Archive for the Review Category

Macabre, Wonderful Macabre

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, Word of the Week with tags , , on July 28, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Monday, October 22, 2007, this Word of the Week entry would prove to be the final Hallowblog post of the 2007 season.

This edition strikes directly at the historical roots of Halloween; the celebration of death and the recognition of transient spirits crossing the veil that separates the living and dead, the veil that blurs each year on October the 31st.

macabre – adjective: having death as a subject, gruesome, horrible.

Haunt Season Home Stretch

Posted in 2007, Erebus, Hallowblog, Realm of Darkness, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by bluefall8

This post comes to us from Sunday, October 21, 2007 and as you’ll read, it chronicles an outing to Pontiac’s twin terrors — Erebus and The Realm of Darkness. We have visited the acclaimed pair six times each over the years; that total trails only the Wyandotte Jaycees (7) and the current leader, The Scream Machine (8).

Last Friday was a big haunt night as I joined the usual tandem in a return to Pontiac. Last year the three of us hit The Realm of Darkness and Erebus on Halloween night and having never previously visited these haunts I came away from the experience delighted. Needless to say I was ecstatic for the return as I viewed the trip as the likely pinnacle of the haunting season. Our first stop was The Realm of Darkness where I looked to avenge last year’s defeat to the elusive Wizard.

There isn’t much to criticize at The Realm of Darkness; the haunt delivers on all fronts. The attention to detail is amazing, each room is elaborately decorated which creates a unique atmosphere absent from many other haunts. The video that precedes the haunt has been vastly improved and the large fireplace remains a fun way to enter the haunt. The live actors are the best I’ve encountered at a haunt this season. These people are committed to the act and several of them unleash some shockingly loud screams. A few that stood out include the screaming girl in the swinging cage, the massive demon, the clown that stood stock still in the black light lit tunnel, and the man on stilts who would not relent in terrorizing Jason until I yelled rape.

The props too are first rate and utilized very effectively. Most haunts do a half-assed job when propelling a puppet in the guests’ direction but ROD pulled it off expertly on numerous occasions. Visual diversions and timing are the crucial elements when springing these traps and I’ll be damned if ROD doesn’t have it down. Another wonderful prop, perhaps my favorite, occurs immediately upon exit from the room with the dropping spiked ceiling. Actually, to be entirely accurate, the guests don’t even exit the room when the door springs open and a gigantic, stampeding gargoyle charges forward. It’s an impressive sight and if it fails to elicit a scream it’s only because the rubes will be to busy shouting “Holy shit!”

I am a big fan of interactive haunts and ROD does this well allowing guests the chance to collect jewels from ghoulies. These jewels of course tie into the greater theme of the haunt which is the defeat of the vaunted wizard. Speaking of the wizard, well I wish I had a daring tale of peril and triumph to share but I don’t. The fucking wizard eluded us once more and I was left to curse his wretched name for another year.

There is one last part of the haunt that I would like to share before I bring this review to a conclusion. Just prior to meeting the “Black light Clown” guests are forced to cross a drawbridge which happens to be home to an ax-wielding zombie. I like when haunts use the rare actor like this essentially turning the haunting adage on its head. It’s a different kind of fear and suspense when you are forced to cross the unknown willingly as opposed to being repeatedly surprised. It was truly a nice touch and a spot that will stand out as one of the most unique of the season for me.

The Realm of Darkness misses not a beat and annually visitors will only be disappointed at the slightly familiar layout. I’m finding that to be a theme at haunts and it can be a major detraction. Familiarity breeds a sense of direction which can lead to comfort and that is a nasty formula for attractions that thrive on the unknown.

Rating: 5 Stars
Following the festivities at The Realm of Darkness we made the very short drive to Erebus. Last year Erebus made Halloween and I was looking forward to a repeat performance but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being slightly disappointed. Yes, you read that right, the vaunted Erebus was disappointing. Now don’t go nuts with that statement, Erebus remains one hell of an impressive haunted attraction, the experience simply wasn’t the same as it was last year. This could be due to various factors the most uncontrollable of which may have been the fact that the excitement of Halloween night added to the adventure one year ago. But there were plenty of tangible signs of slippage readily available in the haunt itself.

The swamp that Erebus features toward the end of the haunt is quite innovative creating a sensation of both claustrophobia and suffocation achieved through a combination of fog, inflatables, and a steadily steeping path. The effect proved wonderful last year but this time around left something to be desired. The fog was too thin allowing guests not only a better view of the room at large but also the oppressive inflatables pressing in from either side. It is crucial to the success of such an effect that the ability to see is kept to a minimum.

The ball chamber, which was a highlight of the season last year, has been omitted and that was a serious detraction for me personally. The structure of the haunt itself was varied in a number of spots but the majority of the layout is similar or the same and just as it did at ROD the sense of familiarity detracts from the sensation of fear and suspense.

The actors at Erebus are good but there is room for improvement and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more live actors, particularly in the swamp. The back story of Erebus adds an interesting layer not emphasized at most haunted attractions. The introductory video was a great touch this year especially the climax at which a giant insect burst trough the screen and hovers mere feet above the guests.

I like Erebus, I like it a lot but for me it has less of a feel of a traditional haunted house and more of a funhouse on crack. The puppets and animatronics are no doubt the best I’ve witnessed at any attraction but an inanimate object can only invoke so much fear.

Erebus is a lot of fun but this most recent show left me in reveries about how good it was last year.

Rating: 4 ½ stars

Downriver Haunt Review

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, Review, Scream Machine, The Lab with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by bluefall8

Originally posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 this entry chronicled our visit to three haunted attractions located throughout the Downriver area. To the best of my knowledge this was the only time I formatted a review in such a fashion (placing haunters and attractions in list form at the top of the review).

I never did uncover the mystery haunt referenced by Pudge in this post; I’ve come to believe she was mistaken about the year and that the haunt in question was indeed Extreme Scream. Also in this post I provided a mini-review of the Pumpkin Factory in Belleville which my wife and I had visited that fall.

As with previous Hallowblog entries, the pictures that are mentioned in the posts are not posted anywhere on Horrorlust at present. 

Date: 10/12/07

Haunters: Jason, Joel, John, McCreary

Haunt Targets: The Lab, The Scream Machine, Hell’s Hospital

Last Friday night marked a trifecta of terror as we set out to explore some downriver haunts. The night was fraught with excitement as we headed to our first haunt, The Lab. We weren’t able to visit The Lab last year but the venue was highly entertaining as The Chop Shop in 2005, Jason and I in particular were looking forward to the experience.

Prior to entering the greater haunted house guests are shown a video featuring a scientist who explains the events surrounding the mysterious lockdown and the reason for your involvement. The group then selects a leader (yours truly, thank you very much) who is given a keycard which will presumably give you access to other areas of The Lab. This was a nice touch but the experience would have been enhanced ten fold if the keycard actually did anything. I thought perhaps I’d have to swipe the card to open doors but no such interaction.

The haunt stuck to the theme throughout with several scenes offering up some very cool props; one man had been completely covered in a green fungus that had seemingly taken his life. I waited for his infected ass to leap at us and beg for help but it turned out to be simply a prop after all. That became a theme in and of itself; too many props and not enough live actors. I think this severely detracted from the experience at The Lab. The theme of this haunt would do well to feature live actors in make up as opposed to masks. The story goes that strange genetic tests were being performed so show me some freaks and mutants.

There was a hefty chainsaw wielding fellow who played his role well, trapping us against a wall while repeatedly asking for McCreary’s eyes with apparent sexual zest. Another memorable actor was featured in a room with blue tubes, he had spooky white pupils and an I’d-like-to-eat-you-grin. Just prior to exiting the haunt you come to a scene on the left of a deceased security guard. He sits in a chair behind a desk, the whole set enclosed by a mesh steel security fence. There is even a monitor on the desk which guests can view themselves on. The dead security guard never moves, instead someone pops out of a drop section of the wall behind you, the same gag that was run at the Chop Shop and Giyra before that.

This was another drawback of the haunt; the layout was far too similar to its predecessors. I was able to picture what the rooms looked like during their previous incarnations as we walked through it. This excess of familiarity made it harder to suspend disbelief. I also felt that The Lab featured far too many “crazed” animal gags; the animal based animatronics were especially weak although the breathing alien babies were quite sweet.

The haunt ends rather abruptly when an armed government official encourages you to rush down a flight of stairs only to transcribe the number on your keycard onto a chalkboard with the all too obvious result that the writing surface drops to reveal a screaming creature. I however thought the keycard was a cool souvenir and therefore stowed it in my back pocket and proceeded to inform the guard that I had lost it. After you write down a number he opens the back door and the terror is over.

I was slightly disappointed but The Lab does have plenty of potential to improve. The operators present a fairly unique premise but fail to properly utilize the atmosphere inherent to such a haunt.

Rating: 3 stars

Our next stop was The Scream Machine in Taylor which delighted me both last year and in 2002. The Hellevator has undoubtedly improved now featuring an ultra creepy actor dressed up like a deformed life-sized doll lurking in the corner. She initially offered Disco what I believe was a teddy bear and then proceeds to get right in each group member’s face when the lights flicker on and off. I’m a big fan of the Hellevator, it’s truly a great gimmick to jump start a haunt.

After exiting the Hellevator and surviving a dizzying black hole the majority of the haunt is dominated by an impressive graveyard scene. It’s great eye candy but the lack of confinement is not very conducive to suspense. Guests wind through a series of hallways all just off the graveyard path which ultimately causes the group to view the same scene several times which quickly becomes stagnant. The Scream Machine doesn’t suffer from a lack of live actors but does feature repetiton of said actors to a fault.

When I visited The Scream Machine in 2002 the back end of the haunt featured a funeral scene which I found quite eerie. Guests were forced to walk a center path with pews on either side filled with ghoulies. It was a great scene but failed to deliver a real thrill when nobody leapt from a pew. Last year the scene was omitted but its back this year. This time around guests have to wind through a path of pews as opposed to walking down a center aisle but again no one springs forth from a seat. Someone does pop out of the top of an organ located near the exit of the room but I really feel one of the zombie looking creeps in the pews would provide more of a scare.

The Scream Machine is too short and too wide open. Granted a handful of grand scenes provide a wow factor but sheer scares and general creepiness are distinctly lacking. The Hellevator may have improved but overall I think The Scream Machine has experienced some slippage since last season.

We didn’t hit the 3D feature The Carnevil of Lost Souls having not forgot the lackluster experience it provided last year but I do plan to revisit this attraction November 1-4 when both haunts will be available for the low price of $10. I just have to meet Chunk the Clown who happens to reside somewhere in the mysterious annuls of the 3D realm.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

After The Scream Machine McCreary professed that she had pissed her pants and thus departed. I think she was joking…but I’m not entirely sure. It was down to the trio and we were determined to knock out one more haunt. We zipped down to Anxiety Alley which looked deserted, a lone worker stood outside the haunt. He told us they had actually closed early because of a lack of customers. That news left me slightly sad but at just $6 I’m planning to visit Anxiety Alley this season. I think the last time I was there was about nine or ten years ago.

We knew we still had time to hit Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte and so we were off. Admission to Hell’s Hospital was $10 and without a doubt was the best deal of the night. The Wyandotte Jaycees converted both an old mechanic garage and an old house into a quality haunt. While you wait in line a gimpy little fellow entertains the masses with a combination of guttural sounds and questionable gestures. He amused us greatly and even posed for a picture which has of course been posted. Hell’s Hospital employed the classic haunt approach utilizing pitch black hallways and deliberate sounds to build tension.

There is nothing very flashy hear, just a creepy and sometimes smelly old house meant to scare you shitless. The timing of the actors was excellent especially during the scene with the nurse. I don’t want to ruin this scene for anyone planning to go so I’ll only say that you shouldn’t pay to much attention to the nurse or her large friend. This scene was an excellent fusion of timing, lighting, and structure. In the end it resulted in the biggest surprise of the night.

A few of the actors fooled me into believing they were props which is something I’m quite adept at recognizing, none did it better than a ghoulie chained to a chair in the room that was strangely cold.

This attraction absolutely nailed the fundamentals of a haunted house and I can’t think of enough good things to say about it. If you live downriver and plan to visit just one haunted attraction this season then make it Hell’s Hospital. The only true criticism we had of the place was the lack of a climactic finale. It was so good I’m thinking of dragging Missy there before the season ends.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

A successful night of haunting and still there are four downriver haunts to hit before the season ends. Those include Anxiety Alley, Leo’s House of Horror, Papp Park Panic Attack, and The Realm of Haunted Minds. Pudge claims to have visited a haunted house on Telegraph in Taylor near I-94 which is where the Extreme Scream usually resides but that isn’t operating this year so I am left to wonder where the hell she went. Of course she failed to get the name of the attraction so I’ll have to do some detective work.

It’s worth mentioning that I started work at Halloween USA today. I spent the day half-heartedly greeting people while perusing the products in my section. Needless to say I found a bundle of props I’d love to adorn throughout the apartment…Missy I suspect feels otherwise. Ah well, you can at least view some of the props in the picture section.

I also made it to a haunted hayride on Saturday. Missy and I ventured to Belleville where we visited The Pumpkin Factory. It’s a quaint farm that features several free minor attractions which are worth a look as well as a neat country store that has some delicious doughnuts.

The hayride itself was alright, it wasn’t bad but it certainly wasn’t spectacular. I felt that the actors timing was generally sub par. It was lengthy and for that it deserves positive marks but the lack of any real shocks or impressive scenes left much to be desired. It was a fun experience though and I’d really like to give a few more haunted hayrides a whirl before I judge this one too harshly. At the least it’s a nice place for families with young children.

Rating: 3 stars

Haunting Season Begins

Posted in 2007, Hallowblog, The Haunting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2014 by bluefall8

This was originally written September 29, 2007 and was the first official entry under the Hallowblog banner. In it, I waxed over film, television, and general haunt news but the bulk of the text covered a visit to The Haunting in Adrian, Michigan. This entry has particular importance to me; to the best of my knowledge this is the first full-length review that I ever wrote for a haunted attraction. This trip has you will soon read, also marked the beginning of a long running joke after my brother, Jason, made a rather tactless and dubious observation.

Fall has arrived with all its radiant majesty and for us Halloween enthusiasts the magic of the season is poised to erupt. I have a multitude of topics I’d like to cover in this inaugural issue and I’d appreciate, no prefer, feedback.

On that note I’d like to state that I’m looking for a more intriguing name to brand this Halloween column with other than the generically crafted Hallowblog. I won’t say I’m holding an open contest (due to the lack of a prize) but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own and if I don’t receive any quality submissions I’ll simply settle with one of those; this is just one small way in which I thought I could make this blog slightly interactive.

The Halloween themed Word of the Week returns this Monday, October 1 and like last year will run the duration of the month of October. Also, like last year, each week’s entry will be accompanied by a companion blog featuring other Halloween related content. Last year’s format was rather simple, each week I featured a monster and a horror film, I also provided a list of Halloween highlights past. I do aim to continue in the same vein this year but new content will also be added.

Yesterday I watched a horror movie called Demonic which really isn’t worth mentioning. Tom Savini played the role of some nutter living in a forest infested with naked female demon types. Yeah, that’s primarily it. The film offered no other redeeming qualities; not exactly a horror classic. What is worth watching however is Dead Like Me. Missy and I have been watching the first season on DVD, it compliments the season well.

To my great delight I obtained a copy of the Fear Finder last Tuesday and plans for the haunting season began to take shape. Each October I excitedly anticipate visiting haunted attractions but it seems that I never make it to enough of them. Last year I didn’t get started until the middle of the month, visiting The Scream Machine and The Screamatorium on the 13th. Jason, Disco, and I next went haunting on Halloween night in Pontiac which was a trip to be remembered as Erebus and the Realm of Darkness proved to be among the best haunts I’ve ever visited. It was the most I’d visited in one season but still I was left unsatisfied. So this year I wanted to be sure to have a plan in place to cover all my haunting desires.

Originally we (Jason, Disco, and I) planned to start the season with a visit to The Scream Machine in Taylor which has become something of a staple over the years. September 27-30 marks the opening weekend for The Scream Machine and tickets are a mere $10 for both attractions. We ended up changing our plans though due to the fact that few attractions have yet opened and as Jason pointed out we could hit downriver haunts anytime. My original plan was to hit The Scream Machine and then head down Dix where we’d explore Anxiety Alley for a mere $5 but Lincoln Park’s annual modular haunt doesn’t open until October 12.

The Haunting in Adrian has an enticing full page ad in the Fear Finder and after reading a five star review at Zioptis it seemed that we might start the haunting season off with a bang. Zioptis by the way is a great source for seasonal fun, interested parties can familiarize themselves with Zioptis here: Zioptis Foundation

The Fear Finder ad touted a $20 combo package that included admission to the 13th floor and 3-Dementia haunted houses, ghost tour, manic maze, two items from the concession stand, coupon to the gift shop, an illusion show, and a souvenir photo with a zombie. It seemed a damn good deal for twenty bucks, the photo with a zombie was particularly enticing to me. But we didn’t end up paying $20, nope, Jason spotted a deal on their website, for just $10 one was granted admission to both haunted attractions, the ghost tour, manic maze, and the illusion show. No, it didn’t include the zombie photo but I figured the difference would more than balance out in our favor if indeed we still decided to get a picture with a flesh-eater.

So the trio was off to Adrian, a trip through the sticks that was interesting in and of itself; the small towns we passed on our way there had all the markings of a B-rate horror flick. We arrived at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds and I was surprised by the lack of crowd, lights, and music. I reminded myself that it was early in the season and we were on a rather sizable chunk of land. We made our way to the entrance of the main attraction and still the crowd was sparse, and really that’s how it would remain.

Two zombie-looking chicks with spooky white pupils sat at a bench statuesque holding a guitar, starting resolutely in our direction. They were a nice touch and I’ll admit that they freaked me out a bit. They did such a good job of remaining still that I wasn’t sure if they were props. The Haunting was a bit of a let down, after so much fanfare I expected an attraction on par with the top of the class. It wasn’t necessarily bad but nothing gave it a unique feel. I’m going to give the whole affair the benefit of the doubt and chalk the lowlights up to the fact that they may still be working out the quirks this early in the season.

Although some very elementary mistakes were made, for instance, at several points in the first attraction it seemed that sections of walls had to be missing because we had an unobscured view into the greater building which wasn’t being used for the attractions. At several points I even saw what looked to be members of the technical team just standing in plain view as if they wanted customers to spot them. That nonsense should never happen as it greatly diminishes the haunting experience.

The Haunting employed a theme centered on the 13th floor of a hotel run afoul. I enjoyed the entrance which included a ghastly looking attendant and the butchered bell hop who directs guests to their rooms. Next patrons are loaded onto The Haunting’s version of the Hellevator which vastly pales in comparison to the one that The Scream Machine used last year. The Haunting blew its load early offering up a scene in which the victim of some terrible medical experiment lies writhing in bed while entrails issue forth from their torso. We’ve witnessed the gag before but it never gets old as the victim pleads for your help. The remainder of the attraction was less than stellar but the fat lady with the butcher knife managed to elicit some laughs when she leapt at us and proclaimed, “Meat! I looooove meat!” I decided against the obvious jokes and continued into a room that resembled a meat cooler full of disembodied human parts. The last item of interest was an immensely large man who sat upon a bed gnawing at a brain. I wasn’t quite sure why anyone would fear this as I harbored serious doubts that he could so much as heave his gelatinous form from the space he occupied. I was brought out of my reverie by would be creepy laughter if only it hadn’t been so seductive. A dead looking chick dressed as a maid emerged from the corner and stalked us from the room. Jason would later make a rather dubious observation regarding this particular incident.

We exited The Haunting shortly and came to the entrance of the 3D attraction known as 3-Dementia. I’ve gone to just one of these prior (The Carnevil of Lost Souls) and I was disappointed then so my expectations weren’t exactly soaring as I entered 3-Dementia. In fairness it was better than The Carnevil of Lost Souls but that isn’t saying much. I think attractions like this have potential and with some time and innovative ideas can serve as a quality side attraction at various haunts. As it stands however they are merely add-on filler.

Well we each openly voiced our disappointment upon exit and soon learned that the photo with a zombie would follow suit. I had hoped for and even expected a live actor but what we saw were two props that could scarcely be called zombies so we declined the photo. We hurried over to the illusion show which was short but did add a nice ripple to the whole experience.

The Ghost Tour was next and was designed to be more campy than scary but the effect was pulled off nicely by the clashing personalities of our tour guides, Gabriel and Gregory. Gabriel played the part of the traditional, spooky tour guide, attempting to instill fear in the guests with ghost stories about the grounds; each story would of course climax in some small scare. Gregory was a slightly hyper ghoul with a penchant for off beat, well timed comedy. The Ghost Tour ended where the Monster Maze picked up. Absent were any actors or props but the maze did give us the opportunity to run around like idiots attempting to frighten other, unsuspecting guests. At one point John and I became separated from Jason and attempted to reunite using our patented “Aweel” call.

Overall I’d give the experience 3 out of 5 stars and am left to believe that The Haunting was firing on all cylinders when Zioptis came calling, otherwise there is no way they would have been awarded a top rating. I wouldn’t mind heading back later in the season to confirm my suspicious but with so many other haunts to visit I doubt we’ll find the time.

It wasn’t a bad start to the haunt season; the atmosphere was rife with the intoxicating scent of fall and that intangible magic unique to the Halloween season.

I plan to post whatever pictures I can from our various visits this season so be sure to check that periodically. Keep in mind that I have to be some what careful when taking these pictures as not all monsters or operators are exactly fond of the practice. I’ll leave you with the following quotes from our endeavor:

“If we get lost out here we might as well rape and murder ourselves…save the locals the trouble.”   -Joel

“Sometimes I just want to grab one of those girl workers. It’s almost like they want you to, do you know what I mean? I mean I would never do it but I think if I did they’d just let me.”   -Jason

Screwball Cast Ignites Exit 13

Posted in 2013, Exit 13, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by bluefall8

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The final haunt of the season always brings with it a mixture of excitement, sadness, and a tinge of disbelief. For the better part of two months my companions and I eat, sleep, and breathe haunted attractions and when the season inevitably draws to a close there’s a lot of information to process. We believe in going out with a bang and we could think of no other place to be on the final night of the haunt season than Exit 13 in Mt. Morris.

Our first trip through Exit 13 came in 2012 and both John and I were very impressed with what we witnessed. Ownership of the attraction changed hands last winter but the iconic name stuck and the new crew set out to top their predecessors. John and I arrived past the eleven o’clock hour on a chilly, dreary night eager to inject that final haunt fix directly into our veins.

Our journey began in front of a black door, a narrow slot had been inlaid at eye level. Suddenly the slot was thrust open, a bushy handlebar mustache was accompanied by a pair of bulging eyes. After a brief exchange the door was opened and I couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just been sucked into some bizarre Wizard of Oz scenario. Once inside the wizardly wanna-be got a bit physical before he allowed us to continue on our trip.

As we delved deeper into the darkness of Exit 13 we would discover the ghastly cast to be energized, abnormal, and without restraint. We were attacked by a mustachioed, little man in a dress, accused of terrible acts during a forced confessional, and roughed up by a gruesome gal who wildly spun yours truly about and then pinned me to a wall (and she didn’t even charge!).

In other areas of the attraction we enjoyed some scenery and a few jump scares. While we traversed a dense woodland area populated by frightening tribal figures, one creep emerged from the brush to deliver an effective moment of terror. Conversely, we were also treated to some humor when we were violently admonished for ogling the mountainous breasts of a convalescing grandma.

However, Exit 13 had saved the best for last as John and I would soon find out. We found ourselves in a strobe-lit hall, in the shadowy distance a sinister shape lumbered toward us. As the figure drew closer the ghoulish features of its face came into full view — darkened eyes leered at us hungrily above a mouth full of jagged teeth. The whole hideous facade was caged behind a metal box that had been mounted to the freak’s head.

Moments later we entered a neatly constructed room that featured cornstalks, a scarecrow, and a murder a swirling crows. And just as we departed that inventive scene we found ourselves first inside of a crypt and then an adjacent cemetery where we were pursued by some famished zombies. We fled that nightmare landscape only to soon find ourselves surrounded by a pack of disturbed clowns who first threatened and then tickled us with buzzing chainsaws.

We were very impressed with the job that the new staff was able to do. The operators overhauled much of the attraction from 2012, in addition many of the scenes or gags that were left intact from the previous season had been successfully tweaked. But make no mistake, the heart and soul of Exit 13 was the lovable cast of loonies who displayed such passion for their craft. The gang here was a versatile bunch equally skilled in both fun and fright.

Once we had emerged from the darkness of Exit 13 we had a lengthy conversation with the owner and a senior staff member who has served as a helping hand at Exit 13 since its introduction to the Flint horror scene. As we learned from the tandem, in 2014 Exit 13 will undergo a complete overhaul and that is an exciting prospect.

With shades of old school, in-your-face aggression, and instances of tasteless, odd ball humor — Exit 13 has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit during the haunt season.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Village of the Living Dead Preys upon Victims with Classic Scares

Posted in 2013, Review, Village of the Living Dead with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2013 by bluefall8

The final night of the haunt season brought with it wind and rain, but we plowed through the elements en route to St. Charles’ Village of the Living Dead; our furthest visit of the season. I loved the ad for this place inside the Fear Finder, something about it harkened back to a bygone era of terror — perhaps it was the water tower looming ominously in the background, whatever the case Village of the Living Dead had the aura of a small town with a monster to hide.

When John and I first entered the haunt we came across a ghoulish freak who smoothly held out his hand and uttered the word, “token.” His voice was strangled but calm and offered just a hint of curiosity. Was he considering us for his next meal? Did he simply desire a new skin suit? My reverie was interrupted when his cold voice stated the utterance once more. Guests here are provided a token upon purchase of a ticket, the token resembled a poker chip — perhaps these tokens are a form of currency amongst those who dwell in the village.

We soon found ourselves traversing an uneven bridge, our vision obscured by a thick blanket of fog. Orbs of blurred light floated through the haze and served more as a tool of disorientation than a source of direction. We entered a cemetery and groped our way along the winding path, the orchestral tones of the Undertaker’s theme music blared throughout the area.

In one narrow passage the fog had grown so dense that a dead-eyed clown was able to materialize directly in front of my face and offered both John and I quite a fright. The fog swirled around our faces and curled about our bodies — it was as if it had taken on a life of its own. The fog was so prevalent that it created a bizarre and unsettling form of sensory deprivation. It was as if we’d been swallowed up into some abyss and lost all sense of direction.

As we transitioned into the middle section of the haunted attraction the oppressive fog began to thin. In one room our only option was to crawl through a small opening near the floor which led to a meat locker. Swinging corpses were hung from the ceiling and in our current position I felt vulnerable and exposed. It was the perfect chance for an enraged butcher armed with a meat cleaver to harvest additional flesh, but to my surprise no such being would manifest.

I do hate to see such opportunities go to waste but as it were this incident was the exception and not the rule inside the Village of the Living Dead.

Later, we were briefly led outside where an angry redneck assailed us with a weapon. He swung convincingly and with great force, a metallic clang exploded behind us. Swiftly, we entered back into the building through another door.

This final stage of the haunted attraction was rife with darkened hallways and false passages. Eventually we found ourselves in a cellar — we certainly had the distinct sensation of being underground anyway. Again, we were made to crawl and I began to have flashbacks to Demonic Demons in Detroit. Our hallway came to a dead end but above us hung a rope and with it we were able to hoist ourselves onto a platform. We crawled on and shortly came to a slide. And who doesn’t love a slide in a haunted attraction?

The horror was nearly at an end now, and we would soon escape the danger of the Village of the Living Dead but not before we were attacked by a pair of feisty pig girls who would’ve liked nothing more than to find us in the bottom of their slop bucket.

The Village of the Living Dead resonated with us on several levels. It was a haunted attraction in the traditional sense — it was frightening. The cast was vocal, animated, and not without a physical edge. The heavy use of fog throughout the first half of the attraction was a masterstroke that established the tone for what was to follow. With just a few additional well-placed and talented actors, St. Charles’ Village of the Living Dead could be that much more terrifying and memorable.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Death Knell for the Scream Machine

Posted in 2013, Review, Scream Machine with tags , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2013 by bluefall8

A steady rain had begun to fall as we neared our final destination on Devil’s Night — the relocated Scream Machine. The one time Downriver power house has slipped over the years, but we had hoped a change of scenery would breath some new life into the sputtering attraction.

Sadly, relocation has only seemed to exacerbate the problems that have afflicted the Scream Machine in recent years. What we witnessed during our visit on Devil’s Night was a haunted attraction teetering on the brink of death.

The popular Hellivator has been eliminated as has the vortex tunnel that followed it at the previous location. Instead we began our journey in the church setting that has been a staple at the Scream Machine; often it has appeared in the middle of the attraction or near the end. I didn’t mind this shift but the dummies seated in the pews seemed to be the exact same props used in years past, and they looked as worn as ever. There was one live plant amongst the stiffs and he was all too easy to spot.

Still in the church, a panel opened to our left. A large, masked actor proceeded to provide what was perhaps the most listless scare we’ve ever witnessed. He issued a growl so thoroughly devoid of all emotion it was almost as if he purposely meant for it to carry a mocking tone. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come as the rest of the cast seemed just as disinterested and passionless.

As we wound our way through the darkened halls it became painfully obvious that there was little creativity that went into the uninspired design of the attraction. It went from bad to worse and then some how sunk even lower. It was a pathetic and shameful display from what used to be a highly entertaining haunted attraction.

The cemetery scene, although diminished as well, was at least enjoyable from a visual standpoint — a small alcove decorated with numerous pumpkins was a nice touch. Other than that, John and I were hard pressed to come up with anything that was enjoyable, inventive, or exciting. Each scene, prop, and scare was merely rehashed fodder that the Scream Machine has run into the ground in previous seasons.

Incredulously, the Scream Machine ended as it has for years — by winding guests through the same leftover hallways that used to serve as part of the Carnevil of Lost Souls 3D attraction. I suppose it was a fitting finale for a haunted attraction that had us wishing for the end by the halfway point.

The cast, as I mentioned above, was particularly detrimental to the overall experience. In as blunt of terms as I can put it, the cast of the Scream Machine was abysmal. They displayed no ability to adapt, no penchant for improvisation, and their interaction was amateurish at best. A group of three or four actors tailed us through much of the attraction and appeared briefly to bang on objects in order to elicit a scare, and when that didn’t work they just banged some more…and then banged some more.

John and I would later agree that, collectively, the cast seemed annoyed by our very presence. It was as if we had interrupted a break and we picked up an almost antagonistic vibe. We’ve witnessed poor casts before, our 2011 jaunt through Anxiety Alley comes to mind, but this experience was without a doubt the worst. Never before have we been treated to such unprofessionalism by a cast that plainly lacked a knowledge of or passion for a proper haunted attraction.

It gives me no pleasure to write such a review. I absolutely love haunted attractions, but this was a travesty. Without knowledge of the inside story, I am at a loss to explain how this once prominent haunted attraction declined so rapidly. I would rather see the doors chained and the windows shuttered than watch it linger on in such a state; the once mighty Scream Machine is dead.

Rating: 0.5 stars

Hush Lowers the Boom

Posted in 2013, Hush, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2013 by bluefall8

A new haunted attraction has the ability to excite me like few other things on this wonderful planet, so when my eyes first fell upon the Fear Finder ad for Hush Haunted House I was intrigued. I checked out the Hush Facebook page and discovered a well produced video promoting the haunted attraction.

The story of Hush is told from the perspective of a lone mental patient. This concept was reflected in the sleek video presentation and on display once more when we arrived at Westland’s latest house of horrors.

The namesake of the haunt was prominently displayed above the front door, beneath it stood a mustachioed, portly, middle-aged man, he introduced himself as Dr. Phineas Phun — that’s Phun…P-H-U-N. Dr. Phun as it were was the resident medical professional on site and he seemed particularly smitten with yours truly. He leaned in for a lingering sniff and later mouthed the words, “Call me.” This sinister surgeon, however, was not limited to awkward exchanges — the man behind the character was simply one of the best doorman we have ever witnessed at any haunted attraction.

He was quick on his feet and seemed to enjoy his role, calmly he deflected my sarcasm and countered with a pointed wit of his own. Near the beginning of our exchange I introduced the good doctor to my cohort and indeed he looked in John’s direction but uttered not a word. Later, as our conversation drew to a close I referenced John once more and it was then that Dr. Phun began to question my sanity and suggested perhaps I become his next patient.

It dawned on me that the man had never actually acknowledged John and had solely conversed with me. Dr. Phun then asked, “Do you always speak to imaginary friends?” I couldn’t help but laugh as I had walked right into his plot. I stammered and gesticulated my objections, John too was enjoying a hearty laugh. Dr. Phun continued, “You should bring this Disco (John’s nickname) next time; I should love to meet him.” And with that we were ushered into Hush.

It was clear from the onset that Hush was going to be an in-your-face, mile-a-minute haunt romp packed to the gills with lively scenes that were creepy and comical. The highly vocal cast, which seemed to come in all shapes and sizes, served up plenty of laughter, startles scares, and supercharged zaniness. Hush made good use of tight passages and pint-sized drop panels, and bizarre yet inventive characters.

Inside the very first room we were chased by a lunatic with a television set for head. Monitor Head stomped his way down the hallway hot in pursuit, bashing his cranium from wall to wall as he went. We fled the oddball abomination and soon found ourselves traveling down a narrow hall lined with doors on either side — the noises that echoed all around informed us that these rooms were occupied.

We pressed on and were assailed by a demented monk who seemed to issue threats in Latin or some other equally dead tongue. We then turned a corner and found a disturbed young lady a top a shelf or bunk bed; one cannot be sure of such things given the circumstances. Her hair fell in front of her face as she sang a lifeless, strangled rendition of Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

Once free from her bubble of insanity we encountered yet another madcap freak when we were held at gunpoint by a squat disciple of Uncle Sam who barked orders in our direction. Again, we soldiered on.

We made our way through a candlelite cavern and then had the displeasure of meeting a second crazed medical professional. This one had recently lobotomized a patient and spoke excitedly of his experiment. The dimwitted invalid soon rose from his chair and spouted off some stilted, yet humorous dialogue.

John and I put some distance between ourselves and the ghastly pair and soon found ourselves engulfed by a twisted carnival. The floor zigged and zagged at odd angles. Soon the path led us to a small stage, upon which a life-sized marionette puppet resided. Lights flashed, music blared and the puppet’s strings began to dance. Suddenly animate, laugher and taunts began to issue forth from her mouth, and to her right was the puppet master — a fat clown who’s eyes suggested he’d love nothing more than to defile us in our sleep.

Hush ended with the buzz of chainsaws, a humongous, marauding alien, and one snaggletoothed hillbilly who professed a preference for sloppy butt love.

On all accounts and by any standard, this was one hell of a first year effort from the team at Hush Haunted Attraction.

Rating: 4.75 stars

A Bloodbath on Devil’s Night

Posted in 2013, Review, Wyandotte Jaycess with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by bluefall8

Devil’s Night arrived dreary and wet but with the haunt season coming to a close it would take a lot more than that to keep us off the road. Our first stop brought us to the Wyandotte Jaycees 2013 haunted house — Bloodbath on Biddle. The Jaycees were fortunate to obtain the building that until recently housed City Hall, it’s large and centrally located in downtown Wyandotte.

John and I entered and talked shop with some of the team, some of you may recall that project lead Jon Dehring appeared on an episode of the Mud Puppets during October alongside several of his favorite ghouls. You can watch that episode right now, as well as a behind the scenes tour, by clicking these links: Murder Mystery and Bloodbath on Biddle: Behind the Scenes Tour.

As we talked I noticed a desk to my right, atop it sat a newspaper not unlike the Fear Finder. It was entitled Terror Tracker so I snatched one up to peruse at my leisure. I’ll ruminate more on this publication in a future post. John and I wrapped up the conversation with the Jaycees crew and trudged forth into the bloodbath.

In the past the Wyandotte Jaycees, not dissimilar to many volunteer groups, has struggled to staff their attraction with seasoned scarers. The organization took a step in the right direction this year — the cast may not have been battled scarred veterans, but on the whole the group displayed a lot of heart and energy. In the end we determined that the kids were alright and we appreciated the effort.

There were some standouts too, such as the freakishly contorted handwalkers in the whiteout room. These tortured souls issued primal screams that hastened our departure.

In another room we encountered  a criminally insane young woman who had been strapped into an electric chair and for good reason as we would soon find out. Initially she attempted to convince us of her innocence and asked if we’d free her from the restraints. Skeptical, we questioned her further and soon learned, by way of her own admission, that her current predicament was the result of an incident which involved an oven and some babies.

Her voice was calm, cold while she made this confession, a comical glint danced across her dead eyes — but before she could elaborate further someone threw the switch and sent a current of voltage ripping through her now spasming body!

The halfway point of the haunted house presented us with an interesting choice — Heaven or Hell. We decided that Hell was our best course of action but to our great surprise the route was a circuitous one which inevitably sent us to Heaven…well, maybe an offshoot of Heaven. A preacher had been hung by the neck and in the shadows lurked a devilish dame with a gash for a mouth and a whip for a tongue.

“I don’t know. Is this your idea of Heaven,” she quipped. Philosophers and psychos all under one roof, go figure. As she slunk out of the shadows with the confidence and poise of one who likes to play with her food, I found myself not just pondering the query but also fighting off the litany of inappropriate responses which had instantly flooded my mind. I know, I know — it’s a testament to just how deeply depraved I am that my mind so readily drudges up such things, but hey, it’s a fun way to live.

There was a handful of signature scenes throughout Bloodbath on Biddle which were all decorated and detailed quite well. We traversed a morgue, a carnival sideshow, and one room that featured a very curious wall of televisions.

There was also a pair of scenes inspired by cherished fairytales, granted the interpretation was twisted, but Snow White and Alice were represented nonetheless. Gruesome artwork highlighted these areas — a beheaded White Rabbit for Alice and a dwarf that hung from a tree for Snow White. Which of the seven dwarves, you ask? Un-Happy, of course!

I especially enjoyed the set pieces used in the latter two scenes — a pair of trees and a water wheel in Snow White’s forest and then a large, colorful tea cup found in Wonderland. Another eye catching sequence was found at the end of the attraction when we traversed a front yard and then several rooms in the accompanying house.

As visually impressive as all of the scenes were such inspiration did not lend itself to execution. For various reasons the actors in these prime areas just didn’t muster up a scare worthy of such settings. For instance, the room with the wall of televisions that I mentioned earlier featured a scare that depended almost entirely on timing and unfortunately the  technological and human elements were simply not in sync.

Two scenes in particular that I thought were loaded with potential was the aforementioned sideshow and the closet near the end of the attraction. The sideshow was neatly dressed with whimsical banners that advertised the oddballs who populated the big top. In the middle of the room was a large box but it’s potential went widely unrealized. Similarly, the closet which had clothes hanging in front of our eyes failed to capitalize on the creativity that went into designing the room.

I had also noticed that the actresses portraying Snow White and Alice were different from the pair who usually staffed those positions. I knew this because it was this duo who had joined Mr. Dehring for the interview mentioned near the beginning of this review. The original tandem was very effective in their respective roles and unfortunately their stand-ins didn’t own the characters in quite the same way. I would later learn that the girls had experienced a bit of haunt fatigue and were actually stationed at other positions in the attraction.

It’s a shame that the best scenes weren’t accompanied by more powerful scares and startles because the Wyandotte Jaycees did a lot of good things with Bloodbath on Biddle. The attraction spanned two floors, sported a large and mostly vocal cast, and lasted for more than twenty minutes. The attraction made use of false doors, integrated props well, and featured cool artwork and several detailed scenes. I hope to see the group build on these successes in the seasons to come.

Rating: 3.25 stars

Inventive Scenes, Lush Environments Highlight Slaughtered at Sundown

Posted in 2013, Review, Slaughtered at Sundown with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2013 by bluefall8

The air had grown cold and the hour late as the headlights of our vehicle cut a swath through the rich blackness. John and I arrived at Slaughtered at Sundown just prior to closing time — the hayride had already ended for the night and considering the biting winds, I couldn’t blame operators.

A fair amount of patrons were already waiting in line for their chance to enter the haunted house when we stepped into the queue area. WRIF was on hand for the night and while the rock music was a welcome addition, some hot chocolate or roving ghouls would have made the lengthy wait more bearable. We did chat briefly with a family in front of us who had toured Slaughtered at Sundown previously.

Interestingly, our journey began and ended with nearly identical scares and oddly the effect was very well executed. Both the first and last rooms in Slaughtered at Sundown are covered in streaks and splats of neon colored paint, it looked as if a radioactive rainbow had entered the area and spewed bile in spasmodic fits. An actor in a blackout suit which had been painted accordingly lurked in the shadows and jolted guests with lightning quick startles.

Slaughtered at Sundown offered a good balance of haunt fundamentals and old school tactics mixed with modern props and technology. This provided an ideal setting for the actors who performed admirably, one memorable monster was dressed as Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, the costume was finely detailed and highly convincing complete with elongated angles and oversized knife.

We aslo enjoyed a dark hallway that featured a spongy floor, our feet sank with each step which created a mild sensation of floating. Soon thereafter we turned into a hall which used lasers and mirrors to create misdirection and disorientation.

The most detailed scenes were saved for the second half of the attraction. Inside a lifeless nursery, a bony corpse rocked and infant to eternal sleep and later we came upon a wall that resembled a honeycomb but there was no sweet nectar to be had. As we approached the structure a pair of undead arms reached out of the wall and attempted to draw us inside.

The scene was visually striking and something we hadn’t quite seen before; it reminded me of the brief, but jarring dream sequence in 1985’s Day of the Dead when a dozen pair of zombie arms burst from a dormitory wall and clutched at one of the main characters.

Slaughtered at Sundown also featured an excellent swamp full of fog and was inhabited by a mangy Skunk Ape who harassed any who dared to traverse the bridge that spanned the bogland. There was also a greatly detailed cave which even had a thick layer of sand spread across the floor.

Our only complaint fell to the group in front of us which was a family of 6-8 people who now hold the record for the slowest group to ever traverse a haunted attraction. On at least three occasions we attempted to separate ourselves from them but they moved at such a snail pace it was impossible without creating a traffic jam behind us as well. Due to the size of their group and the fact that they entered each room ahead of us, the family commanded the lion’s share of attention from the actors and that was detrimental to our experience.

Aside from that, Slaughtered at Sundown did a great many things right — the detailed scenes and shifting environments kept things interesting. A touch more intensity and improvisation would suit this cast very well.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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