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Apr 5, 2011
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So, Howl-o-Scream 2013, it is certainly...an event. Most of us know the park's situation going into this event with massive budget cuts, staff and actor issues, and a main season that both a beautiful event that plays on the park's strengths and beauty to offer something that park has never done before (Food and Wine) and an event which eviscerated the park's beauty and gave us the worst show at the park to date (Illuminights). I was skeptical going into the event; the park was going to try something radically different that required massive amounts of theming in order to be successful while at the same time, deal with the budget and staffing issues. There was also the pressure to maintain the fantastic quality of the previous year's shows as well as creating a new house. All of these objectives I did not feel the park was able to accomplish given the situation of the park.

Upon reviewing this event, I'm not going to give out arbitrary numbers or talk about some sort of "Fun Factor". I'm going to say whether or not I enjoyed something or not, and give my honest opinion as somebody who values the park for well themed entertainment that sets the mood of a Halloween event as of my visit, but with the full understanding that all sorts of things might change at the park from week to week. If none of that interests you, I highly suggest you don't go any further and simply skip my review because it's simply not for you, I am above pandering.


Shows / Special Attractions

Fiends:
This is one thing which I had the most faith in to be good this year. The park had perfectly executed this show last year, and while I knew the actors were going to be different, I didn't think they would go about messing with the tone of the show. I was wrong. I'm going to go into this in further detail another time, but but in the end it feels like they knew last year's show was well liked, so they tried to increase the levels of humor and sexy a smidge but ended up messing the whole thing up.

After watching the first showing of this and being rather disappointed, I really didn't feel watching the other two shows. I'll talk about them in their respective threads if there's anything of note.

Blood Banquet:
There can be so much said about how awesome this event is. Fantastic food, great comedic actors who are very sharp when it comes to improv, interesting characters, beautiful outfits (have I mentioned that the food server outfits are fantastic, detailed bellhop and old world maid outfits), and the buffet area is beautiful, everything. Even though it's not scary and the humor is kind of hokey, I feel that this is what HoS, and the park, should be about when it comes to immersion. I understand that it's a lot easier to be immersive on a smaller scale, this should be what the park aims for as a whole, especially when it comes to thematic special events like HoS. I will most certainly be doing this again.



Houses

Dead Line/Bitten/Catacombs:
These are the easiest, so I'll get them out of the way. Nothing really new here, but I did notice huge staffing issues here, entire hallways without actors.

13:
I really can't place my finger on it, but I think this house was marginally better than last year. Maybe because the actors were on their game, or they pulled more decorations from throughout the park, but I did walk out of that house thinking, “I think that improved a little.”

Root of all Evil:
This was very little like last year, and it turned out for the better in it. The maze layout is so much better, the maze itself is much less open which increases scares. There were a few thematic changes which I wasn't a fan of. The Lady of the Garden seemed to be replaced by these weird eggs you see at the start of the maze. There's no hint as to what they are so, at this point I'm going to assume they're a hybrid of half plant half alien dinosaur. The park can have this: Instead of the eggs, get some fake flowers, paint them so they glow under a blacklight, put up some “Warning: Carnivorous Plants” signs, and you have mind controlling flowers that fits the plot of the house much better. Being really tall, I was not a fan of the first quarter of the maze which has a somewhat low ceiling either. Overall, this was a really pleasant surprise, nothing like Dead Line, but still neat.

Cut Throat Cove:
Another surprise...honest. It might be because half the house is wood so it was easy to build the props, but considering the park's situation, I'm impressed. The hanging objects got annoying, especially the net that covers up the entire face. The park also took massive liberties with some of the props which do stick out like sore thumbs. From the Chupacabra thing at the well to the “Jungle Room”, the house does falter at theming at times. I also felt that there were a lot of steps up without warning, there weren't that many, but in the dark and somebody who has issues with walking, it could cause some tripping. I really do like the effects with the tall reeds though, so good job.

Overall, a house can’t be scary on props alone, and there were noticeable staffing issues which did hurt them. I really do hope that the park can balance the staffing between houses and terror-tories more.


Terror-Tories

These are supposed to be the huge new thing this year. Aside from being named like something from an episode of Scooby Doo, these things are supposed to bring a new level of immersion to the park. Before I go into them individually, I want to spell out what my expectations were for a Terror-Torie were to be.

They were supposed to be: A) Well-themed enough to convince the guests that the respective area had been totally rethemed, or at least better than any scare zone or other decoration the park has ever done for the event.
B) The actors were not necessarily scaring people, but were acting in a way to help immerse the guests into the theming.
C) The theme of the areas are supposed to be eerie and dreadful for the purposes of immersion and theming up to (prior) Busch Gardens standards. With that being said, I'm going to do like I did with the houses and talk about each one and talk about them as a whole. Once again, I'm reviewing these on the principles of immersion and theme according to Halloween, not simple "fun" because what I consider “fun” are eerie environments and well themed immersion.

I’m going to give the example of Ireland. It’s decorated well and changes the entire area into Freakenstein’s castle and has the Nurses out for theming (and booze). It’s not about scares, but making you feel like you’re in a different area.

Ripper Row:
The best decorated out of the lot, this one is my favorite. The facades give this area a real sense that they changed the hamlet (at certain parts) for HoS. It's not as widespread as I was hoping, but it's there. The actors here are acting how they should for immersion, some scaring people, but a lot of them interacting with guests regarding the rash of murderers. Out of them all, I feel this one was the best, I'm hoping that if the park makes a proper attempt at the terror-tories next year, they will expand on this one because it has the most potential.

Ports of Skull:
Less decorated than Ripper Row, most of which is in Da Vinci's garden. However, they aren't really props...they're Photo Ops, four of them within twenty square feet in fact.. There are some weirdly placed pirate statues for some reason that really belong on a putt-putt golf course more than anything. The actors, however, were pretty great. The interaction with guests was the highlight here. The pirate store was great looking as well, so props to them on that.

Vampire Point:
Aside from Blood Banquet, this area has nothing to separate itself from a scare zone from previous years. Aside from Count Vlad, I saw zero interaction actors. The theming (once again, aside from Blood Banquet) is simply your standard scare zone stuff which actually clashes with how good Blood Banquet looks. This area as a whole is underwhelming.

Demon Street:
So...Demon Street, the thing I had said previously was the dumbest thing the park has ever done, worse than KK even. I have a few things to say about this, but to be fair and to spare Zach some angry PMs, I'll do what's called a "Compliment Sandwich" where I say something I liked about it, my criticism about it, and another thing I thought was a positive.

(Positive)The lighting of the area was pretty cool, they did a good job selling the whole, "on fire" thing.

(Negative)This was, in fact, the dumbest thing the park has ever done (TRUE). Let's start with the decorations. I'm not sure what happened here, but it looks like two different teams were told to decorate the area, but they each got a different set of instructions without the other team knowing. You have these demons and burnt sets, but you also have paper streamers and party flags and they don't have anything to do with each other or anything at all to tie the different themes together. Do the demons really have a soft heart but caught with their pants down when the park opened? Was there a sweet 16 birthday party get invaded by demons and the guests are walking in a whole five seconds after the demons showed up? The decorations clash horribly, it can't decide if it wants to be eerie or festive. What we see here are two half-assed themes competing with each other, if you want to do a party, go full party, but if you want to do demonic scary, go full demonic.

Now let's talk about the atmosphere. If there are scare actors about, then it's a scary area by default. The atmosphere is not scary or erie or anything, and since atmosphere is VITAL for scares (if you don't understand this, why are you even reading this?), the scare actors are going to fail. So, once again, you either have a party where people are interrupting your groove by coming up to you and trying to scare you or you have a scary area that's being ruined by constant "UN TIS UN TIS UN TIS". I would have liked this area better even if was pure party, but the park decided mix the both and neither experience is good. I’m going to point out Ireland here because it feels like a better party than Demon Street. There are the Nurses bobbing around, there’s the rock music that you can dance to, but nobody’s trying to scare you here so it actually feels like a party.

Regarding the DJ, the music being played isn't something I mind on a personal level, but he seems wholly out of place. Compared to the cheap looking props of the area, his gigantic table sticks out terrible and clashes with the rest of the decorations. He also doesn't spin any music, his job is to literally shake a bit to the music and occasionally raise his arm and point. This is the only audience interaction in the entire area. People do stand there and watch them, but after watching them a bit, they seem a bit confused that he doesn't do more.They could have spent that money on a lot of smaller props to enhance the area and have him in his do costume do something...at all. Even if it was still a party theme, they could have bought more than just stuff from the Party City bargin bin to make it look like a good party, and have him dancing there with other people.

Now let’s talk about the whole party thing. There are so many ways to say this, but it’s cheap. It’s pandering. It shows no thematic creativity. It has no place in the world’s most beautiful theme park. I said months ago that this year showed this trend of pandering for the sake of popularity. The party thing does work for Ireland, but that’s because it’s a small area and the party style of Ireland fits the show well. Ireland’s party doesn’t specifically pander to the party crowd either.

Between KK, the party thing, and Fiends, the park is dumbing itself down to cater to as many people as possible and throwing the quality out of the window. Not to mention that the park tried the club thing years ago and was scrapped because it was a failure. I certainly see that DS is popular with kids, but all this stuff has been trending alongside decreasing attendance numbers and the last thing the park needs to be doing is getting rid of it’s charm.

(Positive)Toddlers seem to enjoy Demon Street.

I saw glimpses of amazing things with the terror-tories, but there was simply not enough there to make a deep impression on me. Zach had mentioned before that if they pull actors out of the houses to scare people, then they have failed, and I tend to agree. Theming and decoration as a whole seemed to be lacking for something that was supposed to be the most immersive thing the park has ever done for HoS. They were far too ambitious for doing four full areas this year, they should have started with two or three (Ripper Row and Vampire Point) to make sure they had enough money to pull off the vision as well as introduce the guests to the concept.


Other Notes

-There were entire areas that had no decorations at all. A huge chunk of Oktoberfest and Festa had nothing save for a few lights.
-New France had both Spiders and Werewolves, this bothers me more than it should.
-The hot rum cider was amazing. I don’t typically drink (did this time because I was hoping it would lessen the disappointment) but this was great.


What the park can do for this year

Balance the actors: Take some of the scare actors and put them in houses, but have the remaining interact with guests and do scripted events. The guest interaction could do great things to improve the terror tories, make them all the same level as Ripper Row.

Do something with Demon Street: Make it a good party even or make it a good scary event, having both waters down the area.

Fix Fiends: Please, simply go back to the dialog from last year. I’ll transcribe a script for you if you need it.

Blood Banquet: More Count Vlad and Bartender Girls!


What the park can do for next year

Switch Demon Street and Torture Hill: I can’t claim credit for this idea, but if the park was insistent on doing a party thing, they should put it in Festa where the area looks like a party and it can be avoided for people who want an eerie event. Aquitaine could be converted to something like Tortuga and Catacombs could be done pretty easily as a pirate thing (it already has the skulls). I seemed to notice that Torture Hill had a lot more themed shops and bars than Demon Street, and Aquitaine can fit all that easily.

Fix the existing terror-tories before adding new ones: This year the park failed to sell them despite the great concept on paper. The park should try again with the existing things they have before expanding the idea. If they can do it properly (because, let’s be honest, if you can’t do something properly, you shouldn’t be doing it at all), maybe add one more Terror-torie somewhere. I’m thinking maybe Scotland or Oktoberfest, but not Ireland because I feel the area already does a great job turning Ireland into something completely different (more mad scientist props couldn’t hurt though, or Nurses).

New Houses: Both Bitten and Catacombs are ancient by theme park standards and the guests have to be noticing them by now. They need to be replaced.

Blood Banquet: More Count Vlad and Bartender Girls!


Final Thoughts(aka tl;dr)

If I were to sum up the event (so far, of course), it would be “Wasted Potential with a few Gems”. Fiends hurt the event a lot for me and the Terror-tories were simply an awesome premise that could not be executed properly. The houses were marginally better than last year thematically, but the under staffing hurt them severely. Blood Banquet was fantastic and the best part of the event by far. The park does have room for improvement this year if they make some smart decisions, but those seem to be in short supply these days.

I will be returning to the park again for this event, but I can not see myself going as much as I did last year, the charm is harder to find.
 
Dec 23, 2011
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That was a very well written review, and it surprised me more than I thought it would. I can't believe I agree with you on most of what you say. I actually hope they do look into some of your suggestions for changes for this year and in the future. They are amazing ideas that (if done properly) I'd love to see them in action.
 
Apr 5, 2011
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So despite being 2900 words, I missed a few things.

-This was actually the first year I got a Jello Shot from the Nurses. When I got one, she was selling it as a "Cure". This was fuggin' adorable, I love it.
-One thing that I happened to hear about by luck, but it seems that the actors in the Terror-tories do an "Opening act" of sorts where they do...something related to the theme then spread and start scaring and doing their thing. I love this idea, but it's not advertised so people can't really experience this. King's Dominion does something like this which is really well done, but instead a few mini shows, it's one real show at the front of the park. BGW should really do something like this, but maybe not at the front. Maybe in front of the Festhaus?
-I forgot to point this out, but a despite having scare actors, the terror-tories are not designed for scare actors. There are no places for them to hide, so they can't do their jobs properly. This is another reason why they're a better place for immersion actors opposed to scare actors.
 
Apr 1, 2010
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PK summed it up well. We were talking on the way home and I don't think I would invest more 8 hour round trips for this event. Mind you, in past years, we came up every weekend we had free. Plus, some day trips! This is the first time we pretty much got our fill in one trip (and sisal fibers, and un tis un tis un tis, and confetti ash (really?), and mucked up shows (our usual reason for multiple trips), recycled HOS (not even the GOOD stuff), new HOS from someone's Party City prom, and loss of our fav season performers for average replacements.)

However, bummed we missed the Blood Banquet.

However, however, a great time with our BGW Fan buds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just awesome to do all this with others of the same mind. YOU saved our weekend!
 
Sep 10, 2012
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^
Glad I could help. Look forward to CW in the fall. BTW, at back to school night with my baby, there was a booth signing people up for CW Fife and Drums; telling about all of the reenactment stuff and tours.. Still thinking about it...




Pretzel Kaiser said:
-This was actually the first year I got a Jello Shot from the Nurses. When I got one, she was selling it as a "Cure". This was fuggin' adorable, I love it.

-One thing that I happened to hear about by luck, but it seems that the actors in the Terror-tories do an "Opening act" of sorts where they do...something related to the theme then spread and start scaring and doing their thing. I love this idea, but it's not advertised so people can't really experience this.
A "Cure" for what? Lycanthropy? VD? Hope it isn't contagious. :shocked:

If you happen to be in Ripper Row at the strike of 6:00pm you will witness a procession of the tall, headless ladies from the "tunnel" thingy they set up in the middle of the street. This was true on Friday, but changed somewhat on Sunday. With the absence of kidnappings, the rest of the "opening act" was rather boring if non-existent. Haven't seen the other Terror-Tories at 6pm yet.
 

netdvn

Team Instinct
Jan 12, 2012
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dvn225.deviantart.com
I was fortunate to catch two of the "shows" they put on in the scare zones. I thought they were kinda cool and creative.

Vampire Point - all the actors come together at the mini stage by the carousel. The head vamp basically asks the audience about becoming a tribute to the head vamp. He chooses one of the actors. Then he tells the others to find more victims. The actors then go around scaring the crowd.

Demon Street - DJ Satan calls his minions to the dance area. From what I saw, it became a battle between who could take over the dance area. The DJ calls people into the middle and the demons try to scare them out. Once enough people made it to the center, the demons started back down the pathway.
 

Applesauce

未来の月
May 22, 2010
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Pretzel Kaiser said:
What the park can do for this year

Fix Fiends: Please, simply go back to the dialog from last year. I’ll transcribe a script for you if you need it.

I've already done this. Seriously. It's in a Word document. It was for a personal project that never went anywhere.

The nurses selling their drinks as a "cure" is hella cute.
 
Aug 11, 2013
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I feel Demon Street should be the scariest of all terror-Tories for it is demonic. They could go crazy with costumes and could basically make it a giant haunted house without the maze. If they call it Demon Street shouldn't it resemble hell rather than a party?
 

Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
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Party Rocker said:
Didn't you know Hell is one big party!

Ironically...

Way back in the day, my senior year of college, one of my girlfriends had a "Party From Hell." She told everyone come dressed as you see yourself in Hell. I wore a black cocktail dress, because I said that Hell is an endless cocktail party. Her hipster friend didn't get the joke and tried to explain to me that it was a theme party. I had to go through this whole explanation of small talk and fake air kisses, etc. Totally humorless.

Anyway, the point of my rambling and probably boring story, is that I have actually said in the past that Hell is one big party.
 
Apr 5, 2011
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Second Week Comparison

I was there for a little bit on Friday because I was heading back from Richmond, and I wanted to see if anything major had changed.

-Actor roles had not changed at all: If there was no immersion in the first week, it didn't have it this week. This is very disappointing because this is such a simple thing to fix and requires no money.
-No new decorations of note: Looks like the park did spend all of it's money by the first week.
-Houses had slightly more actors, which actually helped a bit.
-Demon Street is still stupid as hell: Looks like 2013 is the start of the Teeny Bopper years at the park.
-Ripper Row was still fantastic: I spent half an hour there just watching all the actors. The actors interact with each other (a prostitute armed with a rather large knife would threaten the ripper if he got too close, police would chase after rippers, ect.) I really wish Germany wasn't so far away because I feel the best time I could have at the park this year (aside from Blood Banquet) is simply watching the beautiful chaos here while enjoying a pretzel.
 
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