POSTED ON OCTOBER 15, 2008:
Save with Fear
Guts Church offers another season of "salvation" at Nightmare
We live in the Bible belt. Some call Tulsa the buckle. Either way, I am consistently reminded of how religion shapes lives in Green Country. It's the reality of the situation, and something of which I've been cognizant from an early age -- how religion is a fundamental element of life and culture.
I've also never really enjoyed being scared. I prefer merriment, laughter, confusion, and the state of resting over fear. But, fear is a natural emotion meant to convey true, legitimate danger, thereby protecting us, so I can't hate on it too much.
This is the basic mindset I had when entering Guts Church's, 9120 E. Broken Arrow Expressway, "Nightmare" on October 3rd. The event is a type of spookhouse...but with an added twist.
Many people suggested I check it out, and when they did they always smirked, but never mentioned much more. Prior to the event, which I had been planning to attend for months, I was under the impression that this wouldn't be that scary.
Cristi half-jokingly repeated her concern, "They aren't going to have chainsaws, are they? Because if there are chainsaws, I am out of there."
We came to an unspoken agreement that because this was to be held by a church on the church campus that it wouldn't be scary as hell.
Yeah, they'd voice their opinion on abortion and homosexuality, (turns out they didn't or, if they did, I missed it), and Jesus would be involved. We knew that. But chainsaws? No way.
Cristi was in.
I arrived and paid my $8 entry fee over an hour early, which was less about my own eagerness and more about the fact that the "Nightmare" website (www.nightmaretulsa.com) states that doors open at 6pm. They don't. They open at 7pm, so prepare for some standing if you arrive at 6pm.
The positives of the evening go to the production itself, the organization of the event, and all those involved in the experience. I was impressed with the nearly flawless timing of it all. Group in. Blood spurt now. Growl, howl, scare. Group out. Yes!
We, the attendees, were meticulously guided through the "Nightmare" by two ushers or, more accurately, two drill sergeants. Each of the ten scenes seemed to last for five minutes (in actuality more like two minutes) and not a second more. When our time was up we were herded to the next scene. "Go, go, go," our guides ordered.
Because of our go-going, a young girl in the group was almost trampled. It's dark, noisy and confusing. Attendees, "Nightmare" players, and I were all making some unpleasant sounds, so I was concerned that legitimate screaming may be confused for your standard terrifying cacophony of the event. It just so happened that the fall, the potential trampling, occurred in the scariest part of the "Nightmare." Maybe we should hold off on the go, go, going for a second and pick up this teenager, I thought. Luckily, the young lady was fine, but that doesn't alleviate my concern for future "Nightmare" goers.
Among the waiting, the express pass ($15 buys you no lines, once the doors open), and the actual production, I felt like I was at an amusement park. Had it only been about having fun I would have appreciated the experience much more, because it is well done, but when it was all said and done, we weren't expected to discuss the hellish qualities of the experience. Instead, we were greeted with inquires about the future of our souls. I almost expected it, but in the end lost sight of the church's purpose in all the horror.
"If you died tonight, would you go to Heaven or Hell," I was asked as I exited "Nightmare." How about a "you live around here" or even "have you considered attending our church?" I understand that the staff of "Nightmare" was constrained by time, as groups are carefully and masterfully shuffled through the scare house, and therefore only have a short window to witness, but that caught me off guard.
The main problem I have with "Nightmare" can be summarized in one word: manipulation. It can be a wonderful thing to sit down with someone and discuss belief, origins and life. We can all learn from one another. The problem I have is when you take a strong human emotion meant to protect and use it to "save." I guess it is Guts' position that saving is saving. I don't agree. Couple that with the fact that most of those in attendance were minors.
I don't wish to give away all the scenes of "Nightmare." When a friend ruins a movie for me it is all I can do not to berate him or her, so I'll avoid being "that guy" here, but I can't let one scene pass without mentioning it.
While Guts did not weigh in on homosexuality, they did express a curious position on abortion. One of the first scenes involved a grizzly man covered in fake blood. At first glance I thought he was a serial killer or butcher. Maybe Guts has a problem with consumption of pork, I thought. As I made my way into the room I saw a woman on a blood soaked table lying in a birthing position. As the loud music blared and the strobe lights flickered, I saw the butcher make his way toward the woman. He reached between her legs and forcefully removed a fetus. He angrily strolled back across the room, the fetus lifelessly dangling from his right hand, and spiked it like a football into a small tub. From there the "doctor" made his way to a refrigerator and withdrew a cold beer. He didn't remove his blood drenched gloves or wipe his brow. He merely popped the tab and drank the alcoholic beverage.
His assistant was four-and-a-half-feet tall and carried a baby's leg. He tried to touch me with the bloody foot, but I declined.
I understand that Guts is not in favor of abortion, but this doesn't seem to be an accurate portrayal of the situation in modern America. It doesn't seek to create dialogue or present factual arguments. It's pure distortion with the enhanced aid of fear.
"Save with fear" was a past motto or at least a Biblical quote good enough for a "Nightmare" t-shirt. Why not save with honesty? Save with discussion? Save with the merits of your beliefs and only those beliefs?
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