What helps your score:
- Haunt Appearance (exterior and interior) - We expect a corn maze or forest to be dirty. There's dirt outside, and that's okay. Having proper signage, adequate lighting outside for indoor haunts and clear paths for outdoor haunts, looking like a spooky or creepy haunt, and making it look like you care about your haunt really help the overall experience.
- Quality of Acting - Not everybody is a movie star, and we realize that, but that being said, I've seen some crazy stupid awesome actors really knock it outta the park! Perfect timing, perfect makeup, and not only saying the right things but saying them in the right way are very possible with many local haunts!
- Realistic Props - Okay, we don't want real severed body parts, because that means you either stole them from the morgue or killed someone to get them. But if it doesn't look like it was bought at the Dollar Tree (no offense, Dollar Tree is awesome for some things!), and you make it look realistic, that's what really counts.
- Decorations - This goes hand-in-hand with props, don't go steal a coffin or headstone, don't bleed someone dry and splatter real blood around the place, but using quality materials to build each scene/room is a real helper!
- Setup/Design of Haunt - There's nothing quite like walking out of a haunt and really feeling like you've escaped a nightmare. When the scenes flow from one to another without feeling awkward, when there's clear direction of which way to go, and when the overall look and feel of the set is nightmare inducing, then you're doing it right.
- Level of Actual Fear (Scare Factor) - Everyone has their own special fears, and for me (Ash) it's clowns and insects. Irrational, perhaps, but when the clowns come to play, Ashley buries her face into Michala's or Jennifer's arm or side (or boobs, or back...whatever's immediately available). I'll let Kay and Jenn tell you what they're afraid of, but just know we all have very different fears. If a chainsaw guy can scare ME, he's awesome at his job. But the "BOO" factor, where the actors or animatronics pop out at you and scream, shouldn't be the only scares.
- Shock Factor - However, you can't have a haunted house without the "BOO" factor. There should be a decent amount of shock during the haunt, but it shouldn't be the only thing the haunt relies on.
- Interaction - I can't stress enough, when the actors interact with us (even when not touching, but communicating otherwise) this really adds a level of entertainment to the whole experience. Now, the ones where they CAN and WILL touch you...I personally think those are the best. Because when you say nothing at all, but instead come at me with a syringe full of goodness only knows what, I don't care if it's fake, I'll probably run away screaming. And if you whisper my name in a creepy place, I might just pee my britches...
- Originality - Few things are better than doing the same thing everyone else is doing, but doing it differently and doing it better. Visiting these unique places is definitely one of those few things. I love to go somewhere that isn't all Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, and Leatherface. I love my horror movie characters, but they don't scare me. Give me something else. Give me unique.
- Lazy acting
- Relying solely on shock value rather than actual fear
- Short scares (especially when mixed with long lines)
- Too much focus on Hollywood scenes without interaction
- Poor set design
- Unrealistic props/design
Now granted, every haunted house will be different (in theory) and this is just a general list of things we keep in mind when we visit a haunt. But just to give you an idea, we don't just BS our way through these, we really stop to evaluate the haunt while going through, and the more terrified we are, the higher the score will be, usually.
So, now you know what we look for, and what we think about when going through the haunts. May the nightmares begin!!