The Haunted Funeral Home Mostly Stiff

Work on The CikNis had prevented the chance for many early haunt season visits but on Saturday, September 27, I simply couldn’t wait any longer so Cikalo and I hit the road for a bit of local flavor at Inkster’s Haunted Funeral Home. This attraction isn’t anything mind-blowing but I did have a pair of fun visits there in 2011 and then again last year, unfortunately the latest foray was a decided dud but I’m still happy that we ventured out that night because there are lessons to be learned from shortcomings of The Haunted Funeral Home.

Our trip began has it usually does here when we relinquished our tickets to the doorman — a sharply dressed man fit for a funeral who bears a slight resemblance to my stepfather (that’s just an odd personal aside). Anyway, this character is great in appearance but the man behind the makeup, due to reasons that escape me, did not see fit to play the role. He merely accepted our tickets as he has in years past and ushered us into the haunted house. It is a monumental waste of an opportunity to interact with guests and prime them for the adventure that awaits.

The Haunted Funeral Home is a short attraction, a ten minute estimate would be generous, a more accurate count is closer to seven or eight and this year there just wasn’t much of substance in that time. We did enjoy a couple of actors — a stout clown offered a few moments of wise-cracking banter, elsewhere a lunatic witch rapped the cracked skull of an infant against a fireplace mantle. There were a few neat props too — a head that sprung from a pumpkin or pot, a crawling, glowing zombie and a super-sized dummy that loomed above us threateningly as we crept along a darkened hall.

There was too the signature scene of The Haunted Funeral Home, a ghoul who played a mournful tune on a genuine organ but it was all a blur of pedestrian scares and lackluster interaction otherwise. The very design of the place is entirely uninspired, consisting primarily of repetitious black hallways and scant scenes. The cast was mediocre at best with little individual personality and offered precious few scares that weren’t predictable. A handful of them were poorly hidden, half-heartedly crouching behind a wall or otherwise caught out of position.

The back-half of the haunt did feature a pair of actors who attempted to bring a little something more to their characters but each failed in their execution. The first was dressed in medical scrubs and brandished a bone saw, she professed a desire to cut a piece from Cikalo and of course we obliged. I love to give actors a chance to make guests an active part of the show but sometimes the actor can bite off more than they can chew. The whacked-out surgeon raised the tool to Cikalo’s ear, mimed sawing for a moment and then dropped an invisible chunk of flesh onto a table…and we departed.

The conclusion of the attraction was similar in that an actor painted himself into a corner. We found ourselves trapped in a dark room when suddenly the sound of a chainsaw ripped through the silence, the lights flickered and an imposing mass shuffled out of the shadows. The masked actor charged and immediately began shouting, “Get the fuck out of my house.” We paused a moment to allow the act to unfold but that crude, unimaginative sentence was apparently all this character could muster.

I understand that in general it’s more difficult to frighten adults inside of a haunted attraction; especially grown men. I have no doubt that some actors feel that they need to be more abrasive with such an audience but this is the wrong way to express that. Shouting obscenities isn’t just uncreative and unprofessional, the practice is ultimately stifling for an actor. Honestly, as an actor in a haunted attraction, where do you expect to go once those coarse commands have been shouted or how will you react when a customer does indeed offer up that appendage for the taking? The lesson here for actors is simply to avoid painting oneself into a corner.

An actor isn’t going to chop off the ear of a guest so it shouldn’t be threatened, instead it should be implied. The mere suggestion of such is a much more effective scare tactic and will provide more freedom with the act going forward. Likewise, actors should avoid direct commands that often lead to the same problem. I enjoy and applaud haunted house actors who tailor their performance for individuals and groups; some colorful language and raunchy mannerisms can be effective but it has to be done correctly. Use innuendo, provide customers an ultimatum — don’t merely bark obscenities.

On a positive note, there was an additional scene I failed to mention earlier that was worth a mention — near the end of the attraction we passed a bathtub that held the remains of an emaciated corpse and that’s precisely the kind of thing I’d like to see more of at The Haunted Funeral Home.

Rating: 1.25 stars

2 Responses to “The Haunted Funeral Home Mostly Stiff”

  1. Oof, that sounded like a rough one. I’m mainly commenting because I think sprinkling a few of our language’s more colorful words *properly* could enhance an act, but I say that as an actor in a haunt that only allows that when we have professionals come through and even then I need to be careful and use common sense with it. I wouldn’t use “fuck” even in those circumstances but I might use a couple other terms.

    As far as telling a customer what I’ll do to them, I do that all the time, in descriptive gory detail. But actors need to be ready if their “bluff” is called. Sometimes I’ll use a dodge. If I had lamely said “I’m going to chop your ear off!” And you said “Ok, go ahead” I would lash out verbally because you had the audacity to speak back to me.

    But that last actor. “Get the fuck out of my house!” Oof. That’s kid level dialogue to me. I have a list of things that shouldn’t be said in a haunt and that’s right up at the top. “Fresh meat” would be number one. And honestly, where can you go after “GET OUT” happens? If the customers stand their ground, what would his next line be? “GET OUT MORE!”

    • I agree. It pays to consider the logic of such statements in the context of a haunted house. The dodge strategy is a good one but in order to do that actors must be able to think on their feet and I’d wager that those who readily use the kind of phrases we’re talking about do so because they aren’t prepared or capable of altering their performance on the fly.

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