It's that time of year again when the local haunts start running. I am glad I have one of the best around right in my very own backyard. MECC's Haunted Forest is accepting victims once again and M and I were lucky enough to get a backstage/all access pass to go running through it. Special thanks to Cindy Ringley and her Ghoul Crew for allowing us the opportunity.
This year, the Haunted Forest has a very sinister overtone to it. Tales of Voodoo magic and strange figures seen running about the woods are rampant. Armed only with our camera equipment and a good deal of nervous energy, we hit the gates to the newly renovated Raven Manor.
This Manor house sprung up, almost over night. It is an imposing structure with it's huge iron gates to keep people out...or in as it may be. The spanish moss is thick in the trees here and you get a definite vibe of presence more suited to the southern bayou than this haunted forest...something must have driven it here, but what?
And here is where our review begins!
- Location : Hard not to appreciate an entire Haunted Forest. A forest at night is dang creepy, especially this time of year. It was over cast, wind rustled through the trees, and crickets were doing there thing in the woods.
- Raven Manor : Like I said, this structure seemed to have sprung up over night. I visited the woods in late summer and saw some marks in the dirt where I was told, "A grand manor suitable for the Louisiana upper district" would be erected....and here it is! Imposing, well lit, and covered in creepiness from the spanish moss that looks like it grew there to the sinister silhouette leering from the third story window. The only thing better than the manor is the interior...pure Voodoo magic!
- Attention to Detail: The interior or the manor, the props in the Freak Show, The crypts in the Mausoleum, and the Slaughter House have amazing attention to detail. You would have to go several times just to take it all in!
- Atmosphere : one word “Amazing”
- Mama Lebeau : Great scripting and accent! Very believable. Never broke from character and she had to be in character A LOT. I heard her go through it at least 5 times and it was so consistent it was almost scary!
- Freak Show Clowns : One of the most over heard comment was about the clowns, especially the main side show barker with his horribly sharp teeth and mismatched eyes. I could overhear the groups going through describing how ”awesome” and “awful” they were. A couple of quotes I heard were “Those clowns were the best thing about the Forest”, “I am not afraid of clowns…but man…those were awful!”, “I am going to have nightmares about that clown with the teeth”.
- Zombies : Another crowd pleaser. I could over hear people discussing how scared they were moving through the mausoleum. A couple of quotes I over heard “Oh my God! Did you hear that noise that girl zombie was making! That is so creepy!”, “When that zombie came through the wall…I almost fell! He had pieces of skin hanging off his face!”.
- Sound effects : From the time you exit your vehicle till the time you walk out of the woods, there are horrible, mind numbing sounds coming out of the forest. Each area had a themed sound track or music. Nothing generic at all in way of sound. Absolutly amazed at just the audible fear that this place gives off.
- Lighting : Great lighting that really worked for each area. It really set the mood no matter what part of the haunt you were in!
- Continuity : There is a definitive theme that has a great set up from the second you get your Tarot Card Ticket to get in, till you are out. There is a great story line that fulfills every bit of the dread you are predisposition to fear.
- Staffing : All haunts of this nature are plagued with staffing issues. I heard there was a good deal of the actors called out on a Saturday night, which is sad. The lines were ENORMOUS! They really missed out on a great night. Due to that, there were large patches of the haunt that obviously had a person planned to be there or hiding there...but there was just not anybody there. The actors that were there did a FANTASTIC job of playing multiple roles. The energy as they ran around in hopes of scaring a group one more time was very admirable. However the energy did dwindle and I fear the experience for the first group was something much different for the last as actors haunters took “breaks”, got out of character, and abandoned their post. The loss of one haunter can start a domino effect that hurts everybody.
- Finale Fizzle : Chainsaws were abundant in the haunt, but at the finale..at the butchers shop....where you would expect some mutant to come screaming out into the night....there was none. I was told they ran out of gas....I will bring a 5 gallon can with me next year to ensure they get that final charge out of the forest.
- The Jail/dungeon/caged area needs some new blood. While the haunters who manned it did a great job of it (they scared me a time or two while I was filming) it needs a makeover. A central character, a theme, a script, something to make this a viable and workable part of the vast and sprawling haunted forest and put those great haunters in a place to scare the heck out of groups. A zombie virus outbreak in a prison, a mad scientist lair full of failed experiments, etc.
- Keep on expanding. One large project per year has really paid off! can't wait to see what next year brings!
- Find a way to use automated (easy motion light hacked) props to fill in the gaps when your haunting staff calls out with the bottom of the bottle virus.
- Offer other Halloween activities in the off days such as makeup classes, pumpkin carving contests, or ghost stories. I would have loved to see some of the haunters walking around the Home Craft Days to promote the haunt (since it is like right on top of each other).
- Continue with the photo opp sets! That was great this year.
- Continue with the story line that fits the entire theme!
So without further review, let’s see where MECC’s Haunted Forest is ranked this year!
This haunt scores high on this just being in a dark forest. Add all the structures and attention to detail as well as the lighting and audio…superb!
Some of the best work yet this year. Makeups were complete and covering all exposed skins. Street clothing was kept to a minimal on costumed characters and the main characters were 100% into it!
Hands down some of the best sound systems of any haunt I have ever been through. Appropriate, Original, and Foreboding.
Raven Manor, Freak Show, Mausoleum, and Slaughter house make up for any minor mishaps that may have been present. Truly awe inspiring designs that are a nod to “The Haunted Overload”.
There are many elements common to almost all haunts, but the MECC crew put a very original spin on it. The only thing keeping this from a perfect score is some of the scenery right in the heart of the haunt.
There were main characters that scored 6 out of 5 in my book, but some of the haunters (or lack of) hurt the overall feel of the haunt. Missed cues, missing monster, and out of character dialog hurt this score slightly.
The pitch black hallway, mausoleum with creaking girl zombie, and the slaughter house were just horrible! ( in a great way). The lack of haunters or haunters abandoning their posts hurt the overall fear of the haunt
You have to go through it at least twice just to try and grasp the subtle attention to detail. I personally could go back time and time again, especially if all haunters are present and firing on all cylinders. I highly recommend you revisit with family and friends…well worth the money!
That gives Mountain Empire Community College Haunted Forest of 2014 a solid...
Here is the wicKED walkthrough video. Adjust the setting to watch it in full HD if you can!
I highly reccomend if you are a local to get by and visit this Halloween staple. Go through twice... you will not be sorry...unless the Butcher finds you!