Summer is here, and that means a number of people will be engaging in those familiar warm-weather activities. For example, what better way to beat the heat than to make a trip to the local waterpark and go barreling down the various slides? Apart from the risk of losing your trunks, or catching conjunctivitis, going to a waterpark is generally a safe way to spend an afternoon — that is, unless you happen to be visiting Big Wet. This is the splishsplashy setting for Piranha 3DD, opening this week, and the park is infested with, of all things, man-eating fish.
This horror sequel got us thinking about all the various ways in which the genre has ruined outdoor pastimes for years. It seems there isn’t a single summer activity that hasn’t been attacked by monsters, killer sharks, or just unfriendly neighborhood psychopaths. We decided to examine a few of these pastimes that we’re now a bit hesitant to engage in thanks to the movies.
A Day at the Beach
Remember the days when you could just pack up the family station wagon and head to the beach? You could enjoy some sun, drink a few cold ones, and take in a relaxing swim among the waves. That is, you could do all those things prior to 1975. With one fateful cinematic stroke, Steven Spielberg made us all terrified of dipping one toe into the ocean; convinced we’d be gobbled up by an enormous shark just like that Kintner boy. It’s actually unfair to say that Jaws ruined ocean swimming…because that would be too limited. The film actually so adeptly created a fearful association between water and doom that for years afterward, some people reported being afraid to even take a bath.
So forget the beach, let’s head to the woods for a peaceful commune with nature. What’s that? You’ve chosen Crystal Lake as a suitable campground? Why do I have the feeling that is an ill-advised decision? Oh, that’s right, because a certain hockey-mask-wearing maniac calls those woods home. Whether you’re watching the very first Friday the 13th or any of its innumerable sequels (minus the one in space), you can bet that a venture into the woods of Crystal Lake will result in the loss of a vital appendage by way of a dull machete. Sometimes I think these movies were produced by Smokey the Bear; the best way to prevent forest fires after all is to scare humans into never wanting to enter them.
The adversary of the family picnic has always been the ant; although this threat is usually thwarted with a simple swipe of the hand. Enter Bert I. Gordon, the master of the oversized fauna. In 1977, Gordon brought us Empire of the Ants, and forever ruined outdoor dining. In the film, Joan Collins plays a shady real estate mogul trying to sell unsuspecting dupes land that doesn’t exist. She treats them to fine food at a reception in order to sweeten the deal; only she never counted on the location she chose being populated by radioactive insects. Now if only Gordon would make a movie about a giant anteater...
So beaches, camping, and picnics are out, why not try an amusement park? Odds are, unless you happen to follow John Hammond to a theme park featuring resurrected dinosaurs, you’re pretty safe among the coasters and the funnel cakes, right? Oh but wait, we still have to contend with the walking dead. Zombieland showed us that the most harrowing midway game isn’t The Ring Toss, it’s Escape The Flesheaters. Your prize for winning isn’t a stuffed bear, it’s instead not being stuffed piece by torn piece into the mouth of a zombie. Your best bet is to always bring Woody Harrelson with you to the amusement park. That guy creates a whole new approach to the shooting gallery.
The great American pastime, how can any movie possibly corrupt baseball? Well, if you happen to be one of the ill-fated Warriors, running for your lives through gang-infested streets, you’re likely to cross paths with the Baseball Furies. These guys take the game a little too seriously, and aren’t restricted to swinging their bats at curveballs and sliders. Heck, even little league games aren’t safe anymore thanks to Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive. All I’m saying is that it’s hard to make it to the regional playoffs when your starting shortstop is flattened by a steamroller in right field.
You know what, we’re just going to stay home. Nothing is safer than remaining inside your house and — oh wait, Poltergeist. Crap.