Total Rating: 4.5/5 - Incredible
Location: Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride
1835 N. Middletown Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342
Pricing: Average (12.00-15.00 for one, 30.00 for all 3)
Recommended Age Group: 16+ (Nighttime)
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.