Big Crowds take a Bite out of Blake’s

We were in high spirits when we arrived at Blake’s were business was booming; the parking lot was packed and there seemed to be people everywhere. There was a country store, a petting farm, a dance floor, and one monstrous pile of hay! Oh yeah, there was also the haunted attractions — Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn and Nighttime Spooky Hayride. We’d waited a long time to sample Blake’s haunted offerings, finally we had arrived — and we were ready to have our fill.

RETRO VIBES STALL INSIDE HAUNTED BARN

Our first clue to the nature of this haunt came while we waited in line where a large wall read, “Welcome to the Loonie Bin Gallery”. A series of holes lined the walls and inside of each depression was a video monitor. Every screen displayed a lunatic in a state of excitement or confusion, some babbled nonsense while others merely leered. I came to think of them as the special cousin or pervert uncle that everybody tries to avoid at family gatherings.

The first level of the barn put me in mind of a dark ride, those old staples of countless county fairs. There wasn’t a single actor in this area, rather it was filled with numerous animatronics — most of which were somewhat outdated. It felt more like a fun house than a haunted barn, although we did get a kick out of the large monkey who clung to a fence while being electrocuted.

As we came to the second floor I thought perhaps the lack of live monsters on the first was just a tactic to catch us off guard; perhaps the dusty automatons were simply meant to elicit cheap chuckles? Were we being softened up for what was to come next? For a moment it seemed like that might be true; as we began our trek on the second level we came to a stop.

A top a small stage, a man sat in an electric chair. A metal box covered his head, his face visible only through a the monitor at the front of the contraption. The switch was thrown and as the electricity coursed through his body, the man screamed in agony. When the current had ceased he slumped over dead, the box was retracted from his head.

His body hung limp for a moment, and then the charred cretin sprung into action and hurled himself at the barrier between us and the stage. The close proximity revealed detailed make-up effects, his face and head appeared to have been burnt to a crisp. This was by far the most effective scene in the 3-Story Haunted Barn.

The design of the haunt had potential — ramps, narrow passages, and low ceilings were all present but the remainder of the attraction featured only a handful of actors who seemed to simply go through the motions. Outside of the aforementioned electrocution, we didn’t witness any creative scenes or even come across a noteworthy prop.

As we neared the conclusion of the 3-Story Haunted Barn we did encounter an intimidating sight, the Big Boy Clown — dubbed such for both his stature and his girth. He would lead us through the Black Hole, a spinning vortex speckled with a thousand pinpricks of laser light. Admittedly, this was an eye catching site as the area near the vortex appeared to twinkle with the reflection of innumerable crystals.

I expected more from Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn, the throwback appeal of the first level never reached full potential and there was just too little of anything else to make an impact. We didn’t find the experience all together unenjoyable, it just felt like a lot of prelude without much rising action or climax. In the halls of our haunted history, Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn is likely to blend into the background.

Rating: 2.25 stars

NIGHTTIME SPOOKY HAYRIDE EQUIPPED WITH TRICKS AND TREATS

As I stated, I was disappointed in Blake’s 3-Story Haunted Barn but I wasn’t altogether surprised. An acquaintance of mine had previously informed me of his experience and his overall sentiment proved to be true, but this realization actually heartened me because he also went on to rave about the hayride — and his enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced.

The Nighttime Spooky Hayride was a good length, featured an energetic cast, and even made a stop in the middle of the apple orchard so that guests could enjoy complimentary cider and donuts.

The madness all began when our jovial guide, a thin man with a skeletal face who will henceforth be referred to as the Wagon Keeper, explained the rules of the land. However, before our wagon could gain any traction we were attacked by a pair of wild harlequins. The duo frightened and harassed various patrons which yielded comical results — a number of teenaged girls screamed and cowered to the delight of all.

The path wound through plenty of scenes and silos, riders were assailed by explosive leapers, a collapsing sign, and outlandish executions. One maniac chopped off the head of an unlucky lass and then chased after the wagon while he waved the head in the air.

Elsewhere we watched as an accused witch burned in spectacular fashion, shortly thereafter we encountered a man who begged for our help — his head in a noose, and his toes barely touched the box beneath him. Suddenly, yet another witch (and quite a sexy one at that) emerged from the darkness and punted the box from beneath the man’s feet! He swung he did, he swung.

In another fun scene a woman broke loose from a prison, but was brought down shortly when an ill tempered guard chased her into the corn and fired a round into her back. It was all wonderful fun but I had the distinct feeling that the recently deceased were likely innocent of the crimes they had been accused. Oh well, we cheered their deaths just the same.

As we neared the end of our ride we pulled through a structure that the Wagon Keeper referred to as the Tunnel of Love. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and jets of light danced romantically all around our carriage. Several expertly still characters sprung to life as we passed. The whole experience put me in mind of a scene from 1962’s Carnival of Souls.

However we weren’t free just yet — those dreadful clowns who had kicked off our journey decided it was time to have some more fun. As our wagon chugged along the path, I noticed a small shack to the right and to the left was a garish gallery of marionette clowns. The exhibition featured half a dozen or more stiffs and I found it darkly fascinating.

As I absorbed the striking scenery a sudden, bright flash from the shack left many of us temporarily blinded and beneath such cover the horrible harlequin attacked our party once more. He was soon joined by his cohort who was, of course, a plant among the hanging puppets.

The Nighttime Spooky Hayride was an undeniably fun romp through orchards and corn fields. It featured a plentiful cast and enough laughter and shrieks to keep things interesting.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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