Alternative Vibe Rocks The Deadland

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The very first haunted attraction of the season is forever a mix of excitement, nervousness and yes — a dash of surrealism. It’s a gamble too; after so much anticipation it’s a major disappointment if the first haunt fails to make an impression. Lucky for us this was not the case at The Deadland.

We arrived to find a relatively full parking lot and the longest line we’ve witnessed at this location over the years — the crowd was abuzz as the first glimmers of the Halloween season began to light anew. John and I would enjoy two trips through The Deadland on this night but not before the wise-cracking Mr. Imp read us the rules of the house.

All throughout The Deadland we encountered painstakingly detailed scenes, right down to the wallpaper that was peeled or otherwise fouled in some fashion. Much of the attraction had the appearance of a ramshackle hillbilly haven that hailed from some far-flung recess of the swamp but the plentiful inhabitants, by and large, were seriously lacking in hospitality.

Alongside the stellar scenery was a series of highly realistic props that complimented the actors nicely and defied patrons not to look over their shoulders out of fear that one of them just might pounce. The Deadland also made great use of lighting and fog, in particular this combination was utilized on several occasions to conceal an actor who would, at just the precise moment, deliver a startling jump scare. This trend was established during the early stages of our trek when a large, snarling man-beast suddenly appeared from out of the mist and popped our comfort bubble.

In fact, the idea of personal space is something you should leave at home for the night because the cast of characters at The Deadland like to get up close and personal; perhaps none more than the aptly named Mr. Snuggles. Mr. Snuggles was a clown — at least I think that’s what he was. He looked like a clown but he made a few comments that led me to believe that perhaps the face was not his own. Yeah, we’re talking some freaky skin suit stuff here. Mr. Snuggles delighted in rubbing his nose on our chests and his voice possessed an odd pitch and menacing cadence.

Mr. Snuggles wasn’t alone either, there was also a rotund, hissing ghoul who displayed a curious aversion to light but even he was dwarfed by the mountainous, Tiny. Tiny lumbered out of the shadows and with his immense size effectively blocked the path ahead. As he shuffled forward I was backed into a wall; I gaped at the sheer size of man. I vocally speculated to his true height and with each guess Tiny silently indicated with his thumb that I needed to go higher.

The strangeness of the scene was further heightened by the fact that a snaggle-toothed zombie was trapped in a pantry, gnashing its rotten maw in our direction and also the fact that Tiny ironically bore the mask of some ugly baby. Thankfully, the massive monster didn’t request a diaper change and when he shifted his position John and I scooted out of the room. At 6’9″ and what I would estimate to be 450-500 lbs., Tiny was likely the most physically imposing force we’ve ever encountered inside a haunted attraction.

Elsewhere, we were assailed by an energetic nut who addressed us as “sweet lips,” traded verbal barbs with yet another plus-sized creature who first pleaded for our help but then attempted to talk us into a casket and finally there was the freakish doctor who sported an oddly limp arm which spurred a humorous back-and-forth.

One of our favorite scenes included the two-story galleria of dolls which had potential to spare. However, our absolute favorite was Mikey’s birthday party where we sung a boisterous rendition of Happy Birthday at the insistence of the dead boy’s busty mother. This room was a standout not just for the decor, which stood in contrast to the usual haunted house fare, but also for the unexpected moment of interaction.

The Deadland eschewed traditional haunted house music for a more offbeat soundtrack that included a banjo number — a sound that will raise the hair on the back of any man’s neck. I enjoyed the change in tempo and atmosphere that the soundtrack offered; it was different and contrasted well with the overall experience. The first half of the attraction featured more characters of substance than the latter half but all throughout The Deadland there were scareactors aplenty. The Deadland did seem to conclude somewhat abruptly but in the end this was a gritty, actor-driven attraction with immersive scenes and offered a great value.

Rating: 3.75 stars

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