Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Jaded Viewer Halloween Super Awesomeness Adventure Guide

Happy Halloween jaded viewers.

If you're looking for super awesomeness today, you've come to the right place. Below you'll find all my reviews for all the NYC haunted houses and Halloween events as well as a few of the Long Island haunts I went to.

Whatever your poison is this Halloween, remember to check for razor blades in apples. That really happens.

New York City

Long Island

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gateway's Haunted Playhouse (Review)

To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island a few weeks back. Our final stop was Gateway's Haunted Playhouse, a haunt that has been on top 10 lists and voted #1 haunt in LI for consecutive years. I didn't know what to expect, I had only read a few Yelp reviews but "C" from TRABC had proclaimed it as one of the best haunts she's ever been to.

And after experiencing it, I absolutely 100% agree.

Just to put it in writing, Gateway's Haunted Playhouse is one of the best haunted houses I have ever been to. The set pieces, the actors and the dedication to making something new and inventive separates Gateway from the rest. It's a haunt like no other. Located in Bellport, NY the haunted playhouse takes place at an actual working playhouse. This theater is transformed into an inside and outside haunt that this year goes from circus freakshow to twisted fairy tales. It's this dedication to authenticity that stands out. The props and rooms are made from scratch, the actors immerse themselves into their parts and the scares are well timed and flow perfectly. This is as close to a perfect haunted house as you can get.

First, let's go over the atmosphere and how they've set up their ticketing and line system. Sure they have a fast pass option but you buy tickets on a first come first serve basis. When your ready to be called, they'll let you know. In the meantime, you get to wait by having drinks and being entertained by performers (when I went I saw a fire eater, you know typical HH stuff). Even the waiting is designed to be less of a hassle as you can wait.

Entering the haunt in small groups, you'll encounter the backstage...literally. Each prop, room and setting seems systematically designed to transport you into another world.  From the bizarre world of behind the scenes of a theater to a 1000 Maniacs like circus county fair, you get to walk into a maze of twists and turns that have you literally trapped with these crazies. And they are wonderfully awesome highly interactive crazies.

Outside you'll walk into an assortment of freaks and weirdos. Dog and lizard boys and a grandmaster who mocks you. It's a miss mash of the bizarre and the abnormal and it's done with that flair for the absurd that makes you glad you were here. An ambulance oddly placed is creatively fun to go through and as you head inside, you wish you could hang with these lovely nuts for the rest of the night.

Inside the funhouse it gets funner. We enter a dreamworld of the most fucked up fairy tales you'll ever encounter. From Hansel and Gretel to Rapunzel, each room is a twisted Disney prince and princess as if they were locked in a dungeon and brutally tortured. The rooms are brilliantly dressed and even the in between rooms connect it all together. It's not just the visual and the auditory. Here at Gateway you'll smell things that go from sweet and happy to repulsive and disgusting. It's smell-o-vision and it is freakin awesome. Darkness leads to strobe lights that lead to rooms where walking becomes a chore. This leads to an ending that will literally knock you off your feet.

I do think this wonderland could have reached into the fear bucket a bit more. It's more a walk through Oz than a terror factory. Sure there are your fair share of jump scares but all was pretty standard when it came to the BOOs! If there is one place that can make the darkness more terrifying, I think it would be Gateway and I hope they try next year to add this element in.

Aside from my wish list, when you have your working parts working in sync, Gateway Haunted Playhouse is 40 or so minutes of exhilaration. You can see this isn't your store bought haunt with Travel Channel approved animatronics but a world class production making sure you get a one of a kind experience. Each room is like a hot set, dressed  a Hollywood production. The actors engulf themselves in their roles, their costumes designed to be realistic, their makeup world class. It's like getting walking through an interactive Broadway horror show.

My last stop in LI turned out to be the best. It reminds me that the best isn't always in the city limits. Gateway Haunted Playhouse is the type of haunted attraction that is made by people who want to scare and entertain you in the best way possible. It's far from those assembly line haunts you've all been to. When you've been to as many HH's as I have, you keep looking for the next best thing.

All I had to do was make a trip out east to find it.

The Vitals

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 5 Basic Levels of Haunted Houses

There are a lot of lists on the Internet telling you what the best haunted house in America is. Other lists will tell you what the most extreme haunt is. The Raven and Black Cat has a list of the most extreme haunted houses where they will touch you. Clearly, there are levels of haunted houses ranging from family friendly to WTF.  And though I love haunted hayrides my bread and butter has always been the WTF. More and more haunted houses have been setting up more extreme experiences for the 18+ crowd.  But why would anybody subject themselves to full body contact haunts? Why would you want to have bags thrown over your head, suffocated, water boarded and suffer through all elements of torture?

if I had to guess, it would be this.

To me, it's an adrenaline rush and ultimate thrill like no other. I can only equate it to why somebody does an extreme sport like skydiving or bungee jumping. You want to challenge yourself by doing what only a few people get to do. Also, surviving such a crazy attraction is an overall sense of accomplishment. It's a badge of honor you can share with only the others who've done the same.

But ultimately it's a battle of wills. You take on the challenge to face your fears head on. A skydiver is battling gravity and in a sense, a fear of dying. Haunted Houses are man made and create artificial fears. These fears though not life threatening, can clearly be heightened to a crazy degree. All haunted house creates fake phobias we all have in common. Darkness, claustrophobia and others are universal fears some people have experienced head on, while others not so much.

Below is a list of what I think are haunted house levels compared to their extreme sport equivalent. What level are you?

1.) The Roller Coasters (Funhouse Haunted Houses)

I think of roller coasters the same way as I do campy funhouse haunted houses. Long lines and a few minutes of thrills. Coasters come in a variety of forms. Extreme speeds, looping and old timey wooden ones. When compared to to your PG-13 tweenager haunted houses, you'll get your animatronic and prop heavy ones and your Disney ride-along haunts. But they all try to scare the shit out of you. And there seems to be lots of clowns.

2.) The Bungee Jumpers (Traditional Haunted Houses)

Your traditional haunted house these days will come in a variety of ways to scare you shitless. And so it's paired with bungee jumping. All across America, haunts are trying to find new ways to scare the crap at you and bungee jumping has that same effect. You can bungee jump from a bridge overlooking a river or you can bungee in an amusement park. I've also seen people bungee in pairs and off cliffs.

The risk is greater when you bungee jump, you're still safe but it feels a little more exciting. Haunts these days are getting bolder with their haunts. The traditional HH has you going in big groups and they want you to feel like its unsafe (when it actually is) They also want to give you moments of pure helplessness like being in the dark for long periods of time. Are you in danger? Not really. But its the jump scare that gets you in both experiences.

Relatively speaking,  this is the most extreme regular people will get.

3.) The Rope Swingers (Experimental Haunted Houses)

Rope swinging is a  relatively new phenomenon.  It's like bungee jumping but on steroids. Want to know what it's like? Check out this video. I would say this goes in the immersive theater/interactive horror movie like experience. A lot of haunted houses are being experimental and in the same way they are blending the traditional haunt with the more extreme one creating a hybrid. You'll see this in the form of Freakling Bros in Vegas as they offer a traditional haunt with a more extreme one.  Nightmare Killers has the option of being touched. You can even add the haunts run by amateurs. All these haunts are trying something new and looking for people to try it out for the first time.

Experimental haunts can test shit out to see what works and what doesn't. They're still scary as shit but they are trying to find that proverbial edge people won't cross. Crossing that border is where the next level kicks in.

4.) The Skydivers (Extreme Haunted Houses)

There are some people who will skydive but not go to an extreme haunted house. You'd think they'd want the same thrills though I guess those are different levels of extreme. With haunted houses, over the last few years, haunts and productions have been advertising to the Rated R, 18+ crowd.  They've introduced touching and waivers to the mix.  Haunts where the actors get to touch you and I don't mean a tap on the shoulder. Bearhugs, slaps, bags over your head type shit. Pseudo torture in all its forms are employed.

The Raven and Black Cat has an extensive list of haunts that do just that. These are where the weirdos and even more curious weirdos come out. No longer wanting the hayrides, the mazes or the experimental, these brave souls want the shit beaten out of them and want strong sexual content.

With skydiving, it can be relatively safe, one can be tied to an instructor and experience free falling without worrying about all the controls. Others will go further learning to do it alone and even others will now use wing suits to glide through the sky.

Extreme haunts come in a variety of forms as well. Blackout is part theater, part crazy. Freakling Bros Victim Experience seems to be all about the crazy. Other extreme haunts are psychological and get in your head while others like McKamey Manor seem to be an endurance challenge.

This level is clearly on the fringe and is expanding with an audience hungry to challenge them. No longer happy with free falling with trained professionals, participants want to go alone and they want a haunted house that will scare them beyond belief.

People who partake in this extremeness haunts are few and far between. They want waivers and they require safety words. And if they're not going by themselves, something seems wrong.

5.) The Felix Baumgartner (???)

I don't think haunted houses are at this level yet. Hell I don't even know what this stage would entail. But clearly it would be the most extreme thing ever. This could be part Survivor, part play acting. This would be like the Star Trek holodeck without the safety protocols in place.

I made up a fictional experience for April Fools Day called "Stalker". Here is what I said it would be:

"Renegade Productions is proud to introduce a new interactive experience that will be unleashed to the people of New York City this summer. What would it be like to act as a serial killer stalking your prey? What would it be like to be the prey being stalked by a serial killer? In the world of Stalker, those questions will be answered as 2 willing participants face off head to head in a battle of wills straight out of a horror movie."

Does this even look far fetched these days? A while back, I read about a water gun assassination tournament happening in NYC and SF. Kind of underground, kind of ARG-ish. Could a immersive serial killer game really happen? Knowing that extreme is all relative, who really knows?

What would be your idea for an space jump level like haunted house?


So what level are you when it comes to haunted houses? Are you a Roller Coaster? Maybe a Skydiver? What would be your idea for a crazy Baumgartner haunt? And if you do go to extreme haunts, sound off on why you go. I'd like to know why people take on the craziest, WTF haunted houses in America.

Leave a comment here, on the Jaded Viewer Facebook page or tweet me!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nyctophobia 2013 (Review)

To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island a few weeks back. Our second stop was Nyctophobia, an interactive experience I've been dying to try for the last few years.  It changes year after year and what people experienced in 2011 is long gone.  So with some excitement, I headed to my first Nyctophobia haunt.

Nyctophobia is not a haunted house.

That's the tagline this year though in years past, Nyctophobia brought the interactive horror like experience to eastern Long Island.  But creator Eric Striffler has changed it up and this "not a haunted house" resembles more of an audience participation in an real life movie. Part scavenger hunt, part ARG,  the experience itself was absolutely entertaining though the story and timing could use more work.

I immediately tweeted this right after it was over.

Nyctophobia had elements of the PS3 game The Last of Us which cinematically were outstanding. Slight moaning and sounds through the woods will have you jumping on a broken twig in the dead of night. The J-horror I compared the haunt to is in reference to Japanese horror, which tend to use flashbacks to unveil the horror stalking those cell phone obsessed Japanese teenagers. Blended together, they were very different and somehow got muddled as the story developed. It's the hunt that got me giddy.

With "S" and "C" from The Raven and Black Cat, myself and fellow Survivor Bailey Squared, our valiant group of four ventured to the far reaches of LI. Arriving late, we sat in our car, then were approached with a waiver and clipboard and we emphatically all signed on the dotted line.

And it was a go. I won't go into details until after their run is over.  Expect a walkthrough soon.

But if you ever wanted to act as 4 "teenagers" in a mystery, Nyctophobia 2013 makes it happen. We all participated and each had our own "scenes" by sharing the experience together. I got to interact in one scene with an actor and eventually we all "escaped" from the potential dangers set up for us. We drove from one scene to another piecing together clues that would lead us to our next destination. in In one scene, darkness and a wooded path was a mesmerizing cinematic touch and the ending led to an uber jump scare that had one of us stepping back.

The story for 2013's Nyctophobia was hard to comprehend. The clues were there but not easily digestible as you were going through it. We all listened intently but still couldn't understand who was who and what we needed to do to progress the story. I'm sure it's been fixed but I think it could have evolved into a full on IRL theatrical experience that had you improving lines to progress the story. Like a real life Star Trek holodeck. It's not until after did we get it and realized who and what it was all about.

Nyctophobia is definitely not a haunted house. It probably falls into that Sleep No More and Then She Fell category but instead of immersive theatre, it's immersive cinema. The Gen Y Millennials are short attention spanned and need the quick cut Michael Bay explosions. They also need the horror movies that have less build up and more kill scenes. They want the torture porn and instead got slow burn Ti West cinema.  This generation can't appreciate the methodical plotting of good indie horror. It's kind of sad. But if you want to enjoy Nyctophobia, you'll need to take it slow, enjoy the build up and make your own conversations between you and your friends entertaining. Somebody has to be comic relief right?

I will say that it did end abruptly. It seemed like it could have lasted more than an hour but we completed it in less than that. I would suggest it head into the more digital realm, maybe use more text messages, tweets and social media to lead a team to their next destination. As much as the horror myth of having no cell signal is ever evident in movies, it's not the case IRL.

Nyctophobia is going to evolve the interactive immersive cinema experience into a must go event. Striffler will make sure of that. This wave of interactive theater is clearly only beginning and talented artists are redefining the conventions of our entertainment. I'm excited to see what's next and believe when your partaking in a world constructed for you and your friends, we've only seen a glimpse of what's to come.

And I'll be excited if Nyctophobia is leading the way.

The Vitals

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Adventureland's Nightmare on the Midway (Review)

To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island. Our first stop was Jesse Eisenberg approved, Adventureland's Nightmare on the Midway and if you're looking for a place to take the kids, this is it.

The Long Island staple of amusement parks Adventureland is rich with nostalgia and oozes of summertime throwback fun. Adventureland is trying their luck with Nightmare and for a family friendly Halloween adventure, it's pretty solid. This month it as has been turned into a spooky Halloween attraction complete with monsters running amock and rides to be ridden in the pale moonlight. And they do have some haunted houses to get your fright on.

After sundown, you'll get to go to a zombie themed maze, "Zombie Asylum" which is a quick romp with screaming actors and an Addams family approved props ranging from wired gates keeping the costumed undead away.  It's as PG-13 as you can get and the tweenagers should be happy with their walk through. Teenagers may have attitude as they get accosted by other teenagers looking to scare them. Lots of screaming by both parties.

A haunted train ride which probably in the daytime is innocent is turned into something the kids who need to get their hayride fix in may enjoy. The train takes you all over the mini me park and slows down as stealthy actors in a variety of costumes and make and even one in a military style grass camouflage BOO you during the ride. The train passes a few stationary settings with Spencer Gifts props and animatronics but it's the actors that do their best to make it work. "S" from RABC, suggested there should be a tour guide who possibly could give you a story to what you'll encounter. I highly agree. A guide would distract from the actors ready to pop up for the jump scare.

Finally, we encountered a ride that made inner kid me smile. An old school Haunted Mansion like ride-a-long that has you encountering old school animatronics mixed in with some digital tech and packed with Universal monsters from Dracs to mummies. Good stuff. I love Disney like rides and with the ride a passenger for two, tweens will probably like it more.

Adventureland is trying something new and they are off to a good start. They've been adapting as they go along and have already made a few changes to make it all a good time for the Halloween starved Islanders and city folk who road trip out there. To compete in the multi million dollar Halloween haunted house industry in October, you really do need to stand out from the rest. I would highly suggest they take their namesake and milk the fact a movie with zombies in it took place in something similar. Wouldn't you want to go to a working Zombieland attraction? I would.

Nightmare on the Midway is a solid Halloween attraction for families, tweens and those high octane millennials. Riding a roller coaster at night with Jason Voorhees stalking you in is great (this happened!), a few mazes for your jump scares and old school rides that make you all nostalgic.  For a packaged price, the rides and Halloween themed attractions are hard to resist.

Now if we get a few more zombies chasing me around the park, I'd be happy as Carl when got his gun back from Rick in the last episode of The Waling Dead.

The Vitals

Monday, October 21, 2013

Blackout Haunted House: Elements 2013 (NYC Review)

[This is just a review of Blackout Elements. A spoiler filled walkthrough will follow after the show's run ends.]

Well if you're reading this fellow jaded viewers, you have probably read all the stuff  I've ever posted about Blackout. There is no doubt that this once upon a time, urban legend of a haunted house, the one where "they touch you" and "they water board you" is now a full fledged powerhouse now running in both NYC and LA and will be unleashed in Chicago in December. The formula is being copied by mega haunted houses all over the country and even Kickstarters are being created to fund what seems to be a poor copy cat. But to experience Blackout, the original waiver signing, full frontal nudity and torturific experience is one that has to be done in NYC, where filth and grime are synonymous with the people. Who are these brave souls who dare go to the haunted house the other haunted houses are afraid of?

What's odd is the people who decide to go. Blackout participants aren't just goths or metalheads, but normals from all over the city who flock to Blackout to experience what the fuss is all about. Abercrombie and Fitch sweater alpha's wait in the lobby with motherfuckin gangsta wannabes. Old grampas walk in with college freshmen. They all come because they're curious and want to try their luck at the most extreme haunted house in America.

I went twice this year. The first during opening night and then last week. In essence, I saw the same show but with notable differences. I also saw an evolution as well as it seems night after night and possibly patron after patron never had the same experience. Because this year, with it's elemental theme which I'll get to later, people get to choose what happens top them (though they can choose, they never know what will happen). It's a simple choice between letters but leads to the fact that if two people went back to back, they'd wouldn't see the same rooms or get the same experience.

So like previous years, everything in October is entirely new from last year. This is the first time Blackout has employed an overarching theme to their haunt. Previous years were completely changed but this was the first time both NYC and LA get the same basic haunt. Located at 164 Eleventh Ave, near Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, the location brought back memories for me of their off season haunt in 2011. I was very familiar with the space but it's been turned into a deviously constructed maze that  Jigsaw's deranged uncle might have created. The lobby is ominous and has that NYC smell of decay. Even the staff  you'll meet immediately will let you know they aren't here to take any of your shit.

What takes place behind the walls is a curious mix of old school Blackout brutality, psychological warfare, sexually charged feargasms and an ending that will have most people scared stiff. But your journey through is an obstacle course through the Captain Planet approved Elements. You'll encounter water, air, earth and fire in some form or the other. Each of these will happen in the company of  archetypes such as enforcers and delicates (it's the best way to describe these variety of characters). There will be moments of lull followed by all out assaults on your senses and sometimes lack thereof. Blackout has a reputation of silently stripping you of your sight, drowning your hearing and making you touch repulsion. This year, they'll earn it again but are more clever in how they do it.

Like previous haunts, Blackout test your limits in being touched . It's not a simple tap on the shoulder but a tad more aggression in the form of being bearhugged and having your face being used as a palette. You'll also  have to trudge through various obstacles, climb and crawl and kneel and experience all sorts of levels of uncomfortableness. It's 30 or so minutes of shock and awe and all sorts of general weirdness designed to indoctrinate you into the world of Blackout. The willing should go in wanting to play their part in the show, obey all the commands and descend into the madness of it all. You've paid to be part of this interactive horror movie, be that final guy or girl so play the fuck along. Milk the haunt for all its worth. Even though it felt a bit ridiculous that's what I did and it amplified my victim-hood.

Both times I went, I had the same overall basic experience. However, the October trip was a bit more cleaner in it's execution and amped up a level. The beta test in September has been tweaked with heavily and there were parts I loved like the original ending. It played with a theme which referenced the 2013 off season haunt and I do love those Blackout easter eggs. It's hard not to compare the two experiences but as a whole, now looking back I'm glad I did it twice as seeing the changes gives me a perspective I wouldn't have otherwise.

With your choice factoring in, going twice has its advantages in that choosing the opposite of what you had selected previously opens up rooms you had no idea existed. This level of interactivity is refreshing and different. It's a gimmick that will have you second guessing, fueling a what if scenario for days after. Going with friends may give you a glimpse into what you missed though the choice is really up to you. It's an odd sensation to try to be coherent while shit is hitting in the fan all around you.

What I did miss is what worked well in previous Blackout experiences, their namesake. You will encounter darkness in spurts, strobe lights and all sorts of icky. It's the elements that are taking center stage this year and you should be well aware that anything I've written before is mostly NOT going to happen.

I would also have liked a unifying story that would tie the haunt together in a way that would have transcended the other theme running through. If each successive scene in different rooms built up a level of crazy that led up to the final uber ending, I think the payoff was there. Horror movies are all about the buildup and I hope one day Blackout employs a centralized mythos during their haunt.

The actors give it their all and at times will tailor the experience to what you do and how you react. They may improv as they go along and add a few things that worked on others. The fact they can keep modifying the attraction is a clear indication that creators Josh Randall and Kristjan Thorgeirsson are smart enough to know fear is subjective and you have to adapt to your audience even if it means person by person.

There is only one haunted house that pushes you into another dimension of twilight zone like horror and it's Blackout. New, inventive and full of WTF moments. Elements is brilliantly awesome. It has a way of fucking with you like no other haunted house can. It has never positioned itself as a traditional haunted house. It's evolved into something without comparison even through it's being carbon copied by others. What you realize is that it teeters on the edge of extreme audience participation and that most people will wonder if the team behind this production are seriously mentally disturbed.

But shouldn't we all question if the people who pay for it are as well?

 The Vitals

Blackout Haunted House Reviews and Walkthroughs
Blackout Haunted House Invite Only, Off Season Winter/Spring Haunt Reviews and Walkthroughs
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Friday, October 18, 2013

Blood Manor 2013 (Review)

You should be overly familiar of Blood Manor by now. I've reviewed this NYC Haunted House staple for 5 years straight. I first went in 2009, then 2010, 2011 and 2012. So it's been churning out the scares well before I went and it's still going strong. What you'll get from Blood Manor is what you get every year. Scared tweens, tweenagers and brave mom and dads who accompany their kids into an elaborate maze of solid sets, sarcastic and stealthy actors and zombie strippers.

This year is reminiscent of past years and it's without a doubt one of the haunted houses you will need to go to at least once if you're in New York City in October.

My past reviews say it all when you go to Blood Manor so I'll take the best quips from each year to let you know what's the what.


"Blood Manor is so jampacked with horror goodies, it's like a carnival of wickedness. You really feel like they've made every effort to get you scared and the level of detail in every room is quite  magnificent. The team at Blood Manor is very aware of horror culture, referencing all your favorite slasher icons and adding a few of their own. Simply, it's the perfect dessert after eating a bucket full of candy goodness."


"Blood Manor is the James Cameron of haunted houses. Big production values, absolute detailed rooms and actors who really get into their roles. That's Blood Manor in a nutshell. You're not going to get story or themes here like other haunted houses. It's pure frightening eye candy and like a summer movie, you kinda know what to expect but it still scares the shit out of you."

"As one of the most famous haunted houses in NYC, Blood Manor has gotten its reputation as the ultimate BOO! haunted house and it's well earned. It's full of elaborate, breathtaking sets, actors full of mischief and high tech wizardry. Year after year, Jimmy Lorenzo, Jim Faro and Mike Rodriguez amplify the experience of Blood Manor by tweaking the scare-o-meter and hiring a next generation of actors (half of them are new this year) who can appear stealthy but also get in your face."


"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.....Also I did mention zombie strippers right?"

The Vitals

 Check out the trailer below.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Legends of the Fog Haunted House (Review)

Joined by fellow Blackout Survivor "D" and "C" from The Raven and Blackcat, we ended our Maryland haunted house road trip with Legends of the Fog, a haunt in Aberdeen, MD. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this haunt but I had read up they had 3 attractions lined up with one of them being a haunted hayride which would have been my first. On that excitement alone, I went in hoping for the best and to my surprise I left feeling outright super happy.

Legends of the Fog is like finding a diamond in a pumpkin patch. The converted working farm gets turned into one of the most bang for your buck haunted houses I've been to. Family run, LOTF is run by all volunteers who year after year, bring back their haunt and add something new and exciring. In the midst of 6 feet tall corn stalks, a bonfire warms up the bustling crowd with carnival games and a "coffin ride" complete with a night vision cam for visitors to watch any brave soul who pays to be trapped in a coffin.

You don't get to pick which 3 attractions at Legends of the Fog. Surprisingly, you have to experience each consecutively. It's downright efficient as lines are managed to optimal efficiency. There is a Fast Pass lane for the impatient so that helps.

Sinister Circus

Up first is the Sinister Circus, a good outdoor tent like maze that has every side show attraction you can imagine. Various freaks and side show performers put on some good scares and a dreaded clown makes an appearance. It's not scary albeit a bit short but it's a precursor and an appetizer to what's to come.

Haunted Hayride

One of the best independently created haunted hayrides I've been to (having only been to one :-P), LOTF pours its best into making this hayride memorable complete with FOG!. I think it's up to par to a Disney World attraction in its simplicity and its set design. We went on a clear night, where even a New Yorker like myself could see actual stars. A tractor/truck? pulls a cart that could easily fit 20 or more people slowly drives through corn stalks as stealthy actors come out and hop on and put some jump scares. A chainsaw man  makes an appearance and got a bit close for comfort. The sets were quite elaborate for a mom and pop run haunt. Abandoned gas stations and barns with animatronic snakes were all quite well done. Each stop required the tractor to stop inside a barn as they closed both front and back. Then you get an insane petting zoo to a electric light show. Good times.

Kids love haunted hayrides and seeing tweenage kids get a bit scared shitless is hilarious. (A group of these Millenials taunted their friend Alex asking do say this and not use salty language....they said for him to NOT be a ;-P) The most super duper cleverest thing I saw during the hayride was little girls singing in unison as they carried severed heads asking patrons to play. I've seen kids be used in haunts but it was like I was in dream and immediately thought of the Nightmare on Elm Street jumping rope girls. Holy fuckin cow. Pretty creepy. I've always said if you got kids whispering, you're gonna get a gold star from me.

Carins Manor

We end with Carsins Manor, a supposed abandoned orphanage that houses some very disturbed kids. A wicked old man with bad breath greets us and off we go through abandoned rooms, disheveled beds and lots and lots of dolls. Are you scared of porcelain dolls? You will be. I was jump scared by a well placed tween who seemingly appeared out of nowhere. But the best scare happened to Survivor "D". Who could scare a Survivor?

How about a 5 year old kid, in horror makeup running up to him like a stinging Cobra. When you're not seeing something eye level, kids WILL scare the crap at you. I'm pretty sure its every parents worst nightmare. The manor was a solid conclusion to the trilogy of haunts at LOTF.

Final Thoughts

The Legends of the Fog attractions doesn't look like a warehouse of haunted house props. It works in its simplicity, sets you know were created by hard work and ingenuity. Animatronics and effects are used strategically and they pack a punch when they do. But it's the actors who seem to want the haunt to be the best it can be. Every little kid wants to scare other kids and here at Legends of the Fog, they get that chance. Families and unsuspecting teenagers are prime targets for this outdoor haunted house and you can't beat getting a chance to hayride in the moonlight.

Think of Legends of the Fog as a little brother to the haunts you all know. It's full of effective mazes, a hayride that is unpredictable and a orphanage from hell. You can't duplicate the overall scary of a farm in the dead of night. That's the awesome from Legends of the Fog because sooner or later they'll be doing things big brother only dreamed of.

The Vitals

Check out the trailer

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bennett's Curse Haunted House (Review)

When you're planning to go on a haunted house road trip, make sure you're with people who are on the same page as you or you're going to have a bad time. Thank the crazies I have friends who are as insane as I am. Joined by blogger "C' of The Raven and Black Cat and fellow Blackout Survivor "D" we trekked the 3 or so hours to just outside Baltimore, Maryland to hit up not 1 but 2 haunted houses on the same night.

First stop was Bennett's Curse in Jessup, MD. Just by looking at their website you can see the accolades galore of "Best Haunt" this and "Top Halloween Attractions" that. Its for those reasons it was first on our list. As this was my first road trip haunt (my out of state haunts included Goretorium in Vegas and Universal Horror Nights in LA) I expected to be in the middle of nowhere and boy is Bennett's Curse in the middle of nowhere, USA. The approach to the haunt is ominously X-Files-ish as a white gigantic hanger bellows in the distance.

Inside it's filled with a online quick pic and an ominous animatronic dragon. It's dark and our fast pass tickets scurry us into the fast lane. A creepy old guy gives instructions and off we go.

You want Vampires? We got us some Vampires

Bennett's Curse is basically every incarnation of haunted houses rolled into one though they are kind of try to mislead you early on with actors spewing speeches about a medieval war between vampires and demons. That's so you'll be mesmerized by the insane amounts of high tech monsters they have set up triggered by motion detectors (?) to scare you. The amount of props crammed into the haunt can be overwhelming and stratgically placed actors looking to jump scare you is adequate but few and far between.

You'll get some air cannons ready to give you a quick jolt and some Travel Channel approved 30 feet tall dragons, gargoyles and monsters all ready to swing into action. I'll admit these special effects were quize mesmerizing but easily got tiring at the same time. As "C" pointed out, these were bought at the haunted house warehouse on the dollar. A moving eye prop was very top notch as was a giant dragon mouth that knocked me a bit sideways. They seemed to spend top dollar on their Halloween monsters hence the continued commercial of being featured on The Travel Channel as you entered.

But as you progress, you will get different versions of haunted houses at Bennett's Curse. All are labeled with fancy gloom and doom nicknames like "House of the Vampyres" which were the prop laden animatronics maze I discussed earlier. "Zombie Kingdom 3D" which was  a 3-D colorful zombie maze complete with 3-D entrails emanating from the actors. "Sanctuary of Insanity" was an insane asylum complete with maniacs who will move the "jail bars" to keep you confused and lost.The haunt has no unifying theme but to get you spooked and hang out with every kind of boogeyman you can think of.

Flashlights: Scary Shit

However, one of the parts of Bennett's Curse was something that didn't have elaborate effects, crazy monsters set to Metal. It was a simple twist and turn maze that was in complete darkness. As you went through, various actors armed with flash lights would light up their gruesome faces at just the right moment to scare the bejesus out of you. There would be a flicker of light that would scare and indirectly help to guide your way out. Never have I walked slowly, arm outstretched hoping for that quick flashlight to get me through a maze. This was the best part of Bennett's Curse in it's utter simplicity and scare-o-meter.

The actors were mostly mute bystanders making sure to get in your face when appropriate. Some actors mocked my clumsiness as I bumped into my friends in the utter darkness. It's these brief exchanges of WTF did they just say that? that make the haunt a little more personal.

Final Thoughts

I've been to my fair share of high level haunted houses. Bennett's Curse is a smorgasboard of all your favorite monster haunts jampacked into one huge Halloween extravaganza. I'll say that all 3 haunted houses had some moments that had me jumping but not one of their 3 haunts had me going "Holy shit! That was fuckin awesome". You'll get your laughs, your screams and your share of WTFs if you go in not looking for anything more than your pre-packed monster goodies loot bag.

I think the road trip to Bennett's Curse was well worth the drive but I'm probably not going to be back in the future. Unless they have a giant hanger masked in darkness and nothing but actors with flashlights. But who would pay for that?

The Vitals
Check out the trailer

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