“This is a Dark Ride”

A visual glossary

or “Why The Halloween Episode Looks The Way It Does.”

“a dark ride,” amusement park designation of an indoor attraction where riders in guided vehicles travel through specially lit scenes typically containing sound, music and special effects, often designed to induce fear and surprise.  Also know in Australia and the United Kingdom as “ghost trains.”

One of the great pleasures of working on Pretty Little Liars is referencing all the movies that made us want to be writers in the first place.  The very nature of PLL means we’ve all gotten the chance to send special visual and thematic thank you notes to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

This is a Dark Ride was put on track during the first Halloween Special when I. Marlene King said, “Next time, let’s do Strangers on a Train.”

What we ultimately did has more in common with other Hitchcock movies (and other films, classic and cult) than Strangers, but Strangers is where we started.  

The Lady Vanishes

One of Hitchcock’s early films, set almost entirely onboard a moving train.  A young woman makes friends with a governess on a train moving through pre-war Europe.  The girl takes a nap and wakes up to find her new friend, Mrs. Froy, gone...and nobody remembers seeing her on the train.  Early in the film, Mrs. Froy introduces herself to the heroine by writing her name on the window when the girl is unable to hear her introduction because of a passing train.

Someone uses a window in the episode for a similar, more sinister purpose.