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Horrorlust Haunt Awards: A History

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2014 by bluefall8

The haunt awards, like Horrorlust itself, are the result of an evolution. The 2013 crop will be the sixth annual edition for most of the awards — Rotten Pumpkin, Eerie Vibrations, Dark Horse, Killer Automatons, Pulse Pounder, and Monster all debuted following the 2008 haunt season. The Prop Master and Samhain Awards were both added at the conclusion of the 2011 season, thus making this the third consecutive year for those respective distinctions.

The oldest award that we recognize is of course, Haunt of the Year. This award predates Horrorlust, indeed Haunt of the Year goes back even further than Hallowblog, the predecessor to this blog. Not long before I began chronicling all of these wonderful haunted adventures my merry band of travelers and I would simply agree upon the best attraction of the Halloween season. And so you’ll notice that in the annals of Horrorlust, that the Haunt of the Year Award is officially recognized as having originated in 2005.

As an interesting aside, it’s worth noting that these awards were initially called the Haunt Trinity Haunt Awards. If you delve into the depths of past Horrorlust posts you’re sure to come across such a phrase. The Haunt Trinity was a nickname I fashioned once a upon a time for a frequent trio of haunters. The group was comprised of myself, Jason (my older brother), and our good friend John who is sometimes referred to in these posts as the Disco Devil or simply, Disco.

I used to get a kick out of the name; I even spun spur of the moment rhymes about it and haunted attractions but mostly I think it merely served to annoy everybody else. After a time, it was rarely just the three of us participating in the beloved haunt excursions; a half a dozen or more friends and acquaintances regularly rotated in and out on any given night. My brother began to joke that the nickname Haunt Trinity was a misnomer.

A couple of years ago he found work in a new field and his schedule changed drastically; allowing him to partake in the haunted festivities only a time or two per season. This roughly coincided with the advent of Horrorlust and so it has been since 2011 that the annual awards have shared the namesake of this blog.

Readers, if you need a refresher on any of the awards please refer to the other posts under the “Awards” category, where full descriptions are posted. As a historical footnote, it’s worth mentioning that we began to recognize an honorable mention for each award in 2009 although those are not listed in this post. Interested parties are referred to the aforementioned entries found under the “Awards” category.

Fun Fact: No haunted attraction has ever been named Haunt of the Year on more than one occasion. In fact, there exists just two haunted houses that claimed the same award in multiple years. House of the Dead (Terror Town) won the Killer Automatons Award four consecutive years from 2009-2012. Deadly Intentions secured the Monster Award in back-to-back years during the 2008 and 2009 haunt seasons.

 

Rotten Pumpkin

2008: Templin’s Night Terror (Wyandotte Jaycees)

2009: Jackson’s Underworld

2010: Leo’s House of Horror

2011: Anxiety Alley

2012: Scream Machine

 

Eerie Vibrations

2008: Homer Mill

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: The Haunted Farm

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Bloodview

 

Dark Horse

2008: Realm of Haunted Minds

2009: Extreme Scream

2010: Woods of Darkness

2011: Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom

2012: Dimensions of Darkness

 

Killer Automatons

2008: Erebus

2009: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2010: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2011: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2012: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

 

Pulse Pounder

2008: County Morgue (Chainsaw Creek)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure)

 

Monster

2008: Deadly Intentions

2009: Deadly Intentions

2010: Realm of Darkness

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

 

Prop Master

2011: Tent of Terror (The Boneyard)

2012: Barn of Horrors (Erwin Orchards)

 

Samhain

2011: October 14, 2011 (Krazy Hilda’s, Chelsea Feargrounds, The Boneyard)

2012: October 12, 2012 (Erwin Orchards, Slaughter House Adventure, A Nightmare on Elm Road)

 

Haunt of the Year

2005: Nautical Nightmare

2006: Erebus

2007: Realm of Darkness

2008: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

2009: Bowbee’s Nightmare (Haunted Hollows)

2010: Demonic Demons

2011: Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

2012: Sinister

2013 Horrorlust Haunt Award Nominations

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2014 by bluefall8

As the Transworld Halloween & Attractions Show rolls on in St. Louis; the time as come to recognize the best haunted offerings of the 2013 season. We here at Horrorlust present nine dreadful categories , the original seven include: Monster, Killer Automatons, Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Dark Horse, Rotten Pumpkin and finally, Haunt of the Year. In 2011 we added the Prop Master and Samhain Awards.

Below are descriptions for each category accompanied by this years’ nominees. All cities listed in parenthesis are located in the State of Michigan unless otherwise noted.

Rotten Pumpkin – The Rotten Pumpkin award is given to the haunt considered to be the most disappointing of the season. Disappointment may be the result of an over hyped marketing campaign or the failure of the haunt to live up to expectations set forth in previous seasons. Whatever the case may be let there be no doubt that the haunt receiving this unwanted distinction truly dropped the ball, failing to provide a worthwhile show.

2013 Rotten Pumpkin Nominees: 

3-Story Haunted Barn (Blake’s – Armada)

Realm of Darkness (Pontiac)

Scream Machine (Taylor)

Eerie Vibrations – The Eerie Vibrations award is given to the haunt considered to exude the best overall atmosphere. Atmosphere is defined by the mood of the haunt itself but can also be fostered by immediate grounds or even the surrounding area.

2013 Eerie Vibrations Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Terrorfied Forest (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

Dark Horse – The Dark Horse award is given to the haunt considered to have the most potential for growth. Criteria for this award include the ability to deliver an entertaining show at a relatively small venue and at a reduced rate. Think of the Dark Horse award as our way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2013 Dark Horse Nominees:

Bloodbath on Biddle (Wyandotte)

Hillside Mortuary (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Realm of Haunted Minds (Romulus)

Killer Automatons – The Killer Automatons award is given to the haunt that best integrates animatronics into its attraction. When determining this award several factors are considered including timing, prop placement, realism, and sheer wow effect.

2013 Killer Automatons Nominees:

Erebus (Pontiac)

Jackson’s Underworld (Jackson)

Realm of Darkness (Pontiac)

Monster – The Monster award is given to the haunt considered to have the best live actors of the season. In order to claim this award workers must display a certain level of intensity as well as a refusal to break character. Also crucial is the ability to improvise lines or actions when adapting to an individual guest or group.

2013 Monster Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Hush (Westland)

Sinister (Utica)

Prop Master – The Prop Master award is given to the haunt considered to have best implemented props into the attraction. A prop may be considered a piece of furniture, a weapon, or a dummy. The haunt that claims this award will have paid special attention to placement, function, and realism.

2013 Prop Master Nominees:

Bloodbath on Biddle (Wyandotte)

Slaughter House (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville)

Hillside Mortuary (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney)

Pulse Pounder – The Pulse Pounder award is given to the haunt considered to be the most intense attraction of the season. Intensity can be gauged by a number of factors including commitment of actors, gory or realistic scenes, and harsh or loud music and sound effects. However, the most important element when considering this award is genuine fear factor.

2013 Pulse Pounder Nominees:

Exit 13 (Mt. Morris)

Purgatory’s Revenge (New Haven)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

Samhain – This award recognizes the most enjoyable night of haunting in a given season. A plethora of factors are considered when deciding this award but at the end of the season it comes down to the night of haunting that provided us with the most scares, laughs, and memories.

2013 Samhain Nominees:

October 25, 2013 (Blake’s, Purgatory’s Revenge, Slaughtered at Sundown)

October 30, 2013 (Bloodbath on Biddle, Hush, Scream Machine)

November 1, 2013 (Exit 13 & Village of the Living Dead)

Haunt of the Year – The Haunt of Year award is given to the haunt considered to be the best overall attraction of the season. When deciding on this award several factors are taken into consideration including the timing and intensity of actors, the pace and length of the haunt, attention to detail, use of special effects, realism of props, and most importantly the lasting imprint left on guests.

2013 Haunt of the Year Nominees:

Erebus (Pontiac)

Hush (Westland)

Village of the Living Dead (St. Charles)

For awards from 2010-2012 consult the “Awards” category listed in the sidebar to the right. A comprehensive list of past winners will be posted mid-week with the 2013 winners being released one week from today.

2013 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2014 by bluefall8

In anticipation of the 2013 Horrorlust Haunt Awards Nominations, I present to any interested parties, a complete list of last season’s ratings. It should be noted that ratings, in and of themselves, do not determine awards.  This list is used primarily as a means of reference for my own archival purposes. I hope you find it enjoyable, nevertheless.

2013 STAR RATINGS

1. Hush – 4.75 (Westland, MI.)

2. Erebus – 4.5 (Pontiac, MI.)

3. Nighttime Spooky Hayride – 4.5 (Blake’s – Armada, MI.)

4. Bloodbath & Beyond Hayride – 4.25 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

5. Exit 13 – 4.25 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

6. Village of the Living Dead – 4.25 (St. Charles, MI.)

7. Purgatory’s Revenge – 4 (New Haven, MI.)

8. Realm of Haunted Minds – 3.75 (Romulus, MI.)

9. Sinister – 3.75 (Utica, MI.)

10. Haunted Corn Maze – 3.5 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

11. Slaughtered at Sundown – 3.5 (Aramada, MI.)

12. Bloodbath on Biddle – 3.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

13. CarnEvil 3D – 3.25 (Pontiac, MI.)

14. Terrorfied Forest – 3.25 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney, MI.)

15. Slaughter House – 3.25 (Slaughter House Adventure – Fowlerville, MI.)

16. Catacombs & The Rusthole – 3 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

17. Dark Abyss – 3 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

18. Funeral Home – 3 (Inkster, MI.)

19. Hillside Mortuary – 2.75 (Terrorfied Forest & Manor – Pinckney, MI.)

20. Jackson’s Underworld – 2.75 (Jackson, MI.)

21. Realm of Darkness – 2.75 (Pontiac, MI.)

22. 3 Story Haunted Barn – 2.25 (Blake’s – Armada, MI.)

23. Scream Machine – 0.5 (Taylor, MI.)

Outlast, Bad Moon Rising

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by bluefall8

While seeking out videos promoting the return of The Walking Dead last weekend, I stumbled across one trailer that featured a haunting rendition of Bad Moon Rising. Written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bad Moon Rising was originally released in April 1969 as a single off of the Green River album.

Bad Moon Rising has been recorded by no less than twenty artists in the forty-five years since it was first released, but it’s the original that has stood the test of time. Widely considered the best, and certainly most popular version of the song, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising is among my all-time favorite songs. In fact, long before I christened this blog Horrorlust, I wrote on the topic of horror and haunted houses under a different name, Hallowblog. It’s worth noting that before I settled on Hallowblog I very strongly considered titling the blog, Bad Moon Rising, as an homage to the song.

So it was with more than a small thrill, that when I happened across a particular trailer for the aforementioned The Walking Dead, I was treated to a foreboding arrangement of the old favorite. Performed by a group called Mourning Ritual, this latest cover is punctuated by the raspy voice of the lead singer and a slower tempo than the original. The overall effect creates a much darker, ominous tune reminiscent at times of Lauren O’Connell’s cover of The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun. Appropriately, that cover was also used in the promos for another popular television horror series this season — American Horror Story: Coven.

If you haven’t heard either cover I would strongly recommend giving each a listen. I wouldn’t suggest that either topped the original — that would be blasphemous — but each has put a fresh spin on a powerful classic and are capable of standing on their own. As for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the originals, smack yourself.

outlast-terror

RUN OR HIDE

My love of all things horror extends also to the video game medium and, oh boy, has a new entry come to the world of survival horror! My brother called me last week to tell me about a game he had downloaded on PS4 called Outlast. Released to PC last September, the independent title developed by Red Barrels was made available on the PS4 earlier this month.

The plot of the game is centered on Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist. An anonymous tip has brought him to the formidable Mount Massive Asylum, a psychiatric hospital where Miles will soon discover that things have gone horrifyingly wrong.

Exhibited on a 64-inch screen, complete with surround sound system the startling effect of the game was rendered in full force. The player progresses through the darkened halls from a first person perspective armed with nothing more than a video camera equipped with night vision. Use of the video camera is not optional — this mode ratcheted up the tension and created a claustrophobic sensation close to panic.

Miles’ task is to covertly search the building for evidence of what has taken place here and throughout the early stages of his journey we were treated to some brilliantly timed jump scares that yielded shouts of terror and colorful expletives. Ah yes, I should mention that Miles is almost entirely incapable of defending himself if assailed. As the player you have but two options: run or hide. It brought us back to 1998 when we first experienced Resident Evil 2 — the first title that made us question playing a video game alone in the dark.

I won’t be surprised if Outlast is soon on the short list of most frightening video game titles ever released, nor should the expert sound design be lost on players or industry insiders. The game is scary and presents an interesting twist on the survival horror genre. I’m definitely looking forward to delving deeper inside Mount Massive Asylum.

Several trailers of the game can be found at the developers website: Red Barrel Games 

HauntWorld #35

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2014 by bluefall8
Consummate the marriage? I'll pass!

Consummate the marriage? I’ll pass!

I found the latest issue of HauntWorld Magazine inside my mail box last week and after reading it, I thought it high time to interact with all of you wonderful creeps once more. If you want a little nostalgic eye candy, check out the Fright Props ad on page 5. The artwork and humor are reminiscent of that found in EC Comics; it’s spooky fun and very colorful.

Issue #35 featured articles on five haunted attractions — Hex House, Atrox Factory, Legends: A Haunting at Old Town, The Darkness, and Wiard’s Orchards’ Night Terrors. I found the articles on Legends: A Haunting at Old Town and Wiard’s Orchards’ Night Terrors of particular interest.

HAUNTED SANDBOX

Legends is based in Kissimmee, Florida and is open to guests not only during the Halloween season, but indeed the entire calendar year. Every Tuesday through Sunday the ghouls prowl the halls of Ashdown and Son’s Undertakers and any warm body willing to pay the price of admission can get themselves a scare.

Surely, such a breakneck schedule would lead to repetition and familiarity for visitors or burn out for actors. However, this isn’t the case because Legends employs an innovative approach to scareactor management, says co-owner Jim Shackelford, “We designed our show to be a playground. The haunt actors can, and do, go anywhere.”

That kind of flexibility is a crucial element to the success of haunted attractions. I’ve witnessed first hand how this strategy can positively impact the overall quality of a show. Actors should be granted the freedom to roam and to adapt their performance for different guests. Do you want your cast to unleash its full potential? Then provide the ultimate canvas onto which their nightmarish vision can best be painted.

The best firsthand example I have witnessed was the team at Sinister in Utica. During a visit there last fall I had the opportunity to talk to the owner/operator at length and he explained that this was something on which he placed a strong emphasis.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

There simply aren’t many major haunted attractions that we haven’t visited in Michigan, but Wiard’s Orchards’ Night Terrors is one such location. Despite six attractions and an eye-catching ad in the Fear Finder, a combination of a mixed reviews and a hefty admission have kept me from penciling in Wiard’s for a visit. However, after reading the current HauntWorld feature, it may be time to reconsider.

Wiard’s first opened their marquee attraction, the Ultimate Haunted Barn in 1984, which according to HauntWorld is the oldest known barn haunt in the United States! 2014 will mark the establishment’s 30th anniversary, a fact that singularly suggests that the operators must be doing something right.  My interest is officially peaked and I’ll certainly do some research in preparation for a possible trip this fall.

Screwball Cast Ignites Exit 13

Posted in 2013, Exit 13, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by bluefall8

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The final haunt of the season always brings with it a mixture of excitement, sadness, and a tinge of disbelief. For the better part of two months my companions and I eat, sleep, and breathe haunted attractions and when the season inevitably draws to a close there’s a lot of information to process. We believe in going out with a bang and we could think of no other place to be on the final night of the haunt season than Exit 13 in Mt. Morris.

Our first trip through Exit 13 came in 2012 and both John and I were very impressed with what we witnessed. Ownership of the attraction changed hands last winter but the iconic name stuck and the new crew set out to top their predecessors. John and I arrived past the eleven o’clock hour on a chilly, dreary night eager to inject that final haunt fix directly into our veins.

Our journey began in front of a black door, a narrow slot had been inlaid at eye level. Suddenly the slot was thrust open, a bushy handlebar mustache was accompanied by a pair of bulging eyes. After a brief exchange the door was opened and I couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just been sucked into some bizarre Wizard of Oz scenario. Once inside the wizardly wanna-be got a bit physical before he allowed us to continue on our trip.

As we delved deeper into the darkness of Exit 13 we would discover the ghastly cast to be energized, abnormal, and without restraint. We were attacked by a mustachioed, little man in a dress, accused of terrible acts during a forced confessional, and roughed up by a gruesome gal who wildly spun yours truly about and then pinned me to a wall (and she didn’t even charge!).

In other areas of the attraction we enjoyed some scenery and a few jump scares. While we traversed a dense woodland area populated by frightening tribal figures, one creep emerged from the brush to deliver an effective moment of terror. Conversely, we were also treated to some humor when we were violently admonished for ogling the mountainous breasts of a convalescing grandma.

However, Exit 13 had saved the best for last as John and I would soon find out. We found ourselves in a strobe-lit hall, in the shadowy distance a sinister shape lumbered toward us. As the figure drew closer the ghoulish features of its face came into full view — darkened eyes leered at us hungrily above a mouth full of jagged teeth. The whole hideous facade was caged behind a metal box that had been mounted to the freak’s head.

Moments later we entered a neatly constructed room that featured cornstalks, a scarecrow, and a murder a swirling crows. And just as we departed that inventive scene we found ourselves first inside of a crypt and then an adjacent cemetery where we were pursued by some famished zombies. We fled that nightmare landscape only to soon find ourselves surrounded by a pack of disturbed clowns who first threatened and then tickled us with buzzing chainsaws.

We were very impressed with the job that the new staff was able to do. The operators overhauled much of the attraction from 2012, in addition many of the scenes or gags that were left intact from the previous season had been successfully tweaked. But make no mistake, the heart and soul of Exit 13 was the lovable cast of loonies who displayed such passion for their craft. The gang here was a versatile bunch equally skilled in both fun and fright.

Once we had emerged from the darkness of Exit 13 we had a lengthy conversation with the owner and a senior staff member who has served as a helping hand at Exit 13 since its introduction to the Flint horror scene. As we learned from the tandem, in 2014 Exit 13 will undergo a complete overhaul and that is an exciting prospect.

With shades of old school, in-your-face aggression, and instances of tasteless, odd ball humor — Exit 13 has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit during the haunt season.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Yuletide Fear

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2013 by bluefall8

A handful of  haunted attractions were open last weekend, thrilling patrons with a smattering of twisted Christmas scenes. Several others will join the fray this weekend to capitalize on Friday the 13th.

Scream Acres located in Covington, Kentucky — the boyhood home of my father-in-law as it were, will headline the pack with Black Christmas. Other events in the Bluegrass State will occur in Louisa where Fallsburg Haunted House will present Yuletide Terror and in Louisville the Haunted Hotel is set to delight crowds with Bloody Xmas on the 14th and 21st.

The Scare-A-torium in Columbus, Ohio will host Happy Horrordays December 13th and 14th  while the Factory of Terror in Canton, Ohio will hold a one night engagement this Friday.

A couple of haunts in Indiana are also getting into the holiday spirit with Christmas horrors of their own. Fright Manor in Indianapolis and Nightmare on Ash Street in Terra Haute will also spin yuletide yarns most macabre.

It’s a shame that my home state of Michigan has not joined this deliciously dark movement, I’d relish the opportunity to visit a haunted attraction with a yuletide touch. Do any of you have any haunts to add to this list? Will any of you be attending? If so, be sure to leave a comment chronicling your experience.