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Fall 2014…..The US Tour.

We are happy to announce that Haunted Attraction Review will be hitting the road for a 2 month road trip.  This is something both of us have wanted to do since we started this site two years ago and finally are able to do it.  We will be traveling by both RV and plane visiting some of the well-known and not so well-known attractions in the Midwest and East Coast.  We start our tour on Sept 12 outside of Cleveland, Ohio at Bloodview Haunted House.  I’m really excited that we are visiting here because it is the home of The Legion of Terror.  I have had the opportunity to work with a few of them at Netherworld and have always been impressed with their improv skills. They are a true class act and I can not wait to see them in their home surrounding.  The next night, Sept 13 we will be at America’s Rollercoast, Cedar Point to visit Halloweekends.  I grew up going to Cedar Point went to the very first Halloweekend.  It has been over 10 years since I have been here and look I’m looking forward to see how it has grown.  Also appearing there will be Midnight Syndicate.  This is the first time they will be performing live in front of an audience.  We will also be in Orlando for the opening of Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween.  Then it back north where we go to the Chicago area, back to Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and to New Orleans.  We have a list of Haunts we will be visiting and will be looking for those hidden gems while on the road.  You can follow our adventures both on Facebook and Twitter. KB/JB

Dark Hour Off-Season Shows

  • Posted : August 19th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

When Dark Hour Haunted House first came on the scene almost a year ago, they made a promise to have a unique and different show every time they opened.  They delivered on that promise eight times this year.  We were told that the same general themes would be further return next year. While we did not attend the Valentines themed “Love is Blind”, we did see the rest of their season and here are our reviews of those shows:

Wreck the Halls

Upon entering the haunt you can see some of your favorite queue line characters all decked out for Christmas, especially Santa Cleaver. I really did not know what to expect here but we were pleasantly surprised. Dark Hour went out-of-the-way to come with a fully developed holiday story. The plot combines one of witches from the story the hallowed haunt is normally based on with Scrooge, Krampus and some messed up elves. The sets were visually beautiful and the acting was spot on. Actors had perfect timing and were able to successfully pull off multiple scares. You could tell that only the best of the cast returned for Christmas and some of them came up with truly unsettling lines. Rooms that were pretty but didn’t make sense in the Halloween show now had a legitimate purpose.  For example the observation room that houses various maps and telescopes was now a command center for locating naughty children. They did some very creative things to tie in big props and special effects like lighting and harnesses to the holiday story. It was an all immersive experience right down to ice-covered sets and snow that crunched under your feet. And for those embracing the current Krampus trend, they were everywhere and in all shapes and sizes. I especially like the use of the ghosts from the Scrooge story and Dark Hour’s twist on the elf on the shelf. The sets and costumes were great to look at and the cast was very high energy. There was also a very cool holiday photo-op at the exit. JB

St Patrick’s Slay Weekend

I knew from the start this show was going to be interesting.  Not many haunts open for St Patrick’s Day and I could never understand why not.  So many legends and folklore revolving around the holiday you would think it was a no-brainer.  Well Dark Hour not only covered the well-known ones they added a couple that even I did not know about.  Once again the scenery was spot on along with the acting.  One of my personal favorite rooms was the piano room.  It had a familiar aroma that I later found out was a certain Irish spirit but they were also playing one of my favorite bands over the sound system.  The fairies were also particularly memorable, causing us to back track to get a second look. This is definitely the show for those who enjoy fantasy characters and unusual creatures.  The one thing that makes Dark Hour stand out is that they are not afraid to step out of the box and explore different ways to both scare and entertain the public.  Hats off once again for going the extra mile, you are trend setters in this industry. KB

Spring Break

If you have been to Dark Hour you know that the back story of this haunt revolves around a coven of witches.  So when they announced that zombies were involved in this show I was a unsure if the two could coexist.  Was I wrong.  Not only did it work, but it was one of our favorites.  Having walked through the attraction a few times I knew where some of the animatronics were.  This time Dark hour literally flipped the scripted and ran the show backwards.  You entered through the exit.  The lighting was low making it that much more unnerving.  We had to stop and take notice of the music and sounds for this show as well. You got to hear some of you favorite zombie related  songs and theme-songs which help build energy to the climax of the show. While the acting was once again was superb it had an extra oomph.  That was brought from the guest zombies from Zombie Manor.  You had to walk through a zombie horde at the end that bombarded you from all directions.  By the time you reached the exit, your senses were on overload.  Once again a superb show. KB

 

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht is the German name for the night of 30th April, the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga an 8th-century abbess in Germany. So how Dark Hour celebrate this European holiday?  By putting together the most unusual and different theme I had ever seen.  They incorporated live musicians throughout the attraction.  Several known and unknown musical instruments  were featured including guitars,drums, bagpipes and even a theremin, Admittedly this was one of the least successful shows. It was great to see some notable guest performers playing live instruments but thinks did not quite connect. The concept was had to understand and the rooms and performances did not have the same flow as some of the other themes. It seemed to be a more disjointed story and didn’t deliver the same opportunities to scare. JB/KB

 

Summer Spirits

With the exception of May’s Walpurgisnacht; every month at dark hour had been the best show they have done so far. With Summer Spirits, Dark Hour was doing something not done in most haunts by running a show with an all female cast. The show revoked around a home for troubled girls that begins to experience paranormal activity. This show was definitely one of the highlights of the season.  While there were a few men helping in the queue line and working with some of the stunts in the show; all the main characters were women. Audiences got to see actresses from around Texas and beyond, as well as those stepping out of their normal support roles. It was welcomed variety. The show had some surprising stunts and effects seemed more in theme park “Hollywood” style effect shows than in haunted attractions. The only thing we would have changed is the actress that led you through parts of the who like a tour guide to the home. This was unnecessary and slowed down the audience flow too much. This show also had some of the most creepy and disturbing scenes as well as some pretty good gross outs along the way. The acting was strong and some of the rooms like the classroom and the television room were visually stunning. This was one of the shows were audience members left laughing, screaming and feeling a little disgusted all at the same time. JB

 

Dog Days of Summer

The final show before the haunt season was the werewolf themed Dog Days. Anyone who knows Dark Hour creative director Allen Hopps knows that he loves werewolves so we expected this show to be good. Like Spring Fever  the show ran in reverse, having you enter through what is normally the exit. The first few rooms through what is usually the “voodoo bayou” were very eye-catching, especially the moon. There were some very good bits of acting but some of the halls and rooms seemed liked wasted space and were not really used to their full potential. We did like the wolf mother and some of the safari hunters. They also had a in-house made animatronics that was simply amazing.  Those that love werewolves will be able to pick out nods to some of the best movie werewolves.  While we enjoyed this show, we felt it wasn’t their best. JB

 

East Coast Haunt Club “The Gathering”

  • Posted : August 8th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

In New England there is a very lovable club called the East Coast Haunt Club. Every year for the past fourteen years they have held a three-day long convention in Manchester, NH at the Radisson Hotel. The first day attendees learned how to do life casts and molding. The second day they had a silent auction, costume ball, and various classes. Some of this year’s classes included: “Damn That Looks Old- Corspifying and “Why Yes! You can Airbrush with Silicone onto Silicone” by Denny Stanley, “Costume Creating on a Budget!” by Amanda Reevenge (wait that’s me!), “Scare Foreword, Scare Everyone” by Bil “Withonel” and many more.

Everyone who I talked to really enjoyed the seminars and plan on using stuff that they learned in their haunts. The silent auction was to benefit TEAM HALLOWEEN, which raises money for cancer research. With a whole day of classes, pizza, the silent auction, and socializing with haunters, the costume ball was upon us. This year’s theme was 80′s Horror, and although you do not have to follow the theme a lot of haunters like to. The ball has a full buffet and even the staff was dressed up for the occasion. The night was full of dancing, eating, and drinking. The handmade centerpieces were cute mini movie posters lit by LEDs. Overall, it was a good day.

Sunday they went to Salem, MA to check out Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, a horror movie museum for all horror lovers. This museum is a MUST SEE if you happen to find yourself in Salem, MA. It has a ton of horror movie LIFESIZED wax statues among countless of movie facts. Each statue was hand-made! Some of my favorites were Winifred from Hocus Pocus, Sam from Trick R Treat, and the life casts from Linda Blair. The museum is almost set up like a haunted house! In fact, every October it gets transformed into one. East Coast Haunt Club’s gathering is a must see for all!  A.R.

Signfire

  • Posted : July 28th, 2014
  • Posted in Misc

At Transworld this year, several new products caught my eye.  One such product was Signfire.  Signfire is a specialty digital signage provider. They create custom menu boards for haunts and other industries which require that up to date information to be relayed to their customers. Menu boards can be personalized with a haunt logo and theme for a truly branded experience. All pricing and wait times are formatted in real-time and can be changed instantly through the web-based application.  They also offer que line entertainment boards.  These boards give the attraction an opportunity to sell advertising to local business while entertaining the patrons in line with music videos or trivia questions.  Anyone who has been to Six Flags or any major theme park has seen similar  systems.  One of the things that made this product stand out for me is the real-time applications.  As a reviewer, my goal is to get to as many haunts as possible in any given day.  If I walked up to a haunt’s box office and saw that the general admission wait was a certain time; I could decide there if a front of line upgrade was needed. Patrons can also use the queue line information to better plan their visit by deciding what attractions to visit or in which order to experience them.  Congratulations Signfire on creating a product that I believe can only help the haunt industry.

NYZ Apocalypse

  • Posted : June 23rd, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Ever wanted to participate in your favorite video game or wonder what it would be like to be a part of the latest zombie movie? NYZ Apocalypse opened in Deer Park, New York on June 20th giving visitors to Long Island a chance to do just that. Apocalypse: Zombie Experience started at SlaughterHouse in Tuscon, Arizona as a way to boost off-season revenue to the haunt. After operating a successful run there, the company took its show on the road with special engagements at haunts across the country such as House of Torment. NYZ is the first year around Apocalypse experience built from the ground up. The owners, Strikeforce Sports, saw it as something new to bring to their air soft players as well as an attraction for tourists to the area.

Players are encouraged to reserve tickets online and are placed into groups of no more than 5 players. Once through the entrance queue, players get an I-Combat game card  and create their user profiles and team name. The user profiles allow players to save and view their score breakdown from not only that game but past games and other locations as well. Next, you sit through a short and entertaining video that sets up the story and gives rules and instructions. Each player then receives their weapon and is “scanned” into the game area.

The storyline at NYZ revolves around Apollo Prison systems where a zombie outbreak has infected the inmates and outside “recruits” are brought in to help contain it. Once through the pre-show area attendees board an “elevator” to get to the prison area. Immediately out of the doors zombies come at you. Each player has a laser gun that is a close replica of military style automatic rifles complete with lasers and optics as well as a shoulder belt with laser sensors. The “zombies” have halos and belts with laser targets. When you shoot a zombie the sensors light up and they “die” for a set time period. If zombie come within a certain proximity of a player they are “bitten” and weapons are disabled for a few seconds. There are several areas throughout the show where players are able to reload with additional ammo.

I love this experience because it is totally immersive. The cast is in character from start to finish, even while getting through the front cashier, maintaining the queue line or reloading weapons. While the show can be run with only a few casts members it is designed so you still feel like zombies are everywhere. The layout has a logical progression through the prison taking you from cells and prisoner areas to offices and guard facilities including a break room.  There are several areas where haunt scenes are combined with more of a laser tag or paintball type layout giving players prime spots to  “take cover” and shoot zombies. The theming, design, makeup and costumes are detailed and the show does a great job of using fog, lighting, sounds and smells to create a total interactive experience.

The walk-through is expansive and sometimes seems like it won’t end. As players make their way toward the end the hordes of zombies getting progressively thicker till you are bombarded from all directions. At the end of the show there is a stop for photos, then players get their scores before exiting through a gift shop area. Shirts, hats and bags were designed to be gear typically used by airsoft and paintball players and includes areas that can be customized by adding collectible patches. While the traveling event was fun and something worth attending, this permanent Apocalypse location went above and beyond that experience. It made a big difference to have cast and crew trained in using the equipment. Also management can step back and see how gameplay can be tailored to their attendees. They can customize settings such as the number of kills shots, the reset time and the proximity that zombies can get to players before they are “bitten”. While there were some technical and facility issues that had to do with the attraction being brand new and weapons arriving hours earlier,the staff handled them well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. All the players we talked to said they would definitely come back and bring friends.

Midwest Haunters Convention 2014

  • Posted : June 20th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

This year’s Midwest Haunters Convention had several notable changes. There was not any swag in the swag bag like normal. The check in line was out of order and super long. Froggy’s Fog Lanyards weren’t handed out until SUNDAY. Only speakers and officials got name-tags. There were less vendors even though the show floor was bigger. Scaryokee was on Thursday and was less attended this year because of the scheduling. The after party on Friday night was no longer free, nor at the Hyatt. They were carding at the after party, and even though some people under 21 had bought tickets, they were not able to get in. The show seemed to be less actor oriented with  fewer classes and little on the show floor. So is this what MHC is becoming? Yes, it was Transworld’s first year taking over, but seriously,  it was VERY disorganized. Allot of people walked away feeling disappointed this year about the turn of events.

However, there were some good things. The ball had great music! The Scareatourim rocked some peoples socks off. The vendors that were there, were pretty good. There was a lot of banning together of the  haunt community, and making new friends. Some people took away good things from the classes that they attended, however I didn’t take any. Overall, MHC was still fun, although a little disappointing. I hope to see everyone back next year! A.R.

Meet the 2014 Team

  • Posted : June 19th, 2014
  • Posted in news

We are proud to announce the 2014 Haunted Attraction Review team and locations that they will be covering.  Covering Northern California and other West Coast spots are Natasha Bartholomew and Mike Knuist.  Both  Natasha and Mike have an extensive background in the haunt industry and  are key members in the west coast haunt community.  Covering the North East will be Amanda Reevenge.  Amanda is well-known as an extreme haunt actress and has acted in several major attractions all over the United States.  Covering Texas will be David and Jennifer Goolsby.  Both have been involved with haunts for a couple of years, but have been patrons of them for a while.  And covering all points in between will be Karl and Jennifer Berger.  We will also have a few guest reviewers covering attractions in their areas.  We are excited with the team we have assembled and look forward to the upcoming season.

Announcements for the 2014 Season

  • Posted : June 4th, 2014
  • Posted in news

We would like to bring everyone up to date with all that is going on here at H.A.R.  First we have added several new and guest writers for this season.  Some of the areas we will be covering will include Northern California, Eastern and Midwest US, and of course Texas.  We will announce the team in the next coming weeks.  While most of the season is still being planned we can share that we will be kicking off our season at Cedar Point on Sept 12 and Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando on Sept 20.  Second  We will be in New York City in a couple of weeks to take on the spooky Big Apple.  We have planed a few spooky and not so spooky spots we will be visiting so stay tuned to read about it in the coming weeks.

Dark Legacy/Phatman Haunts

This October a new haunt will open that should change your idea of what a haunt should be.  Phatman Haunts is planning to open its doors in Wixom, Michigan and is the brain child of Austin Denney.  Although this is the first year of the attraction,  Denney is no rookie in the industry.  Before he made Michigan his home, he was involved with a haunt in Dallas, Texas and he also helped with several different attractions in the metro Detroit area. He got involved with the industry as a way to spend time with his daughter and it exploded from there.  The name, Phatman Haunt, came from a nickname he received when assisting his sons football team.  As a videographer for the team, he became the unofficial enforcer  and the players quickly referred to him as “The Phatman” and the nickname stuck.

Phatman Haunts storyline will be based on conspiracy theories.  It will revolve around an old military base and its different projects and programs.  Denney, who follows conspiracy theories, is using the real stories.  He stated that the government has done some pretty scary things and plans to bring them all to life.  The broad theme will allow for a variety of future story-lines .  Besides the main haunt, he has developed a kids haunt that will be located at a corn maze nearby.  The kids haunt is for ages 10 and under and is based on a friendly scarecrow.  Denney believes this demographic is overlooked and is a way to build future haunt fans.  He has also helped to design a 3D clown haunt that will be at the corn maze site.

Austin has spent a good part of the past seven years researching his haunt.  Part of the reasearch was going to several haunts around the country.  While on his travels he said that two of his favorites were House of Torment and Hangman’s House of Horrors.  While he liked the extreme detail and how space was maximized in H.O.T, he also appreciated what Hangman’s did with very little money they had for a budget.  He also said that he has learned just as much from visiting bad haunts as he does from the good ones and feels that it is important to create a full experience from the moment you step in to the parking lot to the time you leave in your car.  We look forward to visit this unique haunt this season and wish Austin the best of luck.

*Note* The name of this haunt has changed to Dark Legacy Haunted House.

Apocalypse Zombie Experience

  • Posted : May 16th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

There are few times that we can say that we have visited a truly one of a kind haunted attraction but Apocalypse: Zombie Experience is definitely something we had not seen before. The attraction that is part laser tag and part haunt can best be described as a ”live action” video game. Therefore, Apocalypse attracts avid gamers as much as zombie and horror fans.

Apocalypse started as an added attraction at The Slaughterhouse in Tucson, Az. The haunt’s owners were looking for something that could boost attendance in the off-season as well as improve tickets sales at the seasonal haunt.attraction. It was so successful that they have now begun to market the concept to other haunt owners around the country. Existing haunts can either choose to have Apocalypse as a special event or to add it to their current shows as an additional attraction. Currently 13th Floor Entertainment has been the first major haunt owners to offer Apocalypse testing it out at two of its locations. Other Apocalypse attraction locations are also in the works.

The weapons used incorporate new technology to create a uniquely realistic experience. The weapons are actual size replicas and are complete with recoil and comparable weight. The “zombies” wear targets that record your kills and render them “dead” for a short time period. If a zombie gets within a certain distance of you the sensors that react, telling you your were “attacked”. There are no cumbersome vests like you have in old school laser tag. The weapons even have safeties and magazines like the real counterparts. The equipment that is used is similar to the MILES gear that military and police train with.

The engagement in San Antonio was nearly sold out. Players can choose from a regular ticket or upgrade to Black Ops which includes more ammo and an extended game area. Players are divided into groups of 4 and set loose into zombie infested scenes. I recognized some of the rooms from our last visit to 13th Floor but scenes and props are kept fairly basic, You are given a general apocalyptic feel but areas have to be clear enough that players and actors can manipulate the environment. Some areas were just a little to dark or foggy and made it hard to try to look for zombies and navigate through safely and sometimes “dying” zombies blocked you path causing players to have to climb over them. I appreciated the moans and the battle type sound effects but also think the “video game” experience may be heightened with more of a soundtrack. The only other issue we had was we wanted to see more of the available weapons. ICombat also produces pistols but only automatic rifles were available at this event. These rifles got very heavy and hard to hold or carry.

Apocalypse was worth the drive to San Antonio and I got to enjoy a totally difference experience at one of my favorite haunts. I can see why several groups bought multiple tickets to go back in and play again. Apocalypse is the closest you would ever want to get to being in your favorite zombie movie.