So with "Special K" and TRATBC in tow, we mini roadtripped out to Passaic, NJ to check out their off season Valentine's Day haunt and it definitely didn't disappoint.
It's not often I trek across the river, but I'm willing to get my haunt on anytime and any place. The place being Brighton Asylum, a location in itself that's spooky as hell. The thing that separates about haunts in Jersey seems to be the massive space they get to occupy compared to their NYC counterparts. Nightmares Dark Valentine, which has previously offered Halloween and Christmas variants seems to take full advantage of this location.
Entering through a massive warehouse, I saw a clear Valentine's Day theme going. Balloons, hearts and a miner.Wait a miner? Say what? It seems the Dark Valentine theme here was inspired by the movie My Bloody Valentine 3D. On display were photo ops with "The Miner" (part of a contest on their Facebook page) as well as wardrobe attire from the movie Warm Bodies. It's always good to have a haunt align themselves with the horror flicks that are currently out.
As Special K and RATBC enter the haunt, it's a pitch darkness within a maze of darkened corridors that gets you a bit uneasy. In one dark hallway, I bumped into a figure I think may have been an actual human being OR a mannequin. I still don't know. You start to put your hand in front of you to figure out what direction to go to. It seems the total blackout effect is a lost art in haunted houses and here, they've brought in back and it works damn well.
Each of the rooms has it's own personality. Some of the rooms have hanging electrical wire, others with corpses and others with who knows what. The "jump scares" where actors seem to BOO! you out of nowhere were very well designed appearing via window slots and from the corner of a dark room.
And they don't just shout a quick scare and let you go. No no no. Some of our "miner" slashers decided to follow us across rooms. I had a very curious miner complete with a jumpsuit and gas mask follow me around as I pushed hanging dead corpses at him. It's kind of fun to see how they'll react.
Another room that stood out was a bench that gave you a different angle on seeing some dead bodies. It was quite inventive and I haven't been thrilled like that in a long time at a traditional haunted house. A few more rooms had some pesky silent but deadly children as well as a woman looking for blood donations.
All in all, the ending was not as jump-tastic as I would hoped but the most surprising thing I encountered was that Special K, The Raven and the Black Cat and I went through the entire 40 minute or so haunt all my ourselves. We never ran into the group in front of us and the group behind us never snuck up and crowded us. It was timed well and flowed brilliantly.
Nightmare Dark Valentine was the rare haunted house that takes a theme and embraces it. They paced the groups so that everybody was able to have their alone time with the haunt, the pitch black corridors added a level of terror I haven't seen in a long time and the creativity was new and exciting.
If this is the effort they put in an off season haunt, I can't wait to check out what they do during Halloween. Hopefully they won't wait that long and we'll see a few off season events to bridge the gap.