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2014 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2015 by bluefall8

2014 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

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.

2014 Rotten Pumpkin: The Haunted Funeral Home

The Haunted Funeral Home was the first attraction I visited last year, thankfully it was not an indication of things to come. Most of the cast delivered below average performances, several were even caught out of place. That was particularly unforgivable due to the fact that, at the time, we were the only group present. Little to nothing has changed here since an initial visit in 2011; this was uninspired and lazy haunting.

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.

2014 Eerie Vibrations: The Catacombs & The Rusthole (Darksyde Acres)

Honorable Mention: District 13 (The Fear Experience)

The former pig farm has presence and nowhere is it as oppressive as in The Catacombs & The Rusthole. What can I say? The story of a ghoulish spirit and mysterious third floor made an impact when I traversed the attraction all on my lonesome. This is the second time that The Catacombs & The Rusthole has captured the Eerie Vibrations Award; the first was in 2011.

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  Horrorlust’s way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2014 Dark Horse: Psycho Path

Honorable Mention: Corpse Barn Shock Haunt

For just $10 this hidden gem offered a serious bang-for-your-buck in 2014. The volunteer effort mixed a creative flair with haunted house fundamentals and struck the right balance of fun and fright. The facade was excellent and a surprise, introductory stage show served the narrative well. A brief stroll through the woods beforehand and a wagon ride after the fact further enhanced the atmosphere.

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.

2014 Killer Automatons: Dark Legacy

Honorable Mention: The Realm of Darkness

Dark Legacy had a little bit of everything and in 2014 put to use their electronic baddies better than any other haunt in town. There were caged monkeys, a slick electrocution and even a massive mutation contained inside of a large shipping crate. Several actor-matronics were used to maximum effect as well.

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.

2014 Monster: Hush

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

The core group of characters at Hush are polished, professional and capable of giving the best that we’ve witnessed a run for their money. Led by the inimitable Dr. Phineas Phun, the cast of Hush featured a handful of unforgettable freaks and weirdos — from an android receptionist to the supercharged loonies who went bonkers behind a pane of glass to a lullaby singing doctor and her reanimated specimen. The key players each understood their role which was crucial to the central theme of the attraction.

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.

2014 Prop Master: Centralia County Fair (The Fear Experience)

Honorable Mention: Dark Legacy

The scenery inside Centralia County Fair was detailed, thorough and impressive. The abandoned carnival theme was so immersive and striking that it overwhelmed my senses. Keep in mind that this was an attraction that featured relatively few live actors and it excelled in spite of that fact. The scenes and set dressing were so complete it was the one attraction to which I wished I could return for the sole purpose of documenting it through photographs.

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.

2014 Pulse Pounder: The Mind Shaft (Wiard’s Night Terrors)

Honorable Mention: Zombie Uprising at Braxton Estate (The Fear Experience)

The Mind Shaft got the heart racing through expertly tailored sound fx that helped drive the pace of the attraction. Like 13 Feet Under, Mind Shaft made it easy and fun for guests to suspend their disbelief — if a collapsing mine doesn’t put some pep in your step then what the hell will?! The attraction concluded with an exclamation point when a Sasquatch roared out of nowhere and delivered one of the best jump scares of the season.

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.

2014 Samhain: October 18, 2014 (Wiard’s Night Terrors)

Honorable Mention: October 30, 2014 (Dark Legacy, Hush)

2014 delivered a number of great nights of haunting but the plethora of attractions that comprised Wiard’s Night Terrors put it over the top. I was highly amused by the reactions of my sister-in-law, Madison, who provided me with the kind of valuable feedback only a fresh set of eyes can bring. Brandon Wiard was a most gracious host who allowed us the run of the place and engaged in great conversations about the ideas that fueled the haunted houses at Night Terrors.

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.

2014 Haunt of the Year: Exit 13

Honorable Mention: Hush

This was no easy choice; the number of top-notch attractions we toured in 2014 was unprecedented. After garnering several honorable mentions in 2011 and 2012 (in various categories) this is well deserved for the lovable loonies at Exit 13. An ambitious renovation delivered multiple new scenes in 2014 which served as the ideal playground for an in-your-face cast. The haunt utilized a wide array of scare tactics while it pushed the envelope with taboo characters, tasteless humor and physicality.

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2014 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2015 by bluefall8

This list is not meant to be used to compare one haunted attraction to another. The star system (1 – 5 stars) is merely meant to reflect how well I felt each individual haunt executed their particular show. Haunted attractions are a unique breed of entertainment and the quality of a show can vary from night to night, hour to hour and guest to guest for a great many reasons.

As you’ll notice, haunts are listed below in descending order. Where there are multiple haunts with the same star rating (and that happened often in 2014) those attractions are listed in alphabetically.

Again, this list should not be used to gauge which haunt is better than another. Primarily, I use these lists for archival purposes so that I can have a record of the haunted houses I visited and how those attractions performed in a given year.

2014 STAR RATINGS

1. Centralia County Fair – 4.5 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

2. Dark Legacy – 4.5 (Wixom, MI.)

3. Exit 13 – 4.5 (Mt. Morris, MI.)

4. Hush – 4.5 (Westland, MI.)

5. Bloodview – 4.25 (Broadview Heights, OH.)

6. Zombie Uprising at Braxton Estate – 4.25 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

7. 13 Feet Under – 4 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

8. The Asylum – 4 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

9. Centralia Mental Facility – 4 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

10. House of Nightmares 3D – 4 (Pontiac, MI.)

11. The Mind Shaft – 4 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

12. Psycho Path – 4 (Flat Rock, MI.)

13. The Realm of Darkness – 4 (Pontiac, MI.)

14. Alien Caged Clowns – 3.75 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

15. Corpse Barn Shock Haunt – 3.75 (Napoleon, MI.)

16. Ultimate Haunted Barn – 3.75 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

17. District 13 – 3.5 (The Fear Experience – Parma, OH.)

18. Hayride of the Lost – 3.5 (Wiard’s Night Terrors – Ypsilanti, MI.)

19. The Crypt – 3.25 (Burton, MI.)

20. St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum – 3.25 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

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

22. The Dark Abyss – 2.75 (Darksyde Acres – Jonesville, MI.)

23. Fō-bē-ə – 2.75 (Wyandotte, MI.)

24. The Haunted Funeral Home – 1.25 (Inkster, MI.)

Horrorlust Radio Episode #005

Posted in Horrorlust Radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2014 by bluefall8

I’m flying solo without a net in episode #005 of Horrorlust Radio.

In the fifth episode of Horrorlust Radio, I talk about the haunted attractions I’ve visited thus far and those I aim to tour before the 2014 Halloween season is to end; I also answer a few listener questions.

This episode of Horrorlust Radio also features the second installment of Nightmare Fuel and the debut of Dead Files. In Nightmare Fuel, I recount several ghostly nights spent in Lovett Hall, a former high school now part of The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Dead Files is a segment in which haunted house reviews are read in dramatic fashion and up first is an account from a 2012 trip to Bloodview in Broadview Heights, Ohio.

I also provide my thoughts on the season premieres of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gerkins’ appearance on the Chop Shop!

I’m actively seeking sponsors for Horrorlust Radio, if you own or operate a haunted attraction or are otherwise involved or connected to the haunt industry and are interested in such an opportunity you can contact me at the following email address: horrorlust@bluestarproductions.net

Email any questions or comments to the address above or feel welcome to post any reactions to this podcast in the comments section below.

HORRORLUST RADIO: EPISODE 005

SHOW NOTES

Here’s a poster from Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls, the subject of the latest episode of the Chop Shop which featured my alter-ego Gerkins alongside Uncle Dead Guy.

A bizarre horror film with an even stranger history.

A bizarre horror film with an even stranger history.

Gerkins with Uncle Dead Guy, a match made in Hell.

Gerkins with Uncle Dead Guy, a match made in Hell.

Lovett Hall is a beautiful structure but it’s walls undoubtedly hold many secrets lost to time; by night certain areas, such as the ballroom and dormitories, are creepy indeed.

Lovett Hall originally opened in the late 1930's.

Lovett Hall originally opened in the late 1930’s.

The songs and audio clips featured in this episode are listed below in chronological order:

1. “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (Green River, 1969)

2. Day of the Dead Theatrical Trailer, 1985

3. Unknown Song, Unknown Artist

4. Captain Rhodes argues with Dr. Logan from Day of the Dead, 1985

5. “Labyrinth of Dreams” by Nox Aracana (Grimm Tales, 2008)

The Haunted Funeral Home Mostly Stiff

Posted in 2014, Funeral Home, Review with tags , , , on October 6, 2014 by bluefall8

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

The Latest from Horrorlust

Posted in News with tags , , , , on October 3, 2014 by bluefall8

The irrepressible energy of the haunt season is upon us and my head is spinning with frenzied thoughts. Horrorlust Radio is in full swing, now with three episodes released and a fourth to come next Wednesday. The CikNis is churning along as we come  now to the fine detailing and decorating phase. We paid our first visit to a haunt last Saturday when we toured The Haunted Funeral Home in Inkster — a review is in the works for that one. And tomorrow we’ll return to that haunted road to once again seek out Michigan’s scariest places. If the weather cooperates we’ll likely find ourselves at a couple of outdoor venues but if not we’ll reroute to some indoor alternatives. Happy Haunting.

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.)

Creepy Crawlers Infest Funeral Home

Posted in 2013, Funeral Home, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2013 by bluefall8

The fun and lively lyrics of “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show delighted our ears as we waited in line to enter the Funeral Home in Inkster. We happened to be the only people waiting in line, an ominous quality crept into the air the longer we stood there — alone. A heavy door stood before us, firmly shut. A singular peep hole was inlaid into the center of the door and we began to get the impression that we were being watched.

No sooner had this unsettling realization crept over us, a voice called out from the other side — a woman, begging for our help. Madison and I weren’t in a helping mood and therefore the stranger’s plea were met only by mild amusement. Suddenly, there was a second voice. This one belonged to a man and he wasn’t happy with the owner of the first voice. We heard the sounds of a struggle and then silence followed once more by the male voice which said to us, “You didn’t hear anything.”

The door swung open with some force and before us stood a stiff in a suit, his skin a bluish gray hue. Silently he took our tickets and with a wave of his arm ushered us into the Funeral Home.

The dead heads inside were amped up the moment we crossed the threshold, after all, a pair of fleshies don’t simply wander into the domain of the dead without attracting a fair amount of attention. Shrieks and catcalls reverberated through the air, a raucous pounding caused the walls to tremble; an utter cacophony of noise exploded throughout the place and accompanied us for the duration of our journey.

The vast majority of the cast wore full face masks just as they had during a visit in 2011; a fact that I bemoaned at the time. I think this haunt would be much more frightening if the cast were in face paint or perhaps even half masks but I’ve come to accept the Funeral Home for what it is. Some actors appeared as horror icons like Michael Myers or Jigsaw’s Puppet while others portrayed a litany of common Halloween staples such as skeletons, clowns, witches, and ghouls.

The rambunctious cast succeeded in many startle scares and displayed fair improvisational skills. Our favorites included a talkative, agile goblin near the beginning of the haunt who lacked an understanding of personal space. We also had a fun exchange with an elderly harlequin who had an interesting collection of toys. Mid-way through the attraction a witch peered down at us from a top a wall and let loose a scream so full of primal rage it was almost comical, her face all aquiver. Elsewhere,  a skeletal creature clawed at us from behind a window and then suddenly appeared around the next turn to confront us face to face (okay, face to skull).

The conclusion of the Funeral Home put a welcome spin on an old troupe, Maddie and I were led into a room were a flash of light offered us a brief glimpse of our surroundings — we weren’t alone. A ghoul with a bloated face was armed with a chainsaw and as the room plunged once more into darkness, his weapon roared to life. I made a conscious effort to drag my feet as to allow my fiendish friend ample time to terrorize my beloved sister-in-law. I believe it took all of two seconds before she she jabbed her hands into my back and urgently yelled, “Go! Go!”

The design of the Funeral Home won’t win any awards and the overall length definitely left a lot to be desired. With those shortcomings in mind the Funeral Home still offered an enjoyable, if not standard, haunted house experience.

Rating: 3 stars