Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buffalo Haunt's Inaugural Year

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="This photo was taken from the facebook page of District of the Dead."][/caption]

This past Friday, my friend Steve and I checked out a new haunt in Buffalo, NY.  It's called "District of the Dead", and it currently resides in the old Don Pablo's building on Elmwood Avenue, by the Regal Cinema.  You can check them out on the web here.  Now, when I review haunts, I take a few factors into account.  It's not fair to judge all haunts by the same standard.  It's important to consider:  How much did the ticket cost?  How many years has the haunt been in business?  What's the purpose of the haunt?  Who works there?  When I was in college, I used to run the Haunted Hallway with Steve and the other members of the Astronomy Club.  I know how hard it is to plan a haunt, purchase all the props, and convince people to come to the haunt.  There's a ton of work behind every haunt that people don't always consider.

The haunt itself was interesting.  It had the obligatory chainsaw - always welcome, as well as the claustrophobia section that is common in haunted houses.  I thought that the haunt was pretty good.  I went through it and screamed my guts out.  I went back in again, and screamed just as much as I did the first time.  The actors seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, which is a big draw for me.  If the actors and actresses aren't enjoying themselves, why should I?  The set design wasn't very extensive, and there were no animatronic props - but remember, it's their first year.  They still have time to build a larger and more extensive haunt in the coming years.  (Personal note:  I prefer live people to animatronics any day!  The stupid whirrr noise they make is very fake.  I don't like being able to predict what's going to happen next.)

The Old Don Pablo's building made a pretty good first-haunt space.  It's a small-ish building which added to the atmosphere.  Also, being small, the props and actors/actresses weren't stretched too thin.  They were able to mix live action with props and scenery.

My only worry is the location.  Elmwood is a busy street, but it isn't situated in a place where it can be easily seen all day long.  Competitor haunted houses in the area are on busier streets, and are more likely to be visited by a spontaneous crowd.  Next year they should opt for a more prominent place.  On a good note, they advertised on Groupon.com, and have a Facebook page.  The souvenir cups were a great idea - it will keep their haunt in the forefront of people's minds.  It's also something that sets them apart from the other attractions in the area.  They don't have a concession stand as of yet, but I believe that will be something they will incorporate later.

After going through the haunt, Steve and I spent some time chatting with one of the minds behind the haunt.  Already, they are thinking ahead to how to change their haunt and improve it.  As it is, the haunt runs about 15 minutes, and will set you back $11.00.  If you show your ticket at the bar after the haunt, you get a free soda and a souvenir black light reactive cup that celebrates the haunt.  What's more intriguing than an $11.00 haunt?  An $11.00 haunt that donates 10% of it's profits for the opening year to Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo of course!  The haunt is staffed by volunteers who also do their own makeup, and a company was on site taking pictures of people at a strategic point in the haunt, and you can buy them after you get out.  The makeup the volunteers did will give most attractions in Buffalo a run for their money.  Some of them even had prosthetic wounds and other gory details like slashed and believably bloody clothing.

District of the Dead is certainly a haunt to watch!  I'm excited to see what they come up with in the coming years of their operation, and I will most certainly add them to my list of yearly haunts.  It will be fun to watch them grow from a small operation to a larger one.  If you're in the area, I suggest you stop by.  In the meantime, bounce on over to Facebook.com where you can find their page, or just take this quick link.  You'll be in the loop about tickets, pricing, and hours.  You'll also be able to take a peek at the haunt in their picture section, and get updates on additional District of the Dead goings-on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Walking Dead - Season Opener



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by starbright31 via Flickr "]The Walking Dead - Comic-Con - July 22, 2011[/caption]


It started out so promising, it really did.  The survivors made it out of the CDC alive (most of them), and then they find themselves horrifically besieged on a highway by a bunch of walking dead.  Awesome!  They hide under cars and almost make it out undetected, until little Sophia decides to prematurely come out from her hiding place.  She goes running off persued by walkers.  Still doing pretty well.

Then what the hell happened?!

They survive the horde of zombies.  Fine.  They loose the little girl Sophia, also fine.  Shane talks about (read: whines) losing Lori and how he's going to leave the group.  Fine.  Then they find themselves looking for Sophia in a church, with a few faithful zombies inside.  The first thing I thought when I saw that was, "Oh boy - Danny Boyle anyone?"  That's right people.  It felt like a rip-off of 28 Days Later - where Cillian Murphy walks into the church and is chased by a few enterprising zombies.  Of course, they group easily overcomes this obstacle, but then they hang around a little bit while a few characters go through a pseudo-epiphany.

The ending cliffhanger did it's job and made up for some of the more ridiculous moments of the show.  I just wish they'd start working in some of the graphic novel material.  Unfortunately, I don't think we'll see "The Governor", and Shane is still certainly alive and kicking, so I'm not holding my breath.  I am hoping that the season stays away from kitschy moments - that would really kill the season.

The make-up effects were savagely on par with what I would expect some sun-dried zombies to be.  The actors were top-notch again, and the dialogue wasn't stuffy or over-bearing.

Overall - I'm pretty much in the same spot as where I left off.  Hurrah that there's a zombie TV show, boo-rah that it's not as awesome as it could be. (Oh, and I keep hearing rumors that there will be a video game based on the TV show.  Not thrilled about that at all.  Some things shouldn't be poisoned by a need to make money off of people who don't know a good zombie when they see one.)

As always - let me know what you think!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just so y'all know I'm not dead (yet)...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by Metal Chris via Flickr"]Haunted House[/caption]


Sorry for the hiatus!  My sociolinguistics class is going to kill me.  I've been walking around like a zombie.  Mrgh.

In any event - I wanted to review a haunt that I went to last weekend.  My friend Steve and I have a tradition that we've kept up for the last five or more years.  We both love Halloween and we both love going to haunted houses.  Every year, we go camping with the Astronomy Club (we're in the alumni chapter at the college we both went to) in the fall and in the summer.  Well, this fall we happened to be at camp during Columbus Day Weekend - which just happened to be the biggest weekend at Nightmare Hayrides.  Neither of us had ever been to this particular haunt before, but that made even more exciting.

Nightmare Hayrides boasts a haunted hayride, haunted barn and a corn maze.  When we got there, it was packed!  If you buy your ticket by 9:30 pm, they will continue to run the attractions until everyone who paid has gone through.

After buying tickets, we went through a haunted barn, and arrived at the hay ride.  After the ride, we had to go through another maze/haunted barn before we were done.  The set-up was pretty good.  It meant that there wasn't much waiting and down-time, which seems to plague most haunted attractions we've attended.  There was always something to do and see.  The first half of the barn had the spinning tunnel with colored lights that you go through on a metal bridge.  As usual, I got gleefully disoriented and sort of fell out of the other side.  In the haunted barn sections (which turned out to be a barn that was sectioned into two parts), people in masks followed you, or jumped out at you.  In that way it was pretty standard.

The hayride left something to be desired.  I found out that weekend that I prefer not to be touched by the actors at haunted attractions.  They didn't do anything wrong - but I think that the idea of almost being grabbed by a ghoul is scarier.  There were a few stops along the hayride path, where we watched a vignette, or someone jumped on the hayride and "attacked" us.  My favorite part was the tractor.  This huge tractor came after the hayride and tried to ram us on both sides.  For an added touch, there was a body attached to the front of the tractor.  Sheer awesomeness!

Overall, for $15.00 it was a great time.  It was a clear and cool night, and the apple cider afterward was the perfect ending.  It's worth going through, and it took longer than most haunted houses, which Steve and I have noted only take about 20 minutes to complete.

If you've been to Nightmare Hayrides - let me know what you think!