Monday, October 5, 2015

Haunted Review: Haunted Hotel (by Ash)

Okay, I have a lot to say here. So stick it out, I promise to deliver!
We have reviewed the Haunted Hotel for years, back when it was me and Aly and now with me and Michala. We've seen a lot of scary shit in this haunt. We've seen the good, the bad, the ugly, we've had good times, we've had bad times, and we've seen a lot happen inside Louisville's longest running haunted house, and every year there are new things to see and new fears explored. Let's breakdown what happened when we checked in...
Okay, so if you've even accidentally walked or driven by this haunt in late September through October, you'll see right away that this is a popular haunt and no cost is spared to make it extravagant. There's cop cars, lights flashing, a parking lot with people waving little lighted sticks at you to stop and park even if you don't want It's a sight to behold, but when you get closer and actually stand there waiting, it can be intimidating. We KNOW (sort of) what's waiting for us on the other side of the doors. We still get bouncy with nervous anticipation because there's enough mystery and tension building up to the moment you're ushered inside the doors that you can't help but feel the jitters. Well, I can't.
This year the first change I noticed was the missing bellhop, and I was sad. That guy...damn. He got me every year. The new guy though had an interesting purpose and it kinda set the tone for the rest of our visit. He is more of a storyteller, being the original owner who's returned to fix what all the other employees "fucked up." Which makes you wonder...where are they, what did they fuck up, and what the hell is waiting beyond that rope you're moving and ushering us to follow you past?
Hell was exactly what was waiting for us. We got on the elevator - mind you, we KNOW what's coming. We've played this game before. The door closes and without even hesitating I grab Michala's arm and we hold each other in fearful anticipation of what's gonna happen next. Well, Gustav's incredible acrobatics showed that we can't be prepared for his world. Then his velociraptor-like wail...omigosh, I think I can still hear it! How that guy still has a voice left is beyond me!
Okay, don't hate me for this, but I can't remember a whole lot between Gustav and the end. The reason isn't a bad one, we were just tossed from one weird ass effed up situation to another and eventually the fear became all consuming. I can remember the horn. I went a little deaf. And the fire effect coming out of the! Impressive! There were a couple of sections that were barren, and that was a little bit of a drag, but I don't feel it really had a BAD impact on the experience. If anything, it just kinda made us wonder when and where the next scare was coming from, leaving us clinging to one another in that anxious anticipation again.
The end...oh wow. Okay, 99% of all haunts end with a chainsaw guy. Well, this one has a twist and a half. Hell, it has a dozen twists! I'll openly admit I'm rarely if ever affected by chainsaws. They don't get me. Ever.
They got me. Bad. Seriously, there was one point where the guy was just on one side of the wall, we rounded a corner, and he was just chilling, waiting for us nonchalantly at the end of the path, and while it was comical, it was unnerving. Then he was behind us. Then beside us. Then ahead of us, then behind us...the effect was dizzying and disorienting, and I was thankful to see the end of the maze finally in sight. Then here he comes again...There were at least 3 guys wielding chainsaws, but I suspect the ghosts of several more decided to play that night.
We narrowly escaped with our lives, although a part of us was left behind, locked forever within the terror-inducing walls of the Haunted Hotel.
The effects were amazing, and the props and scenery were impressive. You can see that although some scenes were mostly the same, most of them were totally gutted and reworked. The owner and the ones pouring their blood, sweat, tears, and souls into this haunt have really surpassed my expectations. There really wasn't much I can complain about, apart from the empty rooms. I give Haunted Hotel a 9/10, only because there was one haunt that literally had me crying this year, and there were those empty rooms. Excellent job guys, there's no question as to why the Haunted Hotel is the longest running haunt in Louisville!

Haunted Review: Nightmare Forest (by Ash)

Sorry for the delays in getting reviews up, this girl fell ill then started battling migraines. Still fighting, but I refuse to let another day pass with no reviews! So please excuse any typos or derailed trains of thought.
We ended up visiting Nightmare Forest...recently, lol. It was thankfully a well-marked entrance and a creepy road to drive down at night. That set the mood already. We parked and made our way to the ticket booth then through the corn field. I thought that was a nice touch, because it just keeps you in the mood as you meander your way to the line. Upon exiting the corn there was a traveling freak show complete with a couple of tents for stuff to look at. Honestly, we didn't stop, we were on a mission to be scared and we wanted to git r done.
While we waited in line (which thankfully wasn't too bad of a wait, maybe 15-20 minutes) we were entertained with fire breathing and sword "swallowing" and as we were led toward the entrance the guy was getting strapped into a straight jacket. Pretty neat, he was really good at entertaining the crowd and I have to give major props to Nightmare Forest for having the foresight to entertain the line. I've only seen that at a couple of haunts, and believe me, when those lines grow long, it's really nice to have something to distract you from the long wait and having to have actual interaction with those around you.
So we are led to the entrance, and the first part is the Dead End Hotel. Now, I remember when the Dead End Hotel was it's own separate haunt somewhere out in Shepherdsville (or that area) a few years back. It was deplorable back then, and it was mediocre this time around. At least it was an upgrade. The acting was pretty good, I'll definitely give credit to the actors. I mean, it wasn't really terrifying and relied heavily on the "BOO" factor (startling you, not scaring you) but they had pretty decent timing. The scenery wasn't bad. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Really kind of forgettable. I'd give that section a 5/10. It was just really halfway there for me.
Next up was the Trail of Terror, if I understood it correctly. Okay, this was pretty decent. The acting got a little better, the scenery was a little better, but this was the first part that was on a wooded path. And I have to say they didn't do a very good job of evening the ground out where the path was. Nor did they mark it very well, there were multiple times when we started going off the path because they either shone bright lights in our eyes so we couldn't see anything or they just failed to mark where to go. I can't give a good score for accessibility (I know, that's not on the criterion page, but it was enough of a factor I have to add it here) and it made it a little frustrating. The props and scenery were above average, and some were pretty badass. I recalled from previous years that there was fire, but it surprises me every time, and I like that. Also, the actors had some pretty good hiding places. Some didn't, and it was totally obvious. Like, if you see me looking at you, don't even bother trying to pop out to scare me, get someone who isn't looking right at you, you know? Still a solid B effort on this part, I'll give it a 7/10.
Then we get to the actual Nightmare Forest where the movies come to life. Now, it's incredibly difficult to scare me with movie monsters. I grew up watching these guys and gals religiously and in fact the first movie memory I have is of Hellraiser. Not Bambi (though I did see it) or any Disney movie. Hellraiser. So I can't really give this a fair scare factor score. I will admit to a few screams but they were startles, not real fear, so my score on this one won't really factor in the scares. In fact, Freddy didn't even try to scare us, he just kinda loomed and tried to appear scary but the makeup/mask/whatever was on his face wasn't believable or even resembling the movie Freddy. Some building structures didn't have actors or animatronics in them, and there were a few rooms that I didn't even recognize as movie scenes, and when those two negatives were in the same room, I have to admit it was pretty lame. Some of the effects were cool, some of the props were pretty decent, and the layout was pretty nice. But we ran into the same problem with tripping over tree roots and going off the trail. One point I stood there looking at two different paths leading to two different structures and just had to guess because neither looked like it was the right way. I dunno, it was just another halfway haunt for me, but still better than the Dead End Hotel. I guess I can give it another 7/10.
So overall for the entire experience I'll give a 7/10, and that's with the freak show saving it. I'm sorry, I just wasn't impressed and I'm a pretty easy scare. It was better than past years, but still just missing the target in so many ways.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Haunted Review: The Devil's Attic - By Ash

Every so often you come across a haunt that really chills you to the bone, eliciting nightmares for weeks on end - one that makes you not only question reality, but to question your own sanity.

This was not that experience.

Let's just start from the beginning. It was a rainy night, and the line was thankfully covered. The owner graciously upgraded our tickets to speed passes to allow us to bypass the line, which while it earned us a few nasty glares, it was incredibly appreciated considering the weather! We met with the owner and he even let us take a pic with him and his pet rat.

Okay, so we go inside, and having been there before I'm already expecting the first surprise as we approach the Devil, so I lead the way and then stand off to the side waiting for the "boo" moment. Okay, so the Devil? He was an ass. I mean, not that I expect the real Devil would be kindhearted and sweet or anything, but this guy asked me what I was doing hurrying into the room and then told me to go to the back of the line. Um. No. I paid for my ticket, I wanna get scared, I'm not going anywhere. So when I refused and kinda laughed at his efforts, he beckons these two little kids (and I mean, like, the oldest had to be no older than 8) and their family forward, thus putting the three of us in the back anyway. What the hell? I don't look for preferential treatment, but I expect to be scared and I expect to get my money's worth. I don't expect to be told where I get to be in the group, this isn't grade school and if I got there first, I deserve to be in the front.

So we start going through and rather than having actors and animatronics popping out and trying to scare the whole group, these jokers focus on the two little boys. I get that they figured they would be an easy scare, but if they'd taken the time to actually TRY to scare the other half of the group, they would have realized I'm a screamer and all three of us are easy scares. (Really! We're not that hard to scare!) Which means we got to walk along behind this group and watch them be assaulted by the monsters and actors. Great fun, really. I enjoy spending almost $20 to be not even amused.

Well, whatever, during some of the twists and turns our group managed to get in front again. Good, right? Oh, no, They STILL focus on the little boys, one of whom is screaming and crying in pure terror. He had to be like, five. Maybe six. FAR too young to even be allowed into a friggin haunted house, even if the parents are complete morons who either don't care about the kid's psychological welfare or are too stoned to realize how traumatizing this would be for him. So we don't get any scares. I think I screamed once, and I honestly think that was a fluke.

Where I WILL give props is to the Saw maze - that was tripping everyone up and there's the moment of pure horror when you think you've tried every path and can't get out. (Of course, we didn't reach that point because we caught up with at least one other group and we heard everyone else saying what they tried that didn't work, so we only had to try two doors before we found the way out.) But it was a nice design for the room itself. Just enough to make you afraid you'll never leave. Also, the props and scenes were pretty good, although admittedly there was a lot that didn't change over the years. We didn't get to visit last year and I remembered quite a bit from the year before.

Oh, and I have to mention the chainsaw guy at the end (everyone knows there's a chainsaw at the end, just about every haunt does it). So we're walking out, he comes out of the corner where we totally already saw him lurking since he didn't even try to hide, waddled along with us to just before the door leading out, then gave up and went back to his post. Even the little kids didn't get scared by him. Way to go, chainsaw guy, you win the award for most apathetic chainsaw guy ever.

There were a few things I liked. The all-too-short visit to the set of 13 Ghosts was pretty cool, but too brief. The Jackal was great, very realistic and probably the only character to really get up in our faces. I love Hellraiser and that scene wasn't TERRIBLE, although we didn't really get scared or even get to spend much time with the Cenobites. Oh, and the Vietnam guy with the metal plate? Exquisite acting, my good man!

So, we spend a good deal of money for a 7-11 minute walkthrough that didn't frighten us at all and we left feeling like we probably should've asked for a refund. I almost didn't have the heart to post this because I really hate giving bad scores, but I don't have it in me to lie or omit this review from my posts. It was a sad event, and we left brokenhearted at the experience.

3 out of 10 stars. Vietnam guy and the good props/decorations saved it from a 1. I was just so disappointed in this haunt, especially since I remember it being a good one from past experiences. I really hope this visit was just a bad night with cranky actors...