Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Haunt Review: Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion

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Haunt: Kings Dominion
Location: Doswell, VA
Event: Halloween Haunt
When: September 28, 2012
Rating: Good
Recommendation: Good (If Nearby)

Additional Reviews:  Kitsuneverse

Having never been to Kings Dominion, this was something of a new experience for me. A park I'd never been to and haunted houses at the same time. I'm fairly familiar with the various "Kings" parks but never had a chance to visit before, so I had a clean slate of no previous expectations to work with.  I have to admit, I was rather pleasantly surprised by what I found!
Unlike some other Theme Park Haunts we've been to this year, we had a very limited time at Kings Dominion (only five hours) and a bucket list of things we wanted to accomplish including the haunts.  We didn't accomplish everything but managed to see most of the haunts offered up with the help of a maps and some canned libations.

Maps are Helpful!

Unlike some of the other theme park haunts out there, Kings Island is a little crazy. Rather then a few big haunts, they have both big and small totaling the shocking number of 10 total haunts. Their prices are also easily affordable, ranging between $32 (on Fridays) and $40 (on Saturday). We managed to go on opening night, which resulted in a single ticket costing only $20 (college ID). This same night also happened to be "Dress like a Zombie" night which made the who environment of the park even more enjoyable.  It's very rare you find any haunt that will have a theme night and allow folks also in costume to attend!
Thankfully, this Friday wasn't super busy so we managed to do some decent damage. Making it to 7 of the 10 haunts and 4 of their themed scarezones.

Let's begin with the overall themeing which I admit was well thought out and well placed.  The various areas had set themes which worked well and tended to match the attractions in the area, this was a pleasant surprise since it's not nearly as common as one might think! The actors costumes also correlated nicely with the various areas threw out the park. Lot's of attention was placed in the opening courtyard which was nicely themed out with a "Masquerade" feeling which extended threw to the actors and the staple of any one time Paramount Park, the Eiffel Tower which spotted a menacing pair of eyes.

Spooky Skull and Glare-y Eyes!

On to better and scarier things! We quickly acquired an adult type libation and plopped down to make our game plan. What was the plan? Haunted Houses and Roller Coasters naturally, We're simple folk here.  After our quick break and planning session, we used our plot to head to the closest house and work our way around the park in a quick manner and peppering the haunts in with various rides. This sent us in the general direction of our first haunt, Medieval  Macabre.

The name explains a lot really. A Medieval Dungeon inspired haunt. The line was busy but quick moving, allowing you enough time to enjoy the scenery but fast enough that you didn't get bored.  The set was decent but not anything to really write home about spotting your typical haunt fare: Ghosts, Ghouls, Vampires and Dead type folks. One thing we did notice is that this house seemed rather short and rushed. Overall a decent haunt but lacking real inspiration.

Next we wondered threw the "Cleaver Brothers Carnival" which was nicely done to your now generic Carnival/Circus theme. The actors where good and seemed to be having an excellent time using quick startle scares on unsuspecting patrons, electing quite a few screams (to which we giggled).

We landed at "The Slaughter House" up as our next haunt.  This looked promising and we quickly jumped into another good paced line that was moving quickly. This haunt was nice and juicy, full of the lovely gory stuff we so love around here.  Themed like a true slaughter house it had your typical (if generic) props: Bloody Tables, Meat Slabs and Crazed Butchers. The actors here really where having fun, we think they where in the Halloween candy a little bit early because these folks where bouncing off the walls with energy giving the place a good feel. Again though we found this house to be short and slightly rushed but overall the actors made the house work well.

At this point we're enjoying ourselves but haven't seen anything really wonderful to write home about, hoping things would improve haunt wise we took a minor coaster break and enjoyed another fast moving line on Rebel Yell then indulged in a Pepsi followed by a map checking break.

Moving On...

 Up next we had "Toxic Plague" as our next house.
At this point the weather decided to be rather annoying and try to dump some unwelcome rain upon us. Being as it wasn't to heavy and we didn't much care, we kept waiting. The line for this one was decently themed, sporting a large 'chemical' truck spill and your ever lovely toxic waste barrels out front. Some randomly flashing lights and fog really gave us some higher hopes for the speed and themeing inside of this haunt. Inside we found some crazy mutated folks, a few monsters and more run-of-the-mill sets leaving us rather disappointed that more wasn't done.  Now don't get me wrong, it was done well and had decent actors who managed some good scares on our group but it wasn't really impressive. Again keeping with the same theme we found this house to be short and left you with a "hustled" feeling after exiting.

Turning the corner we found ourselves staring at the first decently long line we've seen all night which lead to one of their big 'featured' haunts, "Club Blood".  This haunt being one of their big premier advertising pieces we quickly jumped in line.  The line moved quickly which was a pleasant surprise for it's length, they also had some nice props outside (Coffins, Grave Stones and Blood) peppered all over the area giving you some nice eye candy but they easily could have put some more effort into it rather then just the two areas which props where found.
Inside we found ourselves inside a gothic themed warehouse style nightclub obviously run (or overrun) with vampires.

Now here is when I complain a bit, they where blasting Top 40's music which really wasn't fitting for the slightly ragged/punk look of the inside. For me I'd have expected industrial or something more screechy, having this blasting threw I found to be a huge distraction simply because it didn't fit the theme.  This house was inside and rather warm, we found well dressed actors who did well with startle scares and being up close and in your face.. but little else. Being as this was opening night this was really to be expected, people getting used to the new role and finding their groove. The themeing however was wonderfully done, very much what you would expect from a Gothic club then moving into a darker side of vampires.  However this house too was short and left us with an unfinished feeling upon exiting.

Another jump on a Coaster, This time Grizzly and off to another haunt!

Camp Killauee was looming ahead and so far we where impressed right until we tried to get in line. There where no signs to show folks where to go so we ended up walking up the exit then being sent back. After another minute or two of confusion, someone finally pointed out we where suppose to queue up at the Log Ride. Apparently they never thought to put out signs!
Inside we found your typical horror movie type plot, kids in the camp turned to monster and want to eat you. It's the 80's all over again minus a nutcase in flannel and a hockey mask! In fact, I wish they had the nutcase in a hockey mask we found exactly where they got cheap. Actors in cheap rubber masks, zero extra make-up and simple red and white 'camp uniforms' all shiny and clean (which really, if you where murdered or turned into a monster.. you'd at least get a little dirty)!  This outside house was nicely themed in the proper camp style, we wondered what boyscout troop they divested of tents, the actors appeared slightly awkward and were vastly spread out in the first decent sized haunt we'd come across. The costumes where nothing short appallingly cheap and kept bugging me during our entire tour. One bright point was a lady who followed our group about singing quietly, this was the bright spot and added a minorly creepy factor to an otherwise sad haunt.

The Lair ScareZone

Moving along, it was still drizzling lightly so the crowds where quickly disappearing. We jumped over threw "The Lair" scarezone and into line for our next haunt "No Vacancy" which we found located in next to their Dinosaurs Alive theater (the dinosaurs are another complaint for another post).

This haunt was pretty up front and simple, Haunted Hotel. Another inside haunt, this was easily the best show we've gotten so far tonight. It had everything going well, the actors where excellent in their roles and made had already made them their own. The themeing inside was wonderfully done so far as to even include a false stairway and moving pictures. We're damn near impossible to scare but our group was obviously having fun from the various screams coming from around us. This is the one house so far that we didn't find to be short or leaving us with a hanging feeling, it had an ending! They can do it! Without giving to much away it was a security room, just check the monitors while your passing through..

With time running out, we hauled ass over to another haunt and where happily greeted with something right out of the great book of "What-The-Fuck".. The Doll Factory was next!

Wow, this has "Creepy Shit" written all over it and we loved it! Themed up like an abandoned factory this building and the outside of it had the weird factor turned up to 10. This is also pretty straight forward, an abandoned doll factory taken over and re-opened for a much more twisted purpose.

This house should have been their prime haunt because it was all around amazing. It really had the trifecta of a good haunt: Actors, Themeing, Costuming. They even had actors that would go through the haunt with the groups, heckling them and setting up great scares for the actors located in the different scenes. It was an orgy of broken and headless Barbie dolls and mutilated toys located everyplace! Hanging from the ceiling, the walls, random conveyer belts.. it was so much visual candy to take in even I had some trouble spotting the actors until the screams started. This was easily the best haunt and the actors really had their "A+" game on even for opening night, their costumes where a nice shade of twisted (in pastel no less) and the make-up was eerie. Even people as jaded as my husband and I where happily surprised and very pleased with this house, there was something new around every bend and curve in this maze-like haunt. This was the haunt that really boosted Kings Dominion above a "Meh, Okay" rating and right into the "Good" zone.

With time quickly disappearing we jumped threw yet another ScareZone on our way to the two final stops of the night: Volcano and Avalanche.   This was "PrimEvil" and it was also a step above the other scarezones which after our run threw Doll Factory really boosted our moods into the pleased area.  Cannibals and Corpses impaled on stakes, what more can a girl ask for?! They merged this area into working with two joining pathways and part of a queue line for a Top Spin ride (we call them Flip'N'Fuck's around here).

This place was directly across from Volcano and it fit so perfectly we easily could have lingered here all night if the park wasn't trying to hustle us out at closing time.

Overall I can't say I was really "impressed" with Kings Dominion, I was pleasantly surprised but still left wanting more in the end. It isn't that it was a bad haunt, it just wasn't enough but it easily could have been much more without leaving folks with the feeling of "that was is?!" at the end. While I freely admit to being massively jaded when it comes to haunts and damn near impossible to scare, I found it to be fun even if not impressive or very exciting. I suppose to other folks who do get scared by haunted houses, you'd probably enjoy the creepy job they do very well.

In all honestly, I can't tell you to drop everything and see this haunt. However if your nearby or passing threw the area of Doswell, Virginia on I-95 it's easily worth this low admission and worth the time of stopping for the night.

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