Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NYC Haunted House - After Dark at Madame Tussaud's (Review)

Wait! Another haunted house review? Really Mr. Jaded Viewer? Jeez, how many has it been?

Yes I know what you're thinking. I've gone to waaaay too many haunted houses. But hell it's October in NYC and the smell of fear and Halloween is in the air. And what better way to get your scare on but to go to a haunted house...and in my case how about 4 of them? To recap, I've been to Nightmare: Superstitions, Blood Manor, Vortex Theater's NYC Halloween Haunted House and Steampunk Haunted House. They don't call me the jaded viewer for nothing.

The fifth one which I think may be the last is After Dark at Madame Tussauds. For the uninitiated, Madame Tussaud's is a world famous wax museum of celebrities. Could a wax museum pull of a scary haunted house?

My overwhelming answer is a most definite yes.

After Dark at Madame Tussauds pushes all the right buttons in scare-o-logy. An interactive blend of 4D William Castle Percepto accompanied by your standard walk through haunted house makes it doubley fun for all. Think Blair Witch meets Night at the Museum. It's a high quality production that echoes an attraction found at Universal Studios.

Who knew a wax museum could give me a serious case of the heebee jeebees?

The Disclaimer.....

As a born and bred New Yorker, I try to avoid Times Square at all costs. It's a haven for tourists and as such is a perfect place for a haunted house attraction. The disclaimer is this is a touristy haunted house that will cater to that crowd. Expect long lines that are seas of humanity.

But it's well worth the wait if you endure. After Dark will only run for 8 nights (it started on October 21st and ran to 10/24. Scheduled times run from 10/28-10/31 from 9pm to 1am). With the limited run and the late start time will come high volumes of people.

I have to say, if you want to see wax figures close up, go during the day. Because at night, you won't want to stare at them as they tend to "come to life" to scare the bejesus out of you. And I gotta admit, it's one of the creepiest haunted houses I've ever been to.

The Percepto.....

After a short elevator ride, your adventure begins in a movie theater. Unfortunately on the day I went, their was a 15 minute delay due to technical difficulties as they could not get the movie to play. A few patrons got angry and I was even adamant that I needed to see the "movie" before I went to the haunted house portion. But after waiting it out, it was worth it.

You watch a quick maybe 5-10 minute short film about the supernatural events that surround the museum. Done in a Blair Witch, shaky cam style, two characters experience Madame Tussauds fictional "Scream" haunted house. As they walk through their house, you get to experience bit of Percepto ala William Castle. Your seat comes to life and events on the screen are felt by you.

I haven't experienced a 4D screening in so long that I forgotten how simple buzz seats and smoke make everything more fun. It's the gimmick that worked in 1959 and hasn't lost it's touch in 2010. These 4D theater experiences are common at your major theme parks such as Disney World or Universal Studios. It perfectly fits in on the found footage video you watch and gets you jacked for the haunted house that awaits you.

You'd think with our high level technological film advances such as Real D 3D and IMAX the common viewer wouldn't get a thrill out of Percepto, but you'd be wrong. I love these gimmicks and it was a nice touch to see it used effectively as part of After Dark.

The Walk Through.....

After finding out from the movie that the museum is haunted, you get to walk through it. I was pleasantly surprised how they transformed Madame Tussauds into a real, breathing haunted house. Even the snack shop seemed scary!

I never actually went to the museum during the day but going through it at night is disturbingly creepy. The brilliance of a haunted house in a wax museum is the potential out in the open "hiding" places the performers can come out of. With the wax figures so lifelike, you really couldn't tell a wax figure from an actor camouflaged to scare the hell out of you. With the added darkness, it's damn near impossible.

Were Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth going to scream at me from behind? I wasn't exactly sure. As I passed through a Presidential exhibit, I was pretty sure Obama was made of wax but upon closer inspection of Nixon, I began to wig out. If one of these Presidents "came to life" it would totally be Nixon.

The random scares came O'plenty as incognito actors standing statuesque Ninja-ed some unsuspecting victims. The staff does a good job of separating the groups so only groups of 6 or so are exploring at the same time.

The one benefit of having a haunted house at a wax museum is the sheer openness of it all. The other houses are rooms that are tight on space. But that's the opposite at Madame Tussaud's. It's sheer museum quality has everybody spread out and there are plenty dark places for somebody to jump out of nowhere.

After Dark also forces you to go down narrow hallways and into rooms that have high quality production sets. Jungle scenes, blood splattered curtains and empty baby cribs were a nice touch of eerie. However, I was completely mesmerized by the wax figures that were designed to be part of the After Dark experience. I have to say lifelike wax figures of creepy kids (see pic to the right) in the dark are a more disconcerting than say a performer dressed as a bloody mental patient holding a bunny.

The entire walk through takes about 20-30 minutes and all the rooms plus the museum are quite a thrill. After Dark uses every inch of its interior to get max scare value. Even the most alpha male dog will be scared to walk through a pitch black corridor first. Though going first doesn't mean you'll be a victim. The performers do a great job of mixing in the scaring by going after the tail end of the group.

Part of the joy of a haunted house is accessing the fear trigger. Halloween is perfect for this. It gets your adrenaline rushing and you laugh about it after you get jolted. The other joy is seeing tweens and teen girls scream but the topping on the cake is seeing a grown man stagger back in fear. Now that's just priceless.

The Jaded Viewer's Final Thoughts.....

After Dark at Madame Tussaud's created a haunted house out of their wax museum that is on par with the best a Six Flags or a Universal Studios production could be. It is 100% a tourist oriented haunted attraction but don't let that deter you if you're in the mood of gimmicky effects and a walk through the corridors of celebrity wax figures.

I can't help but get annoyed from giggling teen girls who jump from the slightest sound but when you're in Times Square, this is bound to happen. But after you endure the wait, the museum at night is bound to give you goosebumps.

Watch out for Richard Nixon.

The Vitals.....
  • Madame Tussauds New York is located at 234 West 42nd St, between 7th & 8th Ave
  • The last 4 showings run from October 28th-October 31st from 9pm to 1am.
  • From 9pm-11pm tickets cost $22, after 11pm they cost $20
  • After the tour, you can check out a few celebrity wax figures, play trivia and get food or souvenirs
  • Check out the official site
  • Check out the Facebook page
  • Follow Madame Tussauds on their Twitter page
  • Photos by Alex Oliveira /Startraks Photo
  • Check out the trailers below!

Have you experienced After Dark at Madame Tussauds? If so share your experience and leave a comment!


  1. Is it possible to go to too many haunted attractions? I don't think so because there are so many I miss out on due to them all being squeezed in one month, so I wish they ran year round. That being said, After Dark sounds awesome imho and I wish I had time to hop up north to check it out. The lines sound like a major detractor though.

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