Archive for the Slaughter House Adventure Category

Triple Threat a Real Treat at Slaughter House

Posted in 2013, Review, Slaughter House Adventure with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2013 by bluefall8

If you own a parcel of land in Michigan’s countryside, you already have one of the key elements of a successful haunted attraction — mix in an old barn, cornstalks, and a patch of woods and you have all the right ingredients for a haunting good time. Such is the case is Fowlerville where Slaugher House, Haunted Maze, and Blood Bath & Beyond Hayride comprise “Michigan’s Best Trifecta of Terror!”

The Wolverine State is dotted with a veritable smattering of haunted attractions and this is one location that deserves attention. There are scares to be had here for certain but also plenty of laughter as well as a measure of magic. The pricing is flexible too, allowing guests to participate in one, two, or three attractions — the $30 super combo which allows haunters to experience the haunted hat trick is one of the better bargains we’ve come across.

SLIGHT OF HAND, TWIST OF FATE

Little has changed since last year inside the formidable barn known as Slaughter House, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider the fact that the show we were treated to in 2012 was a mile a minute thrill ride. Many of the characters we encountered last year were on hand as well but were portrayed, in many instances, by different actors. The results in this case were varied; some performed admirably, even out doing their predecessors while others left us yearning for the latter. I personally missed the little old lady in the final room the most, she was a breath of fresh air last year.

Billy Wonka and his special son, Billy Jr., were on hand once more and the duo didn’t disappoint with their hilariously tasteless antics. Also of note was the diminutive trickster who played on our sympathies before being cast to the depths of Hell! This technique in particular is something I greatly enjoyed about Slaughter House that I’ve never seen at any other attraction; truly a brilliant storytelling device.

There was also a bit of old school fundamentals at work inside one room where a series of dummies formed a semi-circle. Intermittent blasts of light from a strobe revealed that all was still. Another flash of light illuminated the room and we were offered a similar sight save for one dummy which remained stock still but had changed position, now with an extended index finger that presumably pointed us in the correct direction. It may not sound like much but in my mind it was an example of classic haunting that utilized anticipation and misdirection.

Unfortunately, there was a malfunction with the mechanism incorporated in the guillotine illusion, and despite a valiant effort there wasn’t much the actor could do to save the scene. Familiarity did sap some of the magic out of the overall effect of the show for us but that obviously won’t be an issue for anybody who has yet to experience Slaughter House. I very much enjoyed the use of comedy employed here — the recurring theme of ordinary people persecuted for minor offenses and then subsequently executed through archaic means created a fun and absurd form of entertainment.

Rating: 3.25 stars

MONSTROUS MAIZE MOST IMPRESSIVE

One of the most striking elements of the haunted corn maze is the maize itself — it’s enormous! We’ve witnessed some monstrous stalks before but the corn here jutted out of the ground and leaped toward the moonlit sky at a height that exceeded thirteen feet; the vast size easily left us at a loss for a sense of direction.

The attraction was of generous length and the path even wound guests through various shacks, silos, and a storage bin that served as a dark maze. The finale featured an interactive carnival of sorts where a clownish host tried his hand at the Hammer Bell before he encouraged me to shoot some electronic sensors. It was all in good fun, and when a zombie burst out of a cellar beneath the firing range, he shot it in the head.

Rating: 3.5 stars

BLOOD BATH & BEYOND TO THE MOON

The Blood Bath & Beyond Hayride is yet another enjoyable attraction here, clocking in at just over thirty minutes it certainly offered haunters a great return on their dollar. Many of the scenes remained the same as last year but there was quite a shake up as well including a comical electrocution and an impressive bit with a scarecrow who was suddenly elevated off of his post and lifted above the corn.

In the woods we encountered an artist of sorts who had the odd hobby of framing the heads of dead relatives — mom and dad had already been framed handsomely and late brother Billy was just about to become the latest member of his macabre collection. One instance of slight of hand later, Billy’s head sat before us and urged his able bodied brother to snatch a good looking lady from the wagon.

Further down the path we drove by the scene of a car accident where the drunkard responsible for the wreck, shambled directionless through the woods while he incredulously insisted that he wasn’t the guilty party. This particular actor was quite the comedic sight both in appearance and delivery; he had made for a very believable drunk.

Later, we drove directly into a blood feud that featured the infamous Hatfield and McCoy families; the sides engaged in a verbal spat which then escalated when octogenarians from each family were brutalized by the other side. Our tractor hastily departed among a hail of threats and gunfire.

Shortly thereafter we came to rest near a cage in the woods, a woman was held captive inside. Outside the structure a mad scientist raved about an elixir of youth that he had created and he was prepared to demonstrate it on the young lady. The scientist attempted to parry favor with those on the wagon by asking who among us wouldn’t pay a steep price for just such a potion, he even went so far as to single out a guest but she didn’t seem eager to play along.

The scientist, however, was the persistent type and pressed further but no answer came and when the silence lingered on the precipice of awkwardness — I threw my voice and bellowed, “Yeah, she could stand to lose a few.” To my great pleasure (and relief) the whole of the wagon roared with laughter and the determined scientist was able to continue with his demonstration which resulted in the woman being transformed into a screaming child.

The finale of the hayride also featured some humor; yet another loose canon scientist had been engaged in experimentation. This fellow had nabbed himself a live alien specimen but his experiment devolved quickly which resulted in the rather abrupt and senseless death of the extraterrestrial being. The scene became even more improbable when the mother ship ascended above his lab with an agenda of revenge!

Rating: 4.25 stars

“Don’t goose a ghost, you’ll end up with a hand full of sheet!”

-Sage wisdom from the woodland drunk.

Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride Wows with Creativity

Posted in 2012, Review, Slaughter House Adventure with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by bluefall8

We arrived at Slaughter House Adventure later than I would have liked and because of this we would ultimately miss the opportunity to check out the Haunted Maze nor would a return trip through the now legendary barn manifest — none of this however was going to stop me from enjoying the Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride! When we arrived at the loading area we found a few other haunters milling about — kindred spirits as it turned out. As is our custom, we swapped stories from the road and the most interesting they had to tell concerned a little known haunt in St. Charles, Michigan called Village of the Living Dead. I read a little about it last year and thought it sounded intriguing but after hearing it described by these haunters as “terrifying” I find myself penciling it in for the 2013 haunt season. After a bit of back and forth, our wagon arrived and we were in for a full half hour amidst the cornfield and through the woods.

The Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride takes its cues from the Slaughter House Barn very well — fusing elements of comedy and illusion with basic haunt fundamentals. The result is a spooky fun ride through the Fowlerville wilderness highlighted by unique visual effects and quirky characters.

In the early stages of our journey the wagon was assaulted by clowns and then briefly accompanied by the Headless Horseman; we even saw a movie come to life — in a manner of speaking. While riding through the woods we witnessed a melee of odd folk, such as the fisherman who taunted us when our tractor had trouble pulling through his fishing hole and a man named Ed who had a liking for, what else, the dead. Elsewhere — a nutter swung between trees armed with a chainsaw, a super-sized vulture eyed us hungrily, and one poor fellow was found doubled over a barrel puking his guts out whilst he lamented his choice of Taco Bell for dinner!

And the madness didn’t stop there. Near the woods’ edge we encountered an alien crash site where some bloke prattled on about being the victim of a probing, we witnessed the escape of Harry Potter’s evil twin, and stood aside as an Army gunner mowed down some shambling zombies.

My favorite startle scares however occurred while we were still in the woods — the first took place just after we’d fled Ed and his dead. The headlights of a car could be seen to our right off in the woods and the car began a mad dash toward our wagon! I won’t give away the entire scene as not to spoil it but suffice it to say that the entire sequence was pulled off surprisingly well — it’s amazing what a little attention to details like perspective and timing can do. The second gag involved a couple of ghouls who had taken to chopping down a tree and they didn’t exactly have our safety in mind. It was a neat trick that I’ve yet to witness on any other haunted hayride.

The conclusion of the hayride did not disappoint either as it featured a wonderful set piece, an anarchist pyromaniac, and a surprise return! It made for a fitting end to a very fun and interesting haunted hayride. There was certainly a lot of production value put into the Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride and quite frankly there are things here that the average haunter just isn’t likely to see at most other hayrides. When you consider the amount of attractions at Slaughter House Adventure and the detail and planning put into each, it’s easy to see that this location offers haunters a great bang for the buck.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Elements Conspire but Erwin, Slaughter House Persevere

Posted in 2012, A Nightmare on Elm Road, Erwin Orchards, Review, Slaughter House Adventure with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by bluefall8

It isn’t often that our haunting party has so few but on Friday night it was only myself and John, the faithful Disco Devil, that were able to participate in what turned out to be a very fun night of haunting. Large portions of the state had experienced rain throughout the day and indeed as we departed the roadways along our path were mostly rain soaked, but it takes more than a little rain to damper our haunting hearts. With John executing his deft skills behind the wheel we arrived in South Lyon at Erwin Orchards just before the eight o’clock hour.

BARN OF HORRORS, CORN STALKERS MAZE FUN FOR ALL AGES

It isn’t easy to strike the right balance of fun and fright but the operators at Erwin Orchards have done just that, successfully creating haunted attractions that can be enjoyed by people of various ages and haunting experience. When we paid the price of admission we weren’t given tickets but rather some quaint, wooden tokens — one for the maze, barn, and one redeemable for free cider and donut. Complimentary treats, I think, are a nice way for haunt owners to show their appreciation to their customers (both the donut and cider were quite tasty by the way).

It certainly wasn’t a busy night at Erwin Orchards but that didn’t stop us from getting acquainted with some fellow haunters, joining us on our wagon was a 20-something couple with roots in Pennsylvania and a mother with three excited boys, aged 10-11. The couple from Pennsylvania confessed that they too were avid haunters and spoke highly of a recent trip to the Niles Haunted House Scream Park in Niles, Michigan. They also talked about their experiences working at a haunted house in Pennsylvania called Hundred Acres Manor. The couple adamantly professed the attraction to be genuinely haunted, regaling us with stories about volunteer groups who routinely report a party of four boys that mysteriously becomes three. As they tell it, the sightings occur routinely and always at the same location in the haunt. It’s an attraction that I’ve heard of before but don’t know much about. I’ll certainly read up on it after the stories I was told.

Once our wagon reached the destination, John and I entered the line for the Barn of Horrors and were as it turned out the first patrons of the night. A bat-like humanoid harassed waiting guests, a giant sized glowing clown stood ominously at the entrance. A friendly witch approached us, beckoned us into the Barn of Horrors and to my surprise failed to collect our wooden tokens (more on this later). The Barn of Horrors turned out to be a very fun haunted attraction, the fear factor wasn’t very high but that’s not to suggest that the workers were at fault, in fact several of them delivered quality startles. The haunt featured a good pace and well placed actors — there were no long lulls in the action or awkward empty spaces. In terms of design, layout, and props the Barn of Horrors reminded me of the Tent of Terror at the Boneyard in Stockbridge which in my mind is a good thing. Neither of these haunts are particularly terrifying  — they aren’t exactly old school but nor do they rely heavily on animatronics, what they offer is more of a mix of styles and as we’ve witnessed the results are generally positive.

The scenes were a bit of a mishmash but there seemed to be enough of a thread to pull the whole thing together. The earliest rooms resembled a haunted estate before giving way to a swamp atmosphere which turned finally into an industrial wasteland that put me in mind of Grosse Ile’s former haunt, The Lab. A few of our favorite features included a hallway with an infinity floor where neon colored portraits of classic Hollywood monsters adorned the walls. There was also a warped Grandfather Clock with a human face where the time plate should’ve been and an arm where the pendulum belonged. We were also mesmerized by a blue vortex effect that had us believing we could walk through walls.

I was particularly taken with the swampland area — foliage covered the walls while a combination of fog and lasers created a disorienting effect that caused me to question whether or not the floor was literally shifting beneath us. I’m not sure if that’s a regular side effect of the illusion or if my equilibrium is simply loopy, but it was pretty cool all the same. We also traversed a rope bridge while a massive alligator patrolled a nearby bank, were assailed by zombies from below and snakes from above, and assaulted with knives, chainsaws, and one incredibly foul odor! The adventure ended with a trek through the familiar vortex tunnel.

Once we had exited the witch who had first directed us into the Barn of Horrors approached us once more and said that she didn’t believe her monsters were quite ready when we entered and thus offered us a second trip through the attraction. As I’m sure many of you have guessed, we graciously accepted her offer but not before we checked out the Corn Stalkers Maze!

Admittedly, the haunted maze is not our preferred choice of haunted attraction but the setting was right amidst the corn and as it turned out the attraction wasn’t without merit. Appropriately timed at roughly twelve minutes, Corn Stalkers Maze featured a fair amount of ghouls, the most notable being a mischievous deadite who asked us not to eat the dead body he was saving for dinner. We soon found his meal, it was being devoured with relish by a canine-like man who issued a warning in the form of a low growl as we passed. There was also a hefty, chainsaw wielding Letherface who made for an imposing sight near the end of the maze.

Rating: 3 stars

After that we headed back to the Barn of Horrors where we sought refuge from the elements under the umbrella of fellow haunters. The man reminded both John and I of a certain family we know, the resemblance and mannerisms were uncanny. For what it was worth we exchanged a few tasteless jokes and some laughs and would later encounter the inebriated pair once more inside the attraction. To the Barn of Horrors credit the second pass was no less enjoyable than the first, the cast no less rollicking. I had a bit of fun with the first actor who shakes patrons hands and asks them for their name. He had naturally forgot my name and when I pressed him for an answer he insisted that my name was Jeremiah — I admired his cool under pressure. In the swamp area we caught up with the aforementioned couple who were shrieking with delight and clinging to each other as if their lives depended on it. For seasoned haunters like John and I it was a highly amusing experience. We halted in a chainsaw room in order to give the couple a minute to separate from us and the actor there did not disappoint and simply stand idly. No, this boy went full gear sawing into a corpse then ditched the chainsaw and with wild abandon tore into the prop with his teeth — full marks for that, my friend. The worker resembled the actor that played Van on Reba and because of this I sort of felt like I already knew him and playfully suggested that he squib the prop. He laughed quizzically and then said, “What?” I left it at that.

In the next room was our absolute favorite moment from the Barn of Horrors. A massive, bearded dwarfish creature was trapped in some kind of contraption — it looked as if something were yanking his head right off his body! And then it happened, his head was torn asunder…and yet…the hulking body shambled forward! This was all pulled off to great effect during the first walkthrough, the second go around was just as fun and ended with a bro hug between John and I and our new headless friend. As I mentioned earlier we were chased out of the attraction by a smell most unpleasing and that smell was indeed the cheesy scent only vomit can produce. No worries, it was all part of the show — a barfing animatronic spilled spew into a barrel near the end of the attraction, the smell of course was added for realism. It worked, a little too well — John and I were covering our faces and gagging quite literally.

The Barn of Horrors was a very enjoyable haunted attraction featuring a lively cast, above average visuals, and a couple of neat surprises. A bit more length wouldn’t hurt nor would a little more emphasize on narrative or interaction.

Rating: 3.5 stars

“…and one more thing, don’t eat the corn.” 

“People eat the raw corn?”

“We’ve had problems.”

-Ghoulish Girl and myself while she explained the rules of the Corn Stalkers Maze

Once we’d consumed our cider and donuts we hit the road to Fowlerville but, as is the custom here in Michigan, we were rerouted due to construction. We ended up on some darkened, strange road and witnessed a large, ominous structure that rose up out of a valley and towered over the road. We always seem to find a least one odd structure on our haunt excursions and we dubbed this one the Buno Road Bizarro Estate. Forty minutes later Erwin Orchards and the weird building were firmly in the rearview mirror as we arrived at Grand River Corn Maze and Slaughter House Adventure!

SLAUGHTER HOUSE DAZZLES WITH CHARACTER AND ILLUSION

I mentioned in a post last week that I’m a sucker for barn haunts and as John and I approached the towering red structure before us I was immediately impressed. This barn had character and a ceiling that rose to a crest at least fifty feet above our heads. I soaked in the decorations and ambiance as a witch near the haunt’s entrance explained the rules of the house. A short while later the door was opened and we were beckoned into the dark depths of Slaughter House.

We emerged roughly fifteen minutes later having witnessed an excellent show highlighted by theatrical performances and dazzling illusions. It isn’t a stretch to say that Slaughter House now resides on our short list of favorite haunted attractions, it is precisely locations such as this that keep us on the road searching for that next great haunt fix.

Slaughter House relied heavily on interaction between haunters and actors.  This strategy can sometimes backfire, if an actor’s timing is off or their improvisational skills lacking the interaction will come across as awkward and disjointed and the show will suffer as a result. However, this was not the case at Slaughter House – by and large the cast was well timed, enthusiastic, and in command.

The various rooms were well designed and adequately detailed, thematically each scene was relatively consistent with the one that proceeded it – save for a few exceptions but these did not detract much from the overall quality of the show.

Without giving too much away one of our favorite features was the most convincing elevator simulation I’ve experienced at a haunted attraction. We also enjoyed the increasingly ubiquitous spinning vortex tunnel and a shockingly tight Womb of Doom. There was also a very cool hallway designed with diagonal walls. There should be no doubt however about the engine of Slaughter House – character and illusion.

There was Billy Wonka, an eccentric inventor, who delighted in his creations most namely the spirit remover or spover as he called it. And how could I forget Junior, the rather special son of Billy who found himself in need of some extra restraint, shall we say. We were also treated to an exorcism, a beheading, and a hanging – all of which left us both impressed and amused. Slaughter House also does something else I’ve never witnessed at another haunted attraction – don’t be surprised if you make some friends along the way and try not to take it too hard when those friends are sent straight to the depths of Hell!

The grand finale to all of this wonderful magic involved a séance of sorts led by an elderly actress who was great in her role. It was oddly refreshing to see someone of her age working a haunted attraction. We particularly enjoyed the ending because it was so unique and full of energy.

Slaughter House was quite simply a blast. Of course not all of the illusions were as impressive as the ones I’ve hinted at above but that’s largely due to the fact that the ones I’ve covered set the bar so high. My favorite scenes and accompanying illusions involved actors persecuting what seemed to be innocent victims. These scenes were visually stunning and the cause of much laughter. My only complaint is that Slaughter House wasn’t longer but heck I say that about most of my favorite attractions. It isn’t often that we find a Haunt of the Year contender this early in the season but surely Slaughter House is in the running. We cannot wait to get back and check out both the Haunted Maze and Blood Bath and Beyond Hayride.

Rating: 4.5 stars

YOUNG UPSTART HAS POTENTIAL, NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Our night of haunting came to a conclusion in Webberville where we checked out two haunts at one location. A Nightmare on Elm Road is the primary attraction, The Sequel is billed as the sidekick but in reality the two are essentially the same haunt. Guests pay $10 to experience the first and an additional $5 for the latter. I don’t bear a grudge to anybody trying to make an honest buck but in all fairness I feel the entire location would have been more appropriately priced at $10, but enough talk of money — there’s a haunt to be reviewed!

A Nightmare on Elm Road seems to be situated at the rear of a homeowner’s property — a shantytown of sorts is propped up near a cluster of trees. There was scarcely a wait as John and I quickly found ourselves shut into a small room. A rather forgettable video played before our eyes, a man dressed half-heartedly like Freddy Kreuger spoke of the horrors to come. The video presentation ended and we entered through a second door and into darkness. I enjoyed the early stages of this haunt quite a bit — the design may have been a bit crude but the twisting passages and oddly angled, low lying doorways harkened back to haunting of old.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the presence of a sound system through a good deal of the semi-outdoor haunt but this was tempered by a dearth of actors. I’ve said before that there’s great strategy in allowing haunters to wander through dark passages for a time unbothered — there is nothing greater at building anticipation than the imagination and in the dark the mind runs wild. However, eventually that anticipation requires a pay off and if it never materializes then much has been wasted. However, we did stumble upon one memorable scene when we strolled into some slovenly living quarters. A body lie covered by a sheet on a couch, blood seeping through the material — a prominent blade jutted out of the area near the genitals. I was digging this scene when suddenly an armed redneck entered the room and stuck a shotgun in our faces! He demanded to know what we were doing in his home — his drawl whether authentic or imitation was convincing and a little unnerving. I jokingly conceded that we were “thieving” which prompted him to cock his gun and retort, “I reckon you’d best get your ass on outta here, unless you wanna leave with a limp.” He pursued us for some time, muttering warnings but ultimately left us whole and intact for which we were grateful.

Technically the portion of the haunt titled, The Sequel began as a haunted trail — one guarded by a bulky demon seated atop a throne. We were granted passage and in this area we encountered a greater concentration of actors. Unfortunately they weren’t very skilled in the art of scaring, a couple of them were merely children. Eventually the path weaved through numerous outbuildings, one was a bit of a maze which concealed a simpering, tricksy harlequin — she was the second most enjoyable actor in the entire attraction. Shortly thereafter we came to the rather uninspiring psycho-with-a-chainsaw finish.

A Nightmare on Elm Road and The Sequel didn’t blow us away but we did have fun. The attraction certainly had an amateurish feel but the operators employed a few haunting fundamentals to their advantage and it was of decent length. Unfortunately there simply weren’t enough live bodies to cover the grounds — there were a couple of scenes that would’ve made for great ambush points but alas no trap had been laid. The semi-outdoor feel reminded me of the Woods of Darkness in South Rockwood and much like that attraction I hope the folks at A Nightmare on Elm Road continue to tweak and grow their show. It’s upstart attractions such as these that can really capture the essence of what haunting is all about.

Rating: 2 stars