Saturday, October 19, 2013

[Haunt Review] Haunted Hillside - A First for Everything

Alright, I have to say that this place completely caught me off guard in a few ways. Not only did I barely know of it's existence until last week, but what we saw once we got there was also a surprise as well!

To say that this place is new would be an understatement. I think Haunted Hillside might be one of the fastest put together haunts that I've ever come across in my life. Jeff, his brother and creative mastermind/director Sean (sp?), only had a mere 6 weeks to get everything together and only a couple of weeks to actually build anything. That's completely mental folks, most places take months even years to get things together. Gotta admire the spirit, even more so since they actually pull this one off. Not only that but a portion of your admission goes to the Diamonds are Forever charity that benefits kids with cancer as well. How can ya go wrong with that, right?

Now then, this is another story driven haunt and it pays off to keep close attention to what's going on with things and just how they fit together. Let yourself go and enjoy not only a great time outside, but one filled with scares and terrors that will definitely surprise you! 
  • Date Visited: 10/18/13
  • Review Team: +Carrie H.C. and +Kitsune Hazard 
  • Rating: Good (for a first year haunt)
  • Recommendation: You really need to give these guys a shot, they've put together something really great in a short amount of time and while they have some issues, they're still pretty darn good. So if you're in the area, definitely check 'em out!
  • Likes: The acting here is great, the story is kept throughout and some of the sets are pulled off really well. It's also quite long, which is good and the finale is really one hellishly crazy spectacle too!
  • Dislikes: I can't find anything I really didn't like. However, they could definitely use more scares going on, but this is their first year so that will come and it's a bit hit or miss on how many actors you'll see in a night. That and the walk back to parking is a bit brutal and bland.
  • Pro-Tip: Wear comfortable and proper shoes and dress for the weather! Seriously, this is a good 3/4 of a mile to a mile haunted trail that's outside and you'll definitely want to have boots if it's rained recently and be dressed appropriately if it's cool out.
  • WARNING: This is a physically demanding haunt where you will be walking outside and over some pretty interesting terrain, keep that in mind!
Disclaimer: We were invited out by the crew of Haunted Hillside 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. Also, we were literally the last people through and a few actors were missing as well due to illness. 

So, with all the formality out of the way, let's get down to it!

First off, this isn't the easiest place to find (what is it with that around here?!) and there really aren't many signs to point you to where to go. That said, once you're on the right road (819) you really can't miss the entrance to the place at all.

While there are no fancy facades, buildings or huge signs and spotlights, there's plenty to make you realize that you're in the right place. This is one of those places that doesn't need a lot in that department...you'll know it when you've found it.

Once you've parked and made it to the ticket booth you realize something has gone really wrong here at some point. There are Missing Posters lining the sides of it and you can hear the screams coming from the darkened fields that await you. If you're not used to being out in the country, you'll likely already be unsettled a bit by your surroundings a good bit.

Before we set out, we were treated to a bit of story. While hard to hear, it is worth listening to and you should pay attention as it really sets the tone of what you're about to experience as well. During this we found ourselves being invited to check out some more Missing Person posters, ones that we were told we should pay close attention to at that. Then...we set off into the darkness.

The first scene we came across was a gypsy man and his camp where he gave us a very stern warning about The Harvester and other things that lie in wait. After this, he sent us on our way once more. I really have to say that this guy was great and totally in character. I'll say it again, it pays to listen and pay attention here. 

From here we wandered down the dark and lonely path set before us and while the scares were thin at the time of our visit (we later found some went down illnesses), we could easily spot where so many more are lurking and could only imagine what it's like going full tilt.

Continuing on, we made our way along the winding path and we were treated to even more great story driven, in character scares and a couple more interactive moments as well. Some of the sets we came across were amazingly well done and even unsettling...in a good way. Being out in the open, we were vulnerable and they definitely use that to their advantage as well.

Faceless creatures, terrors from the corn and demented hillbillies were all around us, just waiting to unleash their idea of a "good time". Through some great misdirection and just playing with the surroundings, the few actors they had on at the time of our visit were definitely enough to keep things going.

I won't say too much more as I don't want to ruin any surprises, but the finale that you encounter once you break from the woods is something that's just incredible to see and really surprised us at that! They really went all out with it, along with many other portions of the attraction and it really shows.

Overall, this is a great haunt and while they're still going through some growing pains, they have a very winning combination on their hands. They just need their actors to show up and the weather to cooperate as best as it can. What they do have going for them is their acting, timing and the atmosphere. It's weird to walk through a farm at night, there's lots of sounds that you can't quite identify and aren't sure if they're real or not. This is mother nature doing her best special effects work and one thing that Haunted Trails have over many other attractions, the realism of it and that's not been lost on the team at Haunted Hillside at all.

So, if you're looking for something different and unique, you really should give these guys a chance this season. Sure, it's a bit ragtag, but what they've put together really is quite good, there's no mistaking that at all. Just let yourself go, relax and get into things. If you can do that, you'll enjoy the hell of this place! Don't wait too long, they're only open this weekend and next!

To make things a bit easier, I've marked where this place is on a map...because again, no real signs to let you know where they are! The map to the left, while a bit crude, should help in getting you there without too many problems. At the very least you'll know where it is and that definitely helps with things out here in the wilds of Westmoreland County.


For more information about times, dates and ticket prices, as well as the story behind this brand new Haunted Attraction, check out the official Haunted Hillside website and also check for updates form them on Facebook and Twitter (@HauntedHillside) as well!

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!