Thursday Outing Leaves Something to be Desired

What had begun as an overcast October day turned to a dreary, drizzling night. On our schedule was a trio of haunts — Lockdown form the Wyandotte Jaycees, The Deadland in Warren, and the hell spawn of Detroit, Demonic Demons.

Demonic Demons was set to be our last stop of the night but when we arrived it was to find a sad fate. A foreclosure notice hung form the door accompanied by a large lock. Several decorations remained in their place from last year including the signature casket. The scene reminded me of an abandoned amusement park, one part spooky, one part sad. This marks the second consecutive year in which the Haunt of the Year title will be unable to be properly defended. Is the Haunt Trinity’s most cherished award possibly cursed?

The revelation that Demonic Demons was indeed closed for business was highly disappointing but before that discovery was made an evening of haunting was had — time to rewind.

EXPERIENCE THE HORROR OF YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD HAUNT

Jason, John, Cikalo, and I first stopped off at Lockdown where the usual issues that plague many volunteer efforts were out in force. Sound effects or music was scarcely implemented, most of the actors were young, inexperienced, and diminutive — costuming was often scant, a fair number of actors were merely dressed in street clothes. It’s really a shame that the same issues hurt the Jaycees effort year after year because what they do well is very enjoyable. The first room for instance showcased some vintage Jaycees haunting. A pastoral scene is painted on the wall, it looks like the kind of thing you’d find perhaps in a kindergarten classroom or at Sunday school — it’s innocent yet sinister. In front of it hangs a swing, in it sits a child draped in a raincoat, head bowed slowly swaying back and forth. Slowly the head is raised revealing one of those clear theatre masks, a moment later creepy, simpering laughter can be heard.

There were several other enjoyable scenes as well including the PG-13 torture scenes, the toxic wasteland complete with tubes carrying glowing liquid, and the pick-a-door room littered with clowns and jesters. Upon opening one door we found a clown sitting upon a toilet, each time we opened the door he fell victim to violent bouts of defecation — I opened the door no less than three times.

Even so these highlights weren’t quite enough to overcome Lockdown’s shortcomings — subpar interaction and timing on the part of the actors, an uninspired finale featuring a chainsaw wielding harlequin, and a middle of the road approach.

Rating: 2.25 stars

THE DEADLAND ON SOLID FOUNDATION

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting a little something more from The Deadland but I’d be fooling myself not acknowledge the fine start it’s off to at its new location. The adventure begins with a long walk down a fog filled hallway, purple lasers cast an eerie light. Each room is elaborately detailed whether it be a graveyard or hellish kitchen. Many of the props and decorations that help dress each scene are either genuine household items that lend a level of realism to the attraction or gory, detailed dummies which expertly build tension and fear.

The characters at Deadland are intense and loud, possessing above average vocalizations and improvisational skills. My favorites included a psychotic clown who was on a search for victims to stuff in his oven. There was also a somber, middle-aged priest with a voice like a serial killer, and a slim, agile loony who attacked us from above.

The Deadland has promise, it’s clear that there’s dedication and professionalism from top to bottom but a few changes need to be made to truly put this attraction over the top. There were several dead spots (areas where it seemed an actor should’ve been), I’m not sure if this was done by design or the result of being short staffed but it’s one area that can easily be improved upon.

The Deadland is enjoyable as is yet despite the admirable performance of the cast and the elaborate scenes nothing truly grabbed me or commanded my attention. When comparing price to length the attraction could afford to be longer and it would dramatically benefit from a powerful finale. Still, the Deadland has a solid foundation and has the potential to become a fixture in the Detroit haunt scene for years to come.

Rating: 3.75 stars

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