Jungle Island is a pretty upbeat place during daylight hours -- happy monkeys, chirping birds, majestic ligers. All the wonders of the jungle, with none of the dangers.
But for 19 nights over the next month, it'll be an eerier place entirely. For the first time ever, Terror in the Jungle is bringing five acres of mutant animals, zombie Aztecs and bloodthirsty crawlers to an otherwise innocent attraction.
We got a sneak peek of the spine-tingling spot at Thursday night's opener.
The storyline is such: A plane carrying toxic bio-chemicals from a lab in Mexico crashes into the ruins of an Aztec city. The chemicals spread, creating mutant animals and humans who are basically into eating anything alive. Think jungle madness meets zombie movie meets lab experiment gone bad.
Before I jump into a play-by-play of the evening's frights, I'll lead with this: I'm a scare sceptic. While I'm a huge fan of all things Halloween, I'm seemingly incapable of getting scared. I WANT to get scared, I LONG to get scared, I TRY to get scared. But alas, I rarely experience more than an occasional startle. SOMEBODY PLEASE SCARE ME, I've begged, to no avail.
That being said, back to Terror in the Jungle.
After being greeted by a menacing, red-eyed gorilla (faux, of course -- the real residents are safely tucked away) and hissing snake at the entrance, we started down a foggy path.
Swathed in absolute, pitch darkness, the walk was isolating and unpredictable. With no one in front of us and no one behind us (that we could see), we were totally immersed.
Elaborately made up characters -- some covered in moss and crawling on the ground; some blood-spattered and creeping through the trees; some animatronic and boasting eight legs -- popped out at us from all directions. They got me scream-giggling more than once. The darkness, the silence, the fog and the humidity -- all created a fantastically creepy experience.
Eventually, we hit the main attraction. The 10,000 square-foot, ancient ruins-themed haunted house was framed by a line of people taking selfies with characters, including a massive, headless jungle warrior.
After a short wait, walking into the air-conditioned oasis we were greeted by cackles, screams and loud thumps from every direction. Again, we were alone -- no groups of giggling teenagers ruining the fun for us.
We walked from room to room, preyed upon by talented terrorizers. They swooped down from up above; leapt out from dark cubbyholes; snuck up on us from behind. There were werewolves chowing down at a human buffet; mutated Indians begging for help; sticky spiderwebs clinging to our hair.
A bespectacled butcher, armed with a pickaxe and dragging a dead body, saw fit to follow us through a few rooms, leaving my companion quaking in her flip-flops. It was a huge house, with a whole host of creatively creepy rooms, each more interesting than the last. There were no shortcuts taken here -- this was a painstakingly produced fear-fest.
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All in all, it was impressively spooky. I was legitimately creeped out, and surprised/startled more than a few times, which is seriously saying something for this girl.
Tickets are $45 per person on non-peak days and $55 per person on peak days. Fast passes start at $20 per person (plus tax). E11even Miami is the official after-party event sponsor. Jungle Island also will offer childcare on a first-come, first-served basis for $5 per child, per night. Terror in the Jungle will take place every Thursday to Sunday from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, with one Wednesday over the following dates: Non-peak dates / October 9-12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 29 and November 1. Peak dates / October 17, 18, 24, 25, 30 & 31.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.