Archive for the twilight zone

Hallowe’en Nights a Family Friendly Delight

Posted in 2015, Hallowe'en Nights, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2016 by bluefall8

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From apple orchards and pumpkin patches to haunted houses and hayrides, Michigan is blessed with a cornucopia of fall festivities and activities. Indeed the rich and colorful history of Halloween runs deep in the Wolverine State and one event that has become a staple of the Detroit area is Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn.

Greenfield Village, for those unfamiliar, was the brainchild of Henry Ford — yes, the Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic homes, shops and buildings assembled by the late Mr. Ford and each October the streets and districts are transformed into a vintage Halloween celebration. I visited this event for the first time last fall with my wife and son and discovered a fun, family friendly atmosphere with playful scares and mildly spooky scenes.

The magical journey began in the Working Farms District, 1,000s of jack-o-lanterns lined the streets and served as a silent guide throughout Greenfield Village. Although not each and every last area of the village was accessible, all of the seven districts that comprise Greenfield Village were incorporated into the event in some capacity and the level of decoration was immaculate. Attention was paid to detail, the labs inside Edison at Work were alight with the signature glow of black lights; historic homesteads and shops from a bygone era featured windows and doors that pulsed with the eerie beacon of strobe lights.

The Main Street District was dominated by a carnival sideshow that included a stage performance and a photo-op with an enchanting mermaid. We pushed our way through the throngs of revelers and settled for a moment next to a large statue of Thomas Edison where I snapped a photo of my beloved wife and son.

Following a trek through Menlo Park, we entered the Porches & Parlors District heralded by a bizarre musical performance that was conducted by a pair of glowing skeletons who had taken up residence beneath a gazebo. When that whimsical oddity had concluded we braved the covered bridge that featured fog and lasers. The bridge was the most purely frightening experience of Hallowe’en Nights and I’m proud to report that my little guy never blinked in the face of fear; instead his eyes were full of wonder and curiosity.

Near Walnut Grove we witnessed a trio of oversized, singing jack-o-lanterns and became acquainted with a pair of peculiar fairy sisters, Kynda and Roodelle. As we continued uphill we watched pirates duel, breezed past a graveyard adjacent to Martha-Mary Chapel and eyed broom rentals near J.R. Jones General Store. Indeed, the various characters, mini-plays and complimentary scenes spread across Greenfield Village only served to heighten the overall mystique of this special event.

The light of the jack-o-lanterns had brought us back to Main Street where we paused for a few moments and were delighted to find that the iconic carousel was used to great effect. Old-fashioned music drifted across the intersection of Christie and Main Street while the carousel spun haunting rotations as if propelled by a ghostly hand. It immediately brought to mind an episode of The Twilight Zone titled Walking Distance in which a man is transported back in time to his childhood and pays a visit to the local carnival. This was, undoubtedly, one of my favorite highlights of Hallowe’en Nights.

Next, we were briefly routed into Railroad Junction where we traversed a spooky grove, illuminated only by the glow of several carved pumpkins — this was another one of my most favorite moments. When we emerged from the atmospheric grove, it was a short jaunt into the beautiful Liberty Craftworks District where a fun-loving werewolf danced to the tune of Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. This area also sported an excellent Halloween Tree positioned just outside the Pottery Shop.

Once we had left Liberty Craftworks behind our journey was nearly complete, but not before the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane engaged in bit of Halloween humor in a field just off of Mill Road back in the Working Farms District.

Hallowe’en Nights at Greenfield Village is an event that I would recommend to people of all ages because there truly did seem to be a little something for everybody. There was considerable congestion near several of the candy stations, but it was rarely overwhelming and perhaps can be further alleviated if additional areas of the village were utilized for the event. Regardless, I was impressed by the overall quality of Hallowe’en Nights and look forward to future trips with the family.

Rating: 4.25 stars

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.

Don’t Adjust the Channel

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by bluefall8

As any reader of Horrorlust knows October brings with it an irrepressible army of the scary and macabre — from haunted attractions to spooky home decor, costume parties to Halloween itself — this month is a celebration of all things that go bump in the night. And if all of that isn’t enough for you, consider the killing fields that flicker across the boob tube this time of year. Many networks feature horror, haunt, or Halloween related programming during this, the season of the witch and with the popularity of the holiday at an all time high, there’s no doubt that viewers will be ensnared by a variety of spine tingling specials.

Among some of the best programming in my opinion is Fearfest on AMC which runs October 16-31. Fearfest debuted on AMC in 2008 and is precisely that, an around the clock horror marathon that lasts for sixteen calendar days. The event will kick off this year with the Season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead. ABC Family also features a block of seasonal programming entitled 13 Nights of Halloween which runs from October 19-31. As you may have guessed from the name of the network, the type of shows you can expect are family oriented — The Addams Family, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas is what you’ll find here.

FX debuted a new show last night called American Horror Story. It was strange, perverse, and over the top — certainly not a classic but a fun, twisted watch. American Horror Story airs Wednesdays at 10 pm.

Anybody around my age will certainly remember the Goosebumps phenomenon that took place during the 1990’s. Well, if you find yourself craving a fix of R.L. Stine’s particular brand of storytelling then I’d suggest The Haunting Hour which airs on the somewhat obscure Hub network. An episodic horror anthology in it’s own right The Haunting Hour is quite obviously steeped in the same storytelling that propelled Goosebumps to such staggering heights a generation ago. It airs on the Hub network, Saturdays at 8 pm.

If all of that isn’t enough to sate your seasonal yearnings then allow me to suggest a few of my personal favorites which include The Twilight Zone, Halloween, Return of the Living Dead, Paranormal State, A Haunting, and of course George A. Romero’s zombie classics. And I’d be grossly out of line if I didn’t mention another childhood favorite, Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

I came home from work yesterday and had one of those wonderfully relaxing October evenings which consisted of lying in bed watching spooky movies. I hadn’t caught 2001’s The Others before and despite the sometimes plodding narrative and the often criticized end twist I found myself enjoying it. Who knows, maybe I just like Nicole Kidman. Following that I watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose which I’m ashamed to say was the first I had ever viewed the film. This was an expertly produced horror film featuring truly frightening scenes, superb acting, compelling storytelling, and a great original score — a must for any horror fan especially those with a taste for realism, it certainly put me in mind of The Exorcist.