Downriver Haunt Review

Originally posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 this entry chronicled our visit to three haunted attractions located throughout the Downriver area. To the best of my knowledge this was the only time I formatted a review in such a fashion (placing haunters and attractions in list form at the top of the review).

I never did uncover the mystery haunt referenced by Pudge in this post; I’ve come to believe she was mistaken about the year and that the haunt in question was indeed Extreme Scream. Also in this post I provided a mini-review of the Pumpkin Factory in Belleville which my wife and I had visited that fall.

As with previous Hallowblog entries, the pictures that are mentioned in the posts are not posted anywhere on Horrorlust at present. 

Date: 10/12/07

Haunters: Jason, Joel, John, McCreary

Haunt Targets: The Lab, The Scream Machine, Hell’s Hospital

Last Friday night marked a trifecta of terror as we set out to explore some downriver haunts. The night was fraught with excitement as we headed to our first haunt, The Lab. We weren’t able to visit The Lab last year but the venue was highly entertaining as The Chop Shop in 2005, Jason and I in particular were looking forward to the experience.

Prior to entering the greater haunted house guests are shown a video featuring a scientist who explains the events surrounding the mysterious lockdown and the reason for your involvement. The group then selects a leader (yours truly, thank you very much) who is given a keycard which will presumably give you access to other areas of The Lab. This was a nice touch but the experience would have been enhanced ten fold if the keycard actually did anything. I thought perhaps I’d have to swipe the card to open doors but no such interaction.

The haunt stuck to the theme throughout with several scenes offering up some very cool props; one man had been completely covered in a green fungus that had seemingly taken his life. I waited for his infected ass to leap at us and beg for help but it turned out to be simply a prop after all. That became a theme in and of itself; too many props and not enough live actors. I think this severely detracted from the experience at The Lab. The theme of this haunt would do well to feature live actors in make up as opposed to masks. The story goes that strange genetic tests were being performed so show me some freaks and mutants.

There was a hefty chainsaw wielding fellow who played his role well, trapping us against a wall while repeatedly asking for McCreary’s eyes with apparent sexual zest. Another memorable actor was featured in a room with blue tubes, he had spooky white pupils and an I’d-like-to-eat-you-grin. Just prior to exiting the haunt you come to a scene on the left of a deceased security guard. He sits in a chair behind a desk, the whole set enclosed by a mesh steel security fence. There is even a monitor on the desk which guests can view themselves on. The dead security guard never moves, instead someone pops out of a drop section of the wall behind you, the same gag that was run at the Chop Shop and Giyra before that.

This was another drawback of the haunt; the layout was far too similar to its predecessors. I was able to picture what the rooms looked like during their previous incarnations as we walked through it. This excess of familiarity made it harder to suspend disbelief. I also felt that The Lab featured far too many “crazed” animal gags; the animal based animatronics were especially weak although the breathing alien babies were quite sweet.

The haunt ends rather abruptly when an armed government official encourages you to rush down a flight of stairs only to transcribe the number on your keycard onto a chalkboard with the all too obvious result that the writing surface drops to reveal a screaming creature. I however thought the keycard was a cool souvenir and therefore stowed it in my back pocket and proceeded to inform the guard that I had lost it. After you write down a number he opens the back door and the terror is over.

I was slightly disappointed but The Lab does have plenty of potential to improve. The operators present a fairly unique premise but fail to properly utilize the atmosphere inherent to such a haunt.

Rating: 3 stars

Our next stop was The Scream Machine in Taylor which delighted me both last year and in 2002. The Hellevator has undoubtedly improved now featuring an ultra creepy actor dressed up like a deformed life-sized doll lurking in the corner. She initially offered Disco what I believe was a teddy bear and then proceeds to get right in each group member’s face when the lights flicker on and off. I’m a big fan of the Hellevator, it’s truly a great gimmick to jump start a haunt.

After exiting the Hellevator and surviving a dizzying black hole the majority of the haunt is dominated by an impressive graveyard scene. It’s great eye candy but the lack of confinement is not very conducive to suspense. Guests wind through a series of hallways all just off the graveyard path which ultimately causes the group to view the same scene several times which quickly becomes stagnant. The Scream Machine doesn’t suffer from a lack of live actors but does feature repetiton of said actors to a fault.

When I visited The Scream Machine in 2002 the back end of the haunt featured a funeral scene which I found quite eerie. Guests were forced to walk a center path with pews on either side filled with ghoulies. It was a great scene but failed to deliver a real thrill when nobody leapt from a pew. Last year the scene was omitted but its back this year. This time around guests have to wind through a path of pews as opposed to walking down a center aisle but again no one springs forth from a seat. Someone does pop out of the top of an organ located near the exit of the room but I really feel one of the zombie looking creeps in the pews would provide more of a scare.

The Scream Machine is too short and too wide open. Granted a handful of grand scenes provide a wow factor but sheer scares and general creepiness are distinctly lacking. The Hellevator may have improved but overall I think The Scream Machine has experienced some slippage since last season.

We didn’t hit the 3D feature The Carnevil of Lost Souls having not forgot the lackluster experience it provided last year but I do plan to revisit this attraction November 1-4 when both haunts will be available for the low price of $10. I just have to meet Chunk the Clown who happens to reside somewhere in the mysterious annuls of the 3D realm.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

After The Scream Machine McCreary professed that she had pissed her pants and thus departed. I think she was joking…but I’m not entirely sure. It was down to the trio and we were determined to knock out one more haunt. We zipped down to Anxiety Alley which looked deserted, a lone worker stood outside the haunt. He told us they had actually closed early because of a lack of customers. That news left me slightly sad but at just $6 I’m planning to visit Anxiety Alley this season. I think the last time I was there was about nine or ten years ago.

We knew we still had time to hit Hell’s Hospital in Wyandotte and so we were off. Admission to Hell’s Hospital was $10 and without a doubt was the best deal of the night. The Wyandotte Jaycees converted both an old mechanic garage and an old house into a quality haunt. While you wait in line a gimpy little fellow entertains the masses with a combination of guttural sounds and questionable gestures. He amused us greatly and even posed for a picture which has of course been posted. Hell’s Hospital employed the classic haunt approach utilizing pitch black hallways and deliberate sounds to build tension.

There is nothing very flashy hear, just a creepy and sometimes smelly old house meant to scare you shitless. The timing of the actors was excellent especially during the scene with the nurse. I don’t want to ruin this scene for anyone planning to go so I’ll only say that you shouldn’t pay to much attention to the nurse or her large friend. This scene was an excellent fusion of timing, lighting, and structure. In the end it resulted in the biggest surprise of the night.

A few of the actors fooled me into believing they were props which is something I’m quite adept at recognizing, none did it better than a ghoulie chained to a chair in the room that was strangely cold.

This attraction absolutely nailed the fundamentals of a haunted house and I can’t think of enough good things to say about it. If you live downriver and plan to visit just one haunted attraction this season then make it Hell’s Hospital. The only true criticism we had of the place was the lack of a climactic finale. It was so good I’m thinking of dragging Missy there before the season ends.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

A successful night of haunting and still there are four downriver haunts to hit before the season ends. Those include Anxiety Alley, Leo’s House of Horror, Papp Park Panic Attack, and The Realm of Haunted Minds. Pudge claims to have visited a haunted house on Telegraph in Taylor near I-94 which is where the Extreme Scream usually resides but that isn’t operating this year so I am left to wonder where the hell she went. Of course she failed to get the name of the attraction so I’ll have to do some detective work.

It’s worth mentioning that I started work at Halloween USA today. I spent the day half-heartedly greeting people while perusing the products in my section. Needless to say I found a bundle of props I’d love to adorn throughout the apartment…Missy I suspect feels otherwise. Ah well, you can at least view some of the props in the picture section.

I also made it to a haunted hayride on Saturday. Missy and I ventured to Belleville where we visited The Pumpkin Factory. It’s a quaint farm that features several free minor attractions which are worth a look as well as a neat country store that has some delicious doughnuts.

The hayride itself was alright, it wasn’t bad but it certainly wasn’t spectacular. I felt that the actors timing was generally sub par. It was lengthy and for that it deserves positive marks but the lack of any real shocks or impressive scenes left much to be desired. It was a fun experience though and I’d really like to give a few more haunted hayrides a whirl before I judge this one too harshly. At the least it’s a nice place for families with young children.

Rating: 3 stars

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