Realm of Haunted Minds and Funeral Home a fitting pair for Windswept Outing

The night was chilly, a steady rain fell, the wind reminded us that we were not alone. Our first stop brought us to Realm of Haunted Minds at the Huron Turkey Farm in Romulus. The building adjacent the parking lot is decorated with a variety of illuminated outlines — ghosts, bats, and an assortment of Halloween fixtures welcome you to this enclave of fright. Inside guests purchase tickets amidst a gallery of rogues — full sized replicas of some of Hollywood’s greatest horror icons mingle along side obscure creatures such as one oddly slouched harlequin. As haunters make their way to the main attraction they wind a path through a series of miniature structures, here an old school house, a jail, and even a saloon — this year a swamp creature even lurked the grounds. After some brief exploration we entered the Realm of Haunted Minds.

The front foyer bears resemblance to dungeon has changed slightly since our last visit in 2008. Instead of the house rules being delivered by a creepy animatronic wizard they are now presented to guests by a large Frankenstein monster which partially rises from its slab when addressing guests. Upon finishing his message Frankie falls back into a slumber and a pair of doors open to the left. Realm of Haunted Minds is comprised mostly of black hallways splattered with neon colored paint, a good balance of classic haunt fundamentals mixed with a modern carnivalesque edge. Like a number of Jaycees productions Realm of Haunted Minds isn’t going to blow guests away with sleek animatronics or a slew of gory props but what haunters will enjoy is the creative carpentry that is put to use. A haunted attraction is one of the few forms of entertainment where patrons can actually interact with the environment but if operators fail to implement ways to facilitate this then the show can be diminished. Here guests are confronted with a room full of doors, all of them false save for one. This technique forces haunters to face the mystery of each possibility and in a sense find their own way out. It doesn’t hurt either when the minds behind the show go the extra mile and add a twist like making the doors child sized. I’m also a big fan of ramps and slopes in haunted attractions, part of the success of any haunt is in frightening patrons which can be accomplished in a litany of ways. In the case of ramps or slopes haunters can be thrown off balance or forced to exert themselves more than normal which will in turn require them to be even more aware of their environment. These are subtle strokes but they can make all the difference to a small haunt and Realm of Haunted Minds does these nicely.

Realm of Haunted Minds also uses paint in effective ways. One area of the haunt featured a vortex tunnel, something that a lot of haunts now have (in fact we just saw one last week at the Scream Machine.) What sets this one apart is the paint pattern on the fabric of the tubular wall. Most haunts will give you the star pattern or a similar design but here their were multiple designs with the most prominent being a series of swirling ribbons that coiled the entire length of the tunnel. It was a nice touch that truly enhanced the feeling of traversing a portal. Another area where the paint pattern stood out was located near the middle of the haunt. After rounding a corner we came upon a purple and yellow polka dotted room lit entirely by a black light. The room had a strange glow about it and the light made the dots look almost as if they were floating in mid-air. To our immediate left a small window featured an elaborately painted clown and when we paused for a closer look it disappeared in a blink to reveal a clownish ghoul.

In 2008 my biggest criticism of Realm of Haunted Minds fell to the actors therein and I’d be lying if I said the criticism is no longer warranted. On the whole the haunt could use more warm bodies, the first half of the attraction in particular was scant of breathing beings. The most glaring examples of squandered opportunities came early, first in a dungeon scene that included a pair of empty stocks and then in the meat locker chucked full of hanging corpses. There can’t be a live actor in each room not every dark hallway has to have a ghoul. Different rooms serve different purposes, a darkened hallway for instance allows a guest’s imagination do the work. The purpose of the scenes described above however build anticipation through visual cues — in these instances the stocks in the dungeon and the bodies hanging from the ceiling in the meat locker — when there’s no payoff such as a screaming ghoulie what anticipation was built is now lost. The second half of the haunt was more accomplished in this area but here often times the delivery of the actors left something to be desired. That’s not to suggest that they were bad, some even managed to deliver mild startles, but as a whole the cast was pedestrian. Few of them offered much else than a scream or a growl and seemed resistant to engage us as individual haunters as opposed to a mindless horde. The best exception to this was of course our favorite ankle sniping dark dame. Three years ago she professed a desire to bite our ankles and her performance didn’t disappoint this year either. She entertained us with on the spot vocalizations and when I let John’s name slip she pounced on the chance to personalize the experience. As we exited her area she gave chase through three other rooms, all while crawling of course.

Near the end of the attraction there are several dead ends (an underutilized trick in my opinion) which eventually lead to the ever enjoyable ‘Womb of Doom’, this year I decided to plant my feet about halfway through the structure and cause what I’m pleased to learn was quite a confusing backup.

Realm of Haunted Minds is a fun, family friendly haunted attraction. There’s a lot of good aspects here grounded in fundamental haunting but there’s also room for improvement most namely the issues concerning placement and delivery of the actors. Undoubtedly though a nice place to have so close to home.

Rating: 3 1/4 stars

“Ohhhh, Johnnyyyyy!”

-Realm of Haunted Minds’ Creepy Crawler, after I let John’s name slip.

“Is there anything down there?”

“No. All I see is Lon Chaney’s face as the Phantom of the Opera painted on the wall.”

-Cikalo and I realizing we’d stumbled upon a dead end.

The second and final stop of the night brought us to Inkster’s Funeral Home. This attraction has only run for a couple of seasons and in all honesty it’s not a place I’ve ever seriously considering visiting, but sometimes half the fun of this whole season is in taking unintended adventures — for proof of that I have no further to look than our 2009 visit to Haunted Hollows in Armada. The Funeral Home is indeed held at a true to life, former funeral parlor — an ideal place for a haunted attraction. The front of the building is garishly trimmed in red and has a large window displaying an array of a dummies. We parked in a lot behind the funeral home where John was the recipient of a ghastly scare before we had even exited the vehicle — more on this later. We proceeded to a small, sliding window on the side of the building from which haunters purchased a ticket. I couldn’t help but wonder what purpose such a window would have served at an actual funeral home. Was this drive-thru urn pick up? Did loved ones of the deceased schedule services this way? Had severed heads been chucked unceremoniously out this window for little more than shits and giggles??!! One can never truly be sure of such things.

After we had our tickets we proceeded to a back door which oddly served as the entrance to the haunted attraction. A man dressed in a suit appeared from behind the door — the funeral director, of course. It’s always a nice touch when the ticket taker is also a character. It’s the same idea behind line entertainment, a chance to engage the guests before entering the attraction itself. This particular doormen was dressed the part but he wasn’t playing the part and that dampened the effect. Once inside the haunt we were treated to a fair effort at a location with promise. I was initially surprised that the haunt was comprised of dark hallways with black flaps hanging above the openings between rooms. I was expecting and hoping for more of a traditional funeral home decor and that is definitely something I think the operators should change going forward. There were a few areas where this was showcased but it wasn’t nearly enough. What good is it to run a haunted attraction out of an old funeral home and not play to that fact heavily. That’s not to say the show was unenjoyable but it was a show that could have been put on in any building. There was a neat scene in one hallway where a narrow strip of floor was actually thick plexiglass. Below a slab was visible, a bloody smock thrown haphazardly across it — and that’s precisely what I would have loved to see more. Send me to the morgue, a room full of caskets, the incinerator!

There were a lot of actors in the Funeral Home and some of them were serviceable like the shouting creep who emerged from what looked like a bar? Collectively however the cast was underwhelming. Most of the actors wore masks, masks of horror movie icons to be precise, which can work under certain conditions but certainly there was a better option to fit the theme of this haunt. A large number of the actors lacked the knowledge of a proper scare, for example on several occasions we entered a room and encountered what we believed to be a prop but what was in fact an expertly still actor. In more than one instance I even leaned in for a closer looked and wondered aloud whether it was a prop or not and when nothing happened I proceeded through the room. The actor finally delivered the scare when we began to depart the room. The result was a barely there scare in fact those of us at the front of the line were more confused than anything else. In these instances it would have made much more sense if the actor were to have sprung to life when being inspected. Here I was wondering aloud whether it was a prop, what better set up could you ask for?!

I did take note that the theme from 1978’s Halloween was playing throughout our journey in the Funeral Home and any haunt operator in doubt over music can’t go wrong with that choice. On an amusing note there was a ghoul playing a piano near the end of the attraction, he had his back turned to us as we entered the room and therefore I was not able to immediately peg him for a genuine fleshy. Another rather humorous moment occurred when I spotted a window to my right, what appeared to be a macabre bedroom lie beyond the threshold. I asked a nearby creep if perhaps that was the rape room. Funeral homes have those right? We turned a corner, walked down a hallway and then spotted a door to our right. There was also an apparent path that led straight ahead and for a moment we wondered where we were supposed to go. An actor dressed as Jigsaw’s Puppet from Saw had lurked into the hall as well but he was apparently in no mood to offer assistance.

We decided to go through the door on the right and found ourselves in imminent danger. We had unwittingly waltzed directly into the aforementioned Rape Room! I saw a door at the other end of the room and decided to go through that as well. It lead to another hallway and here there were two doors, one directly in front of us and a second to the left. I tried the one on the left (a bathroom if the sign on the door can be trusted) and called inside but heard nothing in response. I even tried the light switch but nothing so we ventured on. The next door led us to a similar hallway and I was sure we had taken a wrong turn. Why hadn’t that damn overgrown puppet warned us I wondered. Did he want us to go into the Rape Room? We had noticed a doorway that led back into the haunt in the previous hallway, strangely enough this doorway led back to the room on the opposite side of the Rape Room — the room we’d first glimpse the Rape Room. Possessing no desire to be defiled by man-sized puppets (well maybe Alec desired that) we beat a hasty retreat back to the proper path.

The monsters seemed momentarily caught off guard but recovered quickly enough and soon we came to the haunt’s conclusion, yet another point of strangeness. The path turned to what seemed to be a dead end. A new age Michael Myers stood menacing and silent near the only thing that appeared to be a doorway but it wouldn’t budge. I figured we were being held in the room for a moment to deliver a scare so after a couple of attempts at the door Cikalo and I simply plopped down on an old couch. Mr. Myers remained as still as a statue, ignoring our questions just as that pervert of a puppet had earlier. Then suddenly he darted from the room as if he had somewhere better to be. Pounding could be heard from the other side of the door so I thought it was time to give it another try and just then it sprang open and nearly blasted me in the face. An unseen force had propelled the door in my direction but luckily my face was spared a proper smashing. We proceeded into a dark room and for a moment all was silent but then a loud noise jarred the room to life, a red light bathed all, and a large cretin delivered an inspired final scare.

The Funeral Home was enjoyable but the same show that we witnessed could have been held in any old building. This was a funeral home! A FUNERAL HOME!!! The possibilities here are awesome to behold! Here’s my vision: drop the masks entirely and put the cast in face paint, death hues only. Only use the narrow, black hallways as a means to transition from one room to the next and otherwise let the funeral home decor shine. Show me a deranged mortician, a rampaging necrophile, an army or reanimates! Let the haunters participant in a wake only to be chased from the room by grief crazed widows! My mind teems with the possibilities of what could be done with such an attraction. Alas, some day my haunt friends.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

“John, look. There’s genitals on the window.”

-Richard, calling attention to the fact that Cikalo had “brained” the passenger side window.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: