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Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show


Cooger and Dark
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Hello horror hounds,

Right off the bat, let's flip the script.  Here are my critiques of this year's Halloween Horror Nights:

1. Universal believes chainsaws=Scary - If you want evidence of this look to the fact that 2 1/2 scarezones have them, at least three houses have them, and all the roaming hordes have them.

2. Universal believes Eprompts=Scary - If you want evidence of this look at every house.  Seriously, every house.

3. Interactivity is for scarezones - The only house I had any interactive moments in were Run: Blood, Sweat, and Fears, but the scarezones were packed out with method actors and interactive moments.

4. Masks are the new makeup - Once again, look at every house and you will see more masks than makeup.

5. Jack's show should have had seating - Self explanatory

6. You best know the source - The Walking Dead and Insidious made it very clear that if you did not watch either property, you would have no idea what was happening.  Even An American Werewolf in London suffers this complex during the nightmare scene (but much less so than the other two).


Those negatives out of the way, here are some of the positives from this year's event:

1. The scarezones were very interactive.

2. The Jack show was excellent.

3.  There were quite a few solid houses.

4. The roaming hordes filled in the dead spaces nicely.

5. The return of gore.


Random observations:

1.  Why no drop down boo holes? - And when was the last time we saw one?  These are an effective scare tactic that many haunts use.  I am not saying "These need to be in every house" so much as "Why have we not seen these in a while?"  It just seems odd to me.

2.  Throat slitting, anyone? - Take a minute to think about this, there were at least four houses with a throat slit scene that I can think of right off (one of them has two).


My credentials are that I have been going to HHN since 2009 (what some consider to be the last true Icon year) so I do not quite have the same perspective as some of those going longer, but I have a different perspective from those who have only been going since TWD years.  Truly, caught in the middle.  This fact shapes my entire review as I am sure the things above have made clear.

Now let's do a quick breakdown of the houses:

9. The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead - I have to preface this by saying last year's house was fine as was 2013. Neither of them were groundbreaking, but they also were not terrible. This one though, has no story, only one scene that was effective, a terrible facade, and the sets were meh. I went through this twice to give it a decent shot and still could not get into it at all.
Story/Concept: 0
Sets/Effects: 1
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 0
TOTAL: 3/10


8. An American Werewolf in London - A near replica of the house we had two years ago with two of my favorite scareactors missing and one new scare added. The sets are still good, the story remains unchanged, and (apart from the aforementioned actors) the scares are in the same places. This one will rank lower thanks to me already having seen it, the sets being replicas, and knowing where all but one scare would be coming from (it does not help that the new scare was ruined by the person in front of me backing up when it happened so that I knew it was coming).
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 1
Scares: 0
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 0
TOTAL: 5/10

7. The Purge - A clear story, boring sets, and one cast was super into the material. I went through this three times and only had one memorable walkthrough where the cast all seemed super into their jobs (also, a certain scene happened right in front of me). Much like the movies, this is a great concept that has yet to be properly executed.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 0
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 5/10

6. Asylum in Wonderland 3D - This had one of the better stories, an actual finale, okay sets, and good costumes. That being said, there were not a lot of scares in here. I enjoyed myself in this house, but would not wait longer than 30 minutes to see it again. Also, that tunnel...
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 1
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 6/10

5. Run: Blood, Sweat, and Fears - A good concept, decent sets, and at least one of the casts was on point. I enjoyed every walkthrough of this house as it was just fun, but only one of my walkthroughs yielded much in the way of scares. Not the greatest dark comedy house I have seen *cough* Bloodengutz *cough* but not the worst either.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 1
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 6/10

4. Freddy vs. Jason - I wanted to love this house, but I was able to guess where all the scares were going to be coming from before they happened. Both casts were great and the sets were pretty, but I just did not find this to be all that scary. Also, the lack of Freddy one-liners made it hard for me to get into this house. That being said, it did have one of the most accessible stories of the event this year and a clear finale.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 2
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 7/10

3. Insidious - This house has some great scares and creep factor, but the story is unclear even to those who have seen the movies. We twice enter the Further, but only once have that amazing transition hallway leading to confusion as to where we are at any given moment. If this was intentional, good on them, but I found it a bit off putting from a narrative standpoint. The buildup in this house was amazing, but the finale did not work for me. This still remains one of the better houses of the event though the awful lines make it hard to repeat (or want to repeat).
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Effects: 1
Scares: 2
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 7/10

2. Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem - A lack of any cohesive story does not stop this from being a very fun house to walkthrough.  There were a lot of good scares, amazing sets, and both casts seemed on point.  It took two walkthroughs to really see and appreciate everything this house had to offer.
Story/Concept: 0
Sets/Effects: 2
Scares: 2
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 2
TOTAL: 8/10

1. The Body Collectors: Recollections - Those who read my credentials know that I have not seen a Body Collectors house before, but I did catch them in the last anniversary house.  Therefore, what may be old hat to some of the more senior members, proved to be amazing to me.  This house had all the creep factor I was looking for, an easily understood story, and some absolutely gorgeous set design.  Easily my favorite house of the event.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Effects: 2
Scares: 2
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 2
TOTAL: 10/10


The scarezones were a very different beast from the houses.  Here, interactivity was stressed, the scareactors were nearly always on point, and the crowds were manageable so you could scarezone watch all day.

5. Scary Tales: Screampunk - One more setpiece would have made the difference in this zone.  The one they have is great, but the lack of fog makes it hard for the actors to hide.  The actors did the best with what they were given and I saw some solid scares and tag teaming in here even if I only received one or two myself.
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Costumes: 1
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 5/10

4. Icons - Not a bad zone by any stretch, but there was little tying it all together.  We had our four mains leading up to Jack's show because, well, why not?  This proved to be a hugely interactive zone that I could have spent a long time watching in action.  The scareactors were on point and brilliant at tag teaming and utilizing them to draw people to a mini show and then disperse them via scares was a great idea. 
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Costumes: 2
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 1
Repeatability: 2
TOTAL: 7/10

3. Evil's Roots - Like Icons, no cohesive story, but a VERY effective zone for scares.  The fog and lighting effectively cover many of the scareactors leading to some of my best scares of the night.  Not much in the way of interactivity, but the creep factor more than makes up that difference.
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Costumes: 2
Scares: 2
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 8/10

2. All Night Die-In: Double Feature - One of the two scarezones with a solid story this one shines when it comes to the method actors.  Nearly all of the actors stay true to their source material leading to a zone that can be both frightening and fun to watch (also, another heavily interactive zone).  The only complaint is that traffic flow can seriously disrupt the scares, but a lot of the actors got around this issue by hiding behind one group of people to jump out at another.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Costumes: 2
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 2
TOTAL: 9/10

1. Psychoscareapy: Unleashed - I could sit here all night long.  No joke.  This was not a super scary zone, but man were the actors on point with their interactions.  They really kept this zone both fun and creepy at the same time.  It seemed like every time I walked through this area I saw something new.  Also, the actors chasing not just guests but eachother as well was super effective in creating atmosphere.  One of my favorite things was Nurse Brooke's version of the costume contest as it really added a lot to this area since her nurse was sympathetic and imposing with a very small touch of humor.
Story/Concept: 2
Sets/Costumes: 2
Scares: 1
Atmosphere: 2
Repeatability: 2
TOTAL: 9/10


The roaming hordes were great at filling in the dead space and the clown saws in particular were amazing (see the clown saws cast change if you can).


Finally, we come to the shows.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure - It was, fine.  Apart from the beginning cameo and resurrecting the classics sequence nothing was too notable or memorable.  I did like the costuming during the MJ song as that lead actress' outfit was amazing.  I am still waiting for them to do a horror themed show like 2013's (which was the best B&T I have seen) as I think the structure helps things.  I mean, we had a Purge house so we could have had a Purge themed show fairly easily.
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Effects: 2
Dance: 2
Humor: 1
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 7/10

The Carnage Returns - This is the show I wanted.  The jokes worked, the dance was good, and though the story was paper thin it remained fun.  A horrible venue and long show time makes this one a hard one to repeat (my wife was recovering from a broken ankle).
Story/Concept: 1
Sets/Effects: 2
Dance: 2
Humor: 2
Repeatability: 1
TOTAL: 8/10


Parting thoughts: This year was a return to form scarezone wise and the houses were decent to amazing (apart from TWD).  I am hoping that having an icon this year, the phenomenal scarezones, and the great originals are tracking well so that next year will be a true return to form on all fronts.  I have mentioned some of the things I would like to see at the beginning but I will add to that list entrance arch decorations, an entrance arch scarezone (was 2009 the last year?), and an icon that ties the event together AND gets their own house.

Nighty nightmares,
-Cooger and Dark

Edited by Cooger and Dark
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