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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

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2012 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2013 by bluefall8

The Midwest Haunters Convention was held this weekend in Columbus, Ohio and that means two things — Summer has arrived, and with the passing of MHC the official countdown to the haunt season has begun! I loved the EC Comics inspired promotional piece for the 10th anniversary of this event.

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So as the Midwest Haunters Convention wraps up tonight and haunt vendors, owners, and enthusiasts look forward to the fall, let us take a few moments to look back at the best that last season had to offer.

Horrorlust recognizes nine dreadful categories. Our traditional seven categories include: Monster, Killer Automatons, Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Dark Horse, Rotten Pumpkin, and of course, Haunt of the Year. In 2011 the Prop Master and Samhain Awards debuted; descriptions precede each award.

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.

2012 Rotten Pumpkin: Scream Machine

Dishonorable Mention: Nightmare Sanctum (Wyandotte Jaycees)

This wasn’t an easy decision because the Scream Machine is not a bad haunted attraction, but it has become stagnant and predictable. I’ve visited this attraction more than any other over the years and the 2012 incarnation was guilty of mailing it in more so than at any other time. It lacked precision, passion, and any truly pulse pounding moments.

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.

2012 Eerie Vibrations: Bloodview

Honorable Mention: Krazy Hilda’s Camp of No Return

A malevolent aura permeated throughout Bloodview from the moment we stepped through the gates that bore its’ namesake. It featured both indoor and outdoor attractions that seemed to pulsate with the energy of 1,000 lost souls.

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

2012 Dark Horse: Dimensions of Darkness

Honorable Mention: A Nightmare on Elm Road

All of the fundamental elements are in place for Dimensions of Darkness to become something special. Dark, in-your-face, actor driven haunted attractions are becoming rarer with the passing of each Halloween season, but with a few inspired tweaks the gang here might just have the moxie to deliver old school back to the mainstream.

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.

2012 Killer Automatons: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

Honorable Mention: Haunted School House

Despite a number of ill timed or malfunctioning animatronics last year, House of the Dead still offered enough impressive robotic baddies to win this award going away. Without fail the operators here take care to integrate a couple of new mechanical monsters into the show each year. Indeed, House of the Dead has a stranglehold on this category, winning the Killer Automatons Award four years in a row.  

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.

2012 Monster: Sinister

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

The cavalcade of creatures at Sinister worked as a cohesive unit, the group was so in sync it was as if their minds had forged a singularity. This was a collection of professional scarers who regard haunting as a craft and worked tirelessly to hone their formidable skills. The staff here simply did not miss a beat and wasted no opportunity to engage guests. The vocalization, physicality, and improvisation were all expertly executed.

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.

2012 Prop Master: Barn of Horrors (Erwin Orchards)

Honorable Mention: Haunted Laboratory

The use of props inside the Barn of Horrors put me in mind of 2011 winner, Tent of Terror. Nothing was overdone or out of place, each prop provided a key visual element for its’ respective scene. The warped clock with a human face and giant dwarf stand out as favorites.

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.

2012 Pulse Pounder: Slaughter House

Honorable Mention: Bloodview

Admittedly this year’s selection of Slaughter House is a bit of a departure for this particular award which traditionally has gone to the scariest haunted attraction of the season. Slaugher House certainly offered some spine tingling moments but their specialty was more fun than fright. None of this is a knock on Slaugher House, quite the opposite in fact, it’s a testament to what the haunt did so well. Heart racing scares were supplanted by mind boggling illusions, the race to freedom was replaced by the race to the next room where another eye popping stunt was lying in wait. Slaughter House was a refreshing mix of fun and fear that got the blood pumping to be sure.

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.

2012 Samhain: October 5, 2012 (Erwin Orchards, Slaugher House, A Nightmare on Elm Road)

Honorable Mention: October 12, 2012 (Deadly Intentions, Sinister, Exit 13)

The night of October 5th didn’t get off to a promising start due to the weather but the magic of the haunt season would not be denied. As fate would have it we braved the Barn of Horrors twice, witnessed a haunt classic at Slaughter House (and made a friend to boot), and capped off the night with a visit to the charmingly ramshackle A Nightmare on Elm Road. It isn’t often we get to experience such a wide spectrum of the haunted landscape in a single night.

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.

2012 Haunt of the Year: Sinister

Honorable Mention: Slaugher House

Our experience at Sinister was pure happenstance, a visit that seemed to warp the very fabric of space and time, the sort of thing that usually only occurs within the confines of The Twilight Zone. On every measurable scale the cast was brilliant; somehow providing John and I with a fresh and, dare I say, even more energized experience during our second pass. It was like being in one of your favorite films except all of the familiar scenes had been supernaturally charged and then quite amazingly we discovered new scenes and characters who hadn’t existed moments before. Sinister spun a rare gem in 2012 and will live on in haunt lore for years to come.

A Brief Note on Awards and Ratings

Many haunted attractions that we hold in high regard did not receive any awards in 2012, but that does not mean these attractions do not deserve recognition. The most notable of these are Darksyde Acres and Exit 13. Darksyde Acres’ Rusthole & Catacombs scored 4.25 out of 5 stars, the 3rd highest rating out of the 22 total attractions we visited last year. Similarly, Exit 13 was rated 4 out of 5 stars and ranked 5th overall in our ratings.

So how can it be that neither of these haunts garnered so much as an honorable mention? Well, I’ve stated numerous times that the ratings are a reflection on each individual haunt and should not necessarily be used to compare one attraction to another. So what does this all mean? I think it speaks to two things — the diversity of the awards themselves and the quality of attractions we were able to visit during the 2012 haunt season.

Blood Bath & Beyond Hayride (4.25 stars) also rated very well and it’s counterpart at Scarefest Screampark, Hayride of Doom (3.5 stars), didn’t do too shabby either. Hayrides, like corn mazes and other haunted off shoots while undeniably related to haunted houses are, in my opinion, different beasts altogether. We currently have no specific award for these attractions due to the fact that we simply don’t visit enough of them each season.

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

2011 Horrorlust Haunt Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2012 by bluefall8

As we get ready to set off on the first big haunted house outing of the season, we take a few moments to reflect on the best that last season had to offer. The Haunt Trinity recognizes nine dreadful categories, two of which are new this year. Our traditional seven categories include: Monster, Killer Automatons, Eerie Vibrations, Pulse Pounder, Dark Horse, Rotten Pumpkin, and of course, Haunt of the Year. Our newest awards are Prop Master and Samhain, descriptions precede each award.

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.

2011 Rotten Pumpkin: Anxiety Alley

Dishonorable Mention: Big Top Terror (Terror Town)

It was sad to see the modular haunt of my childhood fall to such an abysmal low but that was the show we were presented. The scares were non existent and the few scenes that were featured were entirely uninspiring. The whole operation was poorly managed, very poorly managed.

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.

2011 Eerie Vibrations: Darksyde Acres

Honorable Mention: The Funeral Home

Strangely void of any other guests when we arrived, the silence permeating the grounds of this former pig farm spoke volumes. Stranger still was the surreal cyberpunk-thrash metal-hardcore haunting vibe that oozed throughout the main attraction. I couldn’t help but feel like we’d stepped into some kind of 70’s snuff film…and that was a good thing.

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 the Haunt Trinity’s way of recognizing the little haunt that could.

2011 Dark Horse: Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom

Honorable Mention: Realm of Haunted Minds

An all volunteer effort steeped in the fundamentals of haunting, Krazy Hilda’s featured a cast of lovable ghouls (but not too lovable) who enjoyed scaring us and making us laugh. This, coupled with some unique room design and a good length made Krazy Hilda’s the obvious pick for this award.

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.

2011 Killer Automatons: House of the Dead (Terror Town)

Honorable Mention: Chelsea Feargrounds

Although several of Terror Town’s demonic denizens weren’t functioning properly those that were secured this award for a second consecutive year. Admittedly, some of the animatronics are accompanied by few set pieces and are simply meant to wow guests with sheer size. However, those that are truly impressive are the electronic entities that have been integrated seamlessly into a larger theme — such as the giant hand in the twisted nursery. It’s those moments that allow House of the Dead to claim this award once more.

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.

2011 Monster: Darksyde Acres

Honorable Mention: The Haunting

The odd, perverted, and sultry band of ghouls at Darksyde Acres was truly what set this attraction apart from all others in 2011. They were completely committed to scaring guests or grossing them out or even kissing them if such would be required. Some may say the actors at Darksyde are less thespians than they are deranged masochists playing out their sick and twisted fantasies — and that’s alright by me.

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.

2011 Prop Master: Tent of Terror (The Boneyard)

Honorable Mention: The Deadland

The main attraction at the Boneyard burst at the seams with props, but it wasn’t just the sheer quantity that helped Tent of Terror snag this award. Rather it was the placement of said props in appropriately themed settings, underscored by the workers who interacted with the props in various creative and entertaining ways.

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.

2011 Pulse Pounder: Darksyde Acres

Honorable Mention: Tent of Terror (The Boneyard)

Our journey through Darksyde Acres sparked within me that primal fear that can only be stirred by the threat of the dark unknown. It seems to happen less and less as we visit more haunted attractions and therefore this award was well deserved.

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.

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

Honorable Mention: October 31, 2011 (St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum, 13 Feet Under, The Crypt)

On this date we made haunting an all night affair and oh what a fling it was! We began the night at Krazy Hilda’s where we witnessed the best overall volunteer effort in our haunting history. Next, we had all our senses assailed at the high-energy, mad house known as Chelsea Feargrounds. Finally, we burned the midnight oil with three substantial attractions at The Boneyard.

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.

2011 Haunt of the Year: Darksyde Acres

Honorable Mention: Chelsea Feargrounds

It was early in the haunting season when we paid a visit to Darksyde Acres but it certainly left a lasting impression. If the cast wasn’t firing on all cylinders that night I can’t wait to return during the prime of this season of screams. The usual haunt etiquette was discarded with wanton recklessness and the result was a stroke of awe inspiring giddiness.

2011 Star Ratings

Posted in Star Ratings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by bluefall8

As my small but faithful group of readers know I write a review for each haunt that I visit during the fall. In addition to that at the end of the review I assign the attraction a 1-5 star rating. It’s just my way of summing up the overall effectiveness/enjoyability of that particular haunted attraction. I take a lot of factors into consideration when I determine the rating things like — actors, theme, props, special effects, originality, and level of excitement — just to name a few but at the end of the night the rating comes down to my raw gut feeling for the overall experience. Below is a complete list of the haunted attractions I visited during the 2011 Halloween season ranked by their corresponding star rating. It’s important to note that the star rating isn’t meant to serve as a way to compare one attraction to another rather it’s a reflection of how well each individual haunt executed what it set out to accomplish.

A quick aside before we get to all those goodies though — once more I’ve had a dream about haunted attractions and the beloved Fear Finder. In this dream I was riding around Lincoln Park in a car with my dad and my two sisters when I suddenly realized that it was Halloween. I began to sweat knowing that I hadn’t yet participated in any seasonal activities and then I reached a full blown panic when it dawned on me that it wasn’t just October 31 but also kids were out trick r’ treating! My sisters were dropped off at a friend’s house or something else similarly boring. I apparently was going to do something with my dad (unrelated to Halloween) and that simply could not stand. My dad tried to calm me down but his words mattered not! How in the blue hell had I forgotten about Halloween?! I opened the door to the car, jumped from the vehicle, and ran into the night in search of Halloween fun.

Next thing I knew I had entered the lobby of a haunt which was strangely situated on the grassy median of what seemed to be Electric Street. I found a stack of Fear Finder and greedily thumbed through one to see what haunts I could possibly hit. I quickly decided their was no time for such planning, I would merely run about feverishly looking for the next available haunt once I’d finished at my current location. On the cover of the Fear Finder was a depiction of a hooded character similar to Ghostface from Scream. The hooded phantom had strings attached to its’ fingers as if it were puppeteering the letters that comprised the phrase ‘Fear Finder’ below. The background of the cover was strikingly designed as stained glass windows; all things considered I think something in this vein would make a pretty damn cool cover for the actual Fear Finder.

Suddenly I was joined by my fellow haunters, John and Jason but before we could enter the attraction I wandered into a bathroom. The walls separating the stalls were comically short and in no way provided a sense of privacy. The stall next to me was completely filthy with feces and toilet paper spilling over the sides of the porcelain throne. I ignored the mess and began to urinate and then I noticed a large window in front of me. I peered out the window and discovered the turret of a castle mere yards from my current position. I took it to be a second haunted attraction and for the first time in this dream I started to feel as if I could salvage the night. I was brought out of my reverie by the arrival of my cohorts and a man I assumed ran the haunted attraction. He made some comment about the filthy stall next to me and then proceeded to jam his hands into the disgusting mess. He yanked a jagged block of ice out of toilet — excrement and used toilet paper jutted out at odd angles. As John and Jason stood by watching the man then acted as if he was going to heave frozen fecal bomb in my direction. After a few moments of  anger and disgust the man relented and began to laugh, turned out that the turdsicle was merely a prank he used to rile up haunters. An odd and tasteless tactic perhaps but now I was excited to see what this haunt had to offer to its customers.

However, as is the case with cool dreams, that’s when I woke up. Does anybody find it strange that as a grown man I’m having a recurring nightmare about missing out on the haunt season? What an awful prospect that would be!

2011 STAR RATINGS

Krazy Hilda’s Barn of Doom – 4.25 (Saline, MI.)

The Catacombs/Rusthole – 4 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Chelsea Feargrounds – 4 (Chelsea, MI.)

Tent of Terror – 4 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

13 Feet Under – 4 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Haunting – 3.75 (Adrian, MI.)

The Deadland – 3.75 (Warren, MI.)

House of the Dead – 3.75 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

St. Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum – 3.75 (Grand Blanc, MI.)

The Crypt – 3.75 (Burton, MI.)

Realm of Haunted Minds – 3.25 (Romulus, MI.)

The Dark Abyss – 3.25 (Darksyde Acres/Jonesville, MI.)

Scarecrow Hollow – 3 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Barn of Blood -3 (New Boston, MI.)

Scream Machine – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

Deadwood Forest – 2.75 (The Boneyard/Stockbridge, MI.)

Papp Park Trailer – 2.75 (Taylor, MI.)

The Funeral Home – 2.5 (Inkster, MI.)

Woods of Darkness – 2.25 (South Rockwood, MI.)

Lockdown – 2.25 (Wyandotte, MI.)

Papp Park Hayride – 2.25 (Taylor, MI.)

Big Top Terror – 1.5 (Terror Town/Maumee, OH.)

Anxiety Alley – 1 (Lincoln Park, MI.)