I must admit, I was a bit leery when I heard they were changing the name of the haunt from "The Crypt" to "The Haunted Park". Here is the flyer that appeared the week before opening:
|Big Stone Gap Facebook Page|
They way they advertised, on the Facebook page, that "the entire park is now haunted" I expected to see something out in the park, but sadly, that is misleading. It is in the exact same spot, under the home bleachers, that it has been for the last 2 years. That is not a bad thing at all! On the contrary. It's like a haunted dungeon under there. The perfect spot for the haunt to happen. I am just confused as to the claims that the entire park would be haunted.
This haunted attraction is being put on by the Big Stone Gap's Parks and Recreations Department. I expected lots of advertising coming from the town, yet there was no mention of it on the town website. They did not even put anything up on their Facebook page until a week before opening. Not even a simple flyer in store windows could be found. They did do some great graphics and advertising on Facebook, but not everybody uses it, or even knows BSG has one. As far as I can tell, their Facebook (and my haunted attraction page) were the only forms of advertising there was.
On this chilly Friday night, we pulled up to see at least some other vehicles and a few orange light strings surrounding a big inflatable jack-o.
This was a good sign that they were open. It was a bad sign of the type of haunt this was. Still, I try to always look on the positive. So I was prepared to enter with an open mind.
The town had constructed a rather large outdoor screen and were showing scary movies on it for free.
|Is that subtitle Russian? Oops, hope this is not a bootleg!|
As luck would have it, I ran into two other horror experts preparing to enter this very haunt!! My old friend Gary P, who I have worked with on countless other haunt projects (Gary was the master mind of a couple of the haunts we worked together on in the past). The other expert was none other than local horror author Brandon Hale of Books from Hale. What were the chances of three like minds meeting on this very night under the light of a full moon? Sounds like the opening to a movie. I digress... back to the review!
Like any haunt there is good and not so good. Here is the breakdown :
- Location is great. Everybody knows where the park is.
- Tons of parking.
- Refreshments available (same awesome food you get at the football games!).
- $3 dollar price is easy on the pocket.
- Free Scary movies (weather permitting).
- No lines, we went right through (although that could be a bad sign).
- The under bleacher area is one of the spookiest places to hold a haunt. There was some black plastic created rooms on the outside but it was still the same spot as previous years. It was about a 30/70 split on outside area to under bleacher ratio.
- They only allowed small groups through. Four at a time.
- The first "creature" you talk to was very talkative. He really tried to put on a good show. His "in your face" attitude was scary and at the same time fun.
- There was a very convincing fresh grave complete with headstone at the beginning. This prompted a young girl in our group to ask "does that mean something crawled out of there and is gonna get us?"
- The start of the under bleacher area had several very life like body parts and "guts" hanging from the ceiling.
- Blood was all over the walls. Sinister sayings written in blood were all over as well.
- Many of the actors had a tendency to get up in your face and just stare. This was unnerving to say the least... in a good way!
- Lots and lots of quick scares as people jumped from shadows, reached under dividers, and beat on walls.
- A human actor would jump out at you from the left, only to herd you to an animatronic prop waiting on you to the right.
- There is an old bathroom under the stone bleachers. A bathtub and toilet had some crazy lighting effects coming out of them... (I kept waiting for somebody to pop out of the light, but they never did).
- There are 2 chainsaw maniacs waiting to chase you out of the haunt. It was loads of fun watching the young girl and her mother tear off screaming as they were chased out of sight (That was the first and only time I heard the little girl scream).
NOT SO GOOD
- Severe lack of advertising. Especially at the site of the haunt. Like I said, this was our third trip.
- No atmosphere (other than the structure itself)
- The only sound effects were in one room and it was a carnival type soundtrack.
- All of the haunters were hanging up front with their masks off as we entered. (this kinda ruins the mood if you see the crazy scarecrow guy talking to his girlfriend on his cell and drinking a Grape Fanta).
- Most of the actors were in just street clothes with a mask.
- Despite having small groups, the actors jumped out at group member 1 and ignored 2-4.
- The outside area was poorly constructed of black plastic sheets and hay bales. (In my opinion, they could have focused it all inside the bleachers and had a much scarier haunt).
- It was over too quickly (3 minutes 41 seconds by my watch and that was with the first guy talking to us for over a minute). It seemed to be too fast paced, even with a guide.
- There was no story line and very little dialog (other than our talkative greeter who warned us about Billy. I don't think we ever met this Billy guy either). Most of the actors just made roaring or growling sounds at you.
- Some of the opening you had to go through were chocked with materials hanging over head. I almost had to crawl through one doorway and I lost my hat three times.
Now lets see how The Haunted Park scores on the wicKED ranking system :
The outside area was not very strong on the atmosphere. Most of the score comes from the stone, dungeon like, bleacher area. It is a perfect place for a haunting.
There were some good masks and a few good costumes, but for the most part it was just "guys in masks".
Only one room had sound effects and that was a clown room "I think" playing a carnival type song. Not sure if they were having tech issues or that was the plan.
The dungeon like area under the bleachers was a scary place to behold. The body parts, blood, and lighting were pretty good. If only the entire haunt had this type of attention to detail.
The lack of story line hurts. I think they had some good concepts but very little follow through. It COULD have been original if I knew what was going on. Chainsaws, clown room, bloody mutilated body parts.
The guy at the beginning really tried. The guide was super nice, and the chainsaw freaks were really into it, but the roaring and growling just fell short for the rest.
There was some jumps and scares. Mostly from being caught off guard. There were some parts that truly had potential, but the fast pace of the tour did not allow you to enjoy them.
In my case, this is a once and done attraction. It may be worth a second visit just to slow it down and see what all we missed in the "run" through. The cheap price, and the free movie also make this one a more attractive revisit.
This gives The Haunted Park of 2011 a wicKED ranking of 2.5 out of 5 Grimaces!
Unfortunately, this years offering was not as good as the last 2 years of The Crypt. It had the feeling of being thrown together at the last minute and from the lack of advertising, I fear it was. I hope they go back to better times next year. I am just grateful for the town putting together the effort to bring Halloween Entertainment to us!
If you are out and about this October and looking for a quick and inexpensive scare, drop by The Haunted Park. I would at least include it on your tour of terror this Halloween as you make your rounds for local scare-tainment. This is the perfect haunt for younger children or for the more timid crowd. If you find your home full of bored kids this weekend, this would be the perfect place to take them. The free scary movie, cheap and tasty refreshments and very low admission price is the perfect Halloween treat for young ones.
Special thanks to the Town of Big Stone Gap's Parks and Rec Department and all the hard workers that give the public a Haunted Halloween treat!
Thanks for being part of my wicKED holiday!