Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scott + Carol Present: Kings Island Haunt Review

Editor's Note: I'm please to announce that Scott & Carol Holmes will now be covering their travels through photo reports on NewsPlusNotes. Scott & Carol are extremely well traveled, and have been involved in the Amusement industry for quite some time now. I'm please to welcome them, and look forward working with them in the future. Their first article on NPN is below, a preview of Kings Island's Haunt.

The “kick off” party for the Haunt at Kings started with a ride in an ambulance. Not just any ambulance, this one is called the Party-Medic Ambusine. It has a siren, and all the flashing lights required for emergency transportation. Rolling through Nickelodeon Central with everything turned on, Scott found out that the powerful sound system was indeed strong enough to drown out the siren.

Quickly delivered to the Rakes-Helbig Memorial Home, where we donned our gowns, (“the opening goes in the back”) and we were ushered through the kitchen to the waiting room to see the doctor only to find the buffet. Wait staff circulated in wheel chairs while patients aimlessly wandered around with plates of cockroaches and other tasty treats.

Dr. Helbig worked the room, checking heartbeats and trying to project an attitude of calm amongst all the despair. New this year is the “Fright Feast,” an all you care to eat buffet in the “home,” with an escort to Urgent Scare before it opens to the public.

Characters from the various haunts visit you as you dine, to wish you bon app├ętit.

All of the sudden a chorus of unearthly screams and howls punctuated the festivities. Swarming in unison, monsters of all types covered the windows, pounding on the glass and voicing their displeasure. One of the patients unfortunately opened the door and the monsters took over the institution. Chaos ensued, and they only left after selecting and kidnapping an unfortunate victim. The rest of us were escorted to Urgent Scare for its premier opening.

Urgent Scare is best experienced under crowded conditions, because the theme is a virus outbreak wildly out of control. People with bullhorns tell you to go in various directions and ecohazard-suited workers quietly point the way with direction wands and glow sticks, refusing to answer any of your questions. Assuming you make it past the infected people wandering outside, inside it only gets worse.

The air is permeated with the sound of respirators and heart monitors beeping, groans and moans, and the occasional scream of fright. This is a huge maze, and well populated with many characters. It is easily one of the best of the Haunt attractions, and is much improved with a crowd. For the press preview, it was okay, but doing it a second time with crowds added a great deal to the atmosphere.

Kings Island has not rested on their laurels with the 2008 version of the Haunt. Even more monsters, additional attractions, and a new show help keep your night a “frightfull” evening. Dead Awakening is back, in all its grisly glory.

The new “Jezebel” is a particularly polished performer during her numbers, but the dancers are also outstanding and the music really rocks. There have been a few changes to the show but it easily holds its place as a top tier show amongst the Halloween attractions. It is a nice place to rest your feet, but not the shadowy recesses of your mind. We enjoyed it so much we saw it twice.

The popular Massacre Manor has returned for 2008. It is themed as a property for sale and hosting an open house. It starts with normal looking rooms, but that soon changes. You meet a pleasant girl who welcomes you to her home. A major feature is the many pictures of traditional family scenes. As you progress through the house, the pictures on the walls become macabre; the pleasant scenes are drenched in gore.

The former inhabitants of the house soon demonstrate why the price was reduced to “below” market value. They direct you into dead ends, and then evilly laugh at your plight. One character operates a table saw dismembering a corpse. The nice girl who greets you at the front door changes into a grisly, knife wielding maniac. The carnage continues until you are chased out of the house by the girl who is drenched in blood and still carrying the knife.

The Worksite is a new for us maze at Kings Island. While it is nice to see orange barrels somewhere else than on the highway during our travels, these hide many types of creepy characters.

After you experience this maze, you will lock your doors while traveling through other construction sites. A new way of looking at a common experience, just don’t speed through it. A couple of pointers, stacks of tires are not your friend! And don’t try to open the door to the porta potti; you don’t want to go in there either! After you walk through, we are sure you will agree.

Cemetery Drive takes advantage of the wooded park area next to the Eiffel Tower. The burlap walls allow ample opportunity for the characters to cut through and get ahead of you and get the especially squeamish yet again. We have no idea how of them many there were, but we did recognize a couple of them after they got us a second time. With fog so thick you have to be careful you don’t fall over a tombstone, sometimes you are feeling your way through this maze. Which gives them even more time to circle around you and scare you into going the wrong direction.

The new show for 2008 is Ghouls Gone Wild and is located in the Festhaus. More fun than scary, the delicious irony of watching a werewolf sing Duran Duran’s “Hungry like a wolf” is another wonderful excuse to rest for a while.

The former star of “School of Rock” has the lead in this show as a slightly sarcastic and semi-friendly witch. Everyone’s favorite monster appears, and the indoor pyrotechnics make sure no one rests their eyes during the performance. The group therapy lines are hilarious, and every body becomes one big happy family during the performance.

Moving on to Red Beard’s Revenge, it was easy to see the improvements for 2008. They still talked like pirates and they had left treasure everywhere throughout the haunted house. There were lots of heads inside, and many of them talked to you as you passed by their spots. A soundtrack of sea ditties helped you move along, and the words brought forth memories of pillaging and terror. The background music was slightly reduced in volume to make the scares more effective. The “victims” still asked for help as we passed, they still were long past saving. The lighting adjustments made great use of hiding actors in the shadows, and they would shout just before you could see them. Some of them were positioned on the floor, so even when they called out, it was difficult to make sure exactly where the noise originated because they are below your line of sight.

Tombstone Terror-Tory has returned for 2008. You still start by riding the train into the woods, hearing the legend, and then get off at a temporary station deep in the woods. Then you wait in the queue where it is deathly quiet, so much that you can hear the guests ahead of you screaming in the woods. When it’s your turn, you slowly pick your way back to the park through the haunted portion. The scareactors all have southern accents as you encounter a few scenes of backwoods justice. A few grisly scenes, some with live actors, entertain you along the way. It was especially unnerving to greeted by name as we passed one of the characters on the trail. Hello back to you, it was so dark we couldn’t tell who you are. Thanks for not scaring us too badly.

Cornstalkers is more of a traditional scare area, with bales of hay, some farm equipment, and the people dressed in cornstalk ghili suits which blended in quite well with the backdrops. They rustled a lot when they moved, but they were very adept at knowing when to pause before you turned around. The sound of people screaming on Invertigo provides an aural backdrop to the maze.

We then experienced Club Blood. It was easily the best of the haunted houses for 2007, the "bloody" plastic sheets that you had to push through accentuated the creepy feelings that sank deep into your consciousness. The scareactors in this attraction were definitely set on eleven, making sure every guest received multiple scares inside. A strong dance beat and pulsating strobes combined with “dead” exotic dancers in cages with their manic energy lived up to the club scene.

It seemed like there were even more characters than last year. A great selection of tunes, revealing costumes, and suggestive scenes make this a good time. This maze is all about eye candy. When you go, make sure to take your time and closely examine the toilet scene, it has several layers of carnage to enjoy.

As a final thought, even old rides rise from their graves at the Kings Island Haunt. Here several of the characters from the much loved Phantom Theatre are showcased on the karaoke stage, with the soundtrack playing in the background. Other rides had tombstones scattered through the park. Our last look as we departed was the piercing eyes of the skull, just inside the turnstiles. We’d also like to say thank you to Mike for allowing us to become a part of NewsPlusNotes.


juxtyger said...

seriously is this really necessary?
is it healthy?

looking at those images and people going there to see such blood, evil and it really necessary? yes, it is for Halloween but when did this event evolve into such a horrible incident??

I can't believe parks are allowing to let people see this and classify it as an entertainment. No wonder people are so numbed by such violence and disgust!

and think about kids going through those should be banned or limited to a certain level and definitely have age restrictions.

DrewJ said...

Thank you Izak! I have the same feelings about these Halloween festivities! Don't get me wrong. I'm not against a Halloween event, but come on! Does it have to be to the extent it has become?! In my opinion it has crossed the line way to far!

I've been wanting to go to an event with a certain fan site, however I can't for many reasons. If I was able to though, I would not be able to participate in a lights on tour and would most certainly leave before the park switched to the Haunt mode.

I would most certainly spend more money at these parks if they didn't have such an awful event like they have now.

NewsPlusNotes said...

Interesting perspectives... thanks to you both for posting your thoughts.

As a big fan of Haunts and stuff I don't get into the gore, just the scares. Halloween Horror Nights can be best of both worlds - they have some over the stop gory mazes but some with little to no gore but are still scary as heck!

Ahhhh HHN I miss you...

tlamere said...

ummm...if you don't want kids to go, then don't let YOUR kids go. but it isn't neglect nor abuse to let a young adult ("child") go through these attractions, especially with parental consent. my father took me through haunted houses starting around the age of seven, and i've turned out perfectly normal and still go to several every year.

fear is a thrill that is commonly sought by a vast majority of people. if you have taken a simple psychology class you would know how people actually go out of their way to be scared and thrilled.

if you think the images of these attractions are frightening or disgusting, i urge you not to check out some of the most popular haunted some of which actually DO require you to be over 18 y/o and others that require you to sign a waiver.

bottom line: if you don't enjoy it, then DON'T GO, and don't allow your children to go. but don't try to push your overly-conservative lack of personality on anyone else. if you don't want to have fun, then that's your prerogative, but hundreds of thousands of people enjoy and look forward to haunted attractions each and every halloween, and we are not abnormal because of it.

DrewJ said...

tlamere, I don't think you under stand what we said (or at least what I meant). I'm NOT AGAINST a halloween event at any park. I am against the gore that now represents halloween.

I DO NOT mind fear as a thrill. As one great President said; "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

I do not consider you abnormal, I don't plan on going, and I am not pushing my "overly-conservative lack of personality" on anyone. I am only stating my opinion and what I THINK should be done. If you can't stand MY OPINION then I'm not the one that has a "lack of personality".