Archive for through the looking glass

Fō-bē-ə Fractured Friday

Posted in 2014, Review, Wyandotte Jaycees with tags , , , , , , , on November 19, 2014 by bluefall8

The Wyandotte Jaycees has presented a curious array of haunted house experiences over the years — at times the group has nailed haunt fundamentals and shown just what can be achieved with passion and creativity, but on other occasions lackluster acting and technical deficiencies have left a lot to be desired. The annual haunted effort seems to alternate between peaks and valleys every couple of seasons and I was interested to see just where Fō-bē-ə would land.

I toured Fō-bē-ə on the same night that I visited Psycho Path in Flat Rock which was Friday, October 10 — opening night for both attractions. When my friends and I pulled into the parking lot it was to be greeted by one of my favorite Jaycees performers, a young lady who portrayed a sinister off-shoot of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s famous fantastical novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Fō-bē-ə featured familiar Wyandotte Jaycees fare such as a neon radioactive waste scene, a fog-filled swamp, the jocular Butcher Brothers and a lively execution scene where ominous religious messages had been scrawled upon the walls. New this year was a ghastly crematorium, an Egyptian corridor with glowing hieroglyphs and a series of spider-infested mirrored halls.

There was a doctor and patient scene in which malpractice was on display, much to our delight electroshock therapy was all the rage. The good doctor sent voltage pulsing through the uncooperative patient and then at our insistence zapped the patient with a second wave just for good measure. Phil even took a brief turn at the controls when the subject refused to expire.

My favorite areas included the freak show and dollmaker’s keep although both would’ve benefited considerably from additional actors and enhanced interaction.

Rounding out the experience was a captive girl, chained to a wall who possessed an ear-splitting scream, a comical, stiff-armed zombie who pursued us to the edge of Biddle Avenue and a madman with a modified chainsaw that featured one gigantic, wicked blade.

Fō-bē-ə wasn’t a high water mark for the Wyandotte Jaycees but nor was it a cellar dweller. I am impressed by what the group is able to accomplish in such a short amount of time; yes the buildings in which the Jaycees’ haunted attractions are held each year are provided by the City of Wyandotte, but the local outfit isn’t handed the keys to the kingdom until late August or even early September. It is a testament to the hard work of members and volunteers alike that the Wyandotte Jaycees has managed to produce a haunted attraction annually dating back to the 1970’s.

With that said I do believe that the seasonal spook house would benefit immensely if a few aspects of the overall production were paid a little more attention. The group would to well to focus on storytelling and continuity, for instance, the name Fō-bē-ə was a neat concept and a smart marketing tactic but in execution there was a lot left undone. Too often a Jaycees haunted attraction features a hodgepodge of scenes, an amalgam of disparate settings which have little or nothing to do with each other and without substantial character interaction to provide a counterweight, the effect can be jarring.

I also think it’s absolutely crucial that the Wyandotte Jaycees update their soundtrack. In my experience the group has looped audio of screams and shouts which has always sounded dated and corny or has in other instances not employed a soundtrack at all. An effective alternative would be the music of Nox Arcana, Midnight Syndicate or even theme songs from popular horror movies. This is a simple fix that will vastly improve the atmosphere of the production and cover the sounds of movement and idle chatter amongst the cast.

Rating: 2.75 stars

There will always be a special place in my heart for the Wyandotte Jaycees and I will continue to be a patron of their haunted house each October because I respect the history of the group and believe in the spirit of community leadership. Fō-bē-ə may have fallen in the middle of the pack but if history is any indicator, the brains behind the scenes of the Wyandotte Jaycees will recapture the essence of Halloween once more.


A Bloodbath on Devil’s Night

Posted in 2013, Review, Wyandotte Jaycees with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by bluefall8

Devil’s Night arrived dreary and wet but with the haunt season coming to a close it would take a lot more than that to keep us off the road. Our first stop brought us to the Wyandotte Jaycees 2013 haunted house — Bloodbath on Biddle. The Jaycees were fortunate to obtain the building that until recently housed City Hall, it’s large and centrally located in downtown Wyandotte.

John and I entered and talked shop with some of the team, some of you may recall that project lead Jon Dehring appeared on an episode of the Mud Puppets during October alongside several of his favorite ghouls. You can watch that episode right now, as well as a behind the scenes tour, by clicking these links: Murder Mystery and Bloodbath on Biddle: Behind the Scenes Tour.

As we talked I noticed a desk to my right, atop it sat a newspaper not unlike the Fear Finder. It was entitled Terror Tracker so I snatched one up to peruse at my leisure. I’ll ruminate more on this publication in a future post. John and I wrapped up the conversation with the Jaycees crew and trudged forth into the bloodbath.

In the past the Wyandotte Jaycees, not dissimilar to many volunteer groups, has struggled to staff their attraction with seasoned scarers. The organization took a step in the right direction this year — the cast may not have been battled scarred veterans, but on the whole the group displayed a lot of heart and energy. In the end we determined that the kids were alright and we appreciated the effort.

There were some standouts too, such as the freakishly contorted handwalkers in the whiteout room. These tortured souls issued primal screams that hastened our departure.

In another room we encountered  a criminally insane young woman who had been strapped into an electric chair and for good reason as we would soon find out. Initially she attempted to convince us of her innocence and asked if we’d free her from the restraints. Skeptical, we questioned her further and soon learned, by way of her own admission, that her current predicament was the result of an incident which involved an oven and some babies.

Her voice was calm, cold while she made this confession, a comical glint danced across her dead eyes — but before she could elaborate further someone threw the switch and sent a current of voltage ripping through her now spasming body!

The halfway point of the haunted house presented us with an interesting choice — Heaven or Hell. We decided that Hell was our best course of action but to our great surprise the route was a circuitous one which inevitably sent us to Heaven…well, maybe an offshoot of Heaven. A preacher had been hung by the neck and in the shadows lurked a devilish dame with a gash for a mouth and a whip for a tongue.

“I don’t know. Is this your idea of Heaven,” she quipped. Philosophers and psychos all under one roof, go figure. As she slunk out of the shadows with the confidence and poise of one who likes to play with her food, I found myself not just pondering the query but also fighting off the litany of inappropriate responses which had instantly flooded my mind. I know, I know — it’s a testament to just how deeply depraved I am that my mind so readily drudges up such things, but hey, it’s a fun way to live.

There was a handful of signature scenes throughout Bloodbath on Biddle which were all decorated and detailed quite well. We traversed a morgue, a carnival sideshow, and one room that featured a very curious wall of televisions.

There was also a pair of scenes inspired by cherished fairytales, granted the interpretation was twisted, but Snow White and Alice were represented nonetheless. Gruesome artwork highlighted these areas — a beheaded White Rabbit for Alice and a dwarf that hung from a tree for Snow White. Which of the seven dwarves, you ask? Un-Happy, of course!

I especially enjoyed the set pieces used in the latter two scenes — a pair of trees and a water wheel in Snow White’s forest and then a large, colorful tea cup found in Wonderland. Another eye catching sequence was found at the end of the attraction when we traversed a front yard and then several rooms in the accompanying house.

As visually impressive as all of the scenes were such inspiration did not lend itself to execution. For various reasons the actors in these prime areas just didn’t muster up a scare worthy of such settings. For instance, the room with the wall of televisions that I mentioned earlier featured a scare that depended almost entirely on timing and unfortunately the  technological and human elements were simply not in sync.

Two scenes in particular that I thought were loaded with potential was the aforementioned sideshow and the closet near the end of the attraction. The sideshow was neatly dressed with whimsical banners that advertised the oddballs who populated the big top. In the middle of the room was a large box but it’s potential went widely unrealized. Similarly, the closet which had clothes hanging in front of our eyes failed to capitalize on the creativity that went into designing the room.

I had also noticed that the actresses portraying Snow White and Alice were different from the pair who usually staffed those positions. I knew this because it was this duo who had joined Mr. Dehring for the interview mentioned near the beginning of this review. The original tandem was very effective in their respective roles and unfortunately their stand-ins didn’t own the characters in quite the same way. I would later learn that the girls had experienced a bit of haunt fatigue and were actually stationed at other positions in the attraction.

It’s a shame that the best scenes weren’t accompanied by more powerful scares and startles because the Wyandotte Jaycees did a lot of good things with Bloodbath on Biddle. The attraction spanned two floors, sported a large and mostly vocal cast, and lasted for more than twenty minutes. The attraction made use of false doors, integrated props well, and featured cool artwork and several detailed scenes. I hope to see the group build on these successes in the seasons to come.

Rating: 3.25 stars