Fō-bē-ə Fractured Friday

The Wyandotte Jaycees has presented a curious array of haunted house experiences over the years — at times the group has nailed haunt fundamentals and shown just what can be achieved with passion and creativity, but on other occasions lackluster acting and technical deficiencies have left a lot to be desired. The annual haunted effort seems to alternate between peaks and valleys every couple of seasons and I was interested to see just where Fō-bē-ə would land.

I toured Fō-bē-ə on the same night that I visited Psycho Path in Flat Rock which was Friday, October 10 — opening night for both attractions. When my friends and I pulled into the parking lot it was to be greeted by one of my favorite Jaycees performers, a young lady who portrayed a sinister off-shoot of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s famous fantastical novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Fō-bē-ə featured familiar Wyandotte Jaycees fare such as a neon radioactive waste scene, a fog-filled swamp, the jocular Butcher Brothers and a lively execution scene where ominous religious messages had been scrawled upon the walls. New this year was a ghastly crematorium, an Egyptian corridor with glowing hieroglyphs and a series of spider-infested mirrored halls.

There was a doctor and patient scene in which malpractice was on display, much to our delight electroshock therapy was all the rage. The good doctor sent voltage pulsing through the uncooperative patient and then at our insistence zapped the patient with a second wave just for good measure. Phil even took a brief turn at the controls when the subject refused to expire.

My favorite areas included the freak show and dollmaker’s keep although both would’ve benefited considerably from additional actors and enhanced interaction.

Rounding out the experience was a captive girl, chained to a wall who possessed an ear-splitting scream, a comical, stiff-armed zombie who pursued us to the edge of Biddle Avenue and a madman with a modified chainsaw that featured one gigantic, wicked blade.

Fō-bē-ə wasn’t a high water mark for the Wyandotte Jaycees but nor was it a cellar dweller. I am impressed by what the group is able to accomplish in such a short amount of time; yes the buildings in which the Jaycees’ haunted attractions are held each year are provided by the City of Wyandotte, but the local outfit isn’t handed the keys to the kingdom until late August or even early September. It is a testament to the hard work of members and volunteers alike that the Wyandotte Jaycees has managed to produce a haunted attraction annually dating back to the 1970’s.

With that said I do believe that the seasonal spook house would benefit immensely if a few aspects of the overall production were paid a little more attention. The group would to well to focus on storytelling and continuity, for instance, the name Fō-bē-ə was a neat concept and a smart marketing tactic but in execution there was a lot left undone. Too often a Jaycees haunted attraction features a hodgepodge of scenes, an amalgam of disparate settings which have little or nothing to do with each other and without substantial character interaction to provide a counterweight, the effect can be jarring.

I also think it’s absolutely crucial that the Wyandotte Jaycees update their soundtrack. In my experience the group has looped audio of screams and shouts which has always sounded dated and corny or has in other instances not employed a soundtrack at all. An effective alternative would be the music of Nox Arcana, Midnight Syndicate or even theme songs from popular horror movies. This is a simple fix that will vastly improve the atmosphere of the production and cover the sounds of movement and idle chatter amongst the cast.

Rating: 2.75 stars

There will always be a special place in my heart for the Wyandotte Jaycees and I will continue to be a patron of their haunted house each October because I respect the history of the group and believe in the spirit of community leadership. Fō-bē-ə may have fallen in the middle of the pack but if history is any indicator, the brains behind the scenes of the Wyandotte Jaycees will recapture the essence of Halloween once more.

 

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