Newbie Review Crew Member

Justin (DarkWolf1088)

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October and Halloween are not just my favorite month and holiday because I was born during that time, but I have always enjoyed the happenings during this time of the year. From fall festivals that serve delicious apple cider to TV horror specials and to the haunted attractions across the state, I love everything that October has to offer. I loved this time of year, especially the ‘scary’ part, so much that beginning in high school I started working on an entertainment farm and also worked for their haunted hayride, as an actor, that they put on every October.

As such I have 3 years experience as an actor for a haunted attractions and 2 years experience as a supervising actor for the same haunt. Thus, when I go to haunted attractions there are two big categories I look for. These categories include Experience and Scares. When I talk about 'experience' I am talking about how well the haunted attraction immersed you into 'their world' and how well the haunt spaces groups. If I can tell that I am in a semi-trailer, there is a problem. In terms of the scares, I look for good ambush and sudden scares that have a powerful presentation behind them. It is not fun to come to haunt where all the actors do is go "boo" nor is it any more fun to go to one that is making their actors try too hard to convey a storyline. Thus if the experience is excellent and the scares are solid, that is a solid haunt in my book.

Previous Reviews: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

2014 Reviews

Please note: this review is for the 2014 season rather than the current season.

Ghost Boat: Season of the Witch

by DarkWolf1088 (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 18, 2014 at about 8:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: Medium Fear Factor: Low

Review

Ghost Boat: Season of the Witch is a haunted attraction that is put on by the Wisconsin Dells Boat Tours company. The best way to describe this haunt is this your Dells Boat Tour, "after dark". If you want to get in on the action be aware that you have to reserve a seat with the Dells Boat Tour company in order to attend. The company offers various block times for you to arrive at the ticket office and subsequently board the boat. I reserved my seat for the 8:30PM time slot (the last tour of the night). Once I arrived at the ticket office (located right along the "main drag" of the Wisconsin Dells) and got my ticket, I was instructed to wait to board in the waiting area. The waiting area is cozy and has a Halloween themed video playing over the suspended TV screens. There was some décor but minus that, there was no other entertainment or things to do. We began to board the boat to start the adventure around 8:50PM.

Now you may be thinking, "Ah a haunted boat ride...that's unique...". Unfortunately, I have to report that the 35min boat ride (to the actual attraction location) is essentially a stripped down version of the daytime boat tours. There are no scares on the boat, actors, or other entertainment save for a pre-recorded soundtrack that details a story of a witch that used to roam the woods of the Dells. Make sure you dress for the weather. With no actors or scares and a long boat ride, you will get cold on a fall night very quickly (I know I did).

The boat will take you to one of the tourist stops on the daytime boat tour...Witch's Gulch - one of the area's legendary caverns. This is where the actual haunted attraction is located. Once you disembark the boat you walk through the cavern as a large group (i.e. everyone on the boat, which is approximately 35+ people). Laced throughout the cavern are appropriate haunted house props and of course, the actors. There are only a few actual "scenes" set-up in the cavern. As you walk through, guided only by Tiki torches, the ghouls of the night come out from all areas along the winding boardwalk. It was difficult to really enjoy the full experience due to being in a mass of people and having been an actor myself I also understand how difficult it is to scare such a large group.

After you get to the other end of cavern, you come to a clearing where you can buy refreshments and food from the tour stand. Once you buy what you want (or not) you head back through the cavern and back towards the boat. This is where the cavern attraction got fun. Now the Tiki torches have been extinguished, and you are split up into small groups. You can only navigate the path by feeling for the railings. At this point the actors excelled at their job. They used every available advantage they had to create a very harrowing experience and some quality scares. There were even scares that were done that I thought could only be accomplished with plenty of space. The walk back was the definitely the best part of the entire trip.

Once you make it back through the cavern you board the boat for another 35min cruise back to the boathouse. Here you better make sure you have some warmth because this time there is no entertainment whatsoever, not even a soundtrack (so make sure you bundle up and buy some hot cocoa at the tour stand). Once you're back a the boathouse that is it...you've experienced the Wisconsin Dells in a brand new way.

Actors' Performance


I give mad props to the actors at this attraction. You are given a very limited time AND space to accomplish what other haunts do over a greater distance and time. Bravo on providing a very fun way of experiencing a Dells landmark.

Length


All together the haunt was approximately 1.5 hours long. I must note, however, the ACTUAL haunted attraction portion is only about 15 to 20 minutes long roundtrip (i.e. you get to the tour stand and turn right back around). The rest of the time is the boat ride there and back.

Crowd Control


I was let down that the first time through was so congested with no pacing what-so-ever. Just do your level best to enjoy the cavern. Don't expect to get scared during the first walk through.

Most Memorable Moment


A chainsaw in Witch's Gulch?....yes please.

Summary

For those of you (I would consider myself as such) that want to get right into the scares and the experience once you are at the start of the attraction, I would not recommend this attraction. If, however, you like creepy stories and tours, combined with scares, Ghost Boat certainly fits the bill. I feel that due to the environment that Ghost Boat was derived out of (i.e. tours) it is not as powerful, as a haunted attraction, as it could be. Ghost Boat is, however, an excellent way to experience the Dells in a much different way. For me, that was the best part. I remember visiting Witch's Gulch as a kid during the day...it was really cool getting to see that same location at night. In conclusion Ghost Boat takes a different spin on the haunt season with a focus more on "mood" than actually scaring you.

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Please note: this review is for the 2014 season rather than the current season.

The Dark Side Haunted Adventure

by DarkWolf1088 (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 17, 2014 at about 7:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

The Dark Side...now this is a haunted attraction that I have some history with. I was with the Dark Side as an actor/actor supervisor when it first began in the early 2000s. This trip was my very first time through the attraction since I left for college in 2008, and this time as a customer. Needless to say I was impressed by how far the Dark Side had come. The route to the farm has always been a favorite aspect of mine. A long country back road dead ends at the haunt's parking lot. Once there you buy your tickets at the "general store" area where there are heaters, concessions, merchandise, and a tiny Halloween village displayed. Once you buy your ticket you enter the waiting line area which is inside the barn. This provides ample protection from inclement and cold weather.

The wait to actually begin the haunt was approximately 15mins (This would have been considerably longer if I had arrived any later than I did). I was a little disappointed that there was no line entertainment but I guess I was just happy that I was warm and out of the wind for the time being. After 15mins 35 of us began the walk up to The Descent and that is where the attraction begins.

The Descent
After the group was greeted by a kindly farm hand, people were paired off, and instructed to walk up the hill towards an old abandoned "mine". This was another trip were I was alone so when they got to me I made my trek up the hill and entered The Descent. The Dark Side does an excellent job of making it feel like you are going deep underground and everything around you makes you feel like you are in a legit mine. It wasn't long before the actors began to do their job....and an excellent job they did. All the actors used the nooks, crannies, and darkness of the "mine" to their benefit. Unfortunately I did not get the full experience of what I'm sure The Descent had to offer because the pacing of the groups became a bit of an issue. Shortly after entering I ran into a large group of patrons that had grouped up together. Thus I would suggest that when you make your walk up the hill that you take your time so that you can get the full benefit out of The Descent. Other than the pacing, The Descent was an environmental pleasure with lots of fun to be had.

Twilight Nightmare
You exit The Descent to a common area that has a large bonfire in the middle. Here again we waited for 15 minutes while people exited The Descent. Actors did spill out into the common area and kept all of us huddled around the fire entertained. After all 35 people made it through The Descent, we loaded up onto a wagon which begins the next attraction, Twilight Nightmare. Now this was a fun ride! With a fully "decked out" wagon that is pulled by a tractor we began our journey into the backwoods. Here, the Dark Side, shined. With actors that literally climb on the wagon and effects that completely disrupt your senses (such as gas explosions), Twilight Nightmare was a visceral onslaught. What made it even better is that this is no open field hayride. There are times that it feels like you are going to collide with trees of slip off the path into a river below. This is not a pumpkin patch hayride...this is the hayride from hell. With plenty of scares and unique effects (some that I would say are unique just to THIS haunt), Twilight Nightmare provides for a very entertaining ride.

Backwoods Revenge
Following the hayride, you are dropped off in the middle of a pine forest. Here you are greeted by an armed farm hand who reads you into what happened on the farm (namely institutionalized boys messing around with toxic waste) and warns you about what is ahead. Again the Dark Side excels in using the natural environment to set a really creepy scene. What I really enjoyed was the feeling of being able to "roam" the forest. The paths are not tight and there are even areas dedicated to one scene where you can take your time and walk around in the area. This is something you don't get to do too often in haunted houses. I was let down in that actors appeared to be few and far between in this area. I was all alone and was prime pickings to be stalked and scared, but unfortunately rarely experienced either. Chalking that issue up as a fluke, Backwoods Revenge still provides plenty of fun and a "free roam" environment that really makes you feel like you are in a movie.

Mephistopheles Lair
Once you exit the woods a wooden bridge takes you over a corn field and into the next attraction, Mephistopheles Lair. This attraction is small but, depending on your disposition, can be very frightening, or at the very least, frustrating. Without giving much away on this particular area, Mephistopheles Lair is a maze...and a really good one at that! Exiting is not as simple as you might think. There are no scares here...but it can get scary.

Schizophrenia
When you finally find your way out, you will follow a dirt path that will lead you into the corn. With deranged hillbillies calling out "fresh meat" from every which way in the corn field, you may just want to turn back. In Schizophrenia you are again given a pretty wide berth to navigate the area, letting you walk around and investigate as you please. Again the Dark Side excels at using the natural environment. Just being in a field with corn towering over you, at night, and hearing "things" move around is enough to make anyone skittish. Actors do a great job of exploiting the field and providing some top notch scares. There is no telling what is a prop and what is a "monster" in this attraction. You will just have to find out for yourself. Exciting from beginning to end, Schizophrenia could easily be a haunted event by itself.

Foxglove Nursery
Once you clear the corn you have one final trip...through the greenhouses. Foxglove Nursery has beautiful scenes and with the attraction being outdoors, everything about this greenhouse feels authentic. In this attraction you get more of the haunted house feel as flower beds and pot shelves constrict the path and close in above your head. Keep your wits about you, there are plenty of ghouls waiting inside to give you a scare. This was a great way to end the trip and by far felt the most "realistic" which always adds to the experience.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


I waited for 15 minutes at the start of the event, and another 15 minutes after The Descent.

Length


From start to finish the Dark Side is approximately 1 hour long (not including the wait times).

Summary

In the end the Dark Side uses what it has available (i.e. the farm land) to provide a very immersive experience. Unlike haunted houses where you know you'll be walking around inside a building, due to the outside nature of the Dark Side and the flow from one attraction to another, this haunt has been the one that felt the most "realistic" to me out of all the attractions I've ever visited. All the actors were committed and some amazing special effects were utilized to provide very entertaining attractions. If you like being outdoors, and having the ability to "move around" in a haunted attraction, the Dark Side is by far one of best places to visit.

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Please note: this review is for the 2014 season rather than the current season.

The Hill Has Eyes

by DarkWolf1088 (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at about 8 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: High

Review

A fairly new haunted attraction to southeast Wisconsin, the Hill Has Eyes, formed back in 2012, is an expansive outdoor haunted complex. This was my very first visit to this attraction and the trip certainly did not disappoint. The Hill Has Eyes welcomes you with a large tent, 2 bonfires, an audio/visual display, and (for the adults) a beer tent. The music is playing is heavy rock and accompanies the video playing on the big screen. Everything about this attraction's meeting area puts you in the mood for a fun time. Although there were no actors, at the time, prowling around the ticket line, the wait was no less interesting or fun. Due to time constraints I opted for the attraction's VIP pass (a $35 value that goes up as the season progresses). Spoiler Alert: This pass was well worth it and you will soon know why. So that being said this attraction makes a great first impression at the start. Let's dive into the meat of this haunt.

The Hill Has Eyes includes 5 attractions and each one varies from the other WHILE maintaining the theme of the haunt (check out their website) throughout the entire attraction.

Hooded
Hooded is the very first part of the attraction. When I came to the haunt I had to sign a wavier. This is a legit wavier as this is an expansive attraction that has many different components compared to other attractions of similar size. Part of that wavier advises you that you will be 'hooded' for the first part of the attraction. This is no joke. Before you enter the haunt you are required to put a black bag over your head and grasp onto a rope that runs along the trail route. All the while that you have a bag over your head and you are following a rope, the drill instructors will give you some "encouragement" and things will go bump in the night around you. A very interesting concept to a haunted attraction that pays dividends right out of the gate. Enjoy the sensory deprivation and let the attraction's actors do what they do best. You won't be disappointed.

Failed Escape
Following Hooded you get the chance to take a break at another common area that has a beer stand and a bonfire. Once you have your wits about you after the Hooded experience, Failed Escape will introduce you to the "storyline" of the Hill Has Eyes. In this area you follow a backwoods trail that leads you through trailer homes, abandoned vehicles, and dilapidated structures. All the while you will be stalked by the area's "residents". With some top notch animatronics, props, and acting, you will feel as if the title to the attraction is actually true. This a thrill ride for both your eyes as well as your nerves.

Hunger Hollow
You exit Failed Escape into the same common area you started. Again you are given the chance to warm-up by the bonfire and grab a brewsky. Once you are ready you can enter Hunger Hollow. This attraction is Failed Escape's bigger and badder brother. Again you will be overwhelmed by the amount of detail in the scenery. With great design comes great scares, and no other attraction that I have been to has proved this better than Hunger Hollow. Take your time, enjoy the sights, the monsters inhabiting the location love to play with their food. A woman that I was walking with during this trip put it best by saying, "this is like a roller-coaster". How true that line was. The Hills Has Eyes does an excellent job of pacing which allows you to have a "full" experience of the haunt versus being either really bored or overly scared. Hunger Hollow is indeed a roller-coaster ride.

Scare Lift
After you make it out of Hunger Hollow (if you haven't already turned tail and run) you come to the Scare Lift. In all honesty this is the most subdued attraction of the haunt but is creepy and disturbing in its own right. You will board an old ski lift that will take you to the top of the hill. All the while that you are suspended, there is nothing but darkness around you and the sounds of screams in the background. Although this lift may appear relaxing, don't get too relaxed, you aren't done yet.

Carnivore: The Devil's Carnival
Do clowns or carnies freak you out? Well then you are in for one final ride. Although smaller than Failed Escape and Hunger Hollow, Carnivore is a fun attraction using the twisted carnival theme. Even if you aren't scared by such a theme, the actors positioned there still do a good job of eliciting a scream or to. Watch the freak show and enjoy....just don't stay to long.. although they are just circus freaks they're still kin to the monsters you escaped earlier.

Length


Even with the VIP pass, which allowed me to pass-up the lines, the whole attraction, from start to finish is (wait for it) 1.5 hours long. The best part of that 1.5 hours? No second or minute of this attraction was boring. There are haunts that are shorter that charge just as much.

Summary

So my final thoughts on the Hill Has Eyes...No matter what entrance fee you pay (the basic or the VIP), every cent is worth it! Not only does the Hill Has Eyes have excellent pacing, strong actors, great scenes, and impressive animatronics and effects, but it feels really free. You can decide when you go on to the next line. If you want to hang by the fire for awhile, by all means. Sometimes it is just fun to watch as other people get scared. There in also lies there other great benefit to this haunt besides what I mentioned above....this haunted attraction is FUN! The Hill Has Eyes has to be, hands down, the most fun I have had at a haunted house to date (for the record I've reviewed 10 haunted house for HW and visited loads more). Even if you have the "tough guy" mentality, and believe nothing scares you, something WILL make you jump at this haunt...guaranteed. If not, well the fun you experience will still be worth your time and money. A shout out to all the actors and crew at the Hills Has Eyes...great job guys... you are MORE than deserving of the Best Haunt in the Milwaukee Area.

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February 5th, 2023 9:14 a.m. CST 15.29