As the summer months begin winding down, children moan for the end of holidays while their parents secretly pine for September to arrive quickly, and those of us who crave haunt-time start getting antsy.
As a kick-off to our tour of the 2014 haunts begins, we thought it would be fun to do a quick preview of what is to come from the big boys (and a few not so big boys) of the haunt world.
Those who love Disney World‘s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party(BtT are big fans) and Disneyland‘s Mickey’s Halloween Partycan rest easy that little has changed (other than extending the days as per usual). However, other parks are making changes – by picking up the Halloween spirit even more! And while Disney does seem to be pushing the tech boundaries more-so than many of the other theming giants, it might pay for them to look at branching out with their Halloween model. What is holding them back from pushing the envelope at all? Record ticket sales of course. Anyone who has attended one of these nights knows it used to be a great way to have the park a little quieter and calmer, but the explosion of attendance gives little incentive for Disney to “break the mould”.
With Disney’s distant cousin over in Hong Kongis ‘plusing’ their Halloween offeringsby adding shows and events with names like “Horror of the Amazon” and last year’s Werewolves vs. Vampires theming, even their own brand is setting the bar a little higher in a more adult arena.
Universal maintains its IP relationship with The Walking Dead, bringing a new maze to the Orlandoand Hollywoodparks. Also this year, both parks will have similar theming in the street areas and houses – both will feature Alien vs. Predator, Dracula Untold, Dusk Till Dawn, Face Off, and The Purge Scare Zone. In addition, Orlandowill feature Roanoke Cannibal Colony, Giggle and Gore and Dollhouse of the Damned; while Hollywoodwill add Clowns 3D to their line-up. Hollywoodwill also maintain the very popular Terror Tram.
Moving over to another comparable set of parks on the East Coast of the US, we take a look at the Howl-O-Scream “Cursed” event from Busch Gardens. While perhaps not as big as the previously mentioned Universal Parks, Howl-O-Screamis a fan favourite and sees record numbers of attendance each year.
Both Williamsburgand Tampahave again set up different houses and attractions, tempting guests to try out both parks with what promises to be no repeat experiences. Busch Tampawill be running with DeadFall, Zombie Containment Unit 15, Death Water Bayou, The Basement, Blood Asylum, Circus of Superstition 3D, Zombie Mortuary, and The Experiment – The Final Test. At the same time, Busch Williamsburgwill be showing 31: Your Number is Up, Bitten, Catacombs, Cut Throat Cove, Deadline, and Root of All Evil. The “Terror-tories” at the Williamsburgpark will be mix of horror and suspense with titles such as: Demon Street, Ports of Skull, Ripper Row, Vampire Point, and Wendigo Woods. Both locations offer Behind the Screams Tours so you can see what happens before the lights go out. Tampahas gone one step beyond by opening an additional ticketed event (see Knott’s) entitled “The Experiment”. These interactive add-ons seem to be the new trend of haunts and are picking up around the haunt world.
Since we are on the topic of interactive haunts, we will now progress to the mother of them all: Knott’s Scary Farm.
Knott’sis well known for upping the ante on all things ‘haunt’, and for our money, is still the ruler of them all. Knott’shas once again taken the notion of typical Haunts and made them fun for both the casual visitor, as well as those willing to pay a little extra for full immersion. Taking a cue from 2013’s success of the Skeleton Key rooms, Knott’s has continued its popular add-on with offerings of Voodoo, Black Magic, The Gunslinger’s Grave, Dominion of the Dead, and Pinocchio Unstrung. If you are unfamiliar with the Skeleton Keyidea, it is a room that is accessible prior to each themed house that either sets up the theming for that house in an interactive way, or puts you into the story by making you the ‘cause’ of the house or experience.
The next stage of the haunt for Knott’sis their truly interactive haunting experience in “Trapped: Lock and Key”. For the third year in a row, Knott’shas promised a ‘no repeat’ experience. Last year’s Trappedwas a seemingly completely different experience and level of interactivity compared to the previous year, and this year’s Trappedseems to be unique as well. Some guests have questioned the use of add-on charges for these additional experiences, however the casual haunt guest has plenty to enjoy without losing any of the haunt experience with houses (in addition to those listed above) like The Witches Keep, The Tooth Fairy, Trick or Treat, and Forevermore.
The interactive nature of some of these add-on ticket attractions goes beyond just addressing the guests personally, to actually putting the guests in (possibly) very uncomfortable situations. While always making sure the guest is safe, these additional levels push the guests’ fear of spiders, tight spaces, electrocution, insanity and a fun variety of “why are you doing this to me?!” moments.
Knott’shas also taken the liberty of stepping up the interaction one notch further by putting guests on the front lines to ward off zombie hordes with Special Ops: Infected. With specially designed guns, teams fight their way over a variety of terrains while trying to keep the zombie menace at bay (hint: if they get too close, the guns won’t fire and you get eaten).
Moving on from Knott’s, we progress to less-known but equally as scary and interactive haunts such as LA’s interactive theatre experience “Delusion: Lies Within”. If you are in the mood to experience a hands-on horror/mystery experience – then this is the event for you. Guests may simply watch as the story unfolds, or be drawn into the story by the actors requesting help with moving a body. This experience has seen previous year reviews of people actually crying out of fear or nervousness, etc. and is a no-brainer for haunt enthusiasts.
If you were lucky enough to make it to one of the Great Horror Campoutsthis year, you were treated with an interactive concept of being hunted by monsters and serial killers. Campers were able to choose their level of interaction based on the activities they chose and the zone where they put up their tent (see Hell Hunt). What better way to enjoy the splendours of nature than by being chased around the woods by a beast or masked killer? With challenges all night including NOT being “killed off” and achieving Hellmaster status by surviving and collecting all of the listed supplies and achievements, the Campoutsproved to be one of the most engaging and interactive haunts for true lovers of the genre.
While certainly not the end all to be all of the haunt list, it is a good place to start for the main (and mostly US) haunts. We will be bringing you more as the Halloween season approaches and we at BtT are looking forward to a season filled with frights, fun and of course – treats (read: free candy!).
If you see us out and about feel free to say hello and join us on our tour of haunts 2014.