Monday, October 24, 2011

After Dark: The Haunting at Madame Tussads (Review) (NYC Haunted House 2011)

It was inevitable that I would cross paths with The Raven and the Black Cat. As fellow haunted house bloggers, we cover the same territory and it happens we both attended After Dark: The Haunting at Madame Tussauds on the same night. So with a fellow haunted house enthusiast in my group and my friend "S" in tow, I was excited to see the popular Madame Tussauds wax museum transformed into a haunted house.

My biggest fear this year wasn't Taylor Swift coming at me with a bloody knife or President Obama whispering in my ear, it was that I'd be subjected to the same experience I had last year (see 2010 review here). But that fear was quickly eliminated after I was told it was entirely new and different. This would either be good or bad.

The Disclaimer.....

Situated in NYC's Times Square, Madame Tussauds during the day is probably a fun place to go to. I have never been to it with bright lights and the ability to see all the wax figures in detail. I saw a few glimpses of some rather cool figures I'd love to snap a picture with and a CGI sized Incredible Hulk that was crazy awesome. I must say, this might be a tourist attraction but I may one day go check it out during the daytime.

The catch is it is a tourist haven and either that appeals to you as a tourist or irks you as a New Yorker. After Dark will have a short run, October 20-23 and 27-30 (it's not open on Halloween?!?) from 9pm-12am. If you can bulldoze through the masses, it may be the most easily accessible haunted house in the city.

My experience happened to be part of press preview night and thus I was the very first group to experience The Haunting.

The Walk Through.....

In a group of 5, which included RBC, "S', myself and 2 other intrepid reporters we were led up stairs to a waiting elevator and then unleashed onto the darkened halls of Madame Tussauds. This is a very different opening from last year's version where the mock "the museum is haunted" ghost hunters video played with William Castle "Percepto" vision. I dug that a lot as the museum was using creativity and a back story to get you into a spooked out mindset.

However, this year you're thrown right in. The walk through the museum seemed longer than before as a long staircase starts you on your way. I set myself up in the middle, then later lagged behind and then summoned the courage to be in front to get the BOO! from different angles. As a jaded attendee from last year, I'm pretty much immune from the sneak up but I'll admit there were a few times I was startled and jumped out of my shoes.

As I said last year, the museum is so spacious that the only way to get jumpy is if the actors are pretending to be wax figures. And that definitely happens but they also come out of places you wouldn't expect. Wall crawlers and a parkour leaping professional scarer will get you screaming. It seems this year, the actors like to run at full speed at you (like a NYC taxi cab speeding and stopping at a red light). They also like to crawl, whisper and sneak before you exit.

Due to the darkness, I couldn't make out what they were dressed as or if their makeup was demony. But a few actors and actresses used celebrity camouflage to blend into their surroundings and unleashed their menacing screams. One actress seemed to speak gibberish. TV monitors aired psychedelic visuals are littered throughout the museum to get you full of "Ring" like moments. But as you wander around, once the initial scare is done, the actors point you to the next room.

I really wanted to have them act out a scene which they did in the first room I entered where a Anne Rice vamp sucked on.....sucked on the neck (get your mind out of the gutter dude!) of a would be damsel in distress. The actors did try to converse and I as always replied back. One scary demoness expressed the fact "she liked me...a lot". Clearly that was my opportunity to ask her out to coffee but I'm sure she would have "acted" like she wasn't interested at all. I believe there was a world of time to act out a quick scene after the scare and I wish they did more of that.

I also noticed the actor per room equation was a little off. It seemed we would get only 1 actor per expansive room. There's tons of opportunity to do a 3 per room quota that would enable you to scare people after the initial BOO! I know it would be a ton to ask these actors to stand still for hours on end, but that really is the big selling point here. Appearing from behind a corner or from a well placed coffin is expected. Standing next to President Nixon in a suit and tie goes a long way for the incognito.

The scariest points are when NO actors are present and you're staring at shadowy wax figures who seem so lifelike that you start to scare yourself. At one point, I stared at a wax figure for a full 30 seconds before I realized it wasn't an actor. The darkness combined with ominous celebrities and historical figures can sure play tricks with your mind.

But a few twists and turns and an encounter with a mother who seemed to have offed her baby get you back on track. The museum is clearly well dressed in the dark and works well for groups. The spacing between groups is nicely done and you sense you and your friends or the strangers with you, are alone locked in after hours. After Dark is well equipped with strobe lights and a variety of sound effects to get those goosebumps active. It's clearly designed with a family friendly atmosphere but even the biggest gangsta might lose some street cred as he squeals like a girl.

Overall, After Dark lost it's gimmicky hook from last year which I loved. It replaced it with a longer than normal walk through and was one of the best haunted houses to space out the participants for maximum creepiness. Sure I cracked a few jokes with "S" and RBC. It's in my nature to joke with the actors and sometimes I'll just wander on my own hoping I'm targeted for a scare. You'll need to summon some courage and head the pack. Remember, you're here to get your scare on.

After Dark: The Haunting is your go to theme park haunted house for Halloween. It's designed for tourists and New Yorkers who want to take a break from the glitzy lights of Times Square. It may not have elaborate sets or a pseudo torture walk alone aspect, but it has Justin Bieber being scary as hell.

And what's more frightening than the Bieber in eerie darkness? Well I guess hearing him sing.

The Vitals...
  • Madame Tussauds New York is located at 234 West 42nd St, between 7th & 8th Ave
  • Tickets cost $24 online
  • Check out the official site
  • Check out the Facebook page
  • Follow Madame Tussauds on their Twitter page
  • Photos provided by Madame Tussauds
  • Check out the trailers below!

Did you experience After Dark: The Haunting at Madame Tussauds? Leave your thoughts and comments below!


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