4 things haunted attractions need to stop doing immediately; I don’t care if it’s just Halloween or a butt squirrel – My Blog

4 things haunted attractions need to stop doing immediately; I don’t care if it’s just Halloween or a butt squirrel

So yeah. I do this Haunted Attraction review thing every year. Here are 4 things that haunted attractions need to stop doing.

1. Overuse of chainsaws and clowns:

Chainsaws and Clowns are the Photoshop Lens Flare of Haunted Attractions. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Photoshop, I can explain. The Lens Flare feature is a feature that almost everyone used when it came out because it looked “big” and “cool”. It quickly became the demarcation for who was a terrible artist because so many people used it to make up for lack of creativity. Lens Flare didn’t help art, it became the focus of the piece and drowned out anything else about that piece. Today it’s generally laughed at. Don’t use Photoshop Lens Flare!

Chainsaws and clowns are only slightly different. They do scare some customers so I won’t say stop using them altogether. I will say that they should be used sparingly and that whenever I see them I refuse to respond to them out of my hatred for them.

I don’t knock people’s reviews down for having chainsaws and clowns but I do knock them down if they use them as a crutch or in a random and careless manner.

Good examples of clown usage are at Bates Motel and Hotel of Horror in PA. Bates went against the grain and used vintage 1930s clowns. That impressed me. Hotel of Horror encourages their scare actors to adopt personas. They have a clown in the haunt that clearly knows his character and executes it like no other. This also impressed me. These are great way of taking a tired concept and making them new and great again. (Read their respective reviews over at this page.)

2. Relying on startle scares at the expense of storytelling:

We get it. You are extreme. No, make that “X-TREEEEMEEEEEE”.

There’s nothing wrong with scares of all types but I really wish that more haunted attractions took the time to build their own story as well. Even a simple story is a way to evoke ownership over a scenario and immediately be seen as a name brand. Think about it – which would you remember better? A movie called “Zombie Man #54” where no one had a name or a purpose or “Postman Joe the Zombie Face-Eater from New Jersey who likes The Sopranos but really hates Bruce Springsteen”?

Yes, I know my example here is ridiculous, but the point is the same – the second one is memorable. The first one is only stupid and the same thing everyone else does. No matter how good, bad, or simple the story is the best haunted attractions find some way to create narratives within their work that make them stand out from the others. I wish more people would do this.

I don’t care if you are so extreme that you are pulling a squirrel out of your ass. That squirrel had better have a story even if it’s a simple story like, “This is a Butt Squirrel”.

Even haunted attractions that aren’t scary can be amazing if they create a fun theatrical experience. I want to see their world and their creative process.

3. Copying the other guy:

The one time I bothered to engage in a haunt owner community I ended up face-palming at how much copying is out there with no other justification than “The other guy near me did it so I should, too”.

Some people are great at set building. Some are great at acting. Some are great at extreme experiences and the safety issues that need to be thought of when doing them. I am seeing folks who are not great at certain areas deciding that they should attempt those areas to cash in. Having had an unsafe experience at a haunt a couple of years ago where I was hit in the face with splinters thanks to the usage of a live hatchet – this scares me in a not funny way.

If every copycat used the energy on thinking up a new idea we’d have more cool places to go to. I like new ideas even if they don’t totally work. New ideas take balls to try. I like balls.

4. Fighting with each other:

Seeing haunts fight with each other infuriates me but it’s also kind of why I started blogging about haunted attractions and why people trust me. The reason I started doing this was because I became aware of some haunts sending their scare actors to comment negatively on other haunt owner’s review pages. I hate dishonesty. I pride myself on being extremely fair, descriptive, and honest in what I write. Otherwise there’s no god damn point to waste my energy. It’s actually not easy to do this every year with this level of quality.

Business 101 says that a thriving industry benefits everyone. If there was only 1 place in the world that sold burgers it would be weird for anyone to go get burgers. Since we have a lot of places that sell different burgers we have a thriving market where customers can partake of many different burgers everywhere. It’s a normal thing to get groups of friends together to get burgers or do burger tours. Haunted Attractions are the same. Any haunt owner who wishes for their competition to go away wishes for their own demise as well.

On the bright side, the more these idiots keep up with the dishonest shit the more people come here where I don’t put up with that shit. So thanks for the free advertising?

So this is my take. What things do you wish haunted attractions would stop doing?

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One response to “4 things haunted attractions need to stop doing immediately; I don’t care if it’s just Halloween or a butt squirrel”

  1. Clowns in haunts seemed to become more popular after 9/11, when gore haunts didn’t do so well. Halloween that year was a chance for people to not think about what they were seeing on the news. (Aliens became more popular for a bit, too.) One of the unexpected problems with the emphasis on clowns = scary is that it made it harder for groups such as Shriner clowns…which isn’t something I would have considered until I had a talk with one fellow who was seeing a definite spike in kids reacting badly to professional clowns like him. One of the bigger Halloween conventions tried to merge their show with a bodypaint and clown show, but it didn’t succeed with the clowning community – from convos I had with folks at that show, it was because of the haunted house connection.

    I think chainsaws are still the bigger cop-out scare, and they are, unfortunately, still a scare people expect to see included in a haunted house. If you don’t have one, you’re not scary to a large percentage of folks. But I think you can educate your audience into enjoying other types of scares by sticking to your vision of what a haunted house should be.

    All that said, Fear Itself has done an interesting clown haunt, in part by using a *lot* of clowns in their show; and Hundred Acres Manor’s chainsaw guy by the maze is staged so well with fog and lights that he’s probably my single most favourite chainsaw scare actor.

    I often wonder if part of the appeal of the clown and the chainsaw is that it generally takes little scare actor ability. Yes, I’ve seen people actually do interesting things with these types of characters, but it’s the exception.

    (The same could be said for the growing popularity of zombies, of course.)

    As far as copying the other guy goes: I think the best response I’ve ever heard was from the owner of Bates Hotel, who said, “Yeah, my competitors come and taken notes and copy me. I don’t care. I’m always a year or two ahead of them.”

    I’ve seen haunts copycat in a way that just makes them look desperate to tap into their competitors’ audience; more often, I’ve seen it done as a sort of homage (“Wow, that was awesome..I’m going to do my version of that.”) It’s jarring when you see one of the bigger haunts do it, but I generally see it as a rather organic thing – Andy did X, so Billy is building off it and doing XY.

    As for not playing well with others…the time honoured tradition of sending your actors over to trash someone else’s show isn’t new, and it always seems to me to be more about ego than anything else. What I’ve personally seen more of is haunters supporting each other, sometimes in ways that have amazed me, like when one guy heard his competitor’s radio ad and immediately called said competitor to tell him, “You have to have that commercial redone. It’s impossible to understand.”

    The bad behavior is certainly out there, but in general? Haunters are some of the best people I know.

    …Babble. 🙂

    Stuff I wish haunts would stop doing: Mazes designed to just fill in space and kill time. Some of my fav haunts do this and while it certainly doesn’t keep me away, I really dislike these ‘scenes’ and would be a lot happier seeing something interesting instead of black walls or chainlink fence. They’re the only type of haunt area that I care about not at all – I just want to get out as fast as possible and get to the next cool thing.

    (I get the why. I just don’t like it. It feels like taking the easy way out, even when it’s done really well, like at Niles. They use their generic maze really well as a way to get their audience from one place to another, but dang I get angry every time I end up back in the maze.)

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