The First Haunt of the Year…

Nine years ago, I met one of my closest friends, Steve, through the Astronomy Club at my college. He was an alumnus, and I was a current student. While on a camping trip, we discovered our mutual love for all things horror: movies, music, and most of all – haunts. We decided to start going haunting every October – during which we would visit every haunted attraction in our area. (That may seem like nothing much, but here in Western New York, there’s a large variety of things to do and see during Fall!) This came to the relief of our other friend, also named Steve, who was pretty much done with haunting. As our tradition is nearing it’s 10th year, we decided to start spicing things up by adding an out of town haunt per season. You see, we are in a great location in New York state, since we have attractions like the Haunted Horseman Hayride in the Hudson Valley, and we’re extremely close to both Pennsylvania and Canada.

Steve has been talking about Pittsburgh Scarehouse for the last few years. This year, we decided to go, since we’d be closer to Pennsylvania for our bi-scarehouseannual Astronomy Camp weekend. We left camp Sunday night, and within three hours were sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh waiting for our arrival time. The Scarehouse organizers came up with a really great way to field their traffic without jamming the narrow street in front of the Scarehouse, and jamming the neighboring streets. Visitors can only arrive via school bus shuttle, which leaves from the Pittsburgh zoo parking lot. When you buy tickets, they come in time slots, starting at 7:00, and going every half hour. The staff  is very efficient at getting people lined up, loaded, and off to the attraction. The bus ride takes less than 10 minutes, but when we arrived, we were thankful that we didn’t have to drive. It would have been awful! The Scarehouse is tucked away on the outskirts of a residential area, and the streets are narrow. The jam would have been colossal!

After leaving the shuttle, visitors walk around the building to a back entrance. While they wait in line, they are entertained by a man dressed as a woman, a man in a straightjacket, and a man in a bunny suit. Don’t start laughing yet. Bunny-man carries an axe, straight-jacket man pops up when you least expect it, and the last guy, well, he just taunts the crowd and draws your attention away so the others can get to you easier. The front of the building looks like something out of a Vincent Price film, which adds effortlessly to the atmosphere. You just know you’re in for it when you enter the building!

I elected not to purchase the speed pass when I purchased the tickets, because I was against the $34.99 price tag. If I’m spending that amount, I want more than a chance to be a line-skipper. In any event, we paid the standard $19.99, waited in line for a half an hour, and then were led in. (The line inside the building is a little claustrophobic, but at least there’s a barker for entertainment and some interesting displays). Visitors were led into the Scarehouse in groups of four, though the groups quickly caught up with one another. Within a few moments of entering, the groups had become a conga-line of terrified lambs. One house bleeds into another, and all you can hear are sound effects and people screaming and shrieking.

THE SCAREHOUSE BUNNYScarehouse definitely lived up to the hype! Visitors went from house to interconnected house, encountering all sorts of nasty costumes and props. This year’s haunts were Creepo’s Christmas in 3-D, Pittsburgh Zombies, and The Foresaken. All were phenomenal! Below are brief descriptions of each house, as well as the lobby, but not in the order in which the visitor encounters them. Not afraid of Mister Bunny (pictured at left)? Meet him in person. It’s terrifying!

  • The Lobby: While visitors wait to enter the house, they are treated to an old-school stage show, with a creepy barker. He handed Steve a nail to verify that it was real, and Steve did. Then, the barker stuck it into his nose through a hole that I can only assume was a pre-existing piercing. I thought Steve was going to throw up, knowing he’d touched the nail. In retrospect, we were one of the first groups, so chances are it was relatively clean. There were also all sorts of creepy showcases with old props. The whole atmosphere was Art Deco – think “Great Gatsby in Hell”. Very cool!
  • Creeop’s Christmas in 3-D: The only clown-house that I’ve ever enjoyed in a haunt. Most of the time, clown houses feel like a rubble pile covered in black light reactive paint, and built haphazardly. This house didn’t have many actors, but that was alright, since there was enough detail to make it interesting. The painted scenes on the walls predominately featured gingerbread men in a variety of terrifying situations. Gingerbread as victims and murderers, and even a horde of them being consumed by crazed Christmas trees. It also contained the usual tunnel, which I almost fell out of at the end. Good ole’ Creepo Claus himself is pictured below, for all of your clown-filled nightmares.
  • The Foresaken: This house was a dollhouse from hell! I don’t like dolls, I don’t like people dressed as dolls, and I really really don’t like dark places with dolls! In short, this house was terrifying. Dolls were dismembered, watching my every move, and apparently peeling themselves off the walls and talking to me. Thank goodness the guys behind me in the conga-line had a sense of humor – that house was creepy!
  • Pittsburgh Zombies: To be fair, there were a bunch of stationary zombies, hanging out of windows, scrunched into corners, and  generally waiting around for people. However, these were some of the best zombie performers I’ve ever seen. In most haunted attractions, the zombies stumble around like over-sugared children playing with a pinata. These zoms, however, were of the Danny Boyle type. You could almost feel them retching up the contagion as their bodies jerked spasmodically. As a friend of mine would say, “Gold”.
  • The Basement: The last house is below the other three, but you have to pay another $19.99 fee for access, and sign a waiver. The actors are allowedcreepo to push you and restrain you, which is not something I’m up for. Those who know me in real life know that I’m not too good on my feet, so I didn’t like the idea of being pushed off-balance. After we left the Scarehouse, we ran into people we had met in line that went to The Basement. Steve was a little disappointed that we didn’t go, but we both agreed that with not knowing total time, or the lines, we would have been hard-pressed to make it back on time. As it was, we arrived back home around 12:30 am.

At the end of the haunt, visitors can either purchase merchandise, line up for The Basement, or take a shuttle back to the parking lot. We opted for the parking lot. Pittsburgh Scarehouse was a great attraction, but I recommend that any potential visitors spend $19.99 on the ticket, arrive early, and make sure they’re at the parking lot about an hour before their time slot. The attraction is great, but it’s better if you can get in, get scared, and get out like Steve and I.

Have you ever been to The Scarehouse? What did you think? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

The Walking Dead – Season Opener

The Walking Dead - Comic-Con - July 22, 2011

Image by starbright31 via Flickr

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!

Vote in AMC’s Most Dangerous Zombie Hunter Poll !

AMC is hosting a “Most Dangerous Zombie Hunter Poll” right now.  The cool / unconventional part of this poll is that from the outset you can vote all the way to the win in one go.  Then everyone’s votes get tallied.

Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead) VS   Ken Foree (Peter, Dawn of the Dead – original)

Will Smith (Robert Neville, I Am Legend)  VS  Cillian Murphy (Jim, 28 Days Later)

Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee, Zombieland)  VS  Simon Pegg (Shaun, Shaun of the Dead)

Bruce Campbell (Ash “Ashley” Williams, The Evil Dead series)  VS  Milla Jovovich (Alice, Resident Evil series)

Now, first off, I’m not telling you who I’m voting for.  (If I were honest, I would admit its because I have no clue who I’m voting for just yet.  If I were dishonest, I’d say its because I want you to make up your own mind.)  This is only the first round in AMC’s poll, there are still a few other elimination rounds.  Keep track and vote at http://polls.amctv.com//chart/data/2623-lead-1.html.

For me, who I will ultimately vote for depends on a few factors.  The worst part is that they’re all really amazing characters with their own unique zombies to face.  So what exactly, defines the “most dangerous” (read: most unabashedly bad-ass) zombie fighter ?  Is it weapons prowess (Alice), or is it pure luck (Shaun) ?  Or perhaps crazy good catch phrases (Tallahassee and Ash might tie on this one…)  Perhaps its the ability to survive sprinting, drooling, rage-infested zombies (Jim) ?  Each of these characters represents a path in my downward spiral into full immersion of zombie culture…so I’m not sure how I’d even begin to choose.

{Update:  I just did the poll – no, I’m still not telling you who I voted for, and I got to the end.  Wasn’t terribly impressed.  It seems worth the conversation and the giggles, and its worth seeing what other people gave as reasons for who they picked.  Other than that, I highly disagree with the outcome.}

 

28 Days Later

28 Days Later: The Soundtrack Album

Image via Wikipedia

This is one of the most terrifying zombie films I have ever seen.  Period.  I’m even going to admit that it gave me nightmares.  I will go so far as to admit that it still gives me nightmares.  Especially the scene in the church when Cillian Murphy wakes up and is exploring the ravaged city.  When you see the film you will know exactly which scene to which I’m referring.

The film starts with the origin of the Rage virus and how it is spread.  It sets the framework for the rest of the film and shows the speed with which the infected travel.  The infected are capable of running very fast and even one scratch is sufficient to cause the virus to spread.  An added bonus is that the virus takes over the host within seconds, so when traveling with companions it is important to know exactly what is going on during every battle.  This element alone adds a measure of anxiety to the film, as the speed of the infected doesn’t allow for many mistakes or for much careful planning and surveying.  Choices have to be made quickly, or many people die.

The music is haunting, the acting is amazing, and the scenes are very well filmed.  Another scene of note is the road trip through the body and car-filled tunnel.  The screams of the infected are heard well before they are seen.

Even if you are a purist who believes that zombies should be dead, and should not run, this is still a good movie to see.  Who knows – it may change your opinion.  This movie is fantastic !  The virus is believable, the acting is great, and the music ties everything together.  If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t stress enough how badly you need to see it !