Saturday, October 19, 2013

[Haunt Review] Haunted Hills Estate - 10 Years of Fear

Not content with just one haunt visit, we decided it was high time we make a return trip to one of the strangely lessor known haunts in Southwestern PA. This stop? The Haunted Hills Estate in Uniontown, PA.

This place is really one of those things that ya only know it's there by word of mouth or you already knew. Let's change that, shall we?

Don't take that the wrong way though. There is a lot being offered here and they really do deliver on the whole idea the adventure end of things in every way. You are part of this and they remind you of that at every opportunity, if you let yourself get into it and the stories being presented to you.

This year, the delightfully insane minds behind Haunted Hills Estate have come up with three all new adventures for the brave, or just plain unlucky, to try and escape from. Legends, The Dead Chamber and the Challenge Trail.

Sure, they may not have the money or the sheer number of actors many other haunts have, but they have something else...creativity, and they take that to the extreme. Every actor is there because they want to be...and it really shows. This is hands down one of the best story driven haunted attractions out there!
  • Date Visited: 10/18/13
  • Review Team: +Carrie H.C. and +Kitsune Hazard 
  • Rating: Really Damn Good!
  • Recommendation: If you're in the Pittsburgh area, you really need to give this one a shot. If you're disappointed, I can't help you. No one can. It's worth the price of admission completely!
  • Likes: This is homegrown haunting at some of it's best. The actors are all 150% in character and the story of each adventure is kept throughout. 
  • Dislikes: Length. I want more! They are extending The Dead Chamber for next year and that's a good thing, but even Legends had me wanting more. So, maybe they could figure out a way to extend that too? One can only hope. Also, some better signs to find the place and maybe a few more actors...
  • Pro-Tip: Bring comfortable shoes (especially if you do the Challenge Trail) and a relaxed attitude, this haunt is not like your typical startle and "boo, rah, hiss, be scared now" type of affair. Also, if you want something more extreme, be sure to check them on Nov 2nd when Legends goes completely off the rails with the lights out and they really get crazy on ya!
Disclaimer: We were invited out by Spooky and the crew at Haunted Hills Estate to experience this year's event and were given complimentary entry. This in no way has influenced our opinions or thoughts on the haunt as a whole. We also did not go through the Challenge Trail due to our own time limitations and other obligations.

Alright, now that we've got that out of the way...let's get cookin shall we?

First thing's first, getting to this haunt isn't the easiest thing in the world. I mean it's not entirely hard but the signage isn't the best. It's not really that confusing, but the turn off to get up the hill can be missed pretty easily as the sign is pretty small. We always have to pull up Google Maps on the phone when we're going here, especially since it's been a couple of years since we've visited.

Now, once you pull into the parking lot and get your tickets you'll probably be questioning things a little, I know we did the our first visit too. There's no over the top facades or anything like that going on here, just the ticket booth and a gate. Once inside though, you'll find yourself right in the heart of Spooky Street, complete with fire pit and a few surprises waiting in the dark.

From here you find the entrances to Legends, The Dead Chamber and at the very far end, the Challenge Trail. Being who we are, we wanted to jump right in and got in line for Legends. Thankfully for us, it was a bit slow and we hopped right into things with another group already there.

What looks like an old barn awaits, but looks can be deceiving. It's soon explained to us that we've entered into the site of an old medical research center headed up by the deranged Dr. Hill and his...experiments.

The first part of this is guided, somewhat, as we make our way through to the entrance to this nightmare. Our guide informs us that they were up to some rather interesting things at this once, proud(?) facility...things that have gone terribly wrong. So wrong that everyone's now dead and has been reanimated thanks to the pioneering tissue regeneration research that Dr. Hill had been working on. Sounds like fun, eh?

Once inside you're confronted with an ever so lovely (and mostly insane) staff member who informs us of what's to come, mostly. This is another interactive bit where they really get into things and some fun with the group as a whole and played off the comments and questions beautifully, I loved every moment of it.

From here on out the staff, patients and the diabolical creatures that have come to inhabit this facility are all waiting for you with their batshit insanity. You'll duck (literally) and weave through all manner of horror as you make your way through the bowls of the building and back outside. There's a ton of great scares and more interactive bits awaiting as you travel through and they keep to character so well that it's almost scary in and of itself.

Think you're done once outside? Oh no, they've got much more planned. There's a whole second level to this place and once you're back inside you realize that things have very, very wrong and before you've reached the "safety" of Spooky Street once more you'll have come face to face with not only Dr. Hill but also one of the patients he's experimented on...and you won't see it coming at all!

Overall, we loved every bloody moment of Legends. The acting was great, constantly in character and sets and atmosphere was dead on (pardon the pun). The scareactors in here are really giving it their all, but most importantly they're having fun with it. Usually I'd point out a few that were great, but that wouldn't be fair here, they were all awesome. Now, that's not to say it wasn't without it's faults either. Some of the lower hanging clearances are a bit hard to notice, you'll definitely want to be careful there. Also, strobe lights (you're warned of this upon entering verbally and with signage) could be dialed down some to a slightly slower speed. It's not overbearing and a short bit where they are, but slower could be better here I think.

Our next stop was to check out the all new Dead Chamber. Admittedly, we really had no idea what to expect from this one. In the past it's been a great many of things, but this year they've gone into some pretty unique territory with it.

We were handed flag football belts and as we put them on we were informed from "CC" that we were about to enter his zombie apocalypse training program. One that we not only had to survive, but survive quickly...we were being timed after all. Zombies+Flag Football=Win!

Inside you're given choices to make at a moments notice and all the while trying to protect your flags and yourself as you're assaulted by the zombies lurking inside. All of them hell bent on making sure that you don't make it out alive (with at least one flag attached). It's this extra level of awareness that's bestowed on you which makes this really interesting while you try and navigate the maze that awaits after going down the elevator and are 100% on your own. Needless to say, neither Carrie or myself made it through alive. A point that was made painfully aware by the heckling from CC upon exiting. If you do make it through fast enough, and in one piece, you can win a prize at the end of the season too!

Overall, it's a great and unique take on the whole zombie theme, one that we both can really get behind. However, it does need to be a bit longer and it's a good thing that they're working to expand this one for next year because it really does deserve as much as they can give it. Also, we ran into the strobe light issue in here again. It seemed too fast, something that's a bit slower could really work here or maybe a mix of the two.

Normally at this point, we'd have taken up the Challenge Trail but due to our own time constraints we had to pass up on it. This is a massive walking trail filled with all manner of strange and bizarre things that one has to try and complete in order to make it through which takes about an hour.

In the past it was a group thing and that could lead to all kinds of problems. This year they've changed that up and everyone gets their own challenge card, something I definitely agree with. If you're going you should definitely check it out. Just remember that it is outside and you'll want to bring proper footware!

So, if for some reason you haven't figured it out by now, this one definitely gets my seal of approval! Again, it may not be the biggest budget production out there, but don't let that fool you. These folks are on a mission and it really shows with the end product. So much so that the only things I can really complain about are strobe lights, signs to get there and wanting more, longer adventures to go on. That says something...

If you're anywhere near the area of Uniontown, PA you really should make the effort to search this place out. Best thing is? You've got plenty of time as they're open tonight, tomorrow and 5 more nights after that. You will not be disappointed. If you are? I have no hope for you as a human being, I really mean that.

For more information on ticket prices, directions (you'll need 'em!) and tons of other great stuff, check out the official Haunted Hills Estate website.

As always, keep it here or follow along with us this weekend on Twitter @KitsuneHazard and on Google+ for all the latest updates, news and more from haunts all over the US!