Thursday, October 17, 2013

MECC's Haunted Forest gets a wicKED walk through and review!


I am one lucky Halloween fan. I am fortunate enough to have several Haunts right in my back yard, and the best of them let me and M run loose all through them with cameras! We had the extreme pleasure of running rampant through MECC's Haunted Forest last weekend. It was a blast!

Again, special thanks go out to Cindy Ringley and her haunt crew for allowing us unfettered access to the forest...even before opening night! It has been a pleasure!



The Haunted Forest is just part of Autumn here in South West Virginia. It is an vital piece of my Seasonal Celebrations and I am sure it is for many others.This year, they uncovered a whole new section of forest and hidden inside was a mausoleum just teaming with the undead! Somehow the whole place seemed....BIGGER and much more sinister. I was glad to see new props, new areas, and even some of the old ones revamped. New characters, and old all greeted us (or threatened our lives in some cases) and it was like a macabre home coming.

We arrived on the second day after the seasonal opening and were surprised to see a gigantic line snaking all the way back to the parking lot! I was also pleased to hear the sounds of screams, moans, and maniacal laughter floating through the trees. I could just imagine some of the people standing in the cold dark forest...waiting for their turn to face terror.....

Without further delay, lets see if this college ran haunt meets the grade for the wicKED 2013 review!

GOOD

  • Location! It's in the middle of a dark..creepy...haunted (I am sure) forest! It has it's own orchestra of the night! People get totally spooked standing in HUGE lines listening to crickets, owls, tree frogs and ax murderers. You just can't buy ambiance like this! 
  • Parking. It's at the community college so it has TONS of parking. That is a luxury many great haunts suffer from.
  • Refreshments. They serve a variety of refreshment to buffer the coffers for many GREAT programs at the college as well as slaking the thirst of fear that many patrons have.
  • Restrooms. Although most just wet their pants half way through, you can choose to use a restroom first.
  • Groups were kept small and within bounds so that every member of the group gets to enjoy the fear!
  • IT'S HUGE! The sheer scope of the haunt actually took me aback. At one point I was hiding off in a patch of weeds and I happened to look back at the size of the haunt sprawled out before me. It has grown, year after year into something truly massive. It has the potential to be the next Haunted Overload if it continues to grow as it is. 
  • The Ring Master of the creepy clown section is an outstanding fixture of the haunt. In all honesty, this guy needs his own show on FOX. I noticed most people RUN through the clown room in terror... which is a crying shame. You all should slow down and chat with him...the things he says are quite memorable!
  • The Mausoleum is massive, imposing, and shocking to behold. The attention to detail is truly awe inspiring. The rusty, iron gates REALLY seem to have been there for decades...even centuries. As far as haunts and Halloween go, this is a piece of art in my book!
  • Lighting is borderline perfect. Every type of lighting is represented even torch/fire light. This goes a long way to creating a creepy environment!
  • Actors in this haunt tend to be on the dramatic side of things....which is great! They go all out and really play out the parts they are assigned. All those we ran into seemed genuinely pleased to be there and scare the daylight right out of you! They also do a great job of keeping the conversation from getting stale by coming up with new material!
  • The actual construction of the haunt deserves a bow. There is an very solid hallway....in the middle of the forest. It is imposingly long and dark. You just don't expect to see construction like that in a forest! 
  • Lots of unique and well crafted props. many classic representations of haunting props are represented as well as some new takes! Even the commercially purchased props are given the MECC makeover treatment. 
  • Masks, makeup, and costumes (for the most part) are truly outstanding. The Nosferatu at the very beginning was a well done make up as were many others!
  • For folks returning year after year, there are some old faces that are sure to bring a smile to your face or dread to your heart. I always like seeing the creepy little "Chucky" character skulking about in a most unnerving way. Others such as the two headed ...THING in a cage, the Ring Master,and DEATH are always welcome sights to me...I hope the undertaker becomes a permanent fixture in the mausoleum.
  • Sound systems are off the chart. Mood music for specific areas, sound effects throughout, PLUS they added a speaker system so a horribly evil voice could taunt you all over the haunt....almost as if the voice could see your every move... sometimes the voice even knows your name! 

  • Overall the haunt really puts forth all aspects of the great american haunted attraction. There is something for everybody within those dark towering trees with almost every genre represented. Classic movie monster, modern movie monster/slasher characters, killer clowns, hellbillies, a corn maze, dungeons, graveyards, crypts, cannibals,  and of course... CHAINSAW FREAK!
  • Three words....INDUSTRIAL FOG MACHINE! They have a giant fog machine fabricated by some mad scientist employed by the college. Its a HUGE air conditioner hooked into a ventilation system with a fogger in the mix. The sheer volume of fog was extremely impressive!
  • A curse for me and M, but a blessing for the customers is the speed at which groups went thought. I have never seen a haunt move so many through so quickly without degradation of experience. 
  • Manpower was a plus. Lots of actors to scare the pants off you at every turn! This is usually an opportunity for this haunt, but not this year.
  • Communication! Actors had a number of communication techniques such as walkie talkies, lookouts, bells, knocks, and certain calls/screams. I was impressed with the chain of communication. 
  • The numerous drop panels, hidey holes, and hidden entrances are great at jumping out and scaring people. They got me and M several times... M was doing all of the video and you can tell she jumps in shock several times!
  • Playing possum haunters amid the props....I admit...this got me a few times too!
  • Haunters tend to follow and keep the scare going...even though the group is trying desperately to move on and away! Well done!

OPPORTUNITIES

  • One of my biggest pet peeves is street clothing. It can suck all the life (or death) from the ambiance. This is easily avoided...even buying some 99 cent burlap sacks at the Tractor Supply store and making a shirt out of it would keep this from happening. I even heard one customer call out to one haunter, "Hey! I bought that same shirt at Hot Topic!". 
  • Set Designs are almost perfect, but I noticed  a substantial amount of extension cords this year (red ones too!). Just a little oopsy but it is distracting to the haunt and it is a reality check for those that are seeking refuge from the terror.
  • While the industrial fog machine is amazing, They would do good to get a delivery system of corrugated pipes/pvc to deliver the fog away from the main machine and keep it low to the ground elsewhere. I spent some quality time hunkered down beside this monster and it had a tendency to pull the fog into the intake and blow it up and away from the ground. 
  • Some feedback I have gotten from Fans of the Forest "boredom" while standing in line. I know manpower can be a problem, but a few sneaky actors keeping them on their toes is a great way to alleviate this. Honestly with the refreshments, and the speed at which groups moved through, I would take this as a minor opportunity at best.
  • While I LOVE the idea that this is a highly accurate representation of an all American haunt, I would like to see more original works come out of the haunt. The mausoleum went a long way to start that trend this year...hope it continues! 
  • A few areas were visually stunning and had great characters....but had no story other than screaming people. I wish there was a more compelling story with this so I had buy in on these scenes.
  • I received quite a few emails asking about opening dates. I think most would like to see it open every weekend in October..which I understand the demands that would mean....just passing on the message ;) 

RECOMENDATIONS

As you can see above, this is a haunt that is really coming into it's own. Beyond those items listed above, just a little polish here and there and continual growth will have this be a super contender in the haunt industry of the East!
I recommend that a few quick character meetings before the haunt rolls out so that the BEST actors can pass on some ideas to novice. 
I really would like to see some out of the box thinking and brainstorming for new projects to boggle the mind, much like Cindy Ringley's mausoleum concept come to life this year. Unique aspects can set this haunt apart and push it to the next level with ease. 
There were just a few area that were great to look at, but the haunters just screamed... I would love some back story or prop integration to really tell a story!
There were a few instances where haunters were in some pretty dirty, decrepit locations...but the haunters looked fresh out of the shower. A little makeup goes a long way.
Lighting is already wonderful here, but I would like to see some LED/Florescent colors replacing some of the washed out painted color floodlights.
My biggest recommendation it to keep on expanding and coming up with new ideas... make this haunt something truly unbelievable!
A pipe dream if mine would be for the college to offer haunting how to classes in September....something simple like pumpkin carving, zombie makeup, tombstone craft, or prop making. It would be nice to expand on the Halloween season and help earn some cash for a good cause!

With the walk through complete, lets see how this haunt ranks this year!

ATMOSPHERE



It's hard not to score extremely high when your haunt is in a haunted forest. All aspects of sound, lighting, and nature make this an easy win.

COSTUME



The range goes from truly amazing to WHY DID YOU WEAR THAT. Overall the costumes were superb with only a few flukes to speak of.

SOUND EFFECTS


Scene Specific music and sound effects, loud speakers, and ambiance noise all combine to make a sinister symphony. There is not a section of haunt you are not assaulted with frighting noise...even those made by the haunters!

SET DESIGN


I was impressed with the work that went into the haunt last year and they did not disappoint this year! I just wonder how many man (zombie) hours went into the entire set this year.

ORIGINALITY


I am a creature of habit, and I find comfort in the familiar. I also have a streak for the new and undiscovered! While the haunt provides the returning greats (that I would really miss if they were gone), some new blood year after year will help find this haunts own niche and stand out.

SHOWMANSHIP/ACTING


Overall superior performances, especially from some of the old crew. A few rookie mistakes but I truly felt each and every actor tried to become their character in some way.

FEAR FACTOR


This is one of those haunts that the dread builds while you wait for more! I observed more than one individual with sweaters pulled tightly over their head so they did not have to witness the horror that was stalking around them.

REVISIT RATING


I always go at least twice. Subtle changes in actors, style, and scenes make for interesting experiences. Plus, you always see a great detail or two you may have missed before due to the SIZE of it all. Another great haunt to take those that have never been!

THAT GIVES MECC'S HAUNTED FOREST A wicKED RANKING OF 4.5 OUT OF 5!


I highly encourage you to get out and see this legendary haunt....make it part of your Halloween tradition! To encourage your visit, you will find the 2013 wicKED tour of The Haunted Forest below!


2 comments:

  1. Hopefully the haunt reads all the time you put into writing these reviews. Nice!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mountain Empire Haunted ForestOctober 17, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Thanks for the great review and suggestions! We appreciate the extensive time and effort that you put into your reviews and rest assured, we take the advice and suggestions seriously!!!! Your recommendations are "spot on"!
    We hope to see you again soon!

    ReplyDelete

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