Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Haunt Review] ScareHouse - A Nightmare Fueled Trip into the Darkness

The final stop of this past weekend was none other than the one and only, ScareHouse in Etna, PA. No grand tour of Southwestern PA haunted attractions would be complete without a visit to this manic creation of terror.

Seriously, this attraction is completely mental and if you're a fan of twisted, over the top insanity, this is definitely a place for you. That said, the review for this one is probably going to be quite boring. Why? They're still an awesome haunt and that hasn't changed at all.

Having been featured all over the place, it's really no surprise that ScareHouse continues to put on a great show. This year, they added an all new extreme experience, The Basement, which has been selling out nearly every night. However, that's just the newest part of this attraction. The real nuts and bolts take place upstairs...and what a show it is.
  • Date Visited: 10/19/13
  • Review Team: +Carrie H.C. and +Kitsune Hazard 
  • Rating: Extremely Good
  • Recommendation: All aboard the nightmare fuel train! Go already!
  • Likes: Love all the details and nods to the past. The lighting and sound design are top notch as always. The new lobby and opening section of the haunt are both incredibly brilliant.
  • Dislikes: I can't find anything I really didn't like other than maybe a bit more from the "in character" scare department. A little more interaction would go a long way. 
  • Pro-Tip: If you don't want to wait in line, definitely go for the RIP ticket option here and also remember, parking is at the Pittsburgh Zoo! Also, don't forget about the timed entry option.
Disclaimer: We were invited out once again by Scott and the rest of the crew at ScareHouse to experience this year's event. That in no way has influenced our opinions. The fact that we both have worked at ScareHouse in the past has not either.  

With that done and over with, let's get onto the rest of the review and why ScareHouse is still kicking ass and taking name, eh?

The fact that ScareHouse is located in a 99 year old building has not been lost at all on the creative team behind this world class attraction. This year, they've decided to honor it by transforming the lobby yet again.

In the past, they used to show old monster movies and other things while you waited inside. That's long gone and replaced with a whole new look that really plays homage to the location's history. There are nods, not only to the building's history here but also the history of ScareHouse as well.

In addition to this they have a stage featuring a burlesque fan dancer and one extremely unique emcee who dabbles in quite a bit of the bizarre and unusual. There are nods to the private club theme all over as well, lurking for those clever enough to notice. In addition to this, there are nods to not only the building's history but also the history of ScareHouse in here as well. Go on, look around...you never know what you'll discover in here.

Once you've passed through this new area, the old single line waiting to get in is gone. This has been replaced with a "dual load" waiting area (also completely in theme with the lobby). This not only improves the flow, but allows for the line to move a bit quicker as well. It's from here that you begin your journey into the twisted and hellish world that is ScareHouse.

There's really no way to describe the madness that's going on inside without writing an entire book on the subject. However, the entire opening section for this year has been redesigned and is 100% brand new. This new area is themed along the lines of a "backstage" area that ties in with the lobby theming and is executed amazingly well. Not only is beautiful in it's horrific nature, but it also adds a great bit to the story that's been set up and that's always appreciated. I won't say much more about that because you have to see it to truly appreciate the whole thing and what they've done in this area really adds to all of the other details added this year.

Once you've past through the new opening scenes, you'll find yourself face to face with the entrance of The Forsaken.

This, the oldest section of the attraction still has surprises up it's sleeve though. As we wandered through the twisting path full of possessed dolls, murderous hillbillies and all manner of other hellish creature, we couldn't help but notice that things were slightly different. Tons of amazingly detailed sets, new lighting and sound design only add to this. If you think you've seen it all before...think again.

The one thing that would really take this over the top even more would be a bit more in character scaring on a more interactive level. At the time of our visit, we just didn't see enough of that going on. There were a few that did this a little, but it was missing throughout most of the area. Outside of that? It's an incredible experience that only seems to get better with age.

From here you find yourself going through an extremely trippy light tunnel and handed a pair of 3D glasses. Why? The next stop is none other than Creepo's Christmas in 3D. Ever wonder what would happen if psychotic clowns took over the North Pole? Here's your chance to find out...

Now, I really did just call into question this whole 3D and clowns thing last week. However, Creepo's Christmas is nothing like your typical 3D clown house. This is a twisted journey into what would happen if there was an extremely hostile takeover of Christmas.

There's no cookies and milk or present here, only the insanity has been left behind. It's a brutal and surreal world where the these delightfully horrifying clowns have taken full control. 

Again, I'll be honest. Clowns and 3D is a dead deal to me, but Creepo's really delivers a whole new take on the original (and tired) idea. I was fine with this addition last year, but the new improvements they've made for this year really take things over the top. This was also where we saw the most in character interaction so far. Which, definitely was welcome because they were having a blast with the whole thing in there.

Exiting from that nightmarish delusion we entered into the dark, bleak and terrifying world of Pittsburgh Zombies. This trip through the "Zombie Capital of the World" is like no other and you never know just what is waiting around the next corner. Just as the clowns had taken over Christmas, the zombies have full control here. What of the survivors? The few you do find can be even worse...

Anyone local to the area will recognize all kinds of nods to the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. Look closely and you'll even see a few nods to the themes that used to occupy this space as well! 

This was another new addition that debuted last year, but has been improved upon greatly as well. It's also where the most fun seemed to be had by the scareactors, all of them staying true to character and really getting their scare on. If you're going to do the whole zombie thing, make it interesting and unique. That's exactly what ScareHouse has done here with this one and we enjoyed every moment of it.

Overall, ScareHouse knocks it out of the park. There's no question that they're masters in crafting a beautifully terrifying attraction. As we were leaving I said that, as long as we're in the Pittsburgh area, it's a must visit. There's no questioning the overall quality of the show that it's put on here.

However, it's never just as simple as that and there are a few issues. Unfortunately, they're the same ones that I was on about last year. There needs to be some more energy out of the actors in the new opening section and The Forsaken (again).

While they are exceptionally good at what they do, there's no question about that, I just wish the actors would do more with the insane and awesomely detailed scenes they're given in some areas. Additionally, there is no real climax event at all. Granted they have an issue with the stairs at the exit, but things get ratcheted up so high and then there's nothing. It's strange when ya really think about it. These both are something that's been vexing me with ScareHouse for the past few years and really the only things that's keeping me from giving an Excellent rating. Hopefully next year it'll change a bit and we can finally bump them up, eh?

When it's all said and done though, these issues are minor in the overall scheme of things. ScareHouse once again delivers in spades with a memorizing trip into the terrifying darkness that lurks in your nightmares. If you haven't been to this attraction, you really need to just suck it up and see this amazing haunt. Only 6 nights left to do that too...so get goin already!

For more information on times, tickets or tons of other information about this year's show, be sure to check out the official ScareHouse website for all that and more. It's also where you can sign up for The Basement, if you're brave enough...

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

All photos, unless otherwise noted, are used courtesy of ScareHouse.