Happy Halloween fellow jaded viewers! If you survived the Frankenstorm, got your super duper costume ready to go and want to add a NYC haunted house to your night, here are all my reviews of each the best haunted houses in the city.
**HURRICANE SANDY UPDATE**
***Unfortunately, most of these haunted houses will be closed on Halloween. Be sure to check out their official sites and Facebook pages to see when they'll be re-opened.***
Bad Mofo Haunted Houses
1.) Blackout Haunted House
Where: 115 West 27th Street (between 6th & 7th) New York, NY 10001 Review: "Blackout Haunted House is the baddest haunted house in the country. You
walk through it alone and will feel what you've only watched in these
torture-core horror movies." (click for full review)
2.) KILLERS: A Nightmare Haunted House
Where: Clemente Soto Velez
Cultural and Educational Center (CSV) located at 107 Suffolk Street
(between Rivington and Delancey) Review: "Nightmare Killers is, from room to room one of the best designed and acted haunted houses I've been to." (click for full review)
3.) Blood Manor
Where: 163 Varick Street (Soho)
Blood Manor is a staple of NYC Haunted Houses. If you've never been,
it's a must go. They are indeed the blockbuster of all the haunted
houses in the city...." (click for full review)
4.) Times Scare
Where: 669 8th Avenue (on the corner of 42nd and 8th)
Review: "Times Scare is the original year round Halloween destination and with a
year under its belt, it seems they are ready for their biggest day of
the year." (click for full review)
5.) Bronx Haunted Warehouse Where: 1157 Commerce AvenueBronx, NY
Review: Due to the Hurricane, I wasn't able to check it out. Check out the official site.
Off the beaten path....
6.) Then She Fell
Where: Arts@Renaissance 2 Kingsland Ave, just off the Graham Avenue L stop (moves to the South Sea Seaport in 2013)
Review: "...an interactive performance that allows you to spend time with the
imagination of Lewis Carroll's creations and even get a glimpse of the
surreal life of the man himself. It is, by far one of the most
thrilling, mesmerizing and fantastic experiences I've had in the world
of participatory theater.." (click for full review)
Over on that other coast
7.) Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Where: Arts@Renaissance 2 Kingsland Ave, just off the Graham Avenue L stop (moves to the South Sea Seaport in 2013)
Review: "Universal has been always known for their monsters and they do a great
job putting the big spectacle." (click for full review)
Before I begin this review, I think I have to let you know about how I got acquainted with the Soska Sisters. I found their trailer for Dead Hooker in a Trunk, thought it was cool and blogged about it. Little did I know they'd write me back, send me a screener and an awesome personalized note to boot and then down the road to top it all off, they put my quote from my review in one of their trailers.
That sort of thing doesn't happen to me very often.
The coolness factor of that exchange aside, it's pretty awesome to have that sort of relationship with filmmakers. A simple tweet to a fan can make their day. Oddly enough after I finished watching the NYC premiere of American Mary at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, I'd get a special tweet.
American Mary is without a doubt one of the best movies of 2012. It is a dissection into the world of body modification that takes a wrong, dreadful turn for the worst. Full of long lasting scenes of female empowerment taken to the limits, it is by far the most powerful, stylized and slickest look into one woman's journey from hopeful optimism to a revenge served cold despotism. The Soska Sisters have created a horror film that is light years ahead of their previous effort. With American Mary, they give us a Joss Whedon like character study into Mary (Katharine Isabelle), who we will see grow up and find her place in the world after experiencing severe trauma.
Never have I seen a movie that delves into this subculture, treats it respectfully and slices in a perfect horror movie inside. I guarantee American Mary will etch it's way into cult status. It's perfect blend of sly black humor, absurd and eerie characters and torturous scenes of pain and agony that equal a milkshake of cult awesomeness.
Horror movies have just grown up in a big way thanks to American Mary.
The story follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with the surgical world she once admired. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called 'freakish' clientele.
Mary (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student studying to become a surgeon. Simple enough right? We tag along with Mary as she deals with everyday problems like how to pay your bills when your broke, taking shit from teachers and doing shady shit to make ends meet. Soon our sweet Mary is forced to look for work through a faux Craiglist and in the seedy part of town. She meets strip club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo) who begins a weird subplot infatuation with her complete with Mary erotica dream sequences.
When her talents as a surgeon are used for some impromptu mob doctor-ish activities, the referrals start for her talents. She then meets Beatress (Tristan Risk), whose full on Betty Boop lookalike face and voice performance (complete with the cosmetic surgery) is by far a turn for the surreal. As she discovers the world of body modification subculture, aghast previously, it soon becomes very appetizing when a night out with the senior surgeons goes all Thriller A Cruel Picture, Mary goes into a very dark place and we see her go Darth Vader in a way that equals the best performance of the year.
Katharine Isabelle is super duper fantastic as Mary. Her transformation from super smart and caring student to a full blooded vixen is magnificent. Aside from being easy on the eyes, she can enhance a scene by her look which juxtaposes what the title infers. The American Mary is a modifier of the ideal of beauty through extreme means and it is definitely not uncommon in our plastic surgery, botox, drive thru website world. Isabelle's metamorphosis is slow and steady. From her clothing, to her makeup to her teetering morality, her performance clearly was so fuckin awesome to watch. She's been gathering awards through the many film festivals American Mary and it's well deserved.
Risk's performance is stunning to watch. The outstanding Boop makeup hides a beautiful actress and thus focuses us on seeing this live action cartoon character create a personality that is devilishly odd yet mesmerizing to watch. Cuno plays creepazoid Billy with some deep yearnings of something other than the life he leads and Twan Holliday as Lance, security bouncer extraordinaire somehow gives the film a bit of heart.
The Soska Twins cameo beautifully as some German modifiers and are equally delicious in bringing some just on the surface black humor. Whereas Dead Hooker was over the top and cartooney with its humor, the laughs come in the ridiculousness Mary has placed herself in. Mary's reactions are our reactions and we can't help but be sickened, slightly weirded out and out normalized by who and what she encounters. It's these light hearted scenes such as Mary sharing some late night dinner with Lance talking about the fucked up shit they've done that have shown how the Soska's have evolved into filmmakers who can craft scenes where the dialogue and mundane intertwine. It's almost Tarantino like.
One can't talk about American Mary without mentioning the NON-CGI effects they employed. Special effects guru Todd Masters uses stellar prosthetics and old school blood techniques to get us some ample splatter and gore. The Soska's seem adept at giving us cringe worthy scenes that have a Kubrick-esque element to them such as when Mary goes all Kill Bill on her "victims". With some clever camera work, I have never seen such pure torture scenes become still photos worthy of a place in the MOMA. The Soska's
The ending is clearly hinted at as Mary's transformation from poor medical student to famous body modification artist to the stars. You can see what's to come, see the evil that she's done but somehow still want her to win. It's a testament to the Soska's to create such a character that the audience wants to root for, a Dexter like ability is hard to pull off.
Weird subplots involving Billy's wet dreams and a cop on the trail of a murder creep there way in. This isn't Law and Order and take away from the characters we really want to know more about. The dialogue is filled with rough around the edges film noir 'logue, but can be forgiven if we are to succumb to the oddities in a bizarro world where Dick Tracy is the staple for all police models. I would have loved to have the Soska's add more scenes of Mary and Beatress and Ruby (Paula Lindberg) who's surgery Mary performs turns her into a real life Barbie. Body modification culture is mostly unheard of subject in film (especially in horror movies) and exploring this world with our Mary would have been infinite more rewarding than a cop investigation or sleazy Billy's bar drama.
With all that said, American Mary makes up for it scene after scene of pure melodramatic WTF (which to me is a good thing). It's in a weird in between world of The Human Centipede and Hostel. The Soska's are fans of Eli Roth and you can sense the torturous creations they've created are a wink to him. But what is all the Soska's is American Mary's twisted vision of revenge, a glimpse into a culture even the most hardcore horror fans may be freaked about and create a film with surgical precision that has all it's elements ticking like fuckin clockwork.
American Mary is 100 minutes of femme fatale awesomeness the indie horror circuit hasn't seen in a while. New, fresh and innovative are words that will be tossed around to describe it. But for me, American Mary can be described as passion. The Soska's embrace the twisted tales the horror genre can deliver to an audience. It's an evolution by filmmakers who are in the genre because they love horror, not because they want to make a quick buck.
We need more talented filmmakers like the Twisted Twins and we need more movies like American Mary. And we need horror fans to support both.
Surgery and strip club boobies
Serious body art modification
Torture meets torture scenes
Blood soaked splatter
First time we meet Lucy
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Rarely does one get a super cool tweet from the Soska's right after I see their movie, but I did. American Mary is on the film festival circuit but was picked up Universal International for worldwide distribution. Also Anchor Bay will distribute in Canada. US distribution I'm sure is coming soon.
As I work near Times Square, when Times Scare opened up it kinda jumped on my radar. Last year, they seemed to be rushing to get everything ready for Halloween. There were a few hiccups but the haunted house was surprisingly solid (check out my review last year). When you're open all year round, I can imagine it would be a little hard to get the same enthusiasm and excitement in say February. I'm sure tourists drop in from time to time to get their scares on but when October rolls around, it's time you step up your A game.
Times Scare is your glitzy and neon pretty themed destination in the heart of NYC for your pre Halloween party. Aside from a restaurant called The Crypt Cafe, they have 3 bars and lounges, all spacious and darkly themed. The Kill Room, The Lounge and the The Parlor of the Paranormal are aptly named and will get you liquored up before you attend a Magic show starring Dan Sperry or head over to the haunted house.
But for me, it's the haunted house that drives it all. Last year had a Halloween theme complete with Michael Myers stalking you from room to room which was uber cool. This year, they've changed it up a bit and you get a different scope. Times Scare brings back a few of the sets and rooms that gave me the heebee jeebees and their overall theme of a prison/mental institution is solidly spooky.
Grouped in with 7 others, a crazed doctor briefs us on the rules and regulations and off you go. The rooms are like Jigsaw's hidden warehouse, filled with staticky TVs and operating room tables. The actors lurk in the darkness ready to jump scare you at the most vulnerable time. Tailing behind in my group, I was able to see in high detail the props and well decorated rooms.
A well done room included a tattered nursery, complete with a crib and toys and a pajama wearing girl with long hair standing motionless invoking her inner Samara from The Ring. It's creepy and effective and though didn't scare me, scared the bejesus out of some kids I was with from out of town. The actors most effective tool however is to bang the shit out of the props. Hearing metal gates shake or pounding the metal walls seems to jump scare me more often than a hidden actor appearing out of the darkness.
Later a tour through a morgue had us maneuvering around some supposed dead patients. Guts and innards and a bloody bloodbath were worthy of a big studio budget. In another room was a tall "creature" that totally caught me off guard. This was entirely new and kinda oddly different. The end was a bit lacking, remnants of the Halloween movie theme from last year had me a bit jaded but still my group was quite pleased by the surprise at the end.
My only drawbacks is that the actors would rush you from room to room like they had some place to be. When I attended (which was a few days before Halloween), I was pretty sure no other group was behind us. If somebody has decided to go a bit early with less crowds, a nice slow walk through will always prove more effective than seeing a 3 second glimpse of a room. I mean all this work and set decoration deserves some attention and I'm in a room for only 5 seconds? Seems kind of wasteful.
My other gripe are the actors only targeted the people who to enter a room first. As we all know haunted houses work better when the front and back of a pack are targeted for the scares. As one who was a bit on the tail end, I don't think I got my fair shares of scares. As the Jaded Viewer, I take my nitpicking a little further in that some actors broke character and were beginning to "reset" a room before I was even out of it. C'mon, you got to continue to mess with me with funny quips or taunt me right up until I exit. I love when they do that and get a one liner in before I go. Also, a few of my compatriots were surprised by lack of a blockbuster ending.
With easy access and lots of foot traffic, Times Scare will gather the masses looking for a quick scare on Halloween. I've been told lines tend to get really long on weekends and especially on Halloween so be sure to get there early to take full advantage of the bars, show or haunted house. On a related note, right next door is a musical called Silence: The Musical a supposed comedy take on Silence of the Lambs. I haven't seen it yet but I hope to in the future.
Times Scare is the original year round Halloween destination and with a year under its belt, it seems they are ready for their biggest day of the year. If you want to get in the mood with horror themed events, drinks and a haunted house that assembles the best horror movies scenes, it's the place to go.
Times Scare New York is located at 669 8th Avenue (on the corner of 42nd and 8th)
Tickets cost $27 and combos are available with dinner and/or a magic show
SAFETY is not an option: Blackout Haunted House Memories
I'm not sure where you're reading this. You're probably in Los Angeles or NYC trying to read up on this haunted house and what to expect. You Googled the shit out of Blackout and my blog kept coming the fuck up. Well hello there you sick bastard. In an odd twist, the rise in popularity of Vortex Productions Blackout Haunted House has somehow made The Jaded Viewer, something of an unofficial biographer of "the haunted house other haunted houses are afraid of".
And I'm glad I can act in that capacity.
I'm a veteran and so are the others I now call my friends who make up the Army of Survivors who've been multiple times. We've shared war stories and talked to the creators, actors and staff. It's a special feeling to get direct access to the twisted and depraved masterminds and we all consider ourselves lucky.
To be honest, I'm kinda sad that Blackout has become legendary. I remember how super duper underground it was. Not like Fight Club underground (hell the NY Times and all the major magazines and sites covered this HH every year). But it had an aura of whispers by HH enthusiasts, metal freakazoids and people like myself. Horror-core enthusiasts who wanted to push the limits of an interactive horror experience.
But I love that it's become mainstream to a point where others are experiencing the thrills and adrenaline rush of something beyond comprehension. Los Angeles is experiencing something new and is lucky to experience the dark magic of Blackout. New Yorkers, the jaded bunch of us are spoiled and we got a new and improved 4.0 version of Blackout. I loved it and so did many others. So HA HA LA. We're still better than you :-P
See that photo above? That's from 2010. That's the ultimate hipster cool factor of Blackout. Back then, you were issued a business card with your number (today you get a number plastered on your clothing). It was under a different name back then but the simplicity of it all is magically beautiful. "HAUNTED HOUSE". Simple, elegant and spoiler free of what's to come.
There were hardly any reviews a few years ago. Before I went in for the first time, I sought out reviews and blogs looking for any piece of information to prepare for what I signed up for. I stumbled upon some Yelp reviews and unrelated blog describing the experience. Shots were offered a few years ago for you to prepare and fellow Survivor "E" probably has some stories to tell back then of what it was like. Other Survivors worked at Blackout and I would love to keep digging for their stories. But after going to all the NYC haunted houses in 2010, I was ill prepared to know what was to happen to me when I experienced NYC Halloween Haunted House for the first time.
The sense of euphoria and a horror fan's wet dream is ever evident in my review and walkthrough back then. It continues into the one you've all read from 2011. And it keeps going in my 2012 review. I've been to the last 3 October haunts and 2 invite only Spring haunts (which you MUST READ if you want to know how far they really go when nobody is looking) All my leftover thoughts of what it was like are all there for you to read. Before these reviews went Reddit crazy, only a few people asked me if it were all true. Was this what happens to you at this fucked up haunted house? I told friends and family. All were in utter shock of the story that I told them.
The walkthroughs and spoilers were a natural extension of the reviews I wrote. All had the blessing of the creators which is why you now get to enjoy them. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who will write something up as my fellow Survivor and blogger The Raven and the Black Cat does one as well from a female perspective. What you will get from my reviews and thoughts about Blackout is a sense that, as a horror fan, I've found something in this haunted house that jump starts my horror instincts like any good horror movie does. The fact that it's live, you participate and you live through it makes it an infinitely more rewarding.
I've received countless e-mails, tweets, Facebook messages of fellow
jaded viewers who loved my reviews and walkthroughs. Various sites have
linked over here and even Reddit dissected my walkthrough and reviews
like a fuckin surgeon. I can't thank you enough for the feedback. If I
somehow gave you the feeling you were there, I've done my job.
I still have my paper thin mask from my first haunt. I have other Blackout souvenirs as well. The best part is I've made great friends through this haunt and for that I'm a thankful little Jaded Viewer. If that happens to you as well, that's motherfuckin horror gravy.
I hope Blackout continues to it's tidal wave of success and new found glory. They deserve it and a few tweets from celebrities who've not SAFETY-ed will blow them up into stratosphere proportions. The fact they are sold out on both coasts is a testament to the awesomeness of it all.
If somehow you come away with a revitalized sense of shock and awe and ewwww and yikes from Blackout, then it's done it's job. Feargasms and torture will be seared into your mind. A Blackout Haunted House memory is something you will never forget.
Though if you do, I'll remind you again of why it's the haunted house other haunted houses are afraid of.
The haunted houses that populate NYC in October specialize in either cattling herds into quick scares or giving you their undivided attention as they mock you. Sometimes you need a break from the dash and slash and want something different. I experienced Steampunk Haunted House years back and though the sets were wonderful and different, it did not have an everyman feel. I felt a little out of my element struggling to find commonality in my experiences in this haunted house. Little did I know that a few years later, that commonality would peek through like a rabbit out of a hat.
Then She Fell is a world I could understand, but in ways, it also spun a web of pure dreamlike imagery that had as many questions as it did answers.
Tucked in an old wing of Brooklyn's Greenpoint Hospital is an interactive performance that allows you to spend time with the imagination of Lewis Carroll's creations and even get a glimpse of the surreal life of the man himself. It is, by far one of the most thrilling, mesmerizing and fantastic experiences I've had in the world of participatory theater. Guests explore the brilliantly beautiful and well crafted rooms, searching for clues to the scenes that will unfold. Watching through a looking glass you will remember those legendary characters we all know from our childhood, though they are now walking metaphors waiting for you to meet them face to face. The White Queen the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, mirror image Alices and Lewis himself are all ready to greet youu. Guided by a nursing staff who cues you to your next encounter, Third Rail Projects delivers a masterpiece of artistic interactive literature that opens up your imagination beyond your wildest dreams.
Joined by some of my fellow Survivors of Blackout, performances are maxed out at 15 per show. It's this small comforting feeling of being with strangers and friends that at the end of the night will made us all a little bit closer in sharing this experience. Down some city stairs, a garden welcomes you into a piece of performance space that would have rooms that I would be stunned by.
The performance starts with skeleton keys next to my scribbled name on a note. Files and wooden boxes start you on a journey as you discover medical records of patients with some similar illnesses to these Disney-fied characters. The guidelines of our adventure are told in a monotonous tone by our nurse guide and off we went.
There are different tracks on your journey and you will not know which rooms, which characters you will get to interact with. Led away and alone at times, the personalized one on one nature of Then She Fell is simply overwhelming. Dual Alices dance in a variety of skillful synchronization led by a soundtrack that echoes across speakers in all the rooms. Soon dwindling from two to one, I am left alone with an Alice (Tara O'Con) who I mimic in some fruit eating. It's completely surreal yet so much fun. To fully participate in this is to experience all your hidden desires of being a part of a performance where your participation is vital for all those involved. You are not just watching actors from a far, you are watching them from mere feet and in a way you are watching yourself engage in a way few immersive experiences will let you do.
Throughout the course of this 2 hour "dream world" I would meet the Hatter, the White and Red Queens with my fellow participants and have one one one time with Mr. Carroll. The story is a blend of your own investigation via opening up drawers and lock boxes as well as reading material left for you. In a nutshell, the mysterious relationship of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the inspiration for the tale) becomes a correspondence with you as the human telegraph. It's filled with a coming of age drama, mother's fury and a forbidden romance pinnacle-ized by a dance by Carroll and Alice in a large open space reserved for a patient showers.
The Alice characters personify this conflict in memorable scenes of pure wonder. The White Rabbit and Red Queen tussle in a dance "fight" of pure relentless motion. By myself with Carroll, he tells his tale in a room with literally water breaking through the floorboards. But the pure ecstasy of Then She Fell hits its apex with a mad tea party attended by myelf, 3 Survivors, both Queens, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. (tea that me and my fellow Survivor had created). It was by far the most fun I had doing some limited theater pantomime and light snacking in my life.
The performances are seamless, a throwback to a time where only the elite could enjoy dance and song. The Alices (Marissa Nielsen-Pincus and Tara O'Con) reflective mirror routine was a joy to watch. The Hatter (Elizabeth Carena) fast talking conversations were awesome to be a part of. I even got a bit of a wink from her as it all ended which made me smile. Carroll (Alberto Denis) and the White Rabbit (Tom Pearson) showed a versatility in their dance and their silent style which also can be said of the Red Queen (Rebekah Morin) and White Queen (Jennine Willett). Even the "nurses" who danced within the interludes where you were between rooms were skillful in their tasks.
In the midst of this organized chaos, I was given "potions" to drink and other tantalizing snacks that had my taste buds jumping. It's by far an all out explosion of your five senses in a way where you will see, touch, smell taste and hear a world that is very familiar but at the same time new and innovative. Then She Fell gives you the rare opportunity to visit a Wonderland where the book and history come to life in ways you never imagined.
The story is only part of the experience. You will feel like an improv actor thrown into the deep end of a performance with a very talented cast who are looking to you to put in your 2 cents in every scene. I've never had that feeling before and it was exhilarating. I'll admit, I was obsessed with being the perfect Fox Mulder early on but I began to relax and let myself watch what was unfolding before me. When cued, I participated with the glee of a bad karaoke singer, acting and performing to a non existent audience other than myself, the cast and a few of my friends.
The fantastical and surreal are your playground at Then She Fell. As I tweeted after the event, I felt like I stepped into Lewis Carroll’s book and his characters became my friends. I hope I see them again one day.
Special Thanks to the cast and crew who my group and I got to meet after the performance. We got a tour of the space, talked about scenes and rooms we missed and answered all our questions about the experience. They are talented and wonderful and I wish them continued success.
Check out a behind the scenes and talk with the creators.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios (Review)
via The Jaded Viewer
Sometimes a change of scenery is nice to break the monotony of work. And sometimes the playgrounds are just cooler on the other side. I visited Los Angeles last week and had to choose between some various cool haunted houses. Haunted Play: Delusion, Blumhouse of Horrors, Knotts Scary Farm, Queen Mary Dark Harbor. Delusion was sold out and the others had something that would be cool. But I settled on going to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.
The main attraction was going to The Walking Dead mazes. With the Walking Dead premiere that weekend, I was in the mood to see zombies and T-Dog. So after convincing both my cousins ("J" and "A") to go with me, it was on like Donkey Kong.
Opening night at Horror Nights was a mad house. Unbelievable packed with long fuckin lines. With a flight back home the next day, I knew we'd have to strategically plan our way around Universal. This proves fruitless without a map and Universal at night is a hard place to find out where everything is. As you enter it's a madhouse of actors in their biker zombie makeup with chainsaws looking to give you a quick scare. Harley Quinn lookalikes dance seductively in cages and the glow of neon darkness echoes throughout the park. I've been to the park before, during the daytime and it's pretty scary at night.
via The Jaded Viewer
Walking Dead Terror Tram is TRAMATIZING
We hit the Walking Dead Terror Tram first. Because I want my Walking Dead fix early. We get into a tram and though clearly, you think tram rides will have some grabbing zombies coming at you but that was a red herring. As you're dropped off, zombies are all around dragging their worthless legs and body parts. I stand in front of one and heckle him. What can I say? The asshole fan in me likes mocking the zombie actors.
Soon the gaggle of horror fans are herded into corridors where zombie doctors are eating unwilling patients. Passing through a motel complex, decayed bodies and zombies are all lurk around. Universal has put out the stops when it comes to the props, sets and design of this outdoor attraction. It really is impressive seeing what a big studio can do to hype up one of the greatest cable TV shows ever. We now have to walk up some hills past a suicidal policeman and zombies locked up in cages who soon broke free from their prisons. The zombies are quick and attentive to the stragglers as well as the runners.
Past the Psycho house, the journey ends past a neighborhood in a post apocalyptic shambles. A downed airplane, a house cut in two, debris all over the place. It's really pretty spectacular to see. And within this mess are zombies all around ready to jump out of the decay.
via The Jaded Viewer
Will the real Leatherface please stand up?
We hit up the Texas Chainsaw Massacre haunted house next. Each of these HH's are self contained and are a maze of thrills and chills. Unfortunately because the lines are long, everybody is forced to walk at quick pace throughout the maze. It's a little odd seeing 30 Leatherfaces scaring you in each room but the house did have a few moments. More so from my cousin "J" scaring me shitless as I admired the sets. Nothing special here but lots of chainsaw wielding maniacs who after the umpteenth time gets kinda tired.
Break Time: More than Meets the Eye
We thought we had time to hit the other blockbuster attractions that we're open. Jurassic Park, Simpsons Ride and Mummy Rides were all open for the masses. We hit up Transformers 3D because we were kinda near it. Misled by a so called empty line, it was a bit of a wait for your standard Optimus vs Megatron 3D slugfest.
Silent Hill is all triangles and women with big cleavage
Next up was Silent Hill which was a game I played like once and had no idea what scares would be in store. Seems like it was full of triangle masks and masked women with great cleavage. Some rooms had that empty classroom feel others had large hammers ready to pounce.
I can't say the scares were awesome but more so video game thrills with some video game boobs.
La Llorona is Spanish for "Holy Shit!"
Actually that's not what it translates to.It actually means The Weeping Woman. La Llorona is an actual legend in Mexico and the US Southwest that I hadn't really heard about. I didn't know what to expect but with the line being more than hour long, my cousins and I started to realize this would be our last ride. But boy was it good to my surprise. La Llorona has some chilling sets and perfectly timed scares. From a room with an old church to some narrow corridors with some paintings that come to life. The tale itself is of a woman named Maria who drowns her children to be with a man. Rejected in the afterlife, she haunts the lake to save her dead children for eternity.
via The Jaded Viewer
The animatronics, well timed BOOs! and overall creepiness of the legend (just seeing dead children in a faux lake is fuckin creepy). The ending was mind blowing that will make you see talking with your mouthful in a whole new way.
I missed a few attractions, the most notable being Walking Dead Dead Alive which recreates a maze from the first 2 seasons. The line was over 2 hours and I had a flight to catch in the morning. I also missed Alice Cooper 3D, which if its from Alice Cooper must have been wicked.
Overall my first Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights was pretty solid. For the admission price, you can experience 4-5 horror themed mazes that are mega awesome to average. Plus you get to go on all the big blockbuster rides Universal is known for.
Universal has been always known for their monsters and they do a great job putting the big spectacle. You've got sarcastic clowns and wandering actors looking to scare the unsuspected. The drawbacks are long lines you'll have to endure to get to these mazes and rides. The Front of the Line and VIP passes are tempting and if you're willing to pay, are probably worth it.
The prices seemed jacked up ($3.75 for a bottle of fuckin water?) and sugary snacks are tempting but overpriced. A board lets you know how long the lines are for each attraction but seriously...95 minute wait time? Damn. The park would need to close at 6am for you to go to all the rides.
All in all, I had a great time and its worth a visit if you're in LA or Orlando. The Walking Dead is given life in whole new way and once I watched the season premiere, all I wanted to do is be back there fucking with zombies and hanging out with T-Dog.
Unfortunately T-Dog didn't get any attraction time. Poor T-Dog.
I've been posting about Blackout since 2010. I've been to two October haunts and two Spring off season events. (2010 and 2011). I'm pretty sure some people have been to more than I have (Blackout started off as NYC Halloween Haunted House in 2009). But the fact that creators Josh Randall and Kris Thorgeirsson knew instantly who I was and that I am part of the infamous Survivor Club (brave men and women who've endured their Spring haunts) makes it seem I'm an unofficial member of the Blackout team. Suffice it to say, before noobs and first timers went through, Josh ask the disclaimer questions. "What is the SAFETY word?" and "Do you have epilepsy?" For me, he totally bypassed it as I already knew the drill.
But I hold to some principles and I'm still the jaded viewer and so being a veteran gives me a unique perspective on their event. Going in, I wanted them to push the envelope so to speak and integrate a few of the interactive horror elements I've asked for in my previous reviews. What we get in 2012 is completely different from past versions. My walkthroughs which you are all reading obsessively....just throw them out the window because none of that stuff happens. Blackout has made it a point to reboot itself every year which is why the event for even myself causes me to get pterodactls in my stomach. I have no idea what's going to happen and that's why it remains addictive.
I know what you're saying. They aren't going to harm me, they're all actors. But let me ask you this. You signed a waiver and even through everything around you is "make believe", like in The Matrix says "You're mind makes it real". And that's when I saw 3 safeties get called at night before I went in. I'll say as a hardcore veteran, I wasn't actually scared or frightened but I did have my moments of pure WTF. A first timer might be unaccustomed to it all and SAFETY 5 minutes in. But Blackout tests you in ways you've never have been subjected to in this loose concept of a "haunted house".
So what did 2012 offer? In a nutshell, it's a curveball of weird Lynchian visuals with a signature gut wrenching moment, in the dark torture, interrogation gone awry and naked WTF moments that will give you multiple feargasms. You'll start off signing a waiver which in the dark, is hard to read which gives you the complete rules and possible situations you will encounter. Everything in the rules WILL HAPPEN. Once that's complete you are given a number you'll need to paste on your clothing. I was number 17 and then comes the hardest endurance challenge you'll have to suffer through other than going to the DMV. Waiting to be called. The waiting area is dimly lit, full of fog and has a few chairs as people wait to be called. There is a rope that divides the room and a lone door that begins your journey. As I wait I try to implant red herrings to my fellow haunted house partner in crime this year "L" (check out her review here) As I watched her go through for the first time ever I see the door open, she's grabbed and then whisked away into the darkness.
My experience was clearly one of sheer joy and adrenaline. I won't give a walkthrough or spoilers until after both NYC and LA versions are over but it was full of unexpected challenges that even I had to get through for the first time. The event will roughly be 20-30 minutes but when you're in there you really do lose all sense of time. You will be physically challenged, minimally abused, ridiculed and made to do things that make sense and don't make sense. Some rooms will be in complete darkness others are not. You will interact with the actors and sometimes the actors will interact with you. In essence, you're completely not in control of when it's over and what you can do.
What you do while you're in these visually stimulating rooms containing both male and female nudity is to watch, but don't touch and perform the actions called for. Following orders is key because you just have to let go. I did as I was told when given every command. Because remember, YOU PAID FOR THIS. Why challenge the way it was designed?
Blackout will stimulate 4 of the 5 senses during your experience. There are very uncomfortable moments of touching something icky, horrifying sounds echoing throughout the experience, smells of grime and filth and the sights of the bizarre. This is what makes Blackout unique in they make you experience each of these senses in a warped bizarro horror world. Some rooms have a soundtrack to them that play magnificently on what you're seeing.
There are moments of pure physical distress that will have you gasping for air while feeling all mortified by what's happening to you physically. It's probably where most SAFETIES occur I can imagine. There is also a claustrophobia moment that had me going WTF. I don't have that phobia so I was clearly getting itchy to have me some alone time with the Blackout crew. There are a few more twists and turns that are completely new and innovative this year and when I encountered them for the first time, I had a big grin on my face. I was like, Holy Shit! this is completely different.
The actors all give solid performances (from the one's that I saw and some from I only heard from). Being an actor in Blackout must be physically and mentally exhausting and to do this for hours straight is a testament to these men and women. I've wondered how difficult it is to be an actress at Blackout. What's their preparation like? They have no idea what type of person they'll be performing to one on one. I mean it's just you and her. I would love to interview one of these stellar actresses one day. Even your torturers must have fascinating stories to tell. The crew does a good job in moving you from "room" to "room" and it's paced in a way where you get a sense of lull for few minutes, torturous action over a few frenetic minutes then a breather. It ends with a very suspenseful moment that would make even Eli Roth proud.
Will the real survivors please stand up?
I will say that even through you're playing victim in this interactive horror movie you are partly a prop being moved along from place to place. I would have liked to partly push some of the action along that made my scene with the actors be more personal. However I will say my name was being tossed around so clearly they knew who I was and made me the star of my little "short" which was cool. If I was allowed to go about and perform some limited easy task where it triggered a unique "cut scene" that would have been cool. These were elements from last year had that and I hoped for more this year. As I mentioned before, I seemed to be boxed in for a period of time that had me scratching my head. Who knows what I missed as I heard other people be tortured?
Josh and Kris have said each Survivor passage is different for each person. No two people may actually experience the same journey but they will experience all the main meat and potatoes of the event. Does the order switch up? You'd have to probably go through twice but what sicko would want to do that? (The Jaded Viewer raises his hand)
Blackout Haunted House is the baddest haunted house in the country. You walk through it alone and will feel what you've only watched in these torture-core horror movies. You can read my reviews and walkthroughs all you like, ask me questions on the experience but there is no exhilarating rush like going to a Blackout event. It's spawned a group of 20 strong members of hardcore fanboys and fangirls called the Survivors Club, became legendary over night due to Reddit and now will probably start scaring some brave celebrities and LA trendsetters this year. What use to be a haunted house only talked about in whispers, on a few message boards and in cult blogs like this one is no longer an underground secret.
Blackout Haunted House is now a phenomenon, a viral challenge for Halloween goers looking for a hardcore thrill. It's opened up a debate of can be done to you if you sign up for it. It's making believers out of everybody as survivors begin to emerge telling noobs of their tale about this haunted house in NYC. The one with all the touching and nudity.
But it hasn't lost it's edge. Blackout continues to remove you out of your normal world, scars you with imagery you will have dreams and nightmares about for days to come and if you survive it, welcomes you in becoming part of the scariest and challenging horror events you will ever go through. Because of Blackout, I will never see a haunted house the same way again.
"It's just a nightmare, let's put it that way. It's been a nightmare for a long time, even before I was caught … for years now, obviously my mind has been filled with gruesome, horrible thoughts and ideas … a nightmare."
-Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer
You aren't going to NOT get a controversy when you open up a haunted house based upon history's most notorious serial killers. That's what Tim Haskell has been thinking about since it was announced. He has put his thoughts on his blog as why this year's edition has killers as a focus. In a nutshell he writes: "The events inside the haunted house are fast and visceral and do not
reenact any of the crimes. We treat these killers for what they are –
killers. We should be afraid of them. They are terrifying, and will be
presented that way."
So once you get over the fact that, we Americans, as a whole have fascination with the psyche of these men and women you start to realize that they become more real as monsters than any vampire or zombie ever could. They are true boogeyman in every sense of the word. Nightmare: Killers is a culmination of the fear that these depraved, sick individuals actually walked the streets we walked and their crimes were more horrific then anybody dream up. The fact we can role play on that fear through a 20-30 minute haunted house is indeed what Halloween is all about.
So let's get into the fact that even though this is a bit heavy on the subject manner, haunted houses are designed to get your heart pounding and to have fun.
Nightmare Killers is, from room to room one of the best designed and acted haunted houses I've been to. Within each room you get a sense of the terrifying tales of woe behind each killer, a set design matching a "hot" Hollywood set and scares that are seamless in their execution. Even when I went during a preview first run, the actors seemed to be on top of their game.
You'll walk through a collection of the worst of the worst evil humanity has ever spawned, confront them and get the chills you paid for.
Forehead Blood, the Killers and Audience Participation (LIMITED SPOILERS AHEAD!)
There is a serial killer gallery and bar before you enter so you can calm your nerves down by looking at historical art and memorabilia. Look at the faces of these killers to get an idea of who you may encounter. The "FBI" will document your activities and you should interact with them and let them know you don't have any Dexter like tendencies.
The big change that Nightmare implements this year is they are giving you a choice in whether or not you wish to be touched by the actors (though in a limited fashion). Before going in, patrons who wished to participate have fake blood dabbled onto their forehead. This indicates to the "Killers" you are a willing participant. I of course said yes and it was well worth it. If you decide to go, definitely take this opportunity to fully get the immersive experience.
Patrons will go in within groups of 6. Once in, it's a medium burn of thrills. You'll start off slow but the the rooms do get more edgy as you go along. Here you will encounter the lives of the most infamous serial killers; Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy and some other modern day killers. Each room has a story to tell, like a live action vignette where you get to hear the thoughts of what made these men infamous. Once you hear their tales, it's time to be put into their world and live a few moments of terror from that victim POV.
The room are methodically designed and I urge you to take your time and not scamper from room to room. Let me repeat that. WALK FUCKING SLOW. Look at the props, the sets and the walls. It's all part of the show aside from the actors. Spread out across the room and take it all in. You know the scares are coming but it won't have the same effect if you don't listen to the dialogue and interact. The best elements of doing this come into play as you meet Ed Gein, go to death row and meet a most perverse clown. I also urge you to take it slow towards the end when a certain screaming girl named Lizzy shows up. You'll miss one of the best special effects I've seen in a HH in a while.
Also what was very surprising is that you'll end up outside where you'll encounter a very well known albeit fictional serial killer. I have to say this was the best room of the haunt aside from the last one.
There were a few rooms that I thought could have been worked out better. These include the Zodiac, Jack's bloody alleyway and a bathory. I guess these were designed for some lull before the storm moments but I'd have preferred to get the scare-o-meter into the red when you're knee deep within the house. Also, as I mentioned before it is indeed short in terms of time. It could take you 30 minutes if you do as I say and go slow but 20-25 minutes or less if you're speed walking through it. But we'll go with quality of time rather than quantity here.
Nightmare Killers is by far their best version yet. Creator and director Tim Haskell, Producer Steve Kopelman and Director Joe Haralacher have assembled a crew and actors who have taken Nightmare to the next level. If last year's version had you second guessing Nightmare, this is the edition you need to go to to see if they've gotten their mojo back.
In a sense, this is a traditional haunted house with all scares locked in a box waiting for you to open it up. However, it's nontraditional in that you're spending time with the most wretched and depraved real life human monsters to have ever walked our country. Nightmare reproduces a way to spend some time with these sickos. The fact that we want to says a lot about ourselves. Right?
Well I've now attended Blood Manor for 4 consecutive years. You'd think I'd be jaded now but Blood Manor seems to change up things every year which is always a plus. Jimmy Lorenzo, Jim Faro and Mike Rodriguez have a reputation of running a well oiled haunted house and it's well deserved. In years past they have outside acts consisting of painful torture and contortionists to keep the crowd entertained and it will be brought back this year. Who doesn't like seeing extreme pain? But at the end of the day, it's the house that makes Blood Manor.
Accompanied by veteran Blood Manor alum Leslie from Downtown Traveler, this preview night has always been a great kickoff to the haunted house season. I've said it year after year, the actors and set designs are what make he masses flood to Blood Manor. The actors at Blood Manor are mini comedians. If you give them time, interact with them, talk and joke with them you'll laugh and be completely shocked by what comes out of their mouths. It's imperative you don't rush from room to room (even when you're ordered to do so). The actors want to talk to you, make fun of you and scare the shit out of you. It's your job as a scaredy cat to make it happen.
During my visit I was called some odd things, viewed a deformed baby and sat down on a bloody table for some open heart surgery. And through some new technology, I saw myself as a zombie.This interactivity, though brief is what make Blood Manor leave it's patrons happy. Sure they have rehearsed lines, the growls and screams come out of nowhere but you need to talk to the crazies in order to make it all worth it.
I've always thought the actors, dressed in their mental patient outfits, zombified gore and stellar makeup can bring about a sense of horror close up. The victims scream endlessly, begging for help as you mock them (oh wait, I guess I'm the one who decided to do that). I want a quick snap personalized experience if possible and the actors clearly when they are on their game can do that.
The set design and rooms are always beautifully classics of monster lore of the past. New rooms include a Dr. Frankenstein laboratory with a funky new interactive TV. The mad doctor's autopsy at the morgue was a nice touch. I believe it was the best room so far. The fucked up Thanksgiving dinner banquet has always been a solid room and with some creative lighting furnishes it with some creepy crawlies. Also a steam punk room complete with prepackaged steam punker was new. The staples of bacon carcasses and zombie strippers is always a good time as is corridors with utter darkness and laser tech. The finale brings back the 3D effects which for the newbies, will be wicked cool.
I still think the actors rush you a bit from time to time, but that must be a prerequisite with the job when there are large crowds itching to go in. I'd also appreciate if I got to do more interaction (like the impromptu surgery) or maybe dance with a stripper? How about firing that cannon? The more audience participation, the better I always say.
My suggestions as always is to take things slow. You really need to slow the pace in order for you to see the scene unfold. Sometimes you'll bump into the group in front of you or the group in back of you comes out of nowhere. Then you get a clusterfuck of a mess of 6-10 people jam packed into a room. If everybody didn't rush through, I guarantee Blood Manor would flow seamlessly with scares.
Blood Manor is a staple of NYC Haunted Houses. If you've never been, it's a must go. They are indeed the blockbuster of all the haunted houses in the city combining Tim Burton style rooms with a mix of Universal monsters horror and high tech wizardry. They seem to always be on the cutting edge of pushing the tech aspect of haunted houses and the actors come full prepared to torture you with invisible scares and smart ass remarks.