As opposed to prior trip reports, we’re going to look at the Haunt/Valleyfair in a more redeeming light, recognizing the great amount of work that goes into the Haunt each year. If we were to look at the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the ’06 Haunt and what we experienced just yesterday, the comparisons would be — relatively speaking — day and night. What started out as a fairly small cluster of haunted houses and zones at the Midwest’s largest family Amusement Park has transformed into what it is today — a Haunt spectacular that continues to be one of the most successful Haunted Attractions in the upper-Midwest.
Our approach to these reviews will be a bit more brief than in past years, and instead of rating each by skulls or rankings of numbers 1-5 (how we do adore numerical rating systems), we’re going to simply give a quick review, a compliment, and a critique. This simply allows us to maintain our perfect objectivity when looking at each maze and/or zone. Without further adieu, onto what you’re here to read about:
Chateau Du Damne: Chateau was laid out in a similar manner to last year’s blueprint, though it was subtly a bit smaller than last year due to the Skeleton Key room being towards the middle of the maze. (No, we did not do the Skeleton Key unfortunately) Nothing seemed drastically changed, but instead, we enjoyed the ability to walk through this timeless maze which never ceases to bring a smile to our faces, and a hiss to our ears.
Compliment: The whole mob of vampires were on fire despite the fact that it was the first night. From our favorite Butler at the door to the last scene, it seemed that almost everyone was a returner, or at least had their role down pretty darn well. Kudos to all, and keep up the energy.
Critique: The maze as a whole was a bit bright, though this may be changed as the season goes on. We thought collectively that Zombie High was darker than Chateau, making it a bit of a bummer to walk through. There’s something about the darkness of this maze that has made it terrifying to walk through, and easy for the monsters to make it even more terrifying to walk through.
Zombie High: Zombie High was our first maze of the night. This also was a Skeleton Key maze, thus a few minor layout adjustments were made. The new rooms were pretty neat, and the detail seemed to get a little bit better since last year. The new library scene was fantastic, and the first 3-4 rooms were REALLY dark, making it surprisingly creepy, and VERY atmosfearic. Overall a great improvement from last year, and a contender for top maze of the night!
Compliment: Echoing the comments above, the detail was great, and the maze as a whole really flowed well. Also, the use of animatronics really made this a good startle-scare maze. Again, a great improvement from last year.
Critique: The monsters were a bit repetitive in their scaring techniques, and didn’t seem to have all that many places to hide. We dream of the day in which there are button scares (or at least a singular button scare) at Valleyscare, and this maze could be even more improved if one was incorporated into one of the rooms.
Mangler Asylum: This never ceases to be one of the creepiest mazes at the Haunt. The atmosphere is just incomparable to the rest of the mazes, and the cast is rarely off. The shower scene was cut off due to the Skeleton Key room being added, but this didn’t really detract from the maze at all. Same Asylum for the most part, same great maze we’ve seen for years.
Compliment: The cast was definitely “on” last night, and it was evident. They were almost all returners that we recognized, and they all continue to do a great job of playing their parts as wickedly insane people. One of our new favorite rooms? The Morgue — With the addition of the shining x-ray screens, it makes it extra creepy and very scenic. We loved that minor addition!
Critique: A change in layout would be great after 9 seasons. We know there have been new rooms, new tweaks, etc. However, it would simply be nice to see a fresh new take on the Asylum that throws the “veterans” of Haunt off. Especially if it’s going to stay around to see Haunt 2015 (its 10th year of operation).
Mr. Cleaver’s Bloodshed: This maze was kind of a let down, only due to the fact that we got stuck behind a security guard and a blackout, followed by what was ostensibly the slowest group to attend the Haunt in 4-5 years. This made for a lot of awkward pauses, a lot of new monsters that weren’t sure how to interact with guests standing in their rooms for long periods of time, and a lot of missed potential scares. Nothing seemed to have changed all that much, though there was a split up this year in the middle, which was a nice change of pace.
Compliment: This maze always a neat atmosphere, and the soundtrack really adds to it. It’s a truly grotesque work of art, and we’re glad that it has a place at the Haunt.
Critique: We can’t really give too many critiques, let alone a critique at all given that we were stuck behind a group that stopped for minutes at a time.
Hellside Farm: Hellside has a special place in the hearts of Valleyfairzoners. We weren’t disappointed in the maze itself by any means this year. Though we had heard prior to Opening Night that the Farm was sort of “thrown together” in bits and pieces by random employees, we weren’t expecting it to be any better than the previous year, thus our expectations weren’t blown away, nor shattered. It got par for the course, and we continue to love Hellside for what its worth. We did walk out a bit concerned for how the corn is going to hold up, however. By the end of the season, we’re seeing a forecast of pallets, walking through corny gunk, and a whole lot of visible Wild Thing & MRVR. (Not Valleyfair’s fault — We blame Agricultural Conglomerates & Mother Nature!)
Compliment: The layout was great, the use of double pallet walls brings wide smiles to our faces, and the amount of split-ups was ridiculous! A very ambitious take at this Haunt classic.
Critique: There were VERY few monsters within the maze, which made it sort-of saddening in a sense. The group had so much layout to work with, and yet we found ourselves making turn after turn after turn without seeing anyone. We aren’t sure how many monsters there are, how hiring went this seasons, etc. — Thus we can’t make a fair judgement, but nonetheless we hope that more monsters are in Hellside than we encountered.
London Terror: New location, same accents. The new location made London work a bit better in our opinion. However, like its outdoor counterpart (Hellside), the amount of characters was just ridiculously sparse. The layout itself was comparable to last year — if not exactly the same — although it seemed like the construction was rushed in order to get it finished. If the maze could be worked on in detail for a few months and fully staffed, this maze would be EPIC. However, we still want to give it a few years. We trust it’ll get better.
Compliment: Visually the maze is pretty solid. Lots of great room ideas and costumes. The few characters that we did see sold their characters pretty well. Although we would’ve liked to hear “God save the Queen!” not quite so often.
Critique: Again, the amount of detail was up to snub, but we were just writhing for more set-design and minuscule details. Also, the first room had a little closet in the corner, and if there was a button scare in there, we probably would’ve cried out of happiness. BRING THE BUTTONS IN! #GodSaveTheTerror
Camp Wekilou: We experienced Wekilou in the same way in which we experienced Bloodshed — In a very “ruined” sense, where we were stuck behind a slow family that had a lot of screaming children in it. (In case you haven’t been at Haunt, if there are people who scream in your group, the monsters find that out VERY quickly, and attempt to go after those groups instead of adults — It just makes sense & is more fun as an actor/actress) Wekilou wasn’t too drastically different, though we didn’t expect it to be. Still a pretty creepy little Camp to visit. We certainly wouldn’t want to go there.
Compliment: The atmosphere continues to be really eerie. Keep that up Haunt Masters! You definitely have that to work with.
Critique: The talent all seemed pretty young (fitting for a Camp, we spose), so it wasn’t very intimidating/terrifying overall. However, we recognize that A.) We were stuck behind a group, and B.) It was Opening Night of Haunt.
DINOSLAUGHTER: There’s not too much to say about this one. Essentially, you have to walk through London Terror, which exits out into Dinoslaughter. If you want the juicy details, it consists of scantily clad, large (VERY large) men running at you from in between the legs of various animatronic dinosaurs. If that doesn’t get the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up, we aren’t sure what does. At the risk of being uncharitable, we look forward to seeing what this Haunt evolves into given once a more workable budget is presented.
Compliment: The walk from London Terror back to the Dinos gate was a little bit more eventful.
Abnormal Alley: Same Scare Zone as last year for the most part. Nothing too incredible, though the amount of props and people that they cram into a small space is great! If there was more monsters and more props, it would be up to snub with some HHN zones. With that said, we aren’t sure if there are any successfully pulled of Scare Zones in the world. We aren’t ready to abandon all hope with Zones, we’re just apprehensive to affirm their existence.
Compliment: Good props, neat costumes.
Critique: It’s short, and it’s not really scary.
CarnEvil: Ringmaster’s Revenge: The Haunt Masters behind this one stepped up their game from what we could tell. They added a few more props/obstructions to the pathway, making it easier for the Clowns to attempt to scare people. The problems? Well, read the critique below.
Compliment: More props & walls made for a better Scare Zone than last year.
Critique: The talent simply walked around staring at guests, though again — it was the first night, so we can’t necessarily be THAT disappointed.
Blood Creek Cemetery: This Zone has been kickin’ since the first year, and it seems to shrink a little bit each season. It could’ve been worse though. Same story, same monsters, same Zone. Blood Creek is Blood Creek, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
Compliment: Lots of fog makes for a visually cool scare zone.
Critique: The amount of monsters who were out of character was unparalleled, even to previous years. You would’ve sworn the dead has risen and it was happy hour — The laughing, texting, and flirting of these zombies was crazy! We walked through and were borderline scandalized at the amount of people who were in character as opposed to the contrary. #Woof
Overall we were really glad to have made it to Haunt, and we recommend that everyone go visit this year! Word of advice — Get the Fright-Lane. We went on Opening Night, assuming it wouldn’t be busy, and we had a few 15-20 minute waits. All things considered that’s not that bad, but we would’ve rather not waited so extensively for the Haunts. In addition, we’ve heard nothing but ridiculously impressive things about the Skeleton Key, so there’s further motivation to get the Fright-Lane upgrade. DO IT!
Thanks for Reading! Cheers.