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Sky

Jul 7, 2010
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Florida
So tonight we made our yearly visit to Howl O Scream. College has gotten nightmarishly busy the past two years so I can only come home for a weekend at most throughout the season. I arrived around 2:15 and saw that they were routing me to the last parking lot before heading over to Scotland Lot across 60, but after attending since 2005, I’ve come to expect and accept the crowds. Surprisingly, as the night panned out, the crowds were never unbearable, but that discussion will come later.

The rest of my group didn’t get there for another 15 minutes so I did a quick loop of the park. I always like to just stroll around and just chill for a few minutes; Chickenking has his train rides, I have my power walks. So long story/boring story short, we hit Griffon and Loch Ness, and… well that’s it. Wow. We only get to see each other two or three times a year so we just kind of sat in the Festhaus and talked, and ate cinnamon pretzel bites – which are the crack of the food in the park. Just sayin’ – but onto the stuff that you’re all here for,

Deadline

5:30 rolled around so we booked it to Deadline, got in line, and were the third group through. It was the exact same maze as last year, so nothing to see there. I also hardly jumped at all. I normal do, so I attributed that to I’m getting older and less stuff gets me, or there weren’t enough actors in the maze to get a result. I think it’s a bit of both. But before we leave this Italian Infrastructural Tragedy, let’s have a Come to Jesus Moment:

Not a minute into the maze the fog got so dense we came to a dead stop because even the security couldn’t see us. We were paralyzed and were feeling on walls that we physically could not see. I’ve never had this issue. I completely understand the idea of disorienting a guest to frighten them, however we were stopped dead in our tracks, with no lighting, choking on fog. This isn’t a fear issue, it’s a safety issue. The only reason we were moved through the corridor was the fact that I was holding onto a strangers jacket in front of me and someone finally could see enough to pull her (and the rest of the line behind me) along.

13 – Your Number’s Up

We got out around 5:40 so we headed over to 13 because we’ve learned from the past few years, it gets the worst wait times in the park. We were right in our assumption, but the line started moving well and we were in by around 6:15. Couple things to bring up: The clown room is the bastion of theme in the whole house – as it should be since they had décor from an entire maze to use. The snake room is bloody freaky. I have an intense fear of them so even the soundtrack/hissing noises were making me lose my s***. We walked through the fear of beds/sleep/Egyptian cotton comforters with judgmental grins on our faces. Really? You have a limited number of themes you can implement and you choose a room with a bed? Same goes with fear of waiting rooms. These phobias are only remotely scary if you put people in the rooms.

One last thing on 13. I’ve been nitpicky on those two rooms mainly because I personally think it’s a successful maze. Believe me I jumped plenty. It has length on its side, which does not go for all of the mazes. The maze has stayed relatively unchanged this year, and I know the layout pretty well, but jeez, it just seems longer and longer every year. That in itself is scary – the thought that you’re so far within the scare actors environment that you’re defenseless. One more thing on the layout: whoever decided to put claustrophobia first – good on you. I saw countless groups about-face and head out (including the ones right in front of me). It’s the only fear that could have actual safety concerns and putting it early on, giving them an easy escape is smart, even though it may slow people down.

Catacombs

We headed on over to Demon Street and then to Catacombs. It wasn’t dark enough to really experience the Terror-tory yet. Honestly I have very little of a critique for the house mainly because it hasn’t changed much if at all from last year. It’s a solid house, it always has been – I just don’t think the actors are as in your face as they have been in the past. The maze does seem a bit lacking in large set pieces. Weren’t there used to be large “stone” flying buttresses/archways in it that were recycled from MasqueRage? Don’t remember seeing them. Oh and the queue’s theming was extremely lackluster. We used to have faux morgue walls and now we 15 headstones.

Demon Street

Approaching from the Reserve, it looks fantastic, but up close one quickly realizes that the entire Terror-tory relies on fog machines and flame air dancers. The ash confetti is a waste of budget and I’m sure is hell on earth for the area hosts/hostesses. The DJ’s a cool touch however seeing middle aged women fist bump isn’t exactly my cup of tea. The roaming demons, however, are great and their makeup is insane.

The vixens over at the drinks stand have flown right under the radar, and I believe they deserve some love. Quite frankly I prefer them and their outfits than the Nurses. But I digress,

Fiends

We hit a quick little snag and a friend had to leave for and hour, long story, so we hit Fiends. Great show – don’t think the script has changed. However I see what you’re all talking about the pop culture references. The Justin Bieber reference for example – I get it, but the dude’s been jumping off the deep end lately… You no what else is a bit much? The sexual references. I’m a twenty year old guy and even I was getting uncomfortable. Last year was just enough to be risqué yet fun. This year seems like a writer has been at a family-friendly park for too long and is using this show to just go hog wild. One of the characters in the show is the embodiment of this, and I’m not talking about the Doctor or any of the girls. That aside, I thought the Doctor and Simplicity were great and everybody seemed to be enjoying it, and the majority of everyone’s comedic timing seemed on point.

Headed over to Root but had to make our way through New France first. I do like the fact that they didn’t let other parts go bare. The Widow Makers seemed very well put together, but I do miss whichever year they had the actual story behind all of the distinct scare zones. You felt like each zone was a completely different experience and that, to me brought together a cohesive mega event.

Vampire Point

Walked through Vampire Point and saw one scare actor, and passed by when there was no show going on at the Hotel. Let my lack of words tell you how much I enjoyed the area. Demon Street and Vampire Point are two completely different experiences – don’t really understand how the two of them are even categorized the same.

While I was still having a blast and enjoying my night, nothing was blowing me out of the water just yet, and I was hoping Root would, and well…

Root of All Evil

Finally something unexpected. Completely new layout, much larger area which made it feel much more immersive, enough trees to actually make it look like a tree farm, aliens (I’m still just as perplexed as you are, but whatever, its something new), and a new ending that actually made me scream like a little girl. Rock on, rock on, rock on. Seriously I loved it.

Coming off of this adrenaline rush, I was friggin’ pumped…and then I walked from the Root exit all the way to the bridge to Festa without even being approached by a scare actor.

While that’s a negative, I’m going to highlight the positive: Whoever designed the Pirate’s Chest Store overlay needs a promotion and/or raise. It was a completely new experience that was a welcome surprise. Great theming and lighting throughout the store. Same goes for the Pirate Bargh – great theming. It also dawned on me how great a fit Da Vinci’s Garden is for a pirate overlay. All of the photo-ops in the center were well-placed and I’m sure they were fun with the two lead Pirates however they were no where to be found when I passed.

This is all good and well, but most people attending the event came to be scared, and Ports of Skull, minus the bridge to Festa, is not for those people. It’s immersive, but it’s not scary.

Finally saw the Pirates on the bridge and thought they were great. Finally, someone was lunging at me, and not stopping to get around me. Made me stop in my tracks. Pretty impressed by these guys and girls (except for when I left Festa and they were all standing around doing nothing).

Cut Throat Cove

This place kills me. It is a PHENOMENAL maze. Honestly I think it’s the best themed maze in the whole park, but it was given the minimal amount of scare squad, and that’s just sad. But before we get to my one and only beef with the actors let’s talk about this new country that the park has added, cause it is one. From the tavern, to the boardwalks linking the tents, to the torch lit artillery, to the Port Master’s office. I loved it. My jaw actually dropped when I came out upon the path lined by the old chicken coops form IllumiNights. At first glance I thought they built massive building facades. This was the first maze where I really just wanted to slow down and experience the atmosphere for a moment. I felt that this atmosphere was translated well by the actors however, I feel as if they were given a strict script and I wish they could find ways around it. Take the Tavern Woman for example. She yells at you to get out because you’re not a pirate. Ok I get that, and I agree, but I want to see you jumping on the bar threatening to kill me if I don’t leave. That’s fear, and you’re threatening my safety. That scares people. Do I think they’re bad at what they do, absolutely not, I just wish they could use the environment they were given more. And the bungee dude got me. He got me good.

Ripper Row

We began to head out now seeing as it was getting to be 10. So I geared myself up Ripper Row because I had heard such great things and I’ve always been fascinated by the story. This was my only disappointment of the night, but this was mainly caused by my timing, not by the actors. I believe a murder had taken place a few minutes before and the Constables were milling about talking to people so I didn’t get to really see any commotion aside from the Jack the Ripper character chasing a 12 year old girl into Union Jax. By chasing I mean sprinting after. Bravo. I did realize how spread out and numerous the actors were I found some at the gate and at the Scotland boundary. Also the facades looked fantastic at night and I finally understood the reference on the “curtain.”

Coming away from the event I had a blast as I always do. While this Trip Report may seem negative, I really do think they have a great event going. I’ve always believed that. The main thing that tonight made me realize is that when put in the context of the past five years, the park has been bouncing from concept to concept and never settling down on one. And that’s the thing about this year; I wouldn’t define it as a hit or a miss. I think the event is solid but I really just think its missing a larger scare squad, which can hopefully be fixed next year. The other thing that I noticed for the first time is the fact that I think the park is experiencing a conflict between which demographic they’re pandering to. It’s no longer the adults vs. the family friendly crowd, I now think the park is trying to figure and reconcile the growing disconnect between the college age dance party event with the more adult fear fest.

These are hard times, and I think the park is making it through these massive storms well, however sooner rather than later I believe the park is going to have to make a solid and clear decision on what type of event they want this to be.

Sky

Moderators: There are typos, I know they exist somewhere in the 2185 words. I'll proof in the morning.
 
Dec 23, 2011
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Just to touch up on your report about 13, I did note in the 13 thread that the waiting room was not an actual phobia they planned, it was just a buffer room to take up space. Which is totally unacceptable. I also have a certain grudge against fear of going to bed. It just can't be done.

I do like most of your report. I find it interesting how you prefer Vampire Point over Demon Street. They both rely on very few things. They both rely heavily on fog, then one of flame throwers and one of darkness. Both are lacking in actual theme, but with budget constraints, I am satisfied at the moment. Though I expect better next year.
 
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Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
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FWIW, your review didn't seem "negative" to me at all. It feels fairly evenhanded and constructive, actually.

I think you've really hit on something that I have been sort of thinking, but hadn't fully articulated, even to myself:

The other thing that I noticed for the first time is the fact that I think the park is experiencing a conflict between which demographic they’re pandering to. It’s no longer the adults vs. the family friendly crowd, I now think the park is trying to figure and reconcile the growing disconnect between the college age dance party event with the more adult fear fest.

Spot on! The question of Halloween ambiance was really highlighted for me, when I went to KD. After going to HOS twice, I was really struck by the lack of bars, dance music, and party atmosphere at KD's Haunt. It was just focused on scaring people. It actually might be a good way for the two parks to differentiate themselves, not sure. But regardless, there is a frenetic feel to HOS, whereas KD is eerie, quiet, and spooky. (Full disclosure: I went to HOS on Saturday and KD on Sunday, but regardless of crowds, I think the events themselves contribute to that difference.)

Anyway, love you review! And didn't mean to high-jack you post; it just clarified some things for me. Sorry!
 

Sky

Jul 7, 2010
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1,022
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Florida
Nic said:
Anyway, love you review! And didn't mean to high-jack you post; it just clarified some things for me. Sorry!

Oh believe me you're fine! Actually I enjoy TR's more when they become a discussion.

Sky
 
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Aug 17, 2010
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Great trip report! I agree with Nic, it doesn't sound too negative at all. You clearly point out the areas that are really well done, and those which are not, as is typical of any HOS event. It does sound like you should have stuck around Ripper's Row for a bit, though. I've heard it's a pretty cool experience.
 
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