Archive for the Review Category

Haunt Season Hits Stride at Chainsaw Creek

Posted in 2008, Chainsaw Creek, Hallowblog, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2014 by bluefall8

This entry chronicles a memorable visit to Chainsaw Creek which was located in Toledo, Ohio. It was one of the earliest, if not the first, experience we ever had at a multi-attraction venue. County Morgue, one of the four attractions that was featured, won the 2008 Horrorlust Pulse Pounder Award.

I hold numerous fond memories from this outing and have always considered it a formative event in our haunted history. Sadly, we never returned to Chainsaw Creek. We wanted to embark on a return trip in 2009 but weren’t able to work it into our schedule. The haunt folded after that season and has not returned since. 

This post was originally published on Wednesday, October 22, 2008.

On Saturday, October 18th the Haunt Trinity set out for Ohio with the intent of visiting Chainsaw Creek in Toledo and TerrorTown in Maumee but due to our late start we were only able to visit Chainsaw Creek. Chainsaw Creek features four attractions: County Morgue, Haunted Prison, The Black Swamp, and Carn-Evil. I was some what surprised at the size of the crowd and equally thrown off by the large security presence. Music blared from speakers as elaborately disguised ghouls paraded around the area frightening hauntgoers. I immediately liked the atmosphere of this place, the night had potential.

The four attractions sat in a corner of the Franklin Park Mall parking lot as we approached Carn-Evil was to our left, The Black Swamp and Haunted Prison stood directly before us, and County Morgue was to the right. We bought our tickets and decided to hit County Morgue first as it seemed to be the main attraction. As we waited in line we were entertained by a monster-sized clown with a curiously low set head that bobbed wildly as the creature marched about; I would later get a picture with this freakish being. County Morgue was constructed from a large party tent with a front wall made from wood. It would be easy to write such an appearance off as cheap but the frugal technique worked well here. After watching some idiotic kid fail in an attempt to weasel his way into the attraction it was our time to enter.

County Morgue offers a unique blend of old school and smash mouth haunting. Strobe lights flash throughout the haunt and hard, driving rock music pulses combining to create a disorienting effect all while the adrenaline gets pumping. Upon entering the haunt the first room holds quite a rare sight — an unkempt girl sits in a wheelchair, wearing a helmet. She held her left arm aloft and twiddled her fingers in rapid fashion…and then she spoke and proceeded to warn us of monsters in her own special way. Yeah, I was surprised too. I’ve never before witnessed the mentally retarded reduced to comic fodder for the sake of a haunted attraction. I had to admit, this place had some balls and the effect was nothing short of hilarious if not crass. The very next room did not disappoint either as we approached a doorway a legless, bloodied, zombie-nun crawled from beneath an unidentified structure and began violently gnashing at our legs. This place was crapping on all sorts of taboos! I loved it!

As we continued through the haunt I realized that I was starting to feel apprehension at every turn and that is not something easily accomplished on one such as I, this haunt was doing a hell of a job creating suspense like no other haunt this year. Many torsos hung upside down from the ceiling and each was extremely life like some of the props were even equipped with a gruesome twitching effect. Half way through the haunt we were confronted by an impish girl with a gaping head wound who excitedly and repeatedly proclaimed, “Can you help me”, we just laughed which must have rubbed her the wrong way because she then began expressing a desire to munch upon our flesh. We left the jazzed up cannibal to her own devices and were shortly confronted by a man cradling his own entrails. Highly entertained by this point we were almost sad to depart the haunt as a demented doctor pursued us with a chainsaw. At the haunt’s exit Wheelchair Girl bade us a fond farewell with her simply charming smile.

I’m always hesitant to prescribe individual ratings to a haunt with multiple attractions because as a haunt enthusiast I know that a few are there to function as side shows but County Morgue was so good that I feel it’s an insult not to give it its own rating. Truly the only knock against the haunt was that it was short but again that’s to be expected when one haunt, Chainsaw Creek, features four attractions. So now that I’ve spewed forth that tangled mess of metadiscourse…

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Next we headed to Carn-Evil, the 3D haunted attraction at Chainsaw Creek. Twice before the Haunt Trinity has set foot in 3D haunted attractions and on both occasions there was something left to be desired, I was anxious to see what Carn-Evil had to offer. While we waited in line we were entertained by a ghoulish goob who did do his job well but was unfortunately ruled partially a douche due to his ICP hoodie. There was also a behemoth grim reaper type with glowing red eyes who skulked the grounds and pointed a threatening finger at haunters. Thus we entered Carn-Evil and while we certainly weren’t blown away we weren’t disappointed. Carn-Evil was thin on live actors but the few who did populate the haunt did their craft a service and possessed excellent timing. We groped through techni-colored passageways and worked our way through a series of maze-like false walls. Everything here was relatively subtle (aside from the shockingly fluorescent 3D paint of course) but it seemed to balance nicely. The attraction ends when hauntgoers cross a great black hole which pushes the 3D effect to the max. Again, this haunt didn’t light our senses on fire but it did reestablish our faith that the 3D attraction can serve as more than mere filler. Jason, John, and I all agreed that it was the best 3D haunted attraction we had visited.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

The lines were becoming considerably shorter now and after a slightly banal conversation about haunts with a possibly stoned employee at the entrance of The Black Swamp we were granted access into this third attraction. The swamp theme is cool in theory but if it’s not pulled off just right it can become boring and lame. Chainsaw Creek does a pretty good job at creating the illusion of a swamp like atmosphere; typically haunts achieve this through a combination of heavy fog and green lasers. The first turn of the haunt revealed a lunatic clown who laughed joyously as he manically proclaimed, “I want to eat your face!” He delivered the line with such crazed joy and I really appreciated this actor’s effort, sometimes the entire show can live and die by the actors. The Black Swamp was a little light on details but did feature all the right characters for the setting including a Black Lagoon type creature that dashed at us out of the fog from beneath a wall. Like County Morgue it suffered slightly from being too brief.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Upon exiting we joined the line to the final haunted attraction, Haunted Prison. This haunt featured a great animatronic at the entrance, behind a set of bars a man is strapped to an electric chair and is of course repeatedly executed. Once we had entered it became apparent that Haunted Prison was fairly bland. Hauntgoers wind their way through a series of chain linked fence for the majority of the haunt while a fair number of workers provide decent scares. Admittedly I had grown tired by this point of the night and my wits were not very sharp but even with that said there just wasn’t a whole lot to Haunted Prison, it was just a bit too generic.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

Chainsaw Creek on the whole scored positive marks and I would consider a return visit during the 2009 haunt season. The atmosphere exudes a wild and fun brand of scares which is underscored by the band of wandering creatures. County Morgue is undeniably the crown jewel; with more room the operators could turn this attraction into a full-fledged haunt itself. Carn-Evil fills the role of solid side show admirably and has some potential to expand as well. While Haunted Prison could use some work The Black Swamp has promise but it’s likely that these two will be altered next year as multi-attraction haunts rarely feature the same line up year to year. The price is right at $20 so if you’re a haunt enthusiast and you have a free Friday or Saturday it’s worth the drive from the greater Detroit area as well. I’m definitely interested to see how Chainsaw Creek evolves for the 2009 season.

Corpse Barn Shock & Awe

Posted in Corpse Barn Shock Haunt, Review with tags , , , on October 12, 2014 by bluefall8

 

Corpse Barn Shock Haunt

It was a gloomy night as we departed from Allen Park bound for the Corpse Barn Shock Haunt in Napoleon. As we drove down westbound I-94 the skies grew darker and as the minutes passed the rain slowly but surely became more and more steady. The ground was soggy when we reached our destination, quickly we purchased our tickets and made haste for the entrance of the Corpse Barn!

Once inside the barn we were made to wait inside of a narrow passageway with an earthen floor; it felt as if we were trapped in a cellar and I thought it a great setting to stew for a few minutes. Fifteen to twenty minutes passed and like clockwork the groups in front of our own disappeared behind a wooden door at the end of the passage, soon it was our turn. We entered a second staging area where we waited a fraction of the time and then were thrust into a den of death.

The interior of the barn was littered with corpses indeed, it was as if the barn itself had been eviscerated. All about the floor in every direction laid piles of dummies; I wasn’t sure if this was the ritual site for a serial killer or merely the dumping grounds for plague victims, but the bodies were scattered, torn and in abundance.

The Corpse Barn was bolstered by a solid design that often wound circuitously which ensured that our sense of direction remained quite off-kilter. The various paths were separated by wooden planks, mesh fencing and plastic sheets; visibility was obscured which further served to disorient.

There was no shortage of actors either and while few truly stood out not a one of them detracted from the experience. Along the path we encountered several victims, one man had had his eyes removed, his eye sockets now a soulless void. Elsewhere we witnessed a skinny, screaming child carried off by a goon; the child must’ve broken free because we encountered him again although he was in no dire of a circumstance, now under the barrel of a rifle being brandished by a second youth. The former child, who we dubbed Aspy Boy, chronically shrieked and unceasingly flapped his arms. We pleaded with the aggressor to finish the job and end all of our suffering.

Once outside the barn we were approached by a dark-haired woman who was hidden amongst the brush. She was distraught with worry and asked us if we had seen her baby. We informed her in several ways that her baby had comically perished inside the barn; despite her professed anguish a smirk betrayed her true feelings. I couldn’t help but enjoy the moment and share a laugh.

We followed an outdoor path around the back of the barn until it descended into another, much smaller building. Once inside, we immediately came upon an armed murderous man who had cornered a whimpering damsel — I can only assume she joined the rest of the stiffs inside the barn in short order. Next, we traversed a series of passages built from cinder block and flooded with fog this soon gave way to a crypt where a ghoul or two pawed at us supple fleshies.

Through one final hallway we traveled, to my left was a window and then an arm shot through it accompanied by a cry for help! I had had enough of this mayhem and death and decided to lend a helping hand. The hand grasped at the air wildly for a moment before I could secure it in my grip, but with stout heart I pulled the damsel through the window and led her to safety.

Nestled into a wooded area, the Corpse Barn Shock Haunt turned out to be a very enjoyable attraction and with a few subtle improvements can be better yet. I loved the use of dummies to underscore the concept of a barn turned burial ground but it would’ve made for a great jump scare had some of the scenes had a creature or half dead victim amongst the meat bags. I’d also love to see more of a story told here — who is responsible for all of this gore? Such a premise could drive fun interaction as well, for instance, perhaps the party could encounter an escaped victim who has knowledge of a secret passage or could suggest that guests lie with the dead as a means of eluding an approaching menace?

One scene that stood out was an area filled with television monitors which displayed various parts of the Corpse Barn and the souls who attempted to navigate the twisting paths. The scene was visually striking but otherwise seemed disjointed, an odd scene to find inside of a barn but with the aid of a deeper story it’s the kind of setting that may just serve to propel the narrative.

Rating: 3.75 stars

The Haunted Funeral Home Mostly Stiff

Posted in 2014, Funeral Home, Review with tags , , , on October 6, 2014 by bluefall8

Work on The CikNis had prevented the chance for many early haunt season visits but on Saturday, September 27, I simply couldn’t wait any longer so Cikalo and I hit the road for a bit of local flavor at Inkster’s Haunted Funeral Home. This attraction isn’t anything mind-blowing but I did have a pair of fun visits there in 2011 and then again last year, unfortunately the latest foray was a decided dud but I’m still happy that we ventured out that night because there are lessons to be learned from shortcomings of The Haunted Funeral Home.

Our trip began has it usually does here when we relinquished our tickets to the doorman — a sharply dressed man fit for a funeral who bears a slight resemblance to my stepfather (that’s just an odd personal aside). Anyway, this character is great in appearance but the man behind the makeup, due to reasons that escape me, did not see fit to play the role. He merely accepted our tickets as he has in years past and ushered us into the haunted house. It is a monumental waste of an opportunity to interact with guests and prime them for the adventure that awaits.

The Haunted Funeral Home is a short attraction, a ten minute estimate would be generous, a more accurate count is closer to seven or eight and this year there just wasn’t much of substance in that time. We did enjoy a couple of actors — a stout clown offered a few moments of wise-cracking banter, elsewhere a lunatic witch rapped the cracked skull of an infant against a fireplace mantle. There were a few neat props too — a head that sprung from a pumpkin or pot, a crawling, glowing zombie and a super-sized dummy that loomed above us threateningly as we crept along a darkened hall.

There was too the signature scene of The Haunted Funeral Home, a ghoul who played a mournful tune on a genuine organ but it was all a blur of pedestrian scares and lackluster interaction otherwise. The very design of the place is entirely uninspired, consisting primarily of repetitious black hallways and scant scenes. The cast was mediocre at best with little individual personality and offered precious few scares that weren’t predictable. A handful of them were poorly hidden, half-heartedly crouching behind a wall or otherwise caught out of position.

The back-half of the haunt did feature a pair of actors who attempted to bring a little something more to their characters but each failed in their execution. The first was dressed in medical scrubs and brandished a bone saw, she professed a desire to cut a piece from Cikalo and of course we obliged. I love to give actors a chance to make guests an active part of the show but sometimes the actor can bite off more than they can chew. The whacked-out surgeon raised the tool to Cikalo’s ear, mimed sawing for a moment and then dropped an invisible chunk of flesh onto a table…and we departed.

The conclusion of the attraction was similar in that an actor painted himself into a corner. We found ourselves trapped in a dark room when suddenly the sound of a chainsaw ripped through the silence, the lights flickered and an imposing mass shuffled out of the shadows. The masked actor charged and immediately began shouting, “Get the fuck out of my house.” We paused a moment to allow the act to unfold but that crude, unimaginative sentence was apparently all this character could muster.

I understand that in general it’s more difficult to frighten adults inside of a haunted attraction; especially grown men. I have no doubt that some actors feel that they need to be more abrasive with such an audience but this is the wrong way to express that. Shouting obscenities isn’t just uncreative and unprofessional, the practice is ultimately stifling for an actor. Honestly, as an actor in a haunted attraction, where do you expect to go once those coarse commands have been shouted or how will you react when a customer does indeed offer up that appendage for the taking? The lesson here for actors is simply to avoid painting oneself into a corner.

An actor isn’t going to chop off the ear of a guest so it shouldn’t be threatened, instead it should be implied. The mere suggestion of such is a much more effective scare tactic and will provide more freedom with the act going forward. Likewise, actors should avoid direct commands that often lead to the same problem. I enjoy and applaud haunted house actors who tailor their performance for individuals and groups; some colorful language and raunchy mannerisms can be effective but it has to be done correctly. Use innuendo, provide customers an ultimatum — don’t merely bark obscenities.

On a positive note, there was an additional scene I failed to mention earlier that was worth a mention — near the end of the attraction we passed a bathtub that held the remains of an emaciated corpse and that’s precisely the kind of thing I’d like to see more of at The Haunted Funeral Home.

Rating: 1.25 stars

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

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