Death Knell for the Scream Machine

A steady rain had begun to fall as we neared our final destination on Devil’s Night — the relocated Scream Machine. The one time Downriver power house has slipped over the years, but we had hoped a change of scenery would breath some new life into the sputtering attraction.

Sadly, relocation has only seemed to exacerbate the problems that have afflicted the Scream Machine in recent years. What we witnessed during our visit on Devil’s Night was a haunted attraction teetering on the brink of death.

The popular Hellivator has been eliminated as has the vortex tunnel that followed it at the previous location. Instead we began our journey in the church setting that has been a staple at the Scream Machine; often it has appeared in the middle of the attraction or near the end. I didn’t mind this shift but the dummies seated in the pews seemed to be the exact same props used in years past, and they looked as worn as ever. There was one live plant amongst the stiffs and he was all too easy to spot.

Still in the church, a panel opened to our left. A large, masked actor proceeded to provide what was perhaps the most listless scare we’ve ever witnessed. He issued a growl so thoroughly devoid of all emotion it was almost as if he purposely meant for it to carry a mocking tone. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come as the rest of the cast seemed just as disinterested and passionless.

As we wound our way through the darkened halls it became painfully obvious that there was little creativity that went into the uninspired design of the attraction. It went from bad to worse and then some how sunk even lower. It was a pathetic and shameful display from what used to be a highly entertaining haunted attraction.

The cemetery scene, although diminished as well, was at least enjoyable from a visual standpoint — a small alcove decorated with numerous pumpkins was a nice touch. Other than that, John and I were hard pressed to come up with anything that was enjoyable, inventive, or exciting. Each scene, prop, and scare was merely rehashed fodder that the Scream Machine has run into the ground in previous seasons.

Incredulously, the Scream Machine ended as it has for years — by winding guests through the same leftover hallways that used to serve as part of the Carnevil of Lost Souls 3D attraction. I suppose it was a fitting finale for a haunted attraction that had us wishing for the end by the halfway point.

The cast, as I mentioned above, was particularly detrimental to the overall experience. In as blunt of terms as I can put it, the cast of the Scream Machine was abysmal. They displayed no ability to adapt, no penchant for improvisation, and their interaction was amateurish at best. A group of three or four actors tailed us through much of the attraction and appeared briefly to bang on objects in order to elicit a scare, and when that didn’t work they just banged some more…and then banged some more.

John and I would later agree that, collectively, the cast seemed annoyed by our very presence. It was as if we had interrupted a break and we picked up an almost antagonistic vibe. We’ve witnessed poor casts before, our 2011 jaunt through Anxiety Alley comes to mind, but this experience was without a doubt the worst. Never before have we been treated to such unprofessionalism by a cast that plainly lacked a knowledge of or passion for a proper haunted attraction.

It gives me no pleasure to write such a review. I absolutely love haunted attractions, but this was a travesty. Without knowledge of the inside story, I am at a loss to explain how this once prominent haunted attraction declined so rapidly. I would rather see the doors chained and the windows shuttered than watch it linger on in such a state; the once mighty Scream Machine is dead.

Rating: 0.5 stars

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