Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Haunt Review: The Scarehouse





Haunt: The Scarehouse
Location: Etna, Pennsylvania
When: October 24th, 2012
Price: Between $15-$35
Rating: So close to Great, You can taste it.
Recommendation: If your anyplace in a 3 hour drive, shut up and go already.

Such an unassuming entrance!

:DISCLAIMER:
- I've worked for Scarehouse in the past and also know the owners. So I do have a slight bias towards them. However don't think that got them the rating I've given, being bias only makes me even more critical about a haunt. 
-My husband and I where invited down my Scott Simmons, The creative director and co-owner of Scarehouse in order to review this haunt. We also spent some time with him getting some backround on the new designs within the haunt.  In the matter of full disclosure, we could probably bullshit with both Scott and Barb for hours about haunts and theme parks.. but that is neither here nor there.
-It was Wednesday Night and Early. So admittedly it wasn't the full cast nor had actors hit their proper stride yet.
-We are damn near impossible to scare but we love to watch folks try!


What to say about Scarehouse, one of my old haunts? In a word or two..

FUCKING WOW

Scarehouse has really stepped up their creative game with the new layout's and haunts they've got offered for public consumption this year. Needless to say we where pleased and greatly surprised at the many changes that have taken over since we last attended and worked for this haunt. It's a completely new ballgame leaving me with hardly anything worth nitpicking.. and we all know I enjoy nitpicking the details. 


Taken from Scarehouse.Com


Forsaken: This area was once the old "Hall of Nightmares" but with a completely new redesign. Upon entering we found ourselves in the midst of a Carnival/Freak Show gone to pot. Oh great, another circus/carnival haunt right? Let me guess, Clowns Right? 
Because that's exactly what went threw my mind, the typical "Oh here we go again" but I was happily surprised to find myself engulfed in a carnival atmosphere that's going to the shady side of dark. Instead of the typical garish bright colors and over caffeinated actors, we found a faded darkness with a hint of creepy. Actors with enough flare to be active and attention grabbing but just enough spooky to give you the impression: Well this isn't going to end well. 

From the Carnival we transitioned into a more classical type of haunt, flowing threw a graveyard with enough narrow space to confine you for great scares. The perception and overall feel in here was well done, giving you that proper "Spooky Cemetery at Midnight" setting. I found the crypt/chapel room to be greatly improved with twisting turns and set up for easy scares. Flowing easily into the staple "Creepy Manor House" we found a more traditional setting. Bedrooms, Kitchens and Closets.. Oh My!  This place had everything from Living Dolls, Angy cooks and right into Creepy Kids.
Following around we spotted some falling heads from the ceiling and a rather giant rat.. which seemed to give our group a nice scare, remember to always look up and down! Going around we found the Hillbillies with a side dish of Slaughter house tossed in for fun. Admittedly this has always been one of my favorite parts of this show and with the new Slaughter House action going on we found this scene to be a great improvement. The giant attack hog was good followed by the actor yelling "Down Piggy" which follows the mantra "If you can't make them scream, make them laugh" perfectly.

Many of the actors within Forskaen seem to relay on startle scares, sitting very still then jumping up to give you a fast fright. While I freely admit these aren't my favorite type of scares, these folks have them down. The only flaw I could spot is they seemed to re-set themselves a bit to quickly, only focusing on the middle of the group rather then working the group as a whole in order to act upon the next group in line. 



Image from Scarehouse.Com

Creepo's Christmas in 3D: Oh Creepo, Your character always makes me smile in that lovely twisted way. This haunt was a new take on your standard 3D house and the Christmas theme? Enough to make even my hardened self cringe slightly. Angry Elves, The Naughty List, Pissed-off Snowmen.. plus the on-going constant theme of frowny faced gingerbread men everyplace was a great surprise. The scent of cinnamon in the air and body parts on Christmas trees, the holidays have gone way off here. The 3D effects aren't overpowering nor lacking, just enough to give you the right feeling without making your eyes cross from vision overload. The actors had the demeanor of hassled retail workers on Christmas eve and happily shared that "get the hell out or be murdered with a garland" attitude in spades, this gave the whole house a truly great vibe. The Make-up the actors where sporting here really stood out with the effects while still sticking with the themeing. Slightly skeleton eerie with a dash of cheerful, it was Cheereerie! 
Sadly Creepo wasn't present this night, which I can only imagine would be the perfect topping on this tormented holiday fruitcake.. and probably bloodier also. However this character is so detailed to the person who plays them it's nice to see they didn't even try to put in a half-assed replacement that would ruin the show.
Overall I have to say this was the single biggest surprise to me. Normally I'm bored by 3D houses and don't even bother to give them a faction of my attention, seen one you've seen them all. Well let me just say, this one with the unique theme and wacked-out setting made even skeptical me enjoy a true 3D haunt for the first time in many years.  



Image form Scarehouse.Com


Pittsburgh Zombies: Oh Pittsburgh, If there is one thing you do well it's Zombies. Who doesn't love a good Zombie haunt? Drawing off the rich zombie history Pittsburgh has been given by Romaro, this house is a great addition.  However, I have to say I was kind of hoping for some fast/smart zombies but true to the area we got the slow/dumb types. Frankly, I'd have peppered it with both myself to even up the odds of more Yinzers wetting their pants. You flow threw a haunt that could only be Pittsburgh with landmark locations unique to the area such as Primanti Brothers featuring a new special of human body sandwiches! The details of this haunt really surpassed my expectations and threw me straight into rarely seen "Carrie is Pleased" area. This haunt was filled with UPEC signs spotting handy phrases (remember zombies don't like sammiches), Maps of Pittsburgh showing "Your are here" and "Safe Zones", A Steelers Gift shop.. no real detail of the area was left out going so far as to sport TV's stating there has been a "Yinzer Zombie Virus Outbreak"!
The perspective here is simply amazing, giving you both a true 'outside' feeling as well as being in a much larger area then you really are. I've got to say, the Scarehouse team outdid themselves on the little details here that perhaps most people would never spot. Much more like a movie-set then a haunt, it really gives you the one-two punch in the guts.
As I said before the zombies here really where well done, with nice details such as make-up and acting. However they where slow and lumbering, a few faster/smarter zombies would have been one of the two addition's this house really needed. Some really nice touches where added such as zombie actors behind chain fences lurching out for some fresh brains, traveling though a 'safe house' who's owner was on the hunt for a can-opener (I hope she found one!), out threw an industrial yard setting complete with 'zombie snacks in a cage' for later enjoyment.  I found the ending a little dry and a bit lacking however knowing Scarehouse has stairs to contend with at the exit it's understandable. In the past the last punch was high powered which often sent folks tumbling down and out into the street, so I can't blame them for not wanting the mass public running like scared bunnies only to fall down a set of stairs.
With that said, the second addition I would make is the ending.. even with the stairs it seems they could have put their big "ending scare" more towards the middle of this haunt which may give folks a nice "Holy Crap, We Escaped" feeling and a little jogging workout at the same time.  So other then these two minor details to nitpick I found this house overall very pleasing to the eye and senses.


In the end I found that Scarehouse goes by the philosophy of "Slow, Steady and Inescapable" rather then the other side of the coin which is "High-Intensity, In-Your-Face, Run like Bunnies". Neither side is wrong and it just depends a lot on what your opinion of a haunt is. Personally I subscribe to the "High Intensity" school of thought but enjoy both sides of this coin.  One thing I really enjoy is they depend a lot on their team of actors for scares and don't over indulge on technology like Animatronics to get the job done. They have several but their unassuming and work more as a distraction for the real scare coming from left field.
Scarehouse does what they do well and the odd, unsettled feeling you have upon entering will follow you the entire way. You'll find your time and money well spent on this locally owned and operated haun, it's worth the trip.