similar attempts in making ghostly movies like 'The Maid'. Like it or not, there are many horror movie fans out there.

The promoter of the latest horror movie, 'The Coffin' was not apologetic with their promotional stunt in getting participants to lie in a mock coffin.

A group of fearless people formed a long queue in the basement of Orchard Cineleisure 2 weeks ago. A pair of movie tickets to the gala premiere would be theirs if they were game enough to lie in the mock coffin for at least 3 seconds. Whether it is for added comfort or to ward off bad luck, all participants were given red packets.

The movie is timed to be launched on, well, Halloween day, of course.

If movies and haunted jungle sound stale to you, try dressing up ghoulishly and you might get a free entry to Zouk's Halloween party. It will be a perfect way to enjoy the latest dance hits in a ghostly ambiance.

I have very poor appetite for horror stuff and I have no plan whatsoever to watch 'The Coffin' or to be spooked at the Night Safari. To all the horror fans, such hair-raising activities are meant for you.

Happy Halloween and happy screaming.

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