~ PART 3 ~
KILLER HOUSES FROM OUTER SPACE
This was a somewhat underwhelming year for houses. They were either good or they were bad. Some did sort of fall "In-Between". Pretty much all of the houses this year felt very thrown together or recycled. Each house had its good and its bad, some more so than others. As I said in part 1 of this review, this year seems like a throw-away year...
Now onto more pressing matters regarding this year's houses..... What the hell was with all of the air blasts? I've never been blown that many times during one month than I did this year. Okay I take that back, I got blown a lot going through Forsaken 41 times last year. But still... the air blasts were a bit excessive. Then there were also the water spray effects, which there weren't as many of those as there were air blasts. It almost seemed like they wanted you to get blown & exit the house wet. I'm all for getting blown, but sheesh.. lets not do it in practically every house.
Now comes the time to talk about this year's houses... this took A LOT longer than expected, not to mention I had more to say than I had previously expected. So without any further delay, enjoy... "and may the odds forever be up your butthole!"
Currently Listening to:
Van Helsing - movie soundtrack
Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Midnight Syndicate - Out of the Darkness
Midnight Syndicate - The 13th Hour
Midnight Syndicate - Dungeons & Dragons
HALO 4 - game soundtrack
(running time - roughly 6 hours)
UNIVERSAL'S HOUSE OF HORRORS - 38 times
For being so last minute, this house was pretty damn impressive. Sure it lacked the "oh-so-amazing" (recycled) sets found in Gothic, but for what they were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time was well done. They kept adding more details to the scenes all the way into the 3rd weekend of the event. There were things added that I didn't even notice until the final weekend. So yes, those of you who only gave this house a few run-throughs did miss out on a lot. Even after going through 38 times, I'm pretty sure that I didn't see everything that was added. For those that say the house wasn't very detailed, you really need to pull your head out of your ass & open your eyes because there was plenty to see depending on the scene.
After recently seeing the cast pic of this house, its amazing how awesome the house was because the costumes were pretty... bad. It just proves that you don't need amazing looking costumes to have an amazing house. The costumes were very last minute, they didnt even really have their complete costumes until AFTER Employee Preview. Creature from the Black Lagoon for example never even had a bottom half to his costume, at least not a proper bottom half. Taking a close look at the masks, even after wear & tear of use, the same characters weren't exactly identical looking, which again is most likely due to the rushed creation of the masks. As for the cast, a lot of them definitely did NOT fit their role or match their tag-out as far as body double goes like they're supposed to. Now this is nothing against the cast mind you because despite these flaws... the cast did a pretty damn good job at making this house something special. They certainly weren't pampered by nice sets or costumes like the other 6 houses.
The facade (poster) for this house was... yea... this house totally needed a facade. This was really a missed opportunity to reuse 2009's Silver Screams UPT (Universal Palace Theater) facade, especially since the marquee already says "Phantom of the Opera" on it. What bugs me is, they totally could've erected that past house facade because they had plenty of extra space. There was enough space after the finale to have another decently sized scene. So there was definitely plenty of extra space for a facade. They could've shortened the Wolfman scene if needed.
As for the hallway of classic monster posters, I felt that it was a little too dark. You could barely see some of the posters. There should've been flickering cobweb covered lights as if it the power was surging from the "storm". Also, the posters themselves should've been illuminated with a blacklight timed to the sound of thunder/lightning. This simple effect would've given a tease to how you would be seeing the monsters themselves. I can't complain too much since the house was built last minute, so obviously things aren't going to be as perfect as they should be.
Some scenes were obviously better than others, but at least with the minimal set design, you still got the sense of being in each classic monster's territory. Here are my thoughts of each scene...
Wolfman - Thankfully the pathway was fixed for this scene, it was originally way too wide which hindered the scares from the scareactors on either side. Obviously this scene could've been slightly better, but for the short amount of time, it was a good. The downside was that the area for the scareactors were somewhat too big to handle. With some minor tweaking, this issue could've been fixed. The first Wolfman (right side) should've been closer to the beginning of the scene, while the 2nd Wolfman (left side) should've been a little closer to the exit. One of the neat details about the scene was the pentagram on the wall to the right of the exit, along with the poem "Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright."
Brides of Dracula - Not exactly the best scene, but it worked for the most part. The funny part about this scene was when they added Dracula's arm/hand reaching out of the coffin... that stupid prop scared me at least 3 different times. The Brides themselves worked their butts off covering every arch along the half-circle... it worked well due to the mirrors behind them not casting a reflection. I'd almost want to say there should've been a 3rd bride in the scene scaring from the corner right next to Dracula's coffin as you exit the scene.
Dracula - One of the most under-appreciated scenes of this house. Most people whined about the lack of scares within the corridor itself, this is due to them missing the point that its supposed to be an "endless corridor".. It was nice how much detail was added to this hallway and it really made a difference. The wind/water-spray effects could've been tweaked a bit to be better, but I can't complain too much seeing as the house was a last minute erection. The actual scare from Dracula at the end of the hallway was great and pretty effective... especially if you're pre-occuppied looking up at the Dracula dummy above in the arched window.
Mummy - From what I was told, this scene originally had you literally on your hands/knees in order to make it through before the ceiling was raised higher so that way it'd be easier for guests to experience. Personally, I felt this gimmick was poorly executed. Having the Mummy in the wall with an air-blaster was rather lacking. Now the "feelers" on either side of the floor along the walls was a nice touch in order to simulate scarab beetles. It was rather pointless for them to have a net above guests with 2 dummies.. especially since there was no reason for anyone to look up at them. What would've made this scene so much cooler would be if the Mummy was in the floor similar to 2010's Legendary Truth ghost-floor hallway. On top of this, they should've had an effect that made it look as if sand was pouring in from the cracks, essentially sealing your fate.
As for the Mummy at the end of the tunnel, he was poorly placed. Had there been a sarcophagus directly across from the tunnel exit for him to stand in, I believe he'd be a more effective scare. However, being directly next to the exit of the scene would've also been an effective placement.
Regarding the alternate route- it was surprisingly well detailed and the "tombed Mummy" is able to scare/air-blast you from this side as well. However, like I said above.. the 2nd Mummy in the scene has a horrible location due to being directly in the path of those using the alternate route.
Creature From The Black Lagoon - Its better down where its wetter, but in this case, its a surprisingly dry scene. No water-spray effect, no bubbles, nothing to help with the illusion of being underwater. However, there was a boat (painted black) on the right side hanging from the ceiling, which was supposed to provide the illusion we were underwater.
As for the Creature himself, i've been told that the masks were very difficult to see out of, which is reason for some of the poorly timed attacks. Now despite the limited vision, the scareactors definitely got some great scares.
FUN FACT: The boat hanging from the ceiling was one of the props from the JAWS queue.
Phantom of the Opera - Hated this scene in 2009, still hate it in 2012. Sure the Phantom gets scares from the air-blasts from the organ... but thats just a cheap gimmick. I really think it diminishes the potential for a real scare provided by the scareactor. The only way this scene would actually be somewhat decent is if it was part of a Phantom of the Opera house... but as a multi-movie/monster house scene, it fails.
Frankenstein - Can we say "Dungeon of Terror"? This was a great scene because you had the Frankenstein monster on the right, but on the left behind the bars was Dr Frankenstein himself providing a lot of the scares. Whats funny is, I never realized the body of Fritz off to the side of the dungeon, I always thought it was a 3rd scareactor waiting to attack until I really got a good look. Out of the 38 times I went through this house, I only saw the body "swing" once (its the same dummy on a sliding track effect we've seen used before). Unfortunately during the final weekend of HHN, they put a beam across the cell bars, hindering Dr Frankenstein's more aggressive scares.
Bride of Frankenstein - This was definitely one of the main highlights of the house. Not because of the Bride (unfortunately), but because of the Frankenstein attack. Leave it up to Frankenstein to steal the spotlight. In regards to Charging Frankenstein, for the idiots who "heard it took some time to master this effect".. Are you kidding me? it took time for them to finish building the damn house and to get a complete costume, NOT to "master" the scare. The timing was easy.. you'd hit the eprom, wait 4 seconds, and then begin rampage. There was no "mastering the effect". Although compared to laying in a ceiling for 45mins dropping your arm down from above I guess this scene would seem challenging. Anyway, I had a great experience in this scene on Halloween night when Frankenstein captured me & then threw me towards the exit lol.
Finale - I had actually expected the finale to be close to what was created, only the actual execution of it was much better than what I was expecting. The giant hanging films strips, the mirrored walls, and then all of the monsters... it just made for an amazing finale to this house. I definitely got quite a few scares from this scene, which was somewhat unexpected. Like others, I also got turned around once or twice only to realize there was a mirror infront of me lol. Of course the best moment was when I got hugs from Creature from the Black Lagoon (twice)..
Honestly, I would love to see this house brought back & given the proper execution it deserves. I'd love to see how much better it could be if given the amount of time the other houses got. Overall, this was definitely one of the best houses at HHN 22.
ALICE COOPER: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE - 43 times
Originally, I didn't believe the rumor about an Alice Cooper house, but then when the rumor seemed to be solid I was a little more open to the idea. I was told that the AC:WTMN house in Hollywood was good, so this got me a little more eager to experience it. Now I have to admit, when I first went through the house, I wasn't all that impressed. As I previously stated in my EP & opening weekend reviews, the house wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. To be fair, I didn't really pay too much attention to what I was seeing the first 10 times. The only thing that really stuck out to me was hearing "No More Mr Nice Guy" (which is sort've fitting for me lol). However, when I actually took the time to give the house a chance, I started to enjoy it more.
As many others have said before (myself included), it was very difficult to hear the music in each scene, some more so than others. This really hindered the experience. On top of this, some of the scareactor placement/interaction was poorly executed. Unfortunately, some of the things that could have been easily fixed weren't taken care of. Chris (Carnage) recently posted a quick write-up of what the house's backstory was in the AC thread. Subconciously, I guess I was able to pick up on what he said after having gone through the house, more so than I had originally thought. So it was definitely not that hard to understand despite what some people might think, it just took a few run-throughs.
I was looking at the cast group pic and it amazed me how different Steven's mom looked outside of the kitchen scene. I almost didn't recognize her lol.
The facade itself I felt could've been a lot better. Actually it really only needed minor things to make it better. The speakers should've been inside over-sized boxes made to look like speakers that are twice the size. Having the speakers inside something would've also prevented them from having to be covered up with black trashbags due to rain. The eyes of Alice Cooper should've have nightclub style lighting coming from them, afterall this is a rockstar house. There should've also been some slight fog coming out of his mouth (aka- house entrance). The biggest change would be to have the brick wall that says "Alice Cooper" moved to the other side of the pathway, so guests would pass behind it, allowing others to actually see it. If possible, I would've had small flames shooting up from the two lamp posts every so often. Speaker boxes, lighting, fog, fire... it would've given the facade a presence it was lacking.
As for changes in the house scenes...
Scene 2 should've allowed the nurse to pace back-n-forth instead of being trapped behind the Steven dummy.
Scene 4 had the potential for a great scare from the Showman (well the dummy of him). Steven's Mom & Dad really needed to have more interaction, especially since they're supposed to be arguing & young Steven is hiding while saying "Stop! Stop it!".
Scene 5 really needed an eprom for the cheerleader. It was almost pointless to have her across from the Jock if she didn't have some type of audio/lighting
Scene 7... the stripper.. yes, totally my favorite scene. NOT! While the stripper was "dead on her feet" (pun totally intended for Cast A's original stripper), this scene could've been executed better. First of all, this scene should've been covered in "ice" with an attempt at being "cold". Some low lying fog would've helped as well. The Stripper herself should've also been given a more corpse-like appearance.
Finale should've been slightly bigger.. and they had the extra space for it to be too which is rather annoying. You've got AC & Steven attacking you from either side, but the Showman who is in control should have more of a presence. As a distraction, I feel his spot just wasn't attention grabbing enough.
As enjoyable as the Black Widow room was... all I could think about was The In-Between's string room of doom from last year. Sure the scene worked for the house, but it felt rather lazy since the strings were replaced by black rubber tubing & wires. At least have the decency to reuse the mirrored floor/walls too. I just think they could've created something a little better... At least the Black Widow "Nurses" were HOT... Definitely a sexy outfit.
Oh and the ceiling scare. what a complete joke. This hallway between the stripper & Morgue AC was just pointless. And an arm dropping down from above is not scary, yea i'm looking at you Cast A. Talk about someone who should not have been cast in a shirtless role. He totally doesn't have the body for it. Seriously, put a shirt on & keep it on. At least the ABU on the first sunday night had a shirtless worthy body.
Overall, I found this house to be quite enjoyable most of the 43 run-throughs. Were the casts perfect? of course not, but that's not their fault. They had limitations on what they could do, but sometimes there is a weak link on your cast. Cast A had two weak links... only one was fixed, the other was still "hanging around" from above in the morgue.
Oh and one thing that I find hilarious is that after so many times through the house, I know there were details that I missed. I never noticed the dead fetuses(?) in Scene 2 until Halloween night lol. FML.
After so many times through the house, I now find myself willingly listening to Alice Cooper... obviously I was familiar with some of his songs, which I wasn't aware of initially, but I enjoy more of his music even more thanks to HHN this year.
PENN & TELLER NEWKD LAS VEGAS 3D - 13 times
Wait... I don't remember this house being advertised. Ah yes, that's right.. because the house created by Penn & Teller exclusively for HHN Orlando was completely neglected by marketing. This house really should've been promoted better (like I mention in Part 1), more so than TWD. At first, I was excited for this house, then my excitement died down a little when I first saw the promo pic of P&T infront of the facade with a few of the scareactors. On top of that, I wasn't exactly crazy about the house being in 3D, despite "The In-Between" being one of the best houses last year. It actually turned out to be a decent house. Not great, but not awful.. still one of the better houses this year though.
OMGZ there was a queue video.. the first queue video for Sprung Tent 2 since... 2006's "People Under The Stairs: Under Construction", which was 6 years ago. Definitely overdue. Of course it was a quite lengthy queue video so I only saw a few minutes of it here/there. They really should've had a 2nd projector further down the side of MIB for those waiting in the queue down at the far end. Three projectors probably would've been best, but at least a 2nd one would've been better than just the one. Especially when you think of how long that waittime got each night.
The house was definitely a "Penn & Teller Presents" type of house, so there really wasn't a lot dealing with them specifically except for the one backstage scene. So for those who claim that they like this house because you've "always been a huge fan of P&T", go back and read the previous sentence. The house had very little to do with P&T other than their name being slapped on the title.
Now as for the interactive features in the house, they were fun.. Yay there are buttons to push & a rope to pull....
As for the 3D aspect, that was practically non-existant. I think I wore the 3D glasses in the house a total of 2 out of the 13 times I went through. Obviously the 3D gimmick was a way for them to say that the 3D glasses would protect us from the radiation, however I feel the house should've scrapped the whole 3D aspect completely. It just wasn't necessary.
Some of the scenes just felt like wasted space. Nothing against Armando (King K), but the wedding chapel scene was just poorly handled. Having all 3 scareactors right there by the exit of the scene just seemed pointless. A lot of the scareactor placement was just awkward. The Bride/Groom being after the honeymoon suite. The hazmat suit scareactor shoved into the poker chip scene with the showgirl & blackjack dealer. I loved the LED room, just not the scareactors in the scene. It seemed somewhat challenging for the scareactors in the slot machine scene. I only saw the 2nd clown once out of the 13 times going through this house.
Its odd looking at what the cast looks like outside of their scenes and as a group. I honestly didn't really care for the masks at all. Most of the costumes felt very cheap & cheesy, but not in a good way. I think the costumes could've been a lot better.
I got a total of 5 scares (blackjack dealer, chef, x3 clown), but unfortunately these only occured during the first 4 run-throughs of the house. It wasn't so much the cast's fault for the lack of scares, but more so the novelty of the house wearing off after like 5 visits. I was almost going through the house just to push the buttons & pull the rope. I think the 3D aspect of the house is what held it back from its full potential. Like I said, it wasn't a bad house, it just wasn't given the best execution.
THE WALKING DEAD: DEAD INSIDE - 5 times
This is what you call a sleeper hit... and I don't mean that in a good way. It was by far one of the most bland, boring, and generic zombie houses ever. However, this is no surprise considering that the tv series the house is based on is also bland, boring, generic and a complete crapfest. I'm not even sure how I made it through Seasons 1 & 2, but I gave up after a few minutes of Season 3's first episode (best decision ever). The ONLY thing scary about this house was the waittime and the thought of actually waiting that long. The only reason why I went through this house to begin with was due to having friends on the cast who would've had my head if I didnt visit them when they were on set (of course I only got their cast twice + a cast change exit).
Like the scarezone, the house featured shitty masks. Seeing the cast group pic almost made me not like the masks even more. On top of this, the sets supplied details that were nods to the tv series, but otherwise very generic settings. The facade was underwhelming and it was almost like they recycled last year's BloodenGutz facade & 2010's Zombiegeddon facade to create the hospital facade. There was just nothing memorable to be found here.
There was a queue video... oh wait, that was just a Season 3 promo with the cast talking about the tv series. Instead of showing that stupid promo, they should've actually been showing Seasons 1-2 as the queue video. Or even a montage of scenes... possibly even the scenes that will be experienced in the house itself.
The first run-through of this house had a pretty impressive gauntlet exit finale... however, the other three times were lackluster and missing a lot of scareactors. Now there was one other decent exit experience and that was when a cast change happened before walking into the house. Having the entire other cast lined up at the exit was impressive especially when you have a few who know you lol.... and unfortunately, that full cast immersion was the only redeeming quality this house had.
I know AMC was watching TWD house like a hawk. Yay for restrictions.
DEAD END - 8 times
The haunted edition of hoarders... with cool effects. One of the things I didn't really like about this house was the set design. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't very exciting either. A lot of the scenes felt like wasted space. And then of course there are the multiple transitional hallways of nothingness.
One of the big things that hindered the house experience was the lack of queue video. Along the lack of backstory being known... and lets not forget the backstories for each of the scareactors. I'm sure the house would've actually been more enjoyable if I knew what each of their backstories were. You can't do a house like this without providing the proper advance intro. This is why there is a website.. This is also why queue videos are helpful.
Speaking of the scareactors and their backstories. It was odd actually seeing the cast group pic and being able to really see what they all looked like in somewhat better lighting. Some of them I could pick out which scareactor belonged in what scene, others I couldn't.
I got about 2-3 scares on my first run-through of the house... unfortunately, the other 7 times were underwhelming and "meh". The house had the details, some of which really get lost within the barely there lighting. The effects in the house were definitely the redeeming quality the house had going for it. The spinning tunnel was completely pointless. Yes, they tried something new with it, but for me... it failed completely. Without the dissorienting effect the tunnel is supposed to provide, it just seems stupid to even use it.
If you claim you got scared every time you went through this house, then you're a complete wuss. Oh i'm sure the cast was "top notch crazy every time"... but give me a break. The house lacked scares after the first run-through. It was very inconsistant due to the scareactor placement. You end up seeing the scares ahead of time completely killing the scene. The bathroom scene definitely had the advantage for scares along with one or two other scenes, but the rest of the house just didn't really work (except for the effects of course).
It wasn't a bad house, but it just did nothing for me after the 2nd or 3rd time through it. Good effects though (except for the spinning tunnel).
GOTHIC - 8 times
I was really looking forward to this house... Gargoyles.. how does that NOT sound awesome? well... unfortunately, my excitement died down just from the crappy unfitting name of the house.. "Gothic". I mean seriously, how did that even make it on the list of potential house names? Then I saw the costumes, which... also sort've killed my excitement. I wasn't expecting full on stone-looking gargoyles, I expected at least a few, it not most, to have actual skin. Then to make their faces resemble different animals seemed a little lame since they should appear more menacing & demonic. The cast group pic allowed for a better look & I still didn't care for what I saw.
Now lets look at the set design... ah yes, gray stone walls.. definitely the best looking thing i've ever seen... oh wait, no its not. A good portion of Gothic's set is recycled from last year's Forsaken. Complete with the same "finale" scare. I don't mind recycling, I'm all for it, but at least do it in a way that doesn't allow you to instantly recognize where it was used before (especially don't copy scenes directly from a previous year). Everyone claims the house is just soo amazing looking, when in reality, its rather plain throughout most of the house.
OMGZ there were flying scareactors in the house... oh wait... been there, saw that. Seriously, the whole flying gimmick is rather old and played out now. Its time to move on to new ways to "wow" people. The flying gargoyle scenes were so underwhelming, especially when two of them were just used last year. The rooftop starry night flying gargoyle also left something to be desired.
The scares set up in the house were almost laughable. You could easily tell where a scareactor would be attacking from due to the poorly designed set up. Lets not even talk about the distraction scare attempts. I didn't even notice the scareactor in the ceiling or the one near it until maybe about my 5th or 6th time through the house due to being more interested in the chapel mirror effect. They really should've used the dropping floor effect from 2007's Dead Silence..
This house would've been more impressive back in 1998 when it was originally designed. Back then, it would've probably been scary and flying scareactors would have been mind blowing. Unfortunately, this house left something to be desired. It was "pretty", it was over-rated and not much more than that. The ONLY redeeming quality it had other than being pretty was the stilt gargoyle. He was the best part of the house (on both casts).
WELCOME TO SILENT HILL - 8 times
This was the one house that I expected to scare me a little, but it failed miserably. Sadly the underwhelming movie was a lot creepier than the actual house. This was definitely a disappointment. There really wasn't any actual scare potential with the execution of this house, at least not to me.
I was hoping the house would be similar to the videogame, which I've never played... rather than the movie, which I've seen. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. On top of that, there was a complete lack of effects... there really should've been a scrim effect that shifts you between Fog World & Other World, especially since they had the siren. It was also a little too bright in the house. A flickering light effect that occasionally made it darker would've been nice. Hell, even the dreaded helmet lights from 2005 (Terror Mines)/2006 (PUTS: Under Construction) would've probably improved this house. Making it darker would've at least helped amp up the lack of scares.
The facade was actually nice, but there really should've been a "wall of fog" directly after the "Welcome to Silent Hill" sign. Then after the police officer shoots at the walking vagina monster, there should've been a scrim effect when the siren goes off before you enter the short chainlink fence segment.
The scene with the nurses was a total waste. Walking past a few nurse mannequins isn't creepy or scary. Now if we had been forced to walk through them similar to how it is in the movie & 2008's Dead Exposure "crowded room"... THAT would've made it better.
The only redeeming quality this house had was Pyramid Head and the sword effect. The sword effect was cool, but it was also very easy to miss.
Had this house been a scarezone instead, I think it would've worked better. Of course having seen a video of Hollywood's failed attempt at a SH scarezone, I have to wonder if Orlando could've actually done better. There are most likely plenty of "monsters" that could've been used. So I still say it should've been a set scarezone somewhere instead of a house.
Many long hours later... this concludes Part 3 of my review.
(Part 4 will hopefully be posted soon.)