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Improvisation & Intensity Forge Sinister Synergy

Posted in 2013, Review, Sinister with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by bluefall8

Last year we were ambushed by the killer show at Sinister when what we thought was an unknown upstart turned out to be an old favorite in disguise. Now with their true nature revealed to us, would the savages at Sinister be able to deliver another haunt classic?

There were five members in our party on this night and as it would turn out we entered in pairs of two, which left one of us without a pal or a prayer — and that honor was bestowed upon yours truly. One of the elements that I loved about Sinister is the fact that the show began while we waited in line. When I was a boy it seemed that any haunted house I visited featured loud shouts, threats, and banging meant solely to soften up and psyche out those souls yet to enter the attraction. And like those that came before them the cast at Sinister treated those in line as meat soon to be tenderized.

Many of the actors here will exhibit no use of the English language, utilizing instead a babbling dialect punctuated with grotesque guttural noises — the effect is jarring, even unsettling perhaps activating a primal fear of the unknown. I loved this touch as it put me in mind of the Ganados people of Resident Evil 4 who never ceased to give me the creeps. One masked masochist possessed the unique ability to switch from the common tongue to the unnerving babble speak and he seemed to command the respect of the other lunatics. In all honestly there wasn’t a better person to portray this character as the actor under the hood, who insisted he be addressed as “Daddy”, demanded obedience while he spewed perverse proclamations which belied a comic wit.

You may be asked to do things at Sinister that seem strange at first and it’s best to check your ego at the door, it’s all in good fun and if you open yourself up to it you might just enjoy it — seriously, just go with it and see what unfolds. I for instance was made to army crawl and roll through the majority of the attraction and one of my cohorts may have been put in the awkward position of binding my wrists and ankles with duct tape. Nothing to see here, just an average night at Sinister.

As someone who has visited dozens upon dozens of haunted attractions I can say without hesitation that the cast at Sinister is among the elite in the field. It began with the disturbed girl dressed in old fashioned clothing who I affectionately refer to as Bizarro Laura Ingalls (shh, don’t tell her), a veritable ball of energy who engaged me with wanton fearlessness. Later, I encountered a woman with a blood soaked bed hell bent on extracting repentance and then there was a bushy haired doctor of sorts with a wry smile and a twisted gleam in his eyes. It all built to that frenzied finale where Bowbee claimed his pound of flesh!

The combination of improvisation and intensity displayed by the actors is what truly sets Sinister apart from other haunted attractions. Never before have I witnessed actors adapt so readily, not only to individuals or groups, but also to repeat customers so seamlessly. Even the most professional haunted attractions will have a couple of actors that aren’t quite up to snuff either due to ill timing or a weak delivery — and that’s just something you’re not going to see at Sinister. When you enter a room the actor is already engaged with the environment (tipping over a table for instance, which I witnessed). The style at Sinister is akin to a theatrical production and you are a part of the show. The thespians on this stage may be sick and twisted, deranged and dead but this is undoubtedly haunted theater.

The show did have a couple of factors working against it on our visit, such as a key absence and an untimely injury, but those are widely beyond the control of mere mortals. With an excellent cast in place I’d like to see Sinister continue to expand both creatively and physically. We hope to make it back this season to experience the alternate ending as well as the brand new haunted corn maze now on premises.

Rating: 3.75 stars

The ghouls just love me.

The ghouls just love me.

Legion of Terror Breathes Life into Bloodview

Posted in 2012, Bloodview, Review with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by bluefall8

It was apparent from the get go that the actors at Bloodview were cut from a different cloth than those at the Haunted School House and Laboratory. The ghouls and goblins here bill themselves as the Legion of Terror and claim to be the oldest improvisational troupe in the United States.

Every weekend the brains behind Bloodview change the theme of the attraction and it was by no mistake that our trip coincided with an outbreak of the undead. As we passed through the wrought iron gates to the grounds I watched a pair of zombies shamble lively after guests. As we waited in line to buy tickets a rotund zombie, once an officer of the law, stumbled about near guests, his mouth agape — death it seemed did nothing to curb his appetite.

The queue line area was certainly among the best I’ve ever seen, everywhere you looked reanimated meat bags pursued, harassed, and terrified haunters. The zombies here were of all sorts — air suckers and grabbers, chompers, droolers, and aimless bumblers. There seemed to be no less than a dozen of these characters who assailed waiting patrons in revolving waves. The performance of these actors was impressive and their dedication to the craft, inspiring. They were as entertaining as anything at Bloodview and that is not a knock against any other aspects of the show.

Soon we entered the first area of the haunted attraction, a large garage that helped set the tone for what was to come. The decor was simple and grotesque, the walls consisted merely of wooden slats. It had a bit of a chop shop vibe that fit well with the unique vortex tunnel near the exit that was flesh colored. The spinning fabric appeared to be adorned in chunks of long rotten meat. The overall effect was actually kind of sickening, but I liked it. Once outside we traveled into a lightly wooded area and across a small bridge to a location known as Baby Doll Island. As you may have guessed dolls of all shapes and sizes (and degrees of dismemberment) litter the landscape. Haunters wind their way through wooden outbuildings while a few gibbering nuts ask strange questions, one of them hung upside down from a support beam, grinning at guests with a joyful malice. This area of the attraction was of fair length and kept guests engaged with a smattering of small buildings through which we were forced to travel. This setup provided plenty of hiding places for hungry ghouls intent on scoring their next warm meal. Near the end of the trail, a man restrained a female zombie with a leash. Her particular death hue and characterization but me strongly in mind of the zombies from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. She fought against her restraints, valiantly struggling for a piece of tender flesh. It was humorous for obvious reasons but due to her convincing portrayal, it was also quite creepy — by night’s end she certainly stood out as one of my favorite zombies.

We reentered the queue line where the mass of undead seemed to have swelled. Standing beneath this pavilion I soaked it all in, the spirit of Halloween was alive and well. A radio report brought us periodic updates on the zombie crises and filled the lulls with fitting music like the theme from The Walking Dead. I noticed a zombie dressed in old fashioned garb, she walked haphazardly in a confused state and generally put me in mind of some of the lady villagers in Resident Evil 4 — she gave me the willies much worse than any of her energetic counterparts.

As the undead menace terrorized haunters in all corners of the pavilion it was our time to enter the main attraction and we would not be disappointed. Bloodview featured a good deal of old school fundamentals — tight passages and a disorienting, claustrophobic design. Much of the attraction was comprised of bayou style shanties, each detailed with odd artifacts, like stained glass windows with eerie depictions, and dizzying floor plans. There were choke points near elevated platforms which a clever brain muncher could utilize to launch an attack. Near one of these a girl could be heard rambling near incoherence about mortal coil and immortality. She was excellent in her role, taking care to scold us for not heeding her earlier warnings when we found ourselves passing the prior mentioned elevated area that happened to wind back near her original location. Later, we found a large zombie standing on a platform and strapped to the wall. He groped wildly at passing haunters and looked, at times, as if he’d break free of his bonds. It was an intimidating sight as he towered above the group from his platform, swinging precariously — another highlight of the attraction.

As we neared the conclusion of the haunted house, we wandered into a darkened corridor which turned into another and then another. It was one of those moments where we seriously thought we may have accidentally stumbled into an area not meant for haunters, but the path continued to wind and strangely not a zombie sought us out. The combination of near perfect dark and multiple, twisting pathways caused us to become separated and this just so happened to coincide with unhinged excitement. Other haunters had followed us into this area and several attempts to back track had created quite a log jam of bodies. At one point I wandered the darkness in solitude, occasionally Richard would call out to me but I couldn’t discern in what direction his voice had come from.

Eventually I found Jason and we discovered an apparent end to the confusing maze. It ran into a longer hallway, this one with a little bit of light, and near the end a white robed figure stood eerily still, watching. Jason was the first to spot the apparition and still unsure if we’d taken a wrong turn we decided to back track once more. I, of course, couldn’t help but take a look at the mysterious phantom and when I did she began a slow stalk in my direction. A truly well timed performance — that moment of hesitation really helped sell the whole scene. Jason had already rounded a corner when I too struck back into the safety of the blackened maze, after all we had to find the rest of our party. Our paths soon crossed and indeed, in tow, there was a gaggle of other haunters. If the zombies would have struck at that precise moment the rotting bastards could have feasted for a week.

It was a flight to freedom from here, a mad dash through a series of ghoul infested scenes. We survived the horror and broke out of the haunted house onto the grounds of Bloodview where the teeming mass of undead still scurried in their fashion after anything that moved. Ultimately, Bloodview won’t fall on the list of all time best haunted attractions but it was highly enjoyable with a few moments that just bristled with infectious energy. The line entertainment as I mentioned previously was among the best we’ve witnessed; these folks aced Zombie 101 and smashed the advanced course as well. I suppose my only complaint would concern the pace which often seemed too breakneck; a few more key actors inside of the main attraction wouldn’t have been unappreciated either. With all of that said, I came away a fan of the Legion of Terror — I hope to make it back some day.

Rating: 3.75 stars