Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Scare Beyond Compare: The Haunt at Dorney Park 2011

Welcome to The Haunt!

Even though the event is only in its 4th season, the Haunt at Dorney Park has 'grown up' considerably in those four years.  The event was brought to Dorney later than many of the chain's other parks, but since then the Haunt has ramped up in such a way that it is now one of the larger ones in the company  (though its 11 haunts can't compare to Kings Dominion's and Knott's whopping 16 haunts each).

Above is the view of the scene the park has created just inside the main gates, which changes each year.  The skeletons, which pop up out of the coffin every so often, make for a great photo opportunity.

Clowns don't bother me, but I seem to be in the minority there.

The 2011 season is seeing the return of 8 attractions: The Asylum, Backwoods, Club Blood, CornStalkers, Death Trap, Mansion House Hotel, Psycho Circus, and finally Terror Square.  Some of these have aged well with time, even seeing new improvements this season, while others have become a bit stagnant and would make great options for being replaced next year - Club Blood and Psycho Circus come to mind on that front.

Grave Walkers - a great approach to a Haunt.

The park mixed up the locations of some of its Haunts this year, taking advantage of some open space that isn't used for parking this time of year in order to bring Grave Walkers to life.  The park took the traditional concept of an outdoor maze and thought outside the box with this one, with some nice results.

The attraction is behind the Revolution flat ride and next to Steel Force's station, as I said in a summertime overflow parking lot.  Unless the park is totally jammed guests are not regulated as they enter - instead they freely flow into the massive (no really it is huge) graveyard that awaits them.

Most of the Haunt is well hidden, hard to get photos!

Quickly they realize that there is no set path in there, although many sheepish guests seem to move down the middle to try to escape the zombies (in plentiful amounts) lurking around.  The park has had several Haunts over the years that needed gravestones created, and now they've all been combined into one massive graveyard that guests are free to explore.  There's an open grave here or there - watch out for what comes out of them!

After wandering around for a while, guests enter a large mausoleum and and suddenly the walls are tight and monsters are everywhere.  The corridors are lined with coffins, and this is more of a traditional maze section.  The combination of the two sections is great, and makes the experience as long, or short, as guests want.

This ain't no trip to Medieval Times!

Replacing The Gauntlet, which served the park for a few seasons, Age of Darkness is also new this Fall.  While the general theme is the same, that's where the comparisons end between the two.  Age of Darkness uses very elaborate costumes, special effects, and plenty of props along the path.  The ghouls stay in character at all times - I especially enjoyed the Queen that had a monster on a leash.

Lesson learned... headless monsters can still chase you.

Dorney actually built the entire castle facade seen above on the side of existing restrooms, though you wouldn't know it as you pass through.  Real flame torches line the area's paths, and thick fog makes it hard to see what's coming next.  The castle's gates, when open, feature a nice special effect - lets just say it involves a beheading and leave it at that.

Pirates of the Caribbean music, it comes in handy.

I'm especially impressed with some aspects of Cut Throat Island, the final new attraction for the 2011 Haunt.  With the debut of Planet Snoopy this past season it didn't make sense to keep a Pirate themed scare zone in the middle of a kids area, so it's been beefed up and moved to the plaza in front of Hydra.

The boat is full sized, to help you understand the scale used here.

I think the photo above nicely sums up the feeling of Cut Throat Island.  An eerie red glow hovers over the area, and thick fog nicely hides creatures moving in and out of the massive props the park built in the area.  The row of house facades seen above actually turn the corner and keep going, and feature doors and other items that the monsters are able to use.

The ship is huge - see the small person in the lower left corner?

The facades are neat, but pale in comparison to the massive, wrecked into three pieces, Pirate ship that is sitting in the area.  Guests are able to wander about, interacting with the demented Pirate characters in the area.  There's even a twisted mermaid sitting aside the ship, beckoning sailors to come forward.

This guy didn't get away.

Cut Throat Island is probably the most visually impressive Haunt attraction I've seen in a park since being to the 'biggies' like Universal Orlando's Horror Nights.  There's room for growth though in the scare department - while having no defined path worked to Grave Walker's advantage, here it hurts the attraction.  It would be tough due to space limitations, but adding a set walking path to this one could really make it shine.

Singing, dancing, undead.

The park is again featuring several live entertainment offerings during Haunt as well.  Harley Newman Professional Lunatic shows at Center Stage, Cast in Bronze is a spooky - and unique - Carillon bell performance.  Seen above, the Good Time Theatre is showing Eternal Jamnation this year.  The live entertainment at Haunt feels like it still hasn't found its niche after four seasons, hopefully that will be remedied some day.

Halloween colors!

Dorney Park's rides are open during Haunt as well.  Some rides do have to close early for the event, though that won't seem important when riding Steel Force, dropping into the fog!