Michael Jackson loved amusement parks. He was a regular visitor to Disneyland, had his own attraction there (Captain EO) and had his own amusement park at his home, Neverland Ranch. So I think he would approve of this French dark ride based on what is probably his most famous song, “Thriller.”
“Thriller” has quite the horror pedigree. A 13-minute music video for the song was directed by John Landis, with makeup effects by Rick Baker and a “rap” by Vincent Price. In the video, Michael Jackson turns into a werewolf, scaring away his girlfriend, then he becomes a zombie and dances with a line of other zombies.
Stephane Camors comes from a family of showmen who have been in the amusement business for almost 150 years. He had two popular “ghost train” attractions, “Phantom Manor” and “King Kong,” but he has spent years while looking for a new innovation. Inspiration struck when he saw his children watching the “Thriller” video. Fourteen months and 18,000 hours of construction later, and the completely unauthorized “Thriller” attraction was born.
Coming in at three stories high, with eight cars on 120 meters of track, “Thriller” is loaded up with zombies, both animatronic and projections. What is fascinating is that the “Thriller” attraction is completely mobile. It isn’t settled in a theme park. Packed up into three trailers, if you have the money, you can rent the ride and have it delivered all over Europe (though it is mostly rented out in France). It takes three days to set up, but only two to tear down.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” isn’t the only amusement park ride that is based on a spooky property. Sure, most of them are only around for Halloween, but a few can be visited year round.
At Thorpe Park in the United Kingdom, you can ride on a roller coaster based on SAW. Billed as the world’s first horror-themed roller coaster, “Saw – The Ride.” Billy welcomes you to the ride, and the train dodges spinning blades and blood sprays before taking the riders on a beyond-vertical drop and a couple loops. Even if the line is long, even the queue is smartly themed, with plenty of traps from the movies.
Scooby-Doo has had a variety of coasters based on the property, but there is only one still running, the “Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster” at Warner Bros. Movie World in Australia. This smaller “wild mouse” roller coaster is based on the 2002 movie, not the classic cartoon (but the 2002 movie was actually pretty decent). No death-defying movements but plenty of speed keep this coaster moving through spooky animatronics, light and laser effects, a giant spider, and swinging axe illusion. MXPX covers the theme song.
Universal Studios has the JAWS ride. It closed down a few years ago in Florida, but is still open in Universal Studios Japan. The ride has visitors taking a scenic cruise around Amity Harbor when they are confronted by the great white shark. There is also a JAWS “ride” in Universal Studios Hollywood, but this one is a smaller affair, and part of the backlot tour. (It is on that same backlot tour that you drive by the Bates Motel and the iconic Bates home, complete with Mother rocking back and forth in the window.)
Outside of these rides, I guess you will just have to wait for October’s glut of haunted houses!