As night falls, a coven of witches hammer in their tent pegs, Dracula rolls out his sleeping bag and a corpse bride douses herself in Rid repellent. Welcome to the Horror Movie Campout, a series of spooky sleepovers set deep in the woods and, mercilessly, in the middle of woop-woop.
In the grassy, sleepy surrounds of the Mt Penang Parklands (a 70 kilometre drive from Sydney), a thousand unhinged campers have gathered to dress up, watch horror films and be chased around the forest by bloody psychopaths. No, really.
The first we encounter is Skipping Girl – a pig-tailed young thing in a bloodstained kabuki mask and frilly summer dress. She rounds the corner, spots us ahead, stopping dead in her tracks. Then, perhaps 100 metres away, she cocks her head to one side, looks up, and just starts sprinting at us wildly, swinging her crowbar as she goes.
And she’s not alone. There’s Freddy, Michael Myers, Frownz the Clown, Burn Girl, Little Red Riding Hood, Wolfman, Langley the doorman and Saw, the chainsaw-wielding lumberjack, stalking our every move and waiting to pounce. All up, the campout employs over 15 live actors and volunteers (plus one stuntman) to help fill your underwear with feculence.
And yes, soiling yourself is a distinct possibility. In order to reach the portaloos, punters are forced to navigate the Dunny Death Chamber maze. Unseen hands grope and stroke through the smoke and flashing lights, as you fumble past the hanging body parts and the mannequin that, the closer you get, probably isn’t a mannequin after all…
But it’s much more fun than it sounds, honestly. It’s just one big Halloween party: with heads on sticks, face-painting booths, fairy floss stalls, food trucks (serving decidedly non-scary sliders and gozleme) and the Horror Bar selling cups of bright blue “Horror Juice”. Freddy will even pose for a selfie and give you the thumbs up afterwards.
Plus, almost all of the campers have made an effort. There’s the blood-spattered “pillow party”, zombies in white face, nightdresses and knee socks, the fallen soldier and his deranged nurse, the dead cheerleaders, the glow-in-the-dark zombie bride and groom, the Shining twins, the pumpkin, the pigman and the scarecrow, and an undead Alice in Wonderland who’s covered in that much fake blood it’s improbable she’ll see her costume hire deposit returned.
We save our seats at the outdoor cinema: some with camping stools, others with hired inflatable sofas, the rest stretching out a rug. Bands The Lazys, Ivy, and The Moving Stills warm us up with some lively rock n’ roll, dressed for the occasion in assorted masks and Alice Cooper makeup.
Then its showtime – a handful of horror shorts, followed by fan favourites A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Conjuring – throughout punctuated by the odd scream from the dunnies, or the whir of a chainsaw from afar. A man is set on fire, presumably the stuntman, but nobody seems all that perturbed, as creepies slink around on their bellies hoping to catch a moviegoer unawares.
It’s all designed to give you the screaming habdabs, and it certainly doesn’t help that some of the more sadistic campers are getting in on the act too – worming about whimsically, grabbing ankles and breathing erratically in your earhole. So, it’s with no little trepidation that we zip up and bunker down for the night, regretting that last tin of Super Dry and praying that our cowardly bladders can hold ’til sunrise.
The Horror Movie Campout takes place at Mt Penang Parklands, Kariong, in NSW’s Central Coast. Guests are encouraged to BYO tent, bedding, torch, camping stools, sunscreen, insect repellent, poncho and horror costume.
The Horror Movie Campout will be heading to Brisbane soon, with tickets on sale shortly. Keep an eye on their website for details.
(All images: author’s own)