Katy’s Take on HHN 26, Pt. 2

This post will cover my reviews of the Krampus, Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield, Tomb of the Ancients, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Lunatics Playground: You Won’t Stand a Chance 3-D houses.

Here’s part one if you haven’t read it yet! And yes, I have finally utilized the ‘read more’ tag. I didn’t realize my long ramblings were cluttering up my blog a bit, lol.

#5. Krampus

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(Visit #: 3)

Christmas arrived two months early in the form of the Krampus house, which unfortunately was a house riddled with missing opportunities. For me, Krampus has become a new holiday favorite film in league with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Gremlins; each of these films contain frights but also the cheerful holiday spirit.

The film has many memorable holiday aspects to it, from the maniacal Dark Elves to the creepy toys and even the presence of Krampus himself. You could even include the dysfunctional family from the film as well, especially Aunt Dorothy and her knack for spiking hot chocolate. I was expecting to see these characters, as well as the twisted version of Christmas quite often throughout the house, but unfortunately, things happened to fall a little flat. Most of the focus seemed to be put onto the Dark Elves, which were in abundance. Even though each elf has a somewhat unique appearance, by the third elf I thought, “Okay, different characters would be nice to see right now.” There weren’t any of the human characters from the movie here, compared to Hollywood’s take on the house (which isn’t that bad, I’ll admit). The toys (namely Der Klown and Teddy Bear) make a brief appearance in the attic, and you’d be lucky if you even saw them (I only saw Der Klown once! ONCE!).

Even the titular character himself barely made any appearances. Honestly, I had high expectations that the last scene would involve Krampus’ underground lair and the big mean guy himself as a puppet akin to the ones in 2014’s Alien vs. Predator house, but I was quite let down. It would’ve been terrifying to come across Krampus right in your face breathing hot air on you (like he did with the boy in the movie), but an opportunity was unfortunately missed.

Visually, Krampus has quite a lot to look at, from the mini gingerbread man army in the kitchen to the snowglobes in Krampus’ lair (some which even featured HHN locales such as the Caine manor and Shadybrook Asylum). The house facade was pretty well done and actually looked pretty soundstage quality for a house that was in the Shrek queue! The freezing temperature of the venue also added to the wintry atmosphere of the house, and of course, we can’t forget about the lovely gingerbread and peppermint scents throughout the house. I’ll definitely say they were better than Texas’s corpse scent.

Overall, Krampus was hit-or-miss, but sadly mostly miss. There were things I liked, but in this house’s case the negative qualities mostly outweigh the positive. But hey, I hope this house leads to us possibly getting a Trick ‘r Treat themed house next year. Hopefully it’s done its justice. Krampus gets a 2.5/5.

Favorite house moments: The elf that yelled “American Horror Story!” at me randomly, the elf that came out of Krampus, the gingerbread men army, Der Klown’s scare, Krampus’ lair.

#6. Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield

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(Visit #: I worked at this house, so my visit number is pretty infinite.)

2014’s Halloween house is one of my favorite IP houses of all time. It captured the essence of the original film perfectly and it surely didn’t hurt to have some chance encounters with Michael Audrey Myers himself. So when Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield was announced into the lineup, I got a little worried. I felt like it was too soon to have Michael return to Halloween Horror Nights, especially with such a stellar house two years prior. I was even more concerned when I saw this house would be based off of Halloween II, which mainly takes place in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. That seems to be a trend with IP houses this year – everything’s set in one location, from Regan’s bedroom to the Sawyer home. Surely things wouldn’t feel so redundant, right?

Thankfully with Halloween II, I was wrong. When I walked through the house for the first time (and I mean with the lights on and no actors), I was pretty impressed. I liked how the house began right where the first house left off, in the bedroom with Dr. Loomis shooting at Michael. From the second room onward, you segue right into the beginning scenes of the second film, where Michael flees from the police and crosses through some laundry in a mix of flashing police lights, multiple Michaels, and plenty of misdirection. There was a reason why that room was dubbed ‘Chaos’, and why there were three or four happy house attendants in there to help you navigate, myself included. I feel like the ‘Chaos’ room filled its purpose well, and I’d go far as to say it was the scariest scene in the whole house.

My favorite room of the house was when you leave ‘Chaos’ and enter the entryway of the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, complete with an aggressive cat in a garbage can. To me, that room felt almost like a scene from a soundstage house, specifically the Piccadilly Circus scene from 2013 and 2015’s An American Werewolf in London house. The space was just so open and served as a distraction for one of the best scares of HHN 26 overall… Dumpster Mike. Dumpster Mike’s scare was quite creative, being high above you and in a place where you couldn’t really expect a scare to come from. I loved whenever I was stationed in Dumpster Mike’s room, because I couldn’t stop laughing whenever he scared groups of people so badly they fell to the floor. Oh, and that moment when one of the Mikes gave me a cup because a guest thought his dumpster was an actual dumpster…

Another one of my favorite scares in this house was when Michael drowned Nurse Karen in a bath of scalding water. The detail on the mannequin that Michael would dunk in the water was superb, right down to the third-degree burns and missing chunks of hair. I also liked the variety of characters throughout the house, something that the original Halloween house didn’t have. Laurie Strode made two appearances in the house (and I must say, the Laurie wigs were spot-on), as well as Nurse Janet and a trick-or-treater, perhaps from Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Special attention also needs to be given to the ‘Hell’ room; I loved the burnt, charred walls and the smoky scent lingering in the room, a la Spaceship Earth.

All in all, Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield was a very solid sequel house, and I’m glad I got to work here. The intensity of the actors was present every single time I walked through, both as an attendant and a guest, and the designers paid attention to mostly every detail from the film. The only negative I have about this house is that there were too many Michaels, but this is something that can’t easily be remedied when Michael is the star of the house. I rank Halloween a solid 4/5.

Favorite house moments: Seriously, I have too many to list just from my time as an attendant! I will be writing a separate post with all my funny Michael Myers stories.

#7. Tomb of the Ancients

(Visit #: 5)

One of my most anticipated houses of this year was Tomb of the Ancients. When this house was announced alongside Ghost Town and Lunatics’ Playground, I was immediately hooked by the premise of ancient monsters dwelling inside a tomb seized by an expedition. Tomb was this year’s ‘Dollhouse of the Damned’ (even being in the same location), being both very theatrical and memorable in terms of what you come across. One of my favorite aspects of Halloween Horror Nights are the unique character concepts that Art and Design comes up with, and Tomb definitely didn’t disappoint in that department. From the beast on stilts to a horned goddess ripping out a victim’s heart, all different creatures were cleverly hidden throughout the temple. I also liked the return of the severed torso gag that we last saw in Dollhouse of the Damned with Raggedy Ann.

I will admit, however, that it took me a while to warm up to Tomb. On my first walk-through I didn’t get a lot of scares and the house felt very disjointed to me; it just felt like you were seeing different creatures and that was it. Nothing really felt quite linear. It wasn’t until my third visit where I fell in love with this house, remembering that this house is on par with my favorite original houses like Dollhouse of the Damned and Winter’s Night: The Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetery. With the original houses, the characters are the stars, and the storyline is a guide to help you understand the house better. With that said, I started liking a Tomb a lot more once I started to pay more attention to detail and what the characters were supposed to be.

I wish I had more to say about this house, but to be sadly honest Tomb is one of the houses I can’t remember much from except for key scenes. But in the end, I wasn’t let down by Tomb, and now I consider it to be one of my favorite houses this year. I rate Tomb a 3.5/5.

Favorite house moments: Seeing my friend from orientation working outside the house, the heart removal scene, the beast on stilts (who bowed when I applauded for him), the one creature (I forgot who it was, he was toward the end) who whispered “Now scream…” in my ear, CROCOLION!, and the fact that THE USHER’S FLASHLIGHT WAS AN EASTER EGG IN THIS HOUSE.

#8. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

(Visit #: 4)

One of my favorite classic horror films is the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Out of all the well-known horror movie villains out there, Leatherface is by far the one that terrorizes me the most, even more than Michael Myers. Now, the reason why I mention Michael is that, in a way, anyone can be Michael Myers. It’s very easy to hide behind a mask, kill some innocent babysitters, and call it a night, but people like Leatherface exist and we just don’t know it. Driving in backwoods areas of northern Florida have helped me come up with this conclusion. There are indeed people who live in these areas, and we have no idea what they do. They could be cannibals for all we know. And hell, there’s something really, really unsettling about a man wearing a woman’s face as a mask, complete with makeup.

Mostly all of my walk-throughs of Texas Chain Saw have been by myself, with the house almost free of guests, during the daytime. I did this intentionally, so I could face my fear of Leatherface and the environment of the original film. And hell, it worked really well toward my enjoyment of this house. The house captured the film pretty well; the putrid (for lack of a better word) color palette of mainly yellows and browns was present, and the house was disgustingly warm. While The Exorcist was more of an artistic interpretation of the film, Texas Chain Saw was a scene-by-scene representation of the film, down to the little details like the chicken in the birdcage and all of the bone sculptures. Leatherface was the star of the show, coming at you from some unexpected areas like the window and through the infamous sliding door that threw many guests off guard, including myself at one point in time. Hell, there was a moment when a scareactor portrayed the womanly-masked Leatherface just stood in his boohole, in the dark, and that scared me!

The ending of the house matches the ending of the film pretty well. If you have the right timing, you were able to watch as Sally fled Leatherface and jumped out the window. But of course, the horror didn’t end there. Right when you thought everyone was face, there were (I believe) three or four more Leatherface actors waiting for you outside, and you could see them clear as day, while in the Floridian humidity. Now that was one of the scariest moments I ever had at Halloween Horror Nights in my eight years of attending the event, guys and girls. I really felt like I was in the film, trying to escape my most feared character.

And I thought chainsaws were cliched!

The only real complaints I have for this house is that my favorite scene from the film – the dinner table scene – was not represented all that well. It was in the house, but you pretty much walked by the table while Grandpa just sat there and Leatherface waved around his chainsaw. I feel like this scene would’ve had better impact if there was a scareactor as Sally sitting tied up at the table, with blood oozing out of her fingers as she feeds Grandpa. It would’ve made for an interesting water effect room! I also wish the gas station had some presence in this house, but I understood that the house was mainly you going through the Sawyer household, thus there really wouldn’t have been a place for it. And a cameo by Chop Top would’ve been cool too!

I rate Texas Chainsaw a 3/5 for its satisfactory representation of the original film as a whole and the success of conveying its unsettling vibe.

Favorite house moments: Seeing my other friend from orientation working inside the house (and leading me to safety away from Leatherface!), freaking out over the ending of the house.

#9. Lunatics Playground: You Won’t Stand a Chance 3-D

(Visit #: 3-4. Can’t remember the exact number.)

Lunatics Playground was this year’s icon house, promising to take us through the demented mind of Chance while she’s locked up in Shadybrook Asylum. First off, before I begin discussing this house, I am very, very biased toward the Horror Nights icons. I absolutely love each and every one of them, so when Chance was announced as this year’s icon, I was so overjoyed. I know not everyone thinks that icons are necessary, but to me they add a certain depth to the event as a whole. Chance got an entire package deal this year – a house, a scarezone, a (mini) show. More could’ve been done with her character arc this year, but for the most part I’m satisfied that Chance became more popular this year.

With that out of the way, I will certainly say that Lunatics Playground was an utter disappointment. I usually don’t have the best of luck with 3-D houses; for some reason or another, I simply don’t enjoy them (with the exception of 2015’s Asylum in Wonderland). Hell, my least favorite HHN house of all time is a 3-D house (that’d be Penn & Teller’s Nuked Las Vegas). However, it wasn’t the 3-D that made me think so lowly of Chance’s house. In fact, I think the 3-D worked pretty well here. When you see bright, fluorescent colors bouncing around during scenes of bowel dismemberment and self harm, you’re bound to feel a bit disturbed, as did I.

It’s the fact that this house made no sense whatsoever. What was up with the baby doll cyber-goth characters? And the paper dolls? Were they supposed to symbolize how innocent and childlike Chance can be at times? None of these things really had to do with the ‘theatre’ Chance made up in her mind. Sure, you see some stages, but that’s about it. To be honest, I thought there would be like mini performances in this house to fit in with Chance’s ‘theatre’. It would’ve been interesting to watch Chance emulate some of the kills from 2007’s Carnival of Carnage show and even 2015’s Carnage Returns. Hell, put her in Jack’s red trenchcoat and make her the star!

Also, not to sound like a social justice warrior, but I’ve just about had it with asylums being used as your typical haunt settings. They patronize people who suffer from mental illnesses and need to stay in psychiatric centers to work on improving themselves. It’s starting to make me quite uncomfortable whenever I watch actors who try to emulate, say, schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder. I will confess that the self harm scene in this house almost made me lose it. As someone who used to cut back in middle and high school, it brought back some pretty unpleasant memories of those times. But to be honest, I applaud the designers of this house for showing what could’ve been a controversial scene. It goes to show that recent HHN houses can be just as unsettling as the ones of the past.

It’s sad to say that I was so let down by an icon house. The scareactors did give their all but I had some issues with this house that lowered my expectations and overall enjoyment. I rank Lunatics Playground a 2/5.

Now that each and every house (minus Repository, but that’ll be separate) has been reviewed, it’s time for the final ranking!

  1. American Horror Story
  2. The Exorcist
  3. Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch
  4. Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
  5. Tomb of the Ancients
  6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  7. Krampus
  8. Lunatics Playground
  9. The Walking Dead

And that pretty much wraps it up! The third and final part of this review will be posted soon, in which I’ll review the Repository, all of the scare zones and roaming hordes, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, and Academy of Villains!

 

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