Klowne Towne Headlines at Darksyde Acres

Posted in 2020, darksyde acres, Review with tags , , , , , , on December 5, 2020 by bluefall8

The first thing that I was struck by upon my return to Darksyde Acres following a six year hiatus was how busy the boondocks haunt had become over that time. While that fact did mean my group and I would be standing in line for some time, I was happy for the operators of Darksyde Acres who have weathered a lot of challenges over the years. I was also pleased to see that the ole porta potty gag was still being used to great effect. There was even some strange, bird-like creature who communicated with patrons through continuous honking.

CHANGES ABOUND

The most striking and impressive change, in my opinion, was Klowne Towne nestled in the middle of the main structure at the former pig farm. The glow of neon colors was to be found in each room and around every corner. If imagination would allow — and mine certainly did — one might envision the splattered halls as the result of a gaggle of irradiated clowns who suffered from explosive diarrhea. Go on, don’t fight it. You know you want to picture it. It was as if Jackson Pollack joined forces with The Exorcist to create a controversial, modern art installation. A handful of areas even distorted perspective with the use of illusion, an effect perhaps best illustrated by a polka dot room complete with floating orbs.

Change was obvious too throughout the first stretch of the attraction which had expanded to include a well-designed laboratory that featured a number of ill-mannered and sickly patients. On the other end of the spectrum, the conclusion of the haunt was notable for a new scene that featured mutant spiders that crawled from web-strewn tunnels.

On all of those accounts the opening trifecta was quite enjoyable, and even featured a noticeably larger cast than in previous seasons, although it did seem to be a fairly green cast. However, the single greatest detraction from Darksyde Acres was not necessarily the relatively inexperienced cast, but rather the near wholesale absence of the signature characters that had once been mainstays.

Gone was Bubbles and Pickles, the vivacious Juggsy was missing in action as well. Dr. Ickk was nowhere to be found and search as I did I found not a clue of the wise-cracking, bag of bones, Richter Mortis. Alas, Casey the pole dancer was also a distant memory.

Rating: 3 stars

SQUEAL PIGGY, SQUEAL!

Next was the Labyrinth which was a better than average maze that sported a collection of neat scenes and a whole lot of walking ham that wielded chainsaws. It was a fun and effective, if not abbreviated, method to funnel customers to the moribound mariners of the Dark Abyss.

Rating: 2.5 stars

THE FATE OF CAPTAIN KARCASS

After the departure of so many regulars, it was great to meet the acquaintance of the swash-buckling, skeletal, Captain Karcass once more. He held us briefly at the entrance of his ill-fated ship where we cracked wise about rotund stowaways who might test the strength of the deck aboard the Dark Abyss. Inside, the ship was well-stocked with seafaring scoundrels and as elaborately furnished as ever it was. However, once again, I noticed that a familiar face had vanished, the incomparable Lady Chop Chop had either succumb to one of the many diseases common to the Dark Abyss or else had abandoned ship.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Change is inevitable, and it had descended upon Darksyde Acres. The once raunchy, no-holds-barred style has given way to a more conventional form of haunting, but in doing so has surely expanded the customer base. Although many of my personal favorites have likely departed, Darksyde Acres is in good hands and with any luck in a season or two a new core of characters will aspire to the lofty heights of their vaunted predecessors.

Factory of the Dead Spreads Holiday Scares with Evil Xmas

Posted in News with tags , , , on December 4, 2020 by bluefall8

Rotten Manor will not be the only Michigan haunted house to offer horror hounds yuletide terror, Factory of the Dead in Saginaw is poised with holiday offerings all its own. Evil Xmas will ring in the holiday season beginning two weeks from tonight when the devilish Krampus descends upon the Gore Grounds with a legion of villainous elves and cursed snowmen.

Evil Xmas is the third chapter in a series of six events hosted by Factory of the Dead. It began this past fall with a traditional haunted house and then continued into November with a two-night, Blackout event. The final three chapters in this frightening fable will unfold in the New Year with Valentine Massacre, Slay Patrick’s Curse, and A Creepy Easter Egg Hunt.

Evil Xmas will unwrap a merry abomination for one weekend this month on December 18th and 19th. The event will run from 8pm – 11pm. Tickets cost $18 if purchased online or $20 at the box office.

For complete details, please visit: factoryofthedead.com

As with any haunted attraction at present, COVID-19 safety measures will be enforced. Customers are required to wear a facial covering and expected to follow social distancing guidelines. Hand sanitation stations are available on-site and temperature screens will be administered prior to entry.

Factory of the Dead is located inside the Bridgeport Gore Grounds at 906 Lapeer Ave., Saginaw, MI. 48607

2020 Darksyde Acres Review Coming Saturday

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2020 by bluefall8

I find it interesting, and also more than a tad surreal, to revisit a haunt after a number of years. I had last braved the one-time pig farm in Jonesville, Michigan now known, of course, as Darksyde Acres six years ago. That particular trip back in 2014 had capped a four-year run that began with a deliciously, salacious, out-of-body experience on a Friday night in October 2011.

My cohorts and I forged a lot of memories at Darksyde Acres over the years; it was interesting to experience it once more after such a lengthy drought and with an entirely new team by my side. Details from that latest adventure will appear here on Horrorlust this Saturday. Until then, enjoy a stroll down memory lane with past reviews from Darksyde Acres.

2011 REVIEW: The Haunting Redeemed, Darksyde Discovered – The original sin that introduced us to the dark songstress Lex Lethal and the outlandish tandem of Bubbles and Pickles! Darksyde Acres would claim four Horrorlust Haunt Awards including Haunt of the Year.

2012 REVIEW: Adults Only at Darksyde Acres A Must See – An unrivaled, wild night inside and outside the attractions highlighted by Juggsy the Clown and a fire pit sumo showdown!

2013 REVIEW: Friday the 13th at Darksyde Acres – Dr. Ickk regaled us with his love of the dead while Lady Chop Chop took command of the Dark Abyss!

2014 REVIEW: A Drift on the Darksyde – Spurred on by the bizarre claims of Rictor Mortis, I embarked on a solo journey to find the ghost of a man in a bathtub.

If all of that isn’t quite enough to whet your whistle, then check out this two-part interview conducted in 2014 with Rob Johnson, owner and operator of Darksyde Acres.

Dark Magnetism Part I

Dark Magnetism Part II

Black Rainbow: Journal Entry #002

Posted in Black Rainbow with tags , , , , on December 2, 2020 by bluefall8

Chapter 2: Something Muddy This Way Comes

This is the second entry in a multi-part series detailing my happenstance introduction to a community of artists, writers, and creatives who collectively make Metro-Detroit an interesting place to live.

CLICK HERE TO READ CHAPTER 1: ALL WOUNDS BLEED INK

It was a toasty July afternoon, my blue Chuck’s pounded the hot pavement with purpose, a sock puppet adorned my right arm. No, I had not just fled the aftermath of a children’s birthday party gone horribly awry, but that would be a great setup for such a story. It was summer 2013 and this seemingly odd behavior wasn’t altogether out of character for me at the time. In fact, it was shenanigans such as this that would introduce me to the vibrant Metro-Detroit art scene and the curio of characters that dwell therein.

See, my cousin, Ryan and I, had the year prior, began a YouTube-based, sketch comedy troupe lovingly referred to as the Mud Puppets or Mud Puppies or Pud Muppets — it really depended upon who you asked, but we definitely called ourselves the one that sounded like unattended toddlers dabbling in fecal matter. We had been at this for roughly a year and had recently taken the act to our hometown public access outfit.

Our YouTube videos were primarily self-contained sketches that skewered broad topics such as politics and religion, but also featured recurring characters like Porthole Pete, a pansexual pirate, and a quarrelsome couple affectionately known as the gay cavemen. The comedy style was absurd and playfully self-referential, but was, at its core, rooted in sarcasm, irony, and parody. That’s my description, and Ryan would probably agree. Others, however, simply called it gross, mean, and super, low-brow humor. To be fair, it was all true.

When we decided to add a public access element to the fold, we knew it would call for a different format. We treated this as a traditional, variety show that began with a monologue, followed by a (mostly) scripted desk segment, and then an interview with a guest. We had a lot of fun in the studio with our crew and even attracted some interesting guests, but we ached to stretch our legs and decided to branch out into the community with some classic man-on-the-street encounters.

Enter Munch, a crass, surly, drunken sock puppet who delighted in insults, glib commentary, and in one memorable sketch taunted wheelchair-bound, independent wrestling promoter Johnny Badd Wheels with such wanton indifference that the latter lost his cool and strangled Munch in full view of a live audience on the fictitious children’s show “Totally Kids,” that was, naturally, hosted by Munch. Got all that? It’s okay, neither did our family who often insisted that we’d burn in the fires of Hell in pursuit of our degenerate comedy.

Munch and Johnny Badd Wheels in better days.

However, on this day, we couldn’t blame the scorching temperatures on impending damnation, no, we had only ourselves to fault. In preparation of our tomfoolery, and perhaps due to my history of mental illness and penchant for creating a scene, Ryan and I reasoned that my personality was better suited to channel the asshole energy required to breathe life into an otherwise limp, gym sock. What can I say, kids? I heard the call of destiny and I was determined to answer with vigor. Armed with Munch, a less than quiet desperation, and a seemingly inexhaustible reserve of crude jokes, we plunged into the Wyandotte Street Art Fair utterly unaware of the ludicrous path we were primed to experience with this smart ass sock puppet.

The Lost Reviews

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2020 by bluefall8

Since the founding of Horrorlust many moons ago, a great multitude of tales have been woven upon these pages. However, as has been the case on occasion, a story that was due to be told around this hallowed hearth failed to materialize for reasons that were either personal or professional.

While the nature of these would-be entries consist overwhelmingly of haunted house reviews, other interesting yarns have languished in purgatory as well. I recently completed an audit of sorts, and discovered nearly two dozen instances of unfinished business. After thumbing through old notes and organizing original, audio recordings, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to give voice to these lost reviews.

So, what to expect from these mysterious tales of years gone by? Highlighted below is but a taste of what shall be made whole.

  • Hallowblog – Prior to the advent of Horrorlust, I penned thoughts on Halloween and haunted houses by a different name, Hallowblog. Many of those entries, originally scribed from 2006 – 2010, have already been submitted to Horrorlust. However, the entirety of the 2010 haunt season was never shared here. Most notably, this includes reviews from our lone visits to the fabled Demonic Demons in Detroit and the wild, rock concert atmosphere that engulfed the Haunted Hoochie near Columbus, Ohio.
  • SIN Chronicles – While performing as an actor with the Wyandotte Jaycees Haunted House in 2016, I chronicled my nightly experiences with cast and customers alike. Most of those accounts were posted contemporaneously, but the final entries were regrettably left incomplete. Soon, the painful birth of Vermin will be told in full.
  • Haunt Swaps – These events are organized by members of the Michigan Haunters Association, wherein each haunted attraction hosts a night for the other members of the association. Through the years, a mention or two has been made of these here, and as I recently reflected upon these unique treks, I decided that there were memorable nuggets worth sharing — fat, juicy, memorable nuggets!
  • Gruesome Twosome – A pair of seasons — 2016 and 2018 — were particularly troublesome and for very different reasons. Folded into that infamous coupling was a visit to the debut of Awaken as well as maiden voyages to Shawhaven Haunted Farm and Cincinnati’s Dent Schoolhouse in 2016. Not to be outdone, 2018 featured first-time visits to Deranged, Azra, and 7 Floors of Hell before it ended in a blur with last minute trips to Erebus and Hush on Halloween.

You can expect these entries to appear once a week, beginning next Monday with the first of nine Hallowblog entries from the 2010 haunt season. What’s that? You need that spooky fix now?! Alright, you fiends, click the links below and enjoy a preview of what’s to come.

Hallowblog: 2006 – 2009

The Road So Far: SIN Chronicles Revisited

Scrappy & Deranged

Posted in 2020, Review with tags , on November 28, 2020 by bluefall8

Many a haunted attraction was sidelined this fall by the unrelenting spread of COVID-19 — from non-profits to high dollar, professional attractions, few went untouched by the pandemic that dominated headlines throughout 2020. Deranged, entering the crucial third year of operation, decided to implement the necessary changes so that the attraction could open as safely as possible, and it would seem it was a shrewd move.

The aforementioned changes began the moment I purchased tickets when I was asked to return to my vehicle and instructed to wait for a text message. Once that communication was received, our group was allowed to proceed to the short line gathered by the entrance of the haunt where an energetic, impish fellow playfully encouraged us to sanitize our hands. Customers and actors alike all wore facial coverings which made things odd to say the least.

When I first toured Deranged back in 2018 the prevailing notion that I came away with could be summarized in a single word: potential. My experience this year was much the same in that regard, and that isn’t to suggest that Deranged hasn’t improved or expanded in that time because I feel it has done both.

I think the greatest strength of the outdoor attraction is the various scenes and structures that dot the haunted trail. My personal favorites included a suspect ice cream truck, an abandoned arcade, and an atmospheric movie theater that possessed an old-timey charm. These areas are complimented well by unexpected and sometimes bizarre design elements such as a full-sized school bus and an overgrown rabbit who loomed menacingly inside the arcade.

Unfortunately, too many areas simply didn’t boast the personnel with the skill set to do justice to such inventive design. Deranged is truly constructed to be an actor’s playground, but good help is hard to find even in the best of times, kids. Granted, I attended on just the second weekend of operation when actors were still likely adjusting to the unenviable task of attempting to entertain and frighten patrons without the ability to convey facial expressions while also hindered by social distancing.

This isn’t to suggest that the cast didn’t feature a handful of standouts — an expertly-costumed, ancient sorcerer traded quips as we crept through his area of the woods; elsewhere we enjoyed the routine of a nut hugger clad camp counselor who herded us into some questionable showers.

Deranged has built a solid foundation in Romulus. Battled-hardened having weathered the spitball known as COVID-19, the challenge now for the proverbial minds behind the madness is to place emphasis of their signature scenes while fortifying the ranks with more seasoned and enthusiastic performers.

Rating: 3 stars

Rotten Manor UnWraps A Bloody Christmas

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2020 by bluefall8

When Rotten Manor first appeared in the pages of the Fear Finder back in 2015, it was evident from the monstrous facade that this haunt had big plans in mind. Awestruck by my visit on Halloween that inaugural year, subsequent trips in 2016 and 2019 revealed that Rotten Manor had expanded and evolved with impressive results. Having quickly gained a reputation has one of the most formidable haunted houses in the state, it was no surprise when Rotten Manor decided to introduce a Christmas-themed event last year, and that tradition will continue in 2020.

READ 2015 REVIEW HERE: Rotten Manor Howls at Halloween Moon

A Bloody Christmas will be open six dates over three weekends during the month of December. Originally scheduled to premiere on November 27th, an electrical issue caused a one-week delay in yuletide screams. Rotten Manor will now open its doors for festive fright beginning Friday, December 4th and will host the event every Friday and Saturday from 7pm to Midnight through December 19th.

A Bloody Christmas will present patrons with two attractions — the namesake, Rotten Manor, and an elaborate, wooded trail that bears the same name, Rotten Forest. Tickets cost $26 per attraction or guests can opt for a combo ticket and experience both attractions for $40. Per Rotten Manor’s website, tickets are only available on-site and must be purchased with cash only.

Rotten Manor has introduced an app that’s available on the Apple Store and Google Play. A $3 coupon can be found on the FAQ page of the website where customers must register in order to attend A Bloody Christmas. Rotten Manor does enforce facial coverings and social distancing, so plan accordingly. For complete details or questions refer to the website: Rotten Manor

Rotten Manor is located at 13245 Dixie Highway in Holly, Michigan.

Black Rainbow: A Journal of Lucky Misadventures

Posted in Black Rainbow with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2020 by bluefall8

This is the first in a multi-part series detailing my happenstance introduction to a community of artists, writers, and creatives who collectively make Metro-Detroit an interesting place to live.

Chapter 1: All Wounds Bleed Ink

Stating the obvious here, but I’m a big fan of horror. A good horror movie is a catharsis for the soul — a timely comeuppance, a jaw-dropping twist, the mindless slaughter of scantily-clad, nubile woman — yes, horror has the dexterity to pluck all the best strings. Horror, however, isn’t limited to the silver screen, the genre has transcended every entertainment medium known to Western Civilization, and that does bode well for those of us with an unquenchable thirst for the spookies.

My love of horror is substantial, but it is not without rival. Yes, you read that correctly, there is another. By what name is this harlot known, you ponder? Well I call her the written word. I cherish the ability to read because it has granted me the pleasure of pulling the curtain on the external world and has offered a reprieve from an otherwise racing mind. Similar to the way those flickering images flutter across the screen to form a narrative, ink patters over the page to reveal a plot. This act of absorbing and encoding these stories is singular and intimate.

So then, how to blend these two white-hot passions? Horror poured onto the page, of course, but in particular, written in short form. Yes, the joy of cracking open a book filled with an array of the eerie, macabre, and perplexing is as addicting a drug as man or nature can conceive. With that said, one can imagine what someone such as myself might do when suddenly unencumbered by the trappings of pesky employment in a world now consumed by pandemic.

Needle meet vein.

This ironic, harmonic convergence would, last month, bring me to the Balloon Factory in Ferndale where an outdoor, art pop up called Black Cat was held, the latest such event presented by Pinzu. Pinzu? Yes, Pinzu. What the hell’s a Pinzu, you say? Fair question, and one I had asked myself just two years prior. Simply put, Pinzu is a convention of sorts and having attended it twice before I found that it possessed both a certain whimsy and an allure for those who embrace all things that go bump in the night.

It was there that I had a conversation with Michael Cieslak, a Michigan-based author of horror and publisher of Dragon’s Roost Press. Michael had a small tent erected at one corner of the parking lot where he had displayed a collection of books. We chatted casually about our specific tastes in the genre and I ultimately settled on a pair of titles that jumped out at me. The first, titled The Midnight Creature Feature Picture Show, was a collection of short stories hatched from the fertile mind of David C. Hayes and published by Cieslak’s aforementioned Dragon’s Roost Press. The second selection cut from a similar narrative fabric and titled Urbane Decay, was penned by Cieslak himself and published by Source Point Press.

I found myself back in my vehicle, lost in reverie and very much filled with pleasure over the fact that my greedy fingers would soon swim across a sea of words in search of suspense, gore, and the skillful execution of gallows humor. My mind swam back to the publisher of Mr. Cieslak’s book, Source Point Press. It was a name I knew and it had caused me to reflect on the curious path that had first led me to Pinzu, a path I can plausibly claim was blazed by a foul-mouthed sock puppet some seven years prior.

The Mortuary Collection Returns to the Roots of Anthology Genre

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2020 by bluefall8

Honestly, I am astounded that fright fans are so often forced to defend the anthology genre of horror, because, quite frankly, it is the perfect union of form and function. Vaulted first into America’s mainstream by the equal parts infamous and iconic E.C. Comics, then galvanized through the poignant irony of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, and ultimately enshrined into our collective consciousness by HBO’s Tales From the Crypt, the horror anthology is every bit the survivor of cinema’s most heralded final girl.

What began as a Kickstarter back in 2014 by independent filmmaker Ryan Spindell has shambled onto Shudder as a snarky, tightly-written throwback that will delight us 80’s babies who long ago fostered a nocturnal magnetism with the likes of Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and Deadtime Stories.

The Mortuary Collection is based in the fictional, New England town of Raven’s End, a place that the viewer will learn, is home to a curious funeral parlor and its peculiar mortician, one Montgomery Dark, a man who knows the story of every soul that has passed through his funeral home. The imposing undertaker is played by the underappreciated Clancy Brown, most memorable to yours truly for his unsettling portrayal of Sheriff Gus Gilbert in 1992’s Pet Sematary Two.

With a grandfatherly disposition, albeit one contrasted against a cutting wit and knowing menace, Brown breathes life into moldy Montgomery through his understated genius as a character actor and serves as the grounding force throughout the film. Joined shortly by Sam, a young woman in search of employment who possesses her own flair for storytelling, the duo’s travels throughout the mortuary comprise the classic wrap-around portion of this horror anthology.

The individual stories are enjoyable in their own right, each a fresh spin on some of the genre’s most tried-and-true yarns, the grave fun comes to a fitting climax with The Babysitter Murders, the original, foundational piece that spurred The Mortuary Collection into existence, it’s a tale concerned with a child murderer who has a taste for tender flesh and is known only as the Tooth Fairy Killer.

Throughout the narrative, the unlikely pair of Sam and Montgomery wax philosophic about the nature of storytelling, playfully nodding to the conventions of the horror genre while ever so respectfully winking at the audience from behind the proverbial fourth wall. Not unlike the carefully sutured wounds of a recent cadaver, the cinematography is sharply stitched and complimented by visual effects that elicit both shrieks of fear and bales of laughter. Indeed, the whole production is delivered with the patience and poise of a well-practiced eulogy, dusted, of course, with the signature twists that remain an indelible hallmark of the genre.

Inspired by the beloved beasts that populate the genre from yesteryear, The Mortuary Collection, like Trick r’ Treat more than a decade ago, will prove to be the latest triumph of the anthology genre over Hollywood naysayers. In doing so, it not only delivers a welcome dose of nostalgia to legions of horror fanatics, but also fills the hearts of those fans and aspiring filmmakers alike with a much needed injection of hope.

Halloween Hopscotch

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2020 by bluefall8

Halloween was, as it always seems to be, a surreal, mad dash toward that invisible veil that separates our world from the next. My son, Lincoln, and I got an early start on our hunt for candy and made a stop first to Churchill Cemetery in Southgate, which was, of course, the subject of a recent story here on Horrorlust.

Lincoln bravely walked through the cemetery gates where he was offered some treats at the end of a groundkeeper’s spade which I found to be a clever and effective way to safely dispense candy in a COVID-19 world. He posed for a picture with the towering Patches before we departed Churchill Cemetery and then, at a nearby house, semi-confidently informed a creepy jack-in-the-box that it was nothing more than an electronic.

Patches (left) and my 5-year-old son, Lincoln, at Adam Grignon’s Churchill Cemetery in Southgate, Michigan.

We hopped back into the car and came to rest next on London Street in Lincoln Park; this is the street that I grew up on. As my son is still a relatively young trick r’ treater, we pounded the pavement as the Sun still hung in the air which perhaps explained the lack of houses that had yet to flick on a porch light. Lincoln didn’t notice of course, but I did, and the sight saddened me a bit.

As we visited some of the very same houses I did as a young child, I saw my memories layered over the present and I told my curious little boy stories from my own youth. All told, we probably spent an hour on the hunt and that was all Lincoln needed as he reasonably said to me, “I’m good, dad. I have enough candy.” Being a parent is humbling, and ironic, and sometimes heartbreaking; it’s also the most worthwhile endeavor I’ve ever experienced.

Yours truly (left) donning the mask of The Misfits iconic Fiend, Lincoln (right) appears amused by the rictus grin looming behind us.

As the Sun began to set, Lincoln was excited to attend a kid’s Halloween Party with his mom. Meanwhile, I hit the road with a few members of our own haunted house crew including my girlfriend, Shirley, to return to the Haunted Hydro in Fremont, Ohio for the first time in a decade. Although, I did attend a limited amount of haunts this season, of those, Crazy Bob and the gang far and away ran the most efficient operation tailored to COVID-19.

A lot had changed since my last visit in 2010, but the overall charm of the place was alive and well. The theme played loosely with the current pandemic, and offered a tagline that read, “Curse or the Cure.” The outdoor maze, Curzed Woods, was a tangle of fun highlighted by a lively cast and a full moon that sent silver rays of light glistening across the bubbling surface of the Sandusky River.

Once free, we enjoyed a stroll through a makeshift museum which detailed the long history of the Haunted Hydro, a history that I was pleasantly surprised to learn included the Fremont Jaycees.

The main attraction located inside the former hydro-electric dam itself, Cure Family’s Bizarre Bazaar, did not disappoint either, dotted with an array of highly-detailed rooms full of whimsy and fright. Our favorites included a skeletal, high school band, a curiously padded cell, and a series of interesting freak show displays near the conclusion of the attraction.

The entire affair came to an end in bales of laughter when Jaclyn, Shirley’s impish, 17-year-old cousin, who I affectionately (and sometimes disparagingly) refer to as Frankenstein, unwittingly purchased a pair of bondage bracelets which she believed to be a spooky necklace.