Special thanks to Cindy Ringley for assisting me in getting new pictures and video for the review!
A little background on the Mountain Empire Community College's Haunted Forest. It has been up and running every October for 15 years. This makes it a staple in the community every Autumn. It is created and ran through the efforts of the Criminal Justice Club and Technology Club at the college. All proceeds from the haunt go to student scholarship and club activities, which is a win win in my book.
For the past few years, I have not been impressed with the Haunted Forest. It seems that it was just a cookie cutter of the previous years. The haunt had suffered from two key issues in the past. Man power and group size. Last year, the haunt consisted of long stretches of walking through the forest without seeing a single human actor. We are talking upwards of a minute or more. That really caused you to be kind of bored by the time something was going on. The second downfall of last year was the group size. We were in a group of 14. That is way too big. The actors/room have scared person 1-5 leaving 6-14 to wonder what just happened. A 6 person group is perfect and 8 should be the max. Either that or the actors need to be mindful that they and the room are only performing for 35% of the groups.
Friday night, my haunted honey and I hit MECC's Haunted Forest. As I said, I have not been a big fan of the haunted Forest for the last 4 years so I was not expecting too much when we went, especially on opening night. Boy was I surprised this year! It was terrific!
We grabbed our ticket from the very friendly people at the main entrance and headed off alone into the woods. The path was lit by the occasional torch and it wound, snakelike upwards into darkness. This alone is unsettling and sets the mood well. After a good little jaunt through a very dark and spooky wood, we met a small group of people waiting in line.
The fact that this haunt is in a forest adds so much to the atmosphere. Standing in line on a dirt path in the forest, stars and moon over head. Torches flickering in the night breeze. Crickets and Cicadas chirping all about...I was creeped out from nature alone. Then the rustling in the trees and bushes started. Things were moving around , just out of the light. A young boy freaked out when he saw a man with a hockey mask sneaking through the underbrush.
The guide that waited with us at the head of the line was knowledgeable, super friendly, and told the most horrific tales of what was in the forest. Two young girls were ready to leave the line due to her tale spinning. I loved it!
After a moderate wait, we were at the front of the line and it looked as if we were going in as a group of 6. This was about the perfect sized group. As they ushered us up to the entrance, our guide added added 2 more to the group which is border line too many.
Without giving away too much and spoiling it for you all, I will give a high level list of the good and the not-so-good.
- Costumes, make up, and mask were all excellent.High end masks and UV reactive contact lenses worn by some actors.
- Set design was terrific! Gruesome, spooky, plain gory and scary at some points.
- Good sound effects, use of lighting and effects.
- At the beginning in a small shack, a woman just walked through the wall and spooked us pretty good.
- The carnival area and clowns were startling and well done.
- Large Chucky doll caught me off guard. I thought for sure it was a stuffed dummy till it screamed at me.
- Large fenced in area with a mutant, two headed man rat was EXCELLENT. We actually held up the group while we took it in. Sound effects were perfect here.
- Graveyard with real medical skeleton grave procession is always a hit.
- Many things hiding and jumping out of door ways, barred windows, dark spots. It was great.
- Old hillbilly shack with creepy kid and guitar warning us to be careful (Deliverance?) was great. House was full of half eaten things and a captured woman in a cage begging us to run and get out.
- Zombies following the group for a long while.
- Crazy man chained to a bench freed himself and proceeded hang out and interact with us for a while. He stayed in perfect character and really spooked the young girls in our group.
- In previous years, lack of man power had plagued this haunt. You would walk for long stretches of the path and nothing or nobody would be around. This year it was pretty much constant action from the time you entered till you were chased out of the tree line by chainsaw murderers.
- All actors and staff stayed in perfect character the whole time and they really played up their parts!
- They still have a tendency to cram large groups in. This year is better than last year. We were in a group of 8. Last year our group had 14.
- The Animated Skeleton telling the story at the very beginning is WAY TOO LONG. I timed it right at 7 minutes of standing and watching a skull flap it's jaw.You find yourself bored and looking around after about a minute in. You can only look at an animated talking skull for so long. I like it much better when they had an actor give the story and the warnings in the past.
- The actors still do the once and done method for the group. They jump out and get the first 2 or 3 people and ignore the other 5 after that. They need to time it better or continue to spook multiple times per group. I think an actual guide leading the group would help here, although there is something to be said for turning us loose in the Haunted Forest to fend for ourselves. (When I revisited to take photos, I noticed the actors had all but ceased doing this. The whole group was focused on).
So when all was said and done, here is how this Haunt scored on the wicKEDly ranKED system :
From natures own creepy setting to the moaning and screaming drifting down from the paths beyond. It was great!
Always great costumes, makeup and masks from this group.
The sound effects were really good while waiting in line. With the exception of the mutant rat, they were a bit generic through the rest of the forest.
Some of the best sets and decorations around. This year, there were a few static props and scarecrows that looked very fake and almost childlike in construction. Despite those, amazing detail and gruesome decorations and creations abound.
Some new things but many of the areas have been around a for a few years like the grave yard and the clowns. I really hope this is the last year of the animatronic story teller at the beginning of the haunt.
This group is good at getting in character and staying there till you are chased out! Good character builds and great acting on the players parts.
Once the action started , it did not let up. They did a great job of keeping you on your toes. Lots of jumping out of shadows and from behind things. This group just needs to work on timing and ensuring the whole group gets a scare (or smaller groups).
Once you have been through it, you have been through it. It does warrant a second visit in the season. Maybe with a different group of friends to show them the premiere local Haunt. (I most confess I have been 3 times this season).
That gives the MECC HAUNTED FOREST of 2011 a wicKED ranking of 4 out of 5 Grimaces!
This is a Halloween "have to" in Wise County and this year, it is really worth it. Drop by one weeKEnD for a wicKED good thrill ride and bring some friends. You won't be sorry!
A quick video I threw together to document my wicKED tour through the forest.
Will you be brave enough to go in?
Will you be lucky enough to get out?