Sunday, October 7, 2007

Haunted Attraction Review: Six Flags Great Adventure Frightfest

Theme: 4/5
Effects: 3/5
Execution: 1/5
Atmosphere: 1/5
Value: 1/5
Total Rating: 2/5

Six Flags Great Adventure and Safari
1 Six Flags Boulevard
Jackson, NJ 08527
Pricing: Expensive ($40 or more per person, plus $25-$35 in parking, and about $20-$60 in refreshments)
Recommended Age Group: 10+ (if you're over 13, this may be too tame for you)

Awakening Parade
Many "haunted" shows
4 "Haunted Trails" (already existing areas of the park populated by actors in costume)

1 Haunted Walk (new attraction)

Wheel of Fright (horror game)

Coffin of Fear (horror game; not active during our visit)



Ugh...Frightfest. Great Adventure's FF is a huge event; it attracts tons of people, horror buffs and thrill-seekers alike. The main attraction is, of course, the theme park elements; huge coasters and amusements tower into the night sky, dwarfing all the lesser elements of the event. But we weren't there to rate roller coasters; we were there for FF itself, from the Awakening Parade, through haunted music shows and dolphin acts, hypnosis and haunted walks. We were there to experience the Fright!
In theory, anyway. In practice, the only thing we experienced was overcrowding on an epic scale. Within minutes of the Awakening Parade (which was pretty good, actually; see video embedded above), we were rushed by literal hordes of people, and every haunted attraction was full to bursting. The transformation to Frightfest occurs promptly at 6:00PM; by 6:20PM, the line for the haunted forest was estimated at almost an hour long, and the attraction didn't even open until 7PM! There was plenty of screaming, but not the kind you'd hope for; packs of irate mothers and terrified kids were everywhere (which is why we went 10+ on the age recommendation). According to employees at the park, the haunted hayride seen in years prior was discontinued, and most of the remaining haunted attractions were less than impressive. The effects and general theme were excellently executed, and the talent was spot-on; unfortunately the 20-40 actors they had were simply insufficient compared to the thousands of visitors to the park. It was a challenge to even find people in costume half the time, and every opportunity for entertainment was obscenely overcrowded. We walked around for about two hours with absolutely nothing to do, simply because we could not find a single line that was not ridiculous (see the video below).

So to summarize, is Frightfest interesting? Yes. Is it fun? It could be. Are the actors good? They're dedicated to the scare and often pretty talented. Do we recommend it? No. It's just too damn crowded. Any attempt to do anything fun is quickly quashed by gargantuan costs for refreshments ($4 water...and it's Dannon...) and enormous crowds. What scares there are lose all impact because of the crowding, and what fun you may find hiding in every corner will be quickly seized upon by the packs of roaming thrill-seekers desperate for an escape from the more crowded park elements. If you have a family, and lots of tweens, you might be able to make something worthwhile out of this event; otherwise, please, for your sanity's sake, stay away.

Haunted Attraction Review: Bates Motel

Theme: 3/5
Effects: 5/5
Execution: 4/5
Atmosphere: 5/5
Value: 5/5
Total Rating: 4.5/5 - Incredible

: Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride
Arasapha Farm
1835 N. Middletown Road

Glen Mills, PA 19342

Average (12.00-15.00 for one, 30.00 for all 3)
Recommended Age Group: 16+ (Nighttime)

Haunted Hayride
Bates Motel - Haunted House
Haunted Corn Maze


In this trade, it is not often you are surprised; after all, when you're in the business of reviewing scares, you get a little desensitized. It has been a long time since someone really shocked me to any degree beyond the "sudden jump" thrills of most attractions. I can honestly say the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride was an excellent experience, and one I will be willing to make the three hour trip for again.

When we first arrived at the Arasapha Farm, we were greeted by an almost carnival-like atmosphere. Gaggles of eager horror-mongers were spread out across all three attractions, along with a fire-breather, concession stand (reasonably priced, though we somehow lost ten dollars in our exchange there), and a movie screen playing a variety of trivia and special interest clips. The lines were long, but they moved very quickly; in truth, we didn't wait more than twenty minutes for anything. My recommendation is to leave the hayride for last; it is, by far, the single most impressive attraction we have seen to date, and deserves to be saved for last.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Beginning with the "motel", you will feel a slightly different vibe here than at most attractions. The actors are engaged, and seem to be genuinely enjoying plying their trade. They are eager for the scares, and will follow well out of their designated territories. They will also break the touch barrier, a highly unusual practice in this business. The developers have obviously gone to great pains to indemnify their actors from retaliation, both physically and legally; there are signs posted everywhere warning the client of closed circuit cameras and "at-your-own-risk" actions. This frees up the talent to really cut loose, and it is a welcome change. In the house, your hair may be touched, you may be brushed or breathed on, they may even grab at your arm or foot. All this serves to intensify the fear, and makes for great atmosphere. The animatronics are also used expertly and make for great environments. Even stand-still props are placed with an obviously loving touch; the spookiest moment for me personally was a meat locker where the temperature was actually lowered to a genuine chill, and a lunatic plowed through hanging bags full of corpsely body parts, screaming a with a bloodlust that was full of relish. That's the first time I actually screamed all season.

The corn maze is similar to the house, with a few tricks stacked on for good measure. The maze is convoluted and long, and is certainly not made only of corn. About halfway, the maze becomes wooden, and paths branch off, while demented miners force different groups down alternate paths. You can oftentimes see the other groups, but you cannot reach them, making for a terrific helplessness if you happen to go down a different path than a few of your friends.

The house and the corn maze are both excellent specimens of their respective types, but the real gem from the three attractions is the hayride. Chock full of special effects, huge (I mean, HUGE) animated characters, and actors that are 100% interactive (we almost fell off the ride when they jumped on the ride and started touching and grabbing at people), this is the thing to see at Bates Motel. Innovative traps and tricks, and creative use of music make this the perfect package.

Of course, the locale is not without some very minor flaws. The theme is not really backed up by the actual location (there is no Norman Bates, and though there was an excellent opportunity to use the associated theme in many places, it simply wasn't tapped into), and the execution suffers from some very minor issues (we lost our way in the haunted house twice, but only briefly). These flaws don't even amount to a fraction of the positives, and, for all effects and purposes, they can be wholly ignored.

The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride is simply brilliant. Almost perfect in every measurable way, it is simply not to be missed.

Haunted Attraction Review: Bayville Screampark

Theme: 2/5
Effects: 4/5
Execution: 2/5

Atmosphere: 1/5
Value: 3/5
Total Rating: 2.5/5 - Average

: Bayville Screampark
8 Bayville Ave.
Bayville, NY 11709
Pricing: Above Average (13.50 for one, 33.50 for all 4)
Recommended Age Group: 13+ (Nighttime)

Bloodworth Manor - Haunted House
The Curse of the Zombie Pirates - Haunted Walk / Converted Mini-golf Course
Uncle Needle's Funhouse of Fear in 3-D: 3-D Haunted House
The Temple of Terror: Haunted Labyrinth

PHOTOS: Unavailable (Photography Prohibited)

This is our first "official" review, and it is an interesting one. We are LI residents, and are very familiar with most of Long Island's haunted attractions; however, neither one of us had ever been to Bayville Screampark before. To say the location is very good is to give it too much credit; on the other hand, to say it is mediocre would not do it justice.

Screampark is an adventure park modified for the season. It has an appropriate selection of daytime activities, but our interest in it rested solely on what happened come nightfall. Due to the nature of the park, as well as its location (amidst a set of storefronts in the middle of an upscale suburban neighborhood) make for poor fare when it comes to setting the mood for fear. In addition, the park only really transforms the contained attractions and its ticket booth, doing little for the areas between attractions; the result of this is a somewhat disjointed feeling in between scares, as you journey from an often well-crafted amusement to an unadorned walkway, and it does little to help the illusion of terror.

That said, the attractions themselves are pretty well put-together. The two houses are rather good, and even lacking any music whatsoever, they manage by visual and sound effect alone to put together a little scare. The gore is sparsely spread, but when you get it, it comes in buckets. The most memorable moment of the locale comes in a room littered with body parts of both man and pig, while ear-shattering porcine whines pollute the air around you, and a knife-wielding butcher bathed in blood comes running out from a side door. In all, the houses outdid the other attractions, and some of the tactics used are an acquired taste. We personally enjoyed the overwhelming calm of the Temple of Terror, put together with repetitive ornaments that enhance the labyrinthine disorientation, and no actors whatsoever for the first two-thirds of the attraction, followed by a comparable mob of monsters near the end. The funniest moment of the night goes to a point in the labyrinth where we ran into another group of hopelessly lost wanderers, and we all managed to scare the hell out of each other.

Unfortunately, the labyrinth is not the only place you get lost, and that's a bad thing. The Execution score above suffers from the houses' mislabeled and confounding walkways, which will just as easily lead you accidentally to a behind-the-scenes portion of the house as they will to the next room. This results in a lot of backtracking, and really dulled the effect of the rest of the attraction. The other issue was with line design. It is understandable that big lines form in vastly populated areas like LI, and this is no fault of the house; however, the design of the houses allowed for too many people to be crammed into the lobbies, shoving impatiently as they snake around the same tiny, cramped room, listening to the master of the house give his prerecorded welcome/warning about twenty times before mercifully being allowed to walk.

In the end, Screampark does what it can with what it has; it gives a decent scare or two using spots that are not really meant for that purpose. The actors are pretty good and the balance of actors to mechanical scares is only slightly off. The problems are mostly in the park's inability to hold its own theme and atmosphere, its somewhat disorganized design, and slightly inflated ticket pricing. I would recommend this one only as a last resort, when you're on LI with nothing to do and a few twenties burning your pocket; otherwise, steer clear and look for something with a little more bite.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Welcome, reader, to our new blog.

By way of introduction, I will briefly explain. My name is Ruben, and I am a fan of horror. I've decided to start a new website called Horrifique, to help horror fans like me maximize their exposure to the genre; until that site is up, we will be chronicling our work in this blog. So, if you are a fan of horror, welcome! I hope you find our posts and site both entertaining and useful.

Among other things, you will find news and reviews involving Movies, Games, Books, Locales, Events, Costuming, and more. And, of course, you can always post comments in response to us. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy!