Login or Register to Hide This Ad

Pretzel Kaiser

Advisory Panel
Apr 5, 2011
8,076
15,549
250
The first thing I’d like to say is that that theme of HoS 2014 is “HoS 2013”.  That means nothing if you rarely visit the park or are from out of town.  However, a majority of the park’s visitors are season pass holders, meaning they’re repeat customers, and this raises some problems with the event. All the houses from last year have returned and the “terror-tories”, the park’s branding of path scares, have all returned in more or less identical forms.  The new major attractions are a new terror-tory and a show.  Now as much as I would love to rant about the shows, those aren’t going to be my focus for this review.

Houses

Let’s get this out of the way; the houses are the same as last year.  If you’re a regular, you can save yourself some time and simply skip this.

13: A house with thirteen different themes is actually quite the mess, shockingly.  The themes are based off of somewhat basic fears including death, bugs, dentists, clowns, and so on.  With maybe one or two examples, the theming of these fears lack a certain bite.  There’s one scene where it’s just a bedroom and no obvious hints as to what the fear is supposed to be. The most effective fear is a simulated pathway that looks to be over some water.  It’s a very effective illusion, however it’s placed in the middle of a maze which leads to serious stacking issues, we’re talking minutes waiting in the same spot in the middle of a house.  In the there’s no cohesion here and it hurts the experience a bit. The only redeeming aspect of this house is that it has some “victim” actors, which are always cool to see.

Deadline: Probably the best looking of the houses, it’s themed after a infection breakout in the middle of an Italian Subway.  The props look great and has some cool scare tricks.  One of the highlights of the event.  

Cut Throat Cove: A pirate themed outdoor maze.  Now before you think to yourself that pirates aren’t scary, you’re right.  Gore is somewhat lacking and the maze doesn’t really give off an effective sense of dread.  The scenery is good in the maze, but none of it is particularly scary which defeats the entire purpose of a haunted maze.  The actors here are a bit more interactive than the other mazes at the park, but the park has failed to turn that into anything scary.

Catacombs: While this is an older house, it’s one of the most effective ones at the park.  This is a good example of a house that manages to be scary without gore or a lot of props.  It’s very low light and the actors do a good job using that to their advantage.  Another one of the ones I really liked.

Bitten: This vampire maze is five years old this year, and while it’s a solid house, it’s showing it’s age.  Broken props are more evident each year and the house itself is getting tired. It’s a good house with great theming, but it never got a big refresh like Catacombs has.  With such a great location, it’s bewildering why the park doesn't do more with it.

Root of all Evil:  The second of the outdoor houses, themed after aliens invade the park’s horticulture department, it’s certainly one of the more unique themes out there  Not a bad house, but nothing spectacular either.  .  Plants make up a good amount of the decoration here, and it works.  It does look cheap sometimes, reminiscent of a Home Depot garden center, but nothing too terrible.

With the lack of anything new, the mazes are certainly lacking in any effective bite anymore.  At times there is certainly a lack of actors in the mazes which hurts the experience as well.  The actors that are in there don’t always seem into it, which further hurts the mazes.  There are certainly good things happening here, but not enough to warrant a serious recommendation to the park just to visit the mazes.


Terror-Tories

These are the park’s special brand of path scares.  They bill themselves as more immersive than normal path scares, both when it comes to actors and atmosphere.

Vampire Point- This is nothing more than a scare zone.  People dressed like vampires run around a sparsely decorated area and scare you.  That's it.  There's story, no immersion, and the only decoration that would be considered notable is the Vampire Point Hotel that offers a goofy (not in a negative way, just not scary) dinner show and restaurant.  I would say this is is the worst of the Terror-tories, but this is impressively not the case.

Port of Skulls-  A pirate themed area, lots of decorations of varying quality from detailed structures to somewhat silly looking pirate statues that have nothing remotely eerie about them.  The stores here get the most attention and they look legitimately great.  While the scare actors are there, they're painted up like a Twisted Sister fan club and look more fabulous than scary.  The "immersion" here are some comedians that make modern jokes referencing Jersey Shore and Kardashians.  It's really all cringe-worthy.  

Ripper Row- Last year this was the most impressive of the path scare areas and was the only one to live up to the park's promise of new and immersive areas.  There were scare actors, but there were so much more.  Ladies of the night were interacting with guests, cops were questioning guests about the location of the murderers, and so on.  This year is pretty much the same.  Some of the facade buildings are missing, but the tone and actors are the same for the most part, if only just slightly less enthusiastic.  Still a great addition to the park's lineup.

Demon Street- Dumb.  You can skip the details if you want, because Demon Street is simply terrible and should fill the park's creative team with shame.  The theme is "Demon Dance Party"...yes, really. The park thought that a dance party ran by demons would be scary.  It's decorated with birthday party flags, masks nailed to the wall, and a medieval dragon.  The lighting is cool, and they have these blower powered columns that create a neat flaming effect, but that's the extent of all the positive aspects of the area.  

This place does have actors.  The scare actors have chainsaws and there's a decent amount of them, but they have nowhere to hide and the area is too well lit to be considered even remotely scary.  There's a DJ that pretends to spin a pre-recorded loop of generic techno, and the only people you see actually dancing to it are people who are either drunk or ten year olds and younger.  Once again, the park is trying to pass this off as scary.  There's also the fact that the park's darkest maze, Catacombs, exits into this festive celebration the park tries to pass off as eerie. I would have more respect for it if they didn't try to make it scary like the Fiends inspired Ireland, but no.

Wendigo Woods- One of the few additions this year is a New Terror-tory named Wendigo Woods.  Located in New France, it’s themed after a scientific station located in a forest that has been overrun by /something/.    One of the big things they did to help with this transformation is new signage on each building in New France changes the presentation of the familiar New France buildings into this new camp.  Shops that sell wooden signs and custom embroidered drawstring bags are now “Fauna Identification” and “Tree Study” facilities.  Some wit was used with the re-branding of each building.  Caribou Station is labeled as “Transport Station”, a drink stand is currently “Cold Storage”, and Trappers is simply “Dining Hall” while the BBQ pit in front of it is “Thermal Research”.  Additional signage at the front of the area explains the plot; if you are hurt by a Wendigo, you will get infected and should be quarantined.  The issue here is they are very small for something that is the main source of plot and only appears in that one area.

In addition to the new signage, netting, high hides, security gates, and other props further transform New France into a modern outpost that is certainly trying to keep control of what’s happening here.  A somewhat odd choice is the inclusion of smaller monster props that pop up occasionally, but I’m willing to pass this off as there are various contagion and biohazard warnings throughout the area, but the inclusion of regular animal props makes it seem as if the the Wendigo is the result of some sort of pathogen.  The common theme with most of the decoration is blue.  Blue netting, signage, and props fill the area to the point where you know they’re trying to make a statement and it comes off a bit odd because it really shouldn’t be making a statement.  At night all the lighting follows this trend, but it’s done eerily enough to where it doesn’t hurt the area.  Lots of flashing alert lights do a good job to keep things disorienting.  One cool lighting effect in particular is a simulated helicopter search light synced with sound.

The actors here are really something else and deserve quite a bit of discussion.  Simply put, there are two types, Security Staff and Scientists.  Security Staff are dressed in generic military outfits armed with megaphones or shock sticks.  Their bit is to yell at people, trying to get them evacuated from the quarantine zone, warn them about the Wendigo, and so on.  The Scientists have been hurt, infected, and are begging guests for help.  These might not be “scary” in a traditional sense, this reviewer loves them because the sell a sense of dread and panic in the area.  Terror-tories aren’t supposed to just being about scares, they’re supposed to draw visitors into the theme of the area.  Ripper Row is the only other Terror-tory at the park to do this to any marker of success.  

I’ve heard people call the Security Staff annoying, and they’re not wrong.  If you’re at a theme park and you have some huge dude in a uniform barking orders at you, it wouldn’t be ideal.  However, in a real emergency, these people are there to keep you safe.  So if you’re just loafing around on your cell phone, you bet your ass somebody would come over and start harassing you (as what happened to me) until you get moving towards safety. (Reviewer’s Note: In this case, “safety” was Demon Street, so I opted to stay with the Wendigo).  The infected scientists were also amazing.  They did such a convincing job acting injured and begging for help.  It put me in such an uncomfortable position to have an actor come up to me multiple times and say, “I know you, I’ve seen you before, why won’t you help me?!”.  I also saw guests go up to an actor and as “Are you alright, do you need help?” a few times, which was great.

Overall, Wendigo Woods joins Ripper Row as the only two immersive path attractions at the park.  While there are three other areas with the same branding, none of them have the thought or care put into them as these two.


Howl-O-Scream Headache and/or the park's approach to tone.

As most of you know, there was a bit of controversy at Busch Gardens this year involving some of their props.  The short version is that very few people (six to be exact) saw some severed head props in a local newspaper, commented that they were reminded about the recent decapitations, and the park removed every severed head from the park faster than you can say “‘Murica”.  Let me state this again, six people caused a knee-jerk reaction that altered the event in a noticeable way.  Comparing the two weeks they've been open, chunks of the mazes are missing props and the paths that had these decorations remain unreplaced.

This a perfect demonstration of one of the park’s problems when it comes to HoS; a lack of “teeth”.  Yes, there are gory props still and most of the props remain in the houses.  The issue here is at the slightest wind of controversy over something that has been at haunted attractions since their inception, the park caved instantly.  The park isn't willing to stand up behind trying to put on an adult event.  

That’s not actually true, the park is perfectly willing to put on an adult event, but in the forms of booze and sexual content in one of it’s shows.  Let me state this again, the park is willing to feature a show with quite a few sex jokes while offering booze to it’s guests every twenty feet, but cartoon severed heads are too much because people wrote about it in a local newspaper.

Another thing to note is that there are lots of kids at HoS at night.  You will have to deal with lots of strollers at 9PM on a Saturday and there is a good chance that you might get stuck next to a terrified child in a maze who was forced in by their parents.  The park does announce that the event is not for children at night constantly, but they also keep their children areas open past HoS opening and various other kiddy rides are open until close.  There are literally two kiddy rides open across the path from pirates making questionable jokes.  This, once again, conveys the message that the park is not 100% behind the idea of being scary.


Conclusion

The event could be so much better if they took the conviction they have around the entertainment and applied it to the houses and path scares.  Demon Street could be something amazing if they had gone with a Dante’s Inferno type theme.  Instead they put a bunch of scare actors in what’s the least eerie area of the park, added a fake DJ, and call it immersive.  At some point they should have realized that pirates aren’t scary and that Jersey Shore jokes aren’t really “Halloween”.

If you’re looking for a recommendation then I would be hard pressed to give one if you’re not already a pass member.  Wendigo Woods and Ripper Row are great, most everything else is “meh”, and thinking about Demon Street makes me want to stay home and just watch horror on Netflix instead. It’s pretty hard to justify the $75 for admission when a superior Halloween event is down the road for cheaper.  There are a handful of good things and a ton of poorly executed great ideas.
 

Zimmy

Nessie is lonely.
Advisory Panel
Silver Donor
Sep 28, 2013
5,874
8,560
250
Virginia Beach
Having been with PK for his visits I can say that I generally agree with his summery. But I would also be remiss if I did not say that on both days, I had a hell of a lot of fun. Now that may or may not be because I enjoy feeling superior and judgemental about an event that must be a logistical nightmare and frankly I imagine a political quagmire. But I can also say part of it was spending time on "missions." The first time we were there was on opening day, we wanted to get some of the very first photos out on the web that was a blast. The second time we made it a mission to find a head and to figgure out what the BDSM dude in the cage was all about.

Frankly hanging out with PK, Luke, and Maz was a big part of it. I am really glad I had the chance! (even if because of PK I became subject to audience participation ;p )
 

Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
10,784
28,295
260
Arlington, VA
I actually enjoy the event. I accept that it isn't like KD's Haunt and I have fun in the party atmosphere. I also genuinely like a few of the houses, especially Root and CTC. But I know I have different tastes from y'all.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Applesauce

Zimmy

Nessie is lonely.
Advisory Panel
Silver Donor
Sep 28, 2013
5,874
8,560
250
Virginia Beach
Nicole said:
I actually enjoy the event.  I accept that it isn't like KD's Haunt and I have fun in the party atmosphere.  I also genuinely like a few of the houses, especially Root and CTC.  But I know I have different tastes from y'all.

Oh, don't misunderstand. I did enjoy some of the houses. I won't lie, 13 is a snooze fest, but I got my heart rate up a bit in Root and I think it was CTC that made me jump a couple times. Actually Root got me once (I don't verbalize) with a scrapping shovel. It was odd because I was watching it happen.

In the underground museum, the creep factor did come up a bit. I think with more actors it would be a win especially in the train.
 
Login or Register to Hide This Ad