This review detailed the first trip we ever made to the Homer Mill and was written Saturday, October 4, 2008. We would return to the Homer Mill a year later but by the spring of 2010 the historic building had burned to the ground. I’ll always remember this inaugural trip fondly; it’s a shame what happened to the Homer Mill.
The drive to the Homer Mill took just under two hours most of which was spent on westbound I-94. As Jason, Disco, Cherette, and I drew near Homer, Michigan we traveled M-60 which did provide some interesting local scenery winding through a number of small towns including one that featured a creepy cemetery sitting just off the road.
The Homer Mill bursts out of the wooded setting that surrounds the haunt and instantly the impressive nature of the building leaves an imprint on its visitors. There was a sizable crowd milling about in front of the haunt which also sports a bar and restaurant. We parked in the rear near an old Silo and entered through into a lobby sandwiched between a bar (to the right) and a restaurant (to the left). Initially we were going to grab something to eat before entering the haunt but after learning that there was a forty minute wait for a table we left our name and went to buy our tickets. We shortly joined the line out front that we had previously witnessed upon entering and waited maybe fifteen minutes before entering the haunt. I snapped a number of pictures and soaked in the atmosphere to pass the time and soon we were swallowed by the Mill.
The Homer Mill is a rare haunted attraction; the structure of the building lends itself to a natural ambience that most haunts are unable to replicate. The owners have smartly integrated the mill’s stairways and catwalks into the attraction and in doing so provide haunt goers with a truly unique experience.
The haunt begins with a humorous gag; entering a cavernous room guests get a full view of the bare ass of a man slumped over a barrel. When approached the animatronic begins spewing into the barrel while speakers pump the sound of retching into the room. The scene is funny but reflecting on this singular moment in contrast with the rest of the haunt causes it to seem a tad disjointed.
Guests next cross a bridge which actually has water underneath it and are quickly confronted by an alligator that sprays mist in their direction. As the misting begins the bridge tilts slightly creating the sensation that guests may be chucked into the glowing green depths. I’m a big fan of water being used in haunted attractions and I’d like to see it implemented in increasingly creative ways. The sudden jolt of the bridge shifting was a nice touch as well but it was relatively subtle as the owners probably don’t actually want anyone projected from the safety of the bridge.
The Homer Mill features some truly awesome animatronics; three in particular come to mind and rival anything you’ll see anywhere else including mighty Erebus. The first is an execution scene, a man lies face down locked into a guillotine and after the blade falls the body twitches in a gruesome and hilarious manner. The next instance of animatronic mayhem comes in the form of an apparent psychiatric patient. As guests pass through a darkened hallway a strobe flashes from the right and a straight-jacketed man bound by chains begins flailing desperately. The effect is enhanced by the bouncing chains that crash to the floor and also thrash in unison with the dreadlocks upon the puppets head. The prop was very convincing and mimicked human mannerisms in a very believable fashion. The third and final animatronic was also shockingly realistic, a man sitting behind prison bars is strapped to an electric chair, an ominous pause is palpable. I thought for a moment that the figure would break free from his restraints and lunge forward but no sooner had the thought taken hold the chair lit up and the man began wildly shaking and screaming as smoke filled the room. It was indeed an animatronic as I have stated but when it was hoisted so high out of the chair I thought it likely even probable that the figure was an actor, a very impressive sight. Jason later stated that he has saw that same prop online selling for $10,000.
Another interesting feature of the Homer Mill is the external bridge that connects two of the buildings. Haunters actually leave one structure and cross a bridge that temporarily leads outdoor before entering a second building. Once inside the next building guests enter a room with a floor composed of only 2 x 4’s and wire mesh. It was a great effect because the mesh flooring sinks under the weight and visitors have a direct view of a nearly 30-40 foot drop below. It’s in this part of the haunt that the natural structure of the building really shines. Haunters climb stairs and cross catwalks with immense drops on all sides.
When considering the sheer size of the haunt it’s tempting to suggest that the Homer Mill is thin on live actors but this surprisingly doesn’t detract from the show. The Mill is a little heavy on animatronics but it’s hard to view this as a point of criticism when the puppets are so damn good. The Homer Mill also makes good use of traditional black hallways forcing haunters to grope in the dark as they make their way to safety through a very well paced attraction. Another interesting feature of the haunt is the ability to hear music and crowd chatter coming from the bar and restaurant. It would be easy to dismiss this as an obvious detraction and maybe in a traditional sense of haunting that is accurate but this fact creates a sensation of disorientation. Yes, you can hear the band playing and a cacophony of conversation but you can’t tell where it coming from or how one would come to find the source.
The haunt comes to an end with a final bridge to cross which leads to a doorway filled with a bulging inflatable. Guests must force their way through the oppressive structure; the entombing led to many vaginal jokes as I quibbed, “I feel like I’m being born.” Cherette would later dub this particular feature the “Womb of Doom.”
After exiting the haunt we snagged a seat in the Halloween themed restaurant and enjoyed a bite to eat, I opted for some tasty chili-cheese fries while Jason and Disco concerned themselves with the blood red beer.
The Homer Mill has it all and fires on all cylinders. It satisfies guests with a wonderful show and a neat restaurant as well. As we departed, after I mistakenly drove across a pedestrian bridge that is, I reflected on what a fun and fulfilling experience the Homer Mill had provided for the premiere of the 2008 haunt season.
Rating: 5 stars