Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Guest Review: Fright Nights Haunted House, Albany, GA, 2015

I was born and raised in Albany, which is why, I've been trying to visit Fright Nights Haunted House since they first opened, however, I was never able to do so.  But this year when my fiance and I made a trip hoe to visit my mother, I knew that I would finally get to see this haunt.

We visited them on their opening weekend, and they weren't very busy.  The first thing we ran into was we really didn't know where we were supposed to go for tickets or the entrance of the building.  We accidentally went to the back of the building, where they were exiting, and were quickly redirected to where we were supposed to go.

The ladies at the box office were very friendly, and I liked that they were running a military special, due to the fact that Albany has a large Marine base, and they were giving a pretty good discount to the members of the base.  After talking with the ladies for a moment, we got in line and waited to be let in.

This was where a slight problem started,  We got paired up with a small group of youths.  Now, being a fellow haunter myself, this was the ideal group for scareactors to get.  They were jumpy, loud, and already scared to death...and this was before they entered the house.  However, having seen groups just like them, I knew they were not the ideal group to walk through with, and this was soon discovered as we entered the house, and were read the rules.  This group were jumping and everything (even when there was nothing there), pushing each other, and into us in the process.  They were asked to calm down by the lady giving the rules, and they did for a moment.

And then we were let into the haunt.

That was when the group started running, almost knocking us down in the process.  I told them to cut it out, but they didn't.  The first room or two were hard to really judge, based on the fact that this group continuously were pushing into us.

And then one of the members of management stepping in and completely stopped them, in order to let us pass and go through the rest of the haunt.  We were very thankful that they did this, because it made the rest of the haunt much more enjoyable.

If you are looking for a state of the art haunted house, with super detailed sets, expensive animatronics, and perfect looking creepy costumes, then this haunted house is not for you.  However, if you are looking for a fun, old school style haunted house with a group of motivated and energetic actors, then this is indeed the haunt for you.

Fright Nights reminded me of the old school Jaycees haunted houses.  It was a lot of fun to go through it.

After we exited the haunt, we were able to talk to the owners for quite awhile.  It was really good to talk shop with them about haunt business, all the work they put into the haunt, their unique locale restrictions, and other fun topics.

I'll give them a 3 out of 5 severed head rating.  In the grand scheme of things, Fright Nights was not my favorite haunt of the season, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a good time or wouldn't recommend it.  If you're in the area, check them out next haunt season.  I know I will.

Author: R.C. Haunter

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review Summary for 2015 Haunts

How did we rate the haunts to compare them against one another?  Here is our summary of Severed Head rankings for this year.  Our ratings can go as low as zero and as high as five.

Netherworld 5
Gates of Misery 4.6
Plantation Blood 4.5
Nightmare's Gate 4.5
Folklore 4
Zombie Farms 4
Containment 3.75
Talmadge Brothers' Funeral Home and Casket Company 3.75
Fear the Woods 3.75
Camp Blood 3.5
Haunted Theatre on Hill Street 3.25
Madworld 3.25
AZA: Dead End 3.25
Scream on the Trail 3
Nightmare Dungeon 2.5
Sinister Suites 2.5
Asylum of Terror 2
Paranoia 1.5
House on Horror Hill 1
Bloodwood Trail 1
Phobia Plantation 1

We can't wait to hear about your experiences at these and other haunted attractions.  Please feel free to comment here or message us through our Facebook Page (not the one that has friends, the one that is a fan page) and we will happily share your reviews here as well.

We are also friends with the reviewers at Atlanta Haunt Review and Dark Menagerie.  We encourage you to not take our word for it about any haunt, as every experience is different.  Read other reviews and do your research before you go anywhere.

As we wrap up this season we are finally getting to slow down, even though we know that several great haunts are staying open during the first full weekend of November and some may even be opening up for Friday the 13th.  Let us know what you encounter. Happy haunting!

Scream on the Trail, Snellville, GA 2015

                Scream on the Trail is located in Snellville, Georgia.  This outdoor trail is in a different location from where we have visited them.  This trail is not particularly long, although it is intimidating by appearances.  The natural decay of buildings on the site are able to evoke emotions of heightened concern which feed into your fear as you continue forward.  Some of our favorite parts of their attraction include actors who are able to appear out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly.  That managed to get a couple of jump scares for even us.  The location is difficult to find, so we would highly recommend driving slowly on the road as you get near or you will miss it.  Though we can't say much about them without giving away scares which they would benefit from continuing to use we can say that their actors were brilliant and highly flexible, even though there weren't nearly enough of them.  We rate them with 3 severed heads out of a possible five and hope that you get a chance to visit them in the future.

Asylum of Terror, Winder, GA 2015

                Asylum of Terror is located in Winder, Georgia.  We will begin by addressing the fact that on the night we went they started over thirty minutes late and claimed the reason was that they were still putting actors into make-up, however based upon what we saw inside the make-up should not have been the reason for being late opening unless the actors weren't at the haunt on time in the first place.  Also, they began the haunt season by saying that they would delay opening a week in order to give their best possible show, however there was little that we saw which indicated what they had done to be so much more prepared after a delay that was intended to make it the best that it could be.  With that said we will move on from it to what we encountered with the attraction.
                After purchasing our tickets and entering the que line we were trying to talk while we waited, but there was so much screaming and loud banging it was not easy to do.  It was as though we were standing in the middle of a very poor production of the musical Stomp.
                The most detailed portions of the haunt are the sign at the entrance and the very first room.  Beyond those rooms the walls are pretty plain and simple with a few alterations, most frequently holes in the walls.  We noticed that the walls appeared to be white in the majority of spaces, which is unusual for a haunt (though not unacceptable). 
                The majority of the actors were portraying patients in an asylum.  When we think of asylum patients we think of them talking complete and utter gibberish, with wild eyes, and unpredictable natures.  The patients at this asylum seemed to all be screamers with no rhyme or reason behind the continuous screaming.  If you know us then you know how we feel about actor versatility.  The crew which is placed within a haunt should be ready with a multitude of things in their arsenal for how they can portray their characters, if they can only scream that is very limiting and highly predictable.  There were a few actors who were not screaming, however there were other actor related challenges within this haunt.  During the final stretch we almost had one of our group hit in the face with the chainsaw as they rounded a corner (I know, because it was me).  As we exited a woman in our group stated, "Was that all?" and then let us know that in one section an actor actually hit her in the breast.  Both of those incidents were accidents, but they are avoidable if the actors are well trained in what could occur within their space and how to be aware of their proximity to patrons.

                We rated Asylum of Terror with 2 severed heads out of a possible five, and were hesitant to do so.  They have some high points which we can acknowledge (though not without giving away too much information and ruining it for others), but they definitely have room for growth.  If they have acquired this space on a permanent basis and will be working with it over the year to improve it and spend time training their actors, then we can see them improving in the future and don't want to discourage anyone from giving them a try.  One thing that we did notice was that the younger girls (primarily teens and pre-teens) seemed to get the most out of this particular haunt.

Zombie Farms, Winterville, GA 2015

                Zombie Farms is located in Winterville, Georgia just outside of Athens.  They have a permanent location, however it is an outdoor trail.  Please be advised to wear the correct footwear for this situation, especially if it has been raining within a day or two of your visit.  Another tip for visitors from us is that the GPS did not take us directly to the address, so keep driving after that and you will eventually clearly see the correct location.
                The haunt contains a variety of elements in addition to the trail itself.  They have a zombie photo opportunity set up, ghost stories being told, a bonfire, and for an upcharge you can do a behind the scenes tour which includes a change to tour backstage and talk with the crew.  We chose to do that bonus tour as well and would love to give a proper shout-out to the three stellar actors who were in animal regalia and spent so much time and energy on us because of our dolls that indicated we were a part of the Behind the Mask tour.  They did a superb job and could give pointers to others on how to make guests who have paid extra feel as though they are getting their money's worth.
                Two of the things that we really appreciated about this haunted attraction were the beautifully shared backstory and the clear trail path.  The backstory is built up as soon as your group enters the first entrance (there are two and the first is for a larger group to get the backstory, while the second breaks you into smaller groups and collects your tickets).  There is a video shown in a barnlike space which informs you of the history behind what you will experience.  The story is intricate and the video well done.  If you listen to it you will be more well informed about what you will encounter as you traverse the remainder of the trail.  The second thing that we loved was that the trail, for the most part, was smooth and easy to travel.  It was lit well enough to be seen, but not so much that it detracted from the scary setting that it was establishing.  Although we did encounter some roots during certain sections of the event they were not really a problem and were large enough to step on and keep moving without feeling as though you were constantly in danger of falling.
                One of our favorite sets located at Zombie Farms was called Halloween Town.  The reason that we loved it so much was not for the scare factor, but rather for the intricate details which it housed including its many trick-or-treaters.  Although several of their other sets are thoroughly detailed this one stands out above them for us. 
                If you have read even a few of our previous reviews you know that we have been to so many haunts it has become very difficult to get either of us to even jump.  I can happily report to you that we jumped several times during our walk through the woods and fields which make up Zombie Farms, which should be considered high praise for their actors.

                We rate Zombie Farms with a solid four severed heads out of a possible five.  This is a haunted attraction which is worth the drive, especially if you are a haunt fanatic and want to give their bonus tour a try.

Madworld, Piedmont, SC 2015

                Madworld Haunted Attraction is located in Piedmont, South Carolina which is near Greenville.  The event is an outdoor trail, although there are some indoor components.  They also host an escape room event on site, however we did not have the chance to participate in that attraction during our visit. 
                From the beginning we could tell that the event was going to be interesting.  Parking was highly organized, but because we were there before the official start time it was tricky to figure out where to enter after we parked.  We almost walked in the exit until we spotted the ticket booth just inside and found which set of ropes let that direction.  After entering we noticed that they had several things to keep you busy while you were there.  The gift shop, bonfire, and food vendors provided things to do while you waited or after you were finished.
                Please remember that this is an outdoor trail and you should remember to wear proper footwear to events such as this.  The ground is never my friend, so I try to wear the most comfortable and stable shoes that I can while attending haunts.  In this particular situation I still managed to encounter roots and limbs which made me wary of where I was placing my next steps.  This makes me move slightly slower than most people through events like this, so I take that into consideration.
                When we entered we did sign a waiver, which makes sense for anyone conducting an outdoor trail.  There is always that potential that someone will fall and get hurt, and nobody in the haunt industry wants to deal with those liabilities.  Insurance for haunts is expensive enough as it is, adding in some injury cases would make it ridiculous.
                While we were in line we were grouped with another set of people near us by the staff.  I murmured to them to please not do this since the woman in the group was already annoying to everyone near her, but they did it anyway.  This particular woman had been bumping into me and leaning her cell phone on my shoulder while in line, which you can imagine would both you.  As we proceeded through the first part of the haunt with her she bumped us, grabbed us, cursed at her child and his friend, and disobeyed directions to her from actors.  When we reached a certain point and she disobeyed we refused to continue with her.  The actor, to his amazing credit, managed to stay in character while contacting security to have her removed immediately.  We waited for this to be dealt with ahead of us on the trail and even had management come to us to apologize while we waited.  It became obvious that they were dealing with her and when we continued on she was nowhere to be found.  The remainder of the event went smoothly, but we definitely appreciate the level of service which we received once it became clear that she was ruining the night for everyone.  Customer service is a huge factor and we are happy to say that in the face of adversity the staff at Madworld have great customer service.
                The attraction combined a variety of sets within buildings that felt somewhat less than permanent, yet somehow fit into their surroundings well.  One of our favorites of the night was an encounter with a Freddy like character and a victim being sucked into a bed.  This particular scene was exceptionally well done and the character portrayal was spot-on. 

                When we left we did a short video in the parking lot and posted it to our Facebook Page for Haunt Review and concluded that our rating for Madworld was a 3.25 severed heads out of a possible five.  We highly encourage you to check them out.  They had high praise for other haunts that we discussed with them, and that level of professionalism is always appreciated as well.

Nightmare Dungeon, Greenville, SC 2015

                Nightmare Dungeon is located in Greenville, South Carolina.  Although this attraction does have some high notes we would like to start by pointing out that we have had some very negative encounters with people claiming to be associated with them online, and this has actually made us think less of the haunt due to those supposed staff and their negative ways.  We wanted to drop our rating of them because of this, but realized that we could not factually verify the connection between the people running their Facebook Page and the actual haunt itself, so we left the rating alone.
                Nightmare Dungeon has three attractions, one of which claims to have the "Real Leatherface," even though that is not entirely factual.  If they have paid for the intellectual property rights to place this on their signs as a statement, then we accept it and move on.  The first two attractions are attached and flow from one into the other without interruption (so isn't that really one attraction?).  The third is the one that requires a ride on their truck to the nearby facility on the property which is listed as connected to Leatherface.  The third attraction is by far the shortest of the three (but that's hard to tell when you aren't sure where the first one stopped and the second one began).
                The outside actor who we witnessed took great pleasure in his job of scaring and entertaining the line, and was probably the best actor we witnessed during our visit.  He had exceptional timing and athleticism which is to be commended (though his knees may not agree as he gets older if he continues to do some of the daredevil things which he was doing while we were there).
                The interior of the attraction was well designed and had some unique elements that we haven't seen around as much.  The potential for scares is definitely present, however on the night that we went you couldn't hear anything over the music.  When we were given directions by actors or staff we couldn't hear them even if they were nearby and yelled.  At one point I answered a request from a staff member to do something in a room (which would then trigger a response we found out) and the person next to me couldn't even hear what was said to me.  The assault on the eardrums was unfortunate because it detracted from the experience in an extreme way.
                We can't judge if the actors were of quality because the sound problems prevented us from hearing them or interacting with them.  This meant that we were unable to tell if they could stay in character or not. 
                In this situation the sets of the first two attractions were the best parts of the event.  Without factoring in the encounters we had after leaving the event we rate them with 2.5 severed heads out of a possible five.  The sets are their strongest parts, the sounds detracted from the event, and we wish that we could have been able to judge the acting abilities of the scareactors inside.

                ** Side Note** The person online who interacted with us has threatened to have us sued because we asked where they got their number one ranking from.  They stated on the Facebook Page for the haunt that they were ranked number one for several years and we simply asked by whom, which lead to them becoming angry and defensive.  In our opinions that is a highly suspect behavior and we want you to be aware of what our personal experience was with that.  It has not direct relationship to anything that you might experience by attending the event, but it is something that you should know as you give them your hard earned money.  They were unable to verify their rating for us.  We did note that they posted a link to a review at one point, however when we went to Google and searched for the name of the review group we found a haunted attraction in Texas with that name and the same logo, but no mention of reviews associated with it.  Food for thought.  Opinions are protected speech and everyone is entitled to their own.  We are certain that they do not like us because of our opinion of them, however we are entitled to our opinion and so are they. Not every review is a good one and nor should they be if you are an honest reviewer.  They were nowhere near the worst attraction, or rating, for this year from us.

Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse: Dead End, Grant Park, GA 2015

                Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse: Dead End was held in the Grant Park/Glenwood Park area of Atlanta and was a benefit for the Maynard Jackson High School PTSA.  This two night event was a bit of a rebirth for the popular AZA, which held its final year in 2014.  Shane Morton, and his amazing crew, built and delivered this attraction in the remarkably short time frame of under a week. There was more time than that put into the development of the concept, however the location was not available until right before opening night and everything had to be temporary so that it could be removed just as quickly.
                In spite of the limitations which a space that is essentially an access road or alleyway presents this haunt is always capable of delivering an environment filled with thrills.  They prove once again that the setting can be less than desirable and the actors can save you.  Their crew trained high school students and brought in some of their own workers to scare guests, and delivered the unique zombie experience which we have come to count on them for.  There were multiple encounters during which we found it hard to believe some of the zombies were students from the high school helping out. 
                We are proud of the effort and what they achieved, yet still saddened to wish AZA a farewell once again.  It is always our hope that they will return in a permanent location some day and bring back their level of scare that never fails to entertain.  Once you've seen people who obviously don't exercise running from zombies in an attraction, you know that they are doing something right.

                We rated this limited engagement with 3.25 severed heads out of a possible five and hope that they were successful in raising a great deal of money for the PTSA at Maynard Jackson High School.  Perhaps we will all get lucky and they will have been so successful that we see a repeat next year. 

Phobia Plantation, Jackson, GA 2015

                Phobia Plantation is located in Jackson, Georgia near one of the major truck stops.  It is not the easiest place to locate when you get into the area.  When we did find it the building was nondescript and we would not have recognized it as a haunt if we had not been looking for one.
                When you purchase your tickets at the window you will sign a waiver.  Though they express to you some of the reasons why you are signing it, they are not entirely forthcoming about it.  They state that animals are some of the reasons, however that would not be our opinion on why you need a waiver there.  They do have a few snakes, and those are not having a waiver level impact upon you.  What we found that the waiver kept us from being able to do anything about was the section where you crawl over a hard surface, covered with food and gel filled gummy toys.  This particular segment made it impossible for us to move on to any other events that night as the food and gelatinous materials were ground into our clothes, especially the knees of our pants. After that particular section we were so into fight mode instead of flight mode that we did not enjoy anything else.  Let us clarify what that means.  The goal of a haunted house is to take advantage of your fight or flight response to stress and adrenaline.  They want to make you fearful so that your body initiates the flight response which makes you want to run or avoid your fear, the counterpoint to that is that they really do not want your fight response to come into play too much because it has results which can include punching, kicking, fighting, and disconnection from the experience.
                Another of our pet peeves is the frequent inclusion and misuse of black plastic.  We understand when individuals who do backyard haunts use black plastic to create walls, but if you have a building and are covering the walls with black plastic it makes no sense.  It is possible to have black plastic used well, however it is rare in our opinions.  This particular haunt had a lot of black plastic within a building and we could not understand why.
                Their final element was meant to be a claustrophobia room, however we were so into fight mode and therefore distrusting of them at that point that we refused to enter it because of how sketchy it appeared. We found an opening in the hanging walls and just walked out at that point.

                Due to our ruined clothing and the sketchy nature of portions of the event, combined with the cost of the attraction in relation to what we experienced, we rated Phobia Plantation with 1 severed head out of a possible five.  We did not feel that the attraction was a good use of our time or money for the experience that we had.  We're sure that there are people out there who probably had good experiences with this location and we would love to hear all sides of the story.  If you have a haunt experience anywhere that you would like to share please contact us either through the comments section of a post or through the messaging feature on our Facebook Page for Haunt Review.

Sinister Suites, Griffin, GA 2015

                Sinister Suites is located in Griffin, Georgia in a very old building.  We have frequently heard people asking others if the story behind it is true, and then hearing that it is not.  We have nothing to base our verification on other than the memories of locals who are over eighty years old, and those memories at that age can either be accurate or not, so take it with a grain of salt. 
                We were pleased to notice that they had opened up one of the larger downstairs spaces as a que line area.  The detail work from  the original life of the building is still there in many ways, and that it something to occupy your mind while you wait.  We are also glad to see that more things which we thought were dangers in the past have been addressed.  The floors feel a bit more stable and the stairs have been repaired or replaced.
                The greatest strength which Sinister Suites has going for them is their sets.  The scenes, taking advantage of the original life of the location in most cases, are interesting to look at.  They appear to be well designed.  The greatest weakness of Sinister Suites is that everyone in the group we went through with (there were six of us, three couples who did not know one another) said the same thing about their actors: why don't they do more than scream?  After one or two screams even the people with us, who we found out don't go to a lot of haunts and had no idea that we write reviews, were expecting the screams and no longer concerned with them in any way.  The screaming loses its impact after it becomes predictable.  We took a moment after the haunt to ask a staff member who appeared to be in charge in some capacity about why their actors only seemed to know how to do three things: scream, yell come in, and yell get out. The response was, "That's how we do it here."  Well, that shows a lack of concern about it, even when a customer concern is brought to them about it.  This could be based on them recognizing us if they did, but we don't know if they did and would hope that this wouldn't be the answer if they did know we review.
                We have seen a lot of online posts that people say they are great, but we haven't specifically talked to people about why they liked them.  One thing that we can comment on from our experiences over multiple years attending without reviewing them is that we have never seen anyone leave who was running, screaming, or laughing as they exited.  To us that says something, but feel free to draw your own conclusions.
                Please note that you should be physically fit to attend Sinister Suites.  There are many flights up stairs that you must climb, going up and coming back down.  If you have anything which inhibits you from climbing stairs do not go as there is no other choice for you there.
                We rated Sinister Suites with 2.5 severed heads out of a possible five.  We feel that the sets are a plus, but the inability of the actors to be versatile when a situation is thrown at them detracts from the experience.  We also felt that having two staff members behind our group using radios and saying into them "clear (and the name of the room we were entering or leaving)" at full volume definitely was a distraction for us and others.  Please let us know what you did or did not enjoy if you have been to Sinister Suites in the past so that we can share a variety of views on this attraction.

                The best way to reach us is to either comment on this post or to message us on our Facebook Page for Haunt Review.