Archive for the Review Category

Templin’s Night Terror & Nautical Nightmare’s Vanishing Act

Posted in 2008, Hallowblog, Review, Wyandotte Jaycess with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2014 by bluefall8

This edition of Hallowblog Flashback details a 2008 visit to the Wyandotte Jaycees’ Templin’s Night Terror. It was our first indication that the quality of haunted attraction from the community group could vary wildly.

Also in this post is an account of our failed attempt to locate the Nautical Nightmare. It’s worth mentioning that I had the opportunity to speak to folks involved with the restoration of the Ste. Claire at the 2013 Wyandotte Street Art Fair. During that conversation one of the members revealed that the group was aiming for a 2014 return date for the haunted attraction, but alas, 2014 is here and I have heard not a peep.

This entry was originally written on Saturday, October 18, 2008.

Last Saturday Jason, Disco, and I visited Templin’s Night Terror this season’s haunted effort by the Wyandotte Jaycees, the same group that delivered the sleeper hit of last season under the moniker Hell’s Hospital. Last year the Wyandotte Jaycees had both an old house and a vacated mechanic’s garage to work with but the condemned house has since been torn down. Due to this the haunt is notably shorter but that in itself does not negatively impact the haunt. However, the overall effort did pale to last year’s show, coming up short in several crucial areas. First I’d like to focus on what Templin’s Night Terror does right.

This haunted attraction has a very cool theme (the name says it all) and succeeds in the traditional sense of a haunt by incorporating a healthy mix of darkened hallways and rooms. Templin’s Night Terror also avoids the pitfall of structural familiarity which plagues many haunted attractions. Two elements truly stood out here, the first was a room approximately halfway through the haunt decorated in the fashion of nightmare nursery. Rows of clothes hang from the ceiling, brushing against guest’s heads and faces, distorting their view. Meanwhile a pair of creeps skulk about the room harassing haunt goers in this creepiest of settings. The second high water mark occurred just prior to the end of the haunt when a vampiric ghoul leapt eight feet from the top of a wall to the concrete floor before our feet and then expertly crawled backward into the darkness as a strobe light staggered his movement. Visually, it was a neat sequence of events; you won’t find live actors leaping such distances at very many haunts. After rounding a corner the leaper as we came to call him gave me a legitimate scare when he suddenly appeared next to me. His face was illuminated in a dim blue light as he snarled in anger. I’m not an easy one to catch off of guard so TNT deserves points for that. Sadly, the rest of the haunt was distinctly without rhythm.

Upon entering the haunt guests walk toward a trio of doors displaying psychotic clowns. As haunt goers attempt to navigate the correct path a pair of clowns appear and proceed to engage each other, more so than the guests, in an overly jocular and inane line of conversation. I’m confident that this is not their typical routine but their inability to intelligently interact with guests while in character was disappointing. It was an omen I suppose as the majority of actors inside Templin’s Night Terror were simple poor, their timing and delivery were amongst the worst I’ve witnessed and that was particularly disappointing because small, old school productions rely heavily on the performance of its actors. It was through individual creativeness that Hell’s Hospital became last year’s much talk about dark horse. The actors seemed to be caught off guard, simply meandering about one room when we entered and then acting as if we should still be surprised. It was like watching Batista reset a series of moves after a blown spot; it’s just not exciting when you know what’s coming.

We could also hear a lot of the workers talking to each other as we made our way through the haunt and that is something that immediately turns me off. I can’t suspend disbelief when you’re telling me where you’re located. The actors however can’t be blamed for this, the haunt was oddly quiet and the implementation of a sound system would have done wonders to cover the noise of idle chatter.

At the end of the haunt a girl whispers a warning about “the white rabbit” and if history serves as any guide I’m sure Jason was fighting the urge to test his theory originally postulated last year during a visit to The Haunting in Adrian. Upon exit haunt goers are chased by a chainsaw wielding rabbit which I thought was a nice touch.

Templin’s Night Terror was disappointing especially when contrasted against Hell’s Hospital of last year but TNT has potential and with a few simple corrections the Wyandotte Jaycees should enjoy another successful year of haunting.

Rating: 3 stars

After leaving Templin’s Night Terror we were off to find the Nautical Nightmare which exploded onto our haunt radar during the 2005 season. I first learned of the Nautical Nightmare’s return to Michigan when I found a Myspace page for the haunted attraction in August. The page listed the haunt as being in the Detroit area and when I read an online article a few weeks later placing the NN at Heart Plaza the excitement grew over this rarest of haunts. We grew weary though as the Myspace page remained unaccessed since August 14th. Furthermore the company responsible for this year’s show, BodyBag Entertainment, provided no information on their website. Nor had the Nautical Nightmare appeared in any local haunt publications, we were suspicious but hopeful.

Jason insisted that we take Jefferson through River Rouge and then the shanty town of Del Ray which makes River Rouge look pleasant. Jason claimed that the route would add atmosphere to our trip and while it did generate a few notable comments John and I seemed to agree that the only thing this path did was raise our chances of being beaten and mugged.

We survived the trek and arrived at Hart Plaza only to find sleeping bums and the Detroit Princess (the boat that’s always on CW 50). After some brief tomfoolery near the fountain in Hart Plaza and aimless wandering we returned to the car and then decided to head to the park where the Nautical Nightmare was held in 2005. Back in Rouge we found the park vacant as our hopes of finding the magical boat diminished. The old Boblo boat was becoming a true ghost ship but I was determined to unravel the mystery.

During the ensuing days I searched the web for answers but the Nautical Nightmare’s Myspace page and BodyBag Entertainment’s website still contained no new information which I found particularly unprofessional and lame. I next visited bobloboat.com and found the following passage:

“I want to thank all the people who came out so far this year to help with the demolition. I originally wanted to do a haunt this year on the Ste. Claire, however, the demolition took longer than expected. I therefore decided to continue demolition throughout the entire 2008 season and get the ship ready for winter.”

This was posted by a Mr. Ron Kattoo who I can only assume is the owner of the Ste. Claire. I can’t say for sure but from the information I’ve gathered it seems he pulled the plug on the water bound haunt in mid-August which must have irritated and frustrated BodyBag Entertainment so close to the Halloween season.

“It smells as if everyone in the town gathered in an open field, bent over, and spread their ass cheeks in unison.”

-Yours truly commenting on the foul smell permeating Del Ray

“At least we won’t be attacked by mutants crawling out of open sewers.”

-Jason, detailing the relative safety of Detroit compared to the industrial wasteland of Del Ray

Realm of Haunted Minds & The Extreme Scream

Posted in 2008, Extreme Scream, Hallowblog, Realm of Haunted Minds, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2014 by bluefall8

This entry was originally posted on Sunday, October 12, 2008 and chronicled an enjoyable night of haunting that took place at The Realm of Haunted Minds in Romulus and Extreme Scream in Taylor.

This particular trip through The Realm of Haunted Minds would later notch the 2008 Horrorlust Dark Horse Award. 

On October 4 (the Saturday before last) the same group of haunters that survived the Homer Mill one week prior braved the terrors of two local attractions: Realm of Haunted Minds and The Extreme Scream.

Jason, John, and Cherette arrived at my apartment just past dusk and we set out for Realm of Haunted Minds at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus. When we arrived the area was nearly deserted but the sound of Michael Myers’ haunting music reassured us that the ghastly denizens of RHM were awaiting the arrival of some unlucky souls. There was a type of country store in which customers purchase their tickets and the decorations here were noteworthy. A number of realistic, life-size dummies dotted the walls on the left side of the room one of which appeared to be Lon Chaney’s portrayal of the title character in the 1925 production of The Phantom of the Opera.

After buying our tickets we hit the grounds were various clubhouse style buildings dominated the landscape, we would explore these after we exited the Realm of Haunted Minds. Upon entering the haunted house guests listen to the wisdom of a slightly creepy animatronic wizard. The haunt features a recurring theme of hallways speckled with neon paint and lit by black light; I think it works fairly well here achieving a disorienting effect without seeming repetitive or disjointed.

One major drawback was the timing of the actors, often off it served as a double dose of disappointment when paired with lackluster deliveries which plagued numerous workers. However, one particular actor was dead set on precision. After being herded down a narrow passage guests approach a turn to the right that forces them to crouch very low to the floor; all would’ve been fine if it hadn’t been for a hungry, undead girl stooped in the corner. The position of the corner and the low ceiling forces the haunt goers to come face-to-face with the frightening creature who barred her teeth in a menacing snarl. As we passed she made her desires known stating, “I want to bite your ankles”. She proceeded to follow us through several rooms, dragging her body across the floor as if her legs were useless. Her persistence was appreciated and I thought it only proper to offer her a just reward, shaking my exposed ankle at her as we rounded a corner I said, “Earn your meal biatch.” She didn’t just steal the show at RHM; she made the show and will no doubt be remembered as one of the top actors of the haunt season.

The rest of the haunted house featured passable if not forgettable scenes perhaps the most awe-inspiring was the room that contained a massive Frankenstein strapped to a medical table. I also was struck by a hallway that featured a high arching ceiling with bright pink tube lights running up either side of the walls and crossing over guests’ heads. As with the Homer Mill there was a “Womb of Doom” just prior to the end of the haunt. Upon exiting haunters wind their way through a small maze comprised of wooden fence posts. We eventually escaped the maze albeit by questionable means when Jason insisted on ducking beneath a wooden structure and barreling through a rather small opening between wooden planks, that opening needless to say increased in size once we had made our hasty exit.

The Realm of Haunted Minds has potential. It’s a great place for someone looking to get into the spirit of the Halloween season who isn’t quite prepared for the scares offered at more intense or graphic attractions.

Rating: 3 stars

We departed the Huron Turkey Farm and began the trek to Taylor for the Extreme Scream. The Extreme Scream wasn’t open in 2007 but during the 2004 Halloween season Branden, John, Amanda, and I discovered just how effective this haunt could be. Needless to say I was very excited to return to this haunt with an old school slant.

The Extreme Scream still features a lot of plain, dark hallways and the desired effect is pulled off here better than any other haunt I’ve visited. The operators here smartly allow haunters to psyche themselves out allowing them a lot of time to think about what lies around the next corner while feeling their way through these basic but effective hallways.

Prior to entering the haunt the guy at the door runs a shtick in which he cons the party weakling (typically the girl in the group) out of their name. Once he has the name he announces it to the foul ghoulies inside and as you may have guessed such dubious honors were bestowed upon Cherette. The monsters wasted little time in taunting Cherette, one depraved creature suggested that we, “Take Cherette to the bedroom”. I’m fairly certain I heard a satisfying slurp escape Jason’s lips.

The Extreme Scream features a strong blend of dark passages, props, actors, and simple yet effective gags. This haunt really starts to hit its’ stride at the midway point with a series of shrinking hallways that force guests to turn sideways and push their way along. While this occurs an agile clown scampers across the tops of walls taunting visitors below. Another neat feature of the Extreme Scream is the various locations at which haunters are forced to crawl their way along, sometimes while grunting creatures pursue you from a parallel path separated by intersecting wooden planks. The timing of the majority of actors is precise here and most seem committed to scaring the guests.

At one point we entered a room where the walls were lined with lockers, a single door stood at the far corner. We went through it and immediately suspected that we had strayed from the haunt. We were staring at the haunt’s sound system and standing in what seemed to be a type of access pathway to numerous rooms throughout the attraction. I could also hear the distinct chatter of employees; in fact I spotted two of them not far from me. After several attempts to find an alternate path and failing to do so I simply approached one of the workers and he directed me back to the locker room where I reunited with the group. Apparently there was a small door near the floor; we had to crawl to get through it. I’m fairly certain that haunt goers aren’t expected to find this for themselves because a ghoul had now appeared in the room behind the secret door this room was actually visible from the employee pathway we had mistakenly entered but it was so small I wasn’t sure that we were supposed to enter it. The ghoul who had suddenly appeared I assume was suppose to have jumped out at us and then directed us in the right direction in the first place, I guess he was busting a ghoulie feke.

The haunt concluded shortly and suffered from a terribly anticlimactic finish. Guests enter a room where a man in an electric chair, bathed in red light slowly raises his head. The prop is merely meant to distract you as a plainly visible slot in the wall houses a masked actor who provided a would be mild scare.

The misguided trip into an employee area as well as an uninspired finish put a blotch on what was an otherwise very enjoyable and well done haunt. I did miss the cart ride that the Extreme Scream featured in 2004.

Rating: 4 stars

Homer Mill Delivers Explosive Kick Off

Posted in 2008, Hallowblog, Homer Mill, Review with tags , , on September 2, 2014 by bluefall8

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

Summer Scream More Fun than Fright

Posted in 2014, Erebus, Review with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2014 by bluefall8

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We arrived at Erebus in the late afternoon hours of a sunny summer day and if that didn’t seem strange enough, there in broad daylight was a drooling zombie who worked the queue line that wrapped around the side of the imposing structure. The haunt season had come early and it felt bizarre, surreal and almost as if we had all cheated in some way. The Summer Scream Total Blackout event at Erebus had the feel of a wild card and by the time we had emerged from the haunted edifice it was with a mix of emotions and thoughts on our latest trek through the monster Erebus.

For my stalwart haunted house companion Disco Devil and myself, it was our sixth trip through the 4-story haunted edifice but with us we also brought our friend and Erebus virgin, Cikalo. He’s joined us on a handful of excursions since 2011 and I was very interested to hear his thoughts on Michigan’s most well-known haunted attraction.

Despite a fair crowd our wait to enter wasn’t overly long and we were soon handed glow-in-the-dark necklaces to wear through the haunt — our only apparent means to light the path ahead. I was disappointed with the necklaces because I had hoped for a glow stick so that I could hold it aloft like a torch and light the way as if I was some kind of modern day Indiana Jones. I suppose management felt that a glow stick was much more likely to be dropped and lost than a necklace, and thus my cinematic fantasies were dashed.

Our journey began as all of our trips through Erebus have — first with a brief stop in front of a large video projection and then a few moments locked inside the scanning chamber. Each of these are fun but after so many years something fresh would be a welcome change.

John and I had visited Erebus as recent as last fall, so it was no surprise that the layout of the attraction was relatively unchanged but the operators had implemented various tweaks and twists. A serpent burst forth from the vase near the Snake Charmer, a moving wall threatened to cast us into a bottomless pit, a wrecking ball sprung from the darkness and crashed into our path and we were made to kneel in the buried alive chamber.

Present also was, of course, the usual legion of actor-controlled puppets that I affectionately refer to as lurchers, leapers and grabbers. A number of these puppets were quite aggressive, on several occasions a member of our party found themselves ensnared by their hairy clutches.

Elsewhere in the belly of the beast, a pack of crazed monkeys descended from the ceiling and one of the sneaky simians nearly snatched the hat from my head! Moments later, while we traversed the liquid sky corridor, a strategically placed ghoul popped me right in the face with a bloody stump; who doesn’t like a bloody stump to the mush?

A couple of actors of note included the large fellow who stalked the hall of mirrors, which made for an interesting and eerie setting under the dimly lit conditions, and also Dolly Boy who seemed lost in a fantasy land where toys could speak and was only peripherally aware of our existence.

It was during the early stages of Erebus that I believe the haunt was the darkest and it was at this juncture that we witnessed several solid jump scares, but on the whole the attraction did suffer from subpar acting and an excess of light for an event that was billed as a total blackout. I knew heading into the event that it would be difficult for Erebus to pull off such a feat because the animatronics and various special effects, that indeed make Erebus what it is, are dependent on at least some light. Regardless, I would have personally preferred to have these visual aspects sacrificed in the spirit of the event. The glow necklaces gave off a decent amount of light as it was and alone may just have provided just enough illumination to truly create that lost in the darkness sensation.

The acting as I mentioned left something to be desired; many of the actors didn’t seem equipped to effectively interact with guests once initial contact had been made. The immediate scare wasn’t bad but there wasn’t much there in the way of dialogue or unique mannerisms and often one after another became a generic blur. An army of actors who are essentially little more than worker bees can be pulled off without detracting from the show, in fact we’ve witnessed it on numerous occasions at Erebus, but on this night there simply weren’t enough characters with substance to balance the equation.

In the end, we did enjoy this trek through Erebus but it wasn’t the total blackout we had hoped it would be and because of that we couldn’t help but feel like we’d just traversed Erebus on a night where some of the lights simply weren’t working. With that in mind, Cikalo, who again had never toured Erebus, commented that he would’ve preferred to have seen it all full power. For all of these reasons, I hope that if this event is held again that the operators see fit to take the concept further as to truly differentiate the Summer Scream Total Blackout from the fall production.

The one thought that kept swimming to the surface of my mind was just how strange it felt to be at a haunted attraction in the middle of July, and as I sit here and share my thoughts on that day I’m still struck by that feeling. There’s no doubt that there’s an unmistakable element of magic in the air during the haunt season and for whatever reason it just wasn’t there on that summer day. Now that’s not to see that we didn’t have a good time because we did — I guess it was sort of like eating ice cream in the winter; it was simply out of season.

Rating: 3 stars

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

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