Newbie Review Crew Member

Bob (louiscyphre)

Photo of Bob

Previous Reviews: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

2009 Reviews

Please note: this review is for the 2009 season rather than the current season.

Fright Factory

by louiscyphre (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Friday, October 23, 2009 at about 3 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

An enjoyable all-indoors haunt set at an abandoned factory building on a spooky hill right behind a quiet residential neighborhood, Fright Factory is one of those multiple-floor, dark-maze-and-scene-heavy haunts that tend to have more creative juice and room for acting (Acting!) than the typical walk-through-bleargh!-chainsaw!-heavy-haunts.  Boy oh boy, does this place set the scene as you approach it, snaking past all these rusted out fences and up to a yellow-brick factory building looming above you at the top of a short climb through what looks like an abandoned industrial loading area.  The ghouls attack from all directions in the haunt proper,  including from above (yikes!), but there are also nice opportunities for interaction with actors in their little vignettes, so a full experience all around.  A (Severed) Thumbs-up! 

Signage / Visibility / Location


Very easy to find, just follow the official directions, we had no problem.  It's behind what looks like a residential neighborhood and up on a hill; parking might get pretty dicey when they're really busy, as you park on the street around the haunt and neighborhood, so be prepared for that, and the street is kind of tight and there are all these patrons walking around and clogging up the crosswalks and such (stupid patrons!), so it might be in your best interest to park a little ways away and avoid the crowded streets up close. 

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


All indoors, which was really nice, as it was spitting rain on Friday.  Pay at a ticket window, then line up in one of those queues like at Great America that snake around and you think your wait is going to be shorter, but it's a trick of the eye (very tricksy, Fright Factory).  If you don't want to wait, you can pay an extra $5 and go to the front of the line; this seemed to be worth it, as the wait was about 35 minutes at 8:15 PM and it's all a fund-raiser anyway.  As stated previously, the setting is suitably spooky, it's really an abandoned factory with these huge ceilings and industrial detritus all around, and you climb these dirty stairs and wind through all these dusty hallways and it sure smells like something got abandoned somewhere, which just adds to the atmosphere, of course. 

Actors' Performance


Some great stuff, from black-robe-clad li'l old ladies sitting at a dining table muttering about how much they'd love to eat you, to a really really menacing executioner who was seriously about seven feet tall (in real life, or maybe he just seemed that way) and quite the intimidating presence; perhaps he executes at his dayjob as well.  Also, there's a very friendly butcher and friends who appear to run their own shop, and a great Freddy.  Again, they set up some nice scenes and the ghouls can act out a little stuff if they want to, cause they don't rush you through, so feel free to interact at your own discretion.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


The setting really speaks for itself and allows all kinds of cool opportunities that they take advantage of, from wandering through what seemed like a real meat-locker (no idea what that was originally, possibly just a good set, but the butcher aprons were really wet and sticky, so kudos to you, butcher-apron-preparing-guy), to a really great compression room; this must be the new big thing, every haunt we went to this season had a claustrophobia-inducing scene where you're compressed and crushed by the walls and ceiling and it's pretty intense, and Fright Factory's was very effective.  This might be wishful thinking on my part, but they may also have been trying to tell some story that we didn't completely get -- there's a scene labeled "St. Ana's Orphanage," and it seemed to connect visually with some other stuff with Christmas trees and people in black robes or something; we wondered if this was from a movie or if it had some resonance with local residents of the Janesville area, so if they're playing off some local legend, that's cool.  There's also a scene recreating one of those famous moments from NOES #1 (That's Nightmare on Elm Street #1 to all you laymen out there) with a real-live working industrial fan and a nicely-sparking knife-glove, and some moments where you're not sure initially how you're going to get out of the room you're in, and some disorienting "Didn't we just make our way through this little corridor with the same paintings and wallpaper?" stuff. 

Length


Took about a half hour to get through, more if you want to interact with the ghouls a bit. 

Crowd Control


Ah, this may have been the problem with not rushing you through, they looked like they tried to take different groups through different paths, but we got bunched up with a group of patrons behind us and in front of us, so it got kind of awkward at some points; there was a great interactive tarot-reading scene, but we ended up with a roomful of people in front of the tarot reader, so the scare got kind of watered down.  Good scene, though.  To their credit, I think all-indoor haunts have a harder time keeping groups separated, as there's less room for dawdling than there might be at an outdoor, farm/forest/corn maze setting, so let's cut them some slack on this one.

Most Memorable Moment


1)  Great Floating Jason Mask Room.
2)  There's a point where you have to electrocute a guy to get out of the room; delightful!
3)  Mr.  Executioner, Could You Just Move A Little Bit to the Right or Left and Let Us Through?
4)  Death From Above. 

Summary

A lot of fun, and makes full use of it's creepy abandoned church pew factory setting.  Terrorific atmosphere, scenes move you around in creative ways, and actors are obviously having a good time with the horrifying.  Looks like they planned this out in an interesting fashion, and good misdirection and disorientation, along with some enjoyable performances and good special effects.  Recommended.

View all Fright Factory reviews

Comments: (0)

Please note: this review is for the 2009 season rather than the current season.

Schuster's Haunted Forest

by louiscyphre (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at about 4 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: Very High

Review

Cool with a capital "K," and that stands for "Kick Ass," loyal reader.  Schuster's It's-Not-Playtime-After-Dark (tm) Haunted Forest is a first-class outdoor haunt that clearly a lot of time and creativity goes into.  From the moment you get to the front of the line and are carted off in a rickety tractor-pulled cattle pen driven by a trembling and crazy "old lady" in a babushka and housedress, to when you finally emerge from the woods and find yourself unexpectedly back in the very same cattle pen and it whisks you off again (!), this place never lets up.  Terrific ghouls, mega-misdirections, and unexpected surprises and scenes, and over it all the oppressive incredibly dark forest setting, all adding up to a most enjoyably harrowing evening.  I could usually give a sh** about spoilers in haunts, but they asked us specifically not to reveal too much, so I'm kind of constrained in illustrating how cool this haunt really is, but, boy, this is one excellent haunt, boys and ghouls. 

Signage / Visibility / Location


Right there on the main highway (12/18? I wasn't the one driving), all lit up and beckoning you in, follow directions from haunted wisconsin.  Pretty close to Madison.  Park on the lawn near the corn maze, it's a little confusing driving up to the farm, I think we had to kind of circle around something as we left the highway, but it's really quite easy to find. 

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


We had to wait for a while, maybe 25 minutes, because the cattle pen/transport cart broke down while we were there and they had to weld it back together or something (!).  When we got on, we found a hole punched out of the mesh, perhaps someone panicked, heh heh heh, or maybe something tried to get in....  We also heard in the line that someone had a heart attack in the haunt, but couldn't get this confirmed.  Wait wasn't too awful, though, there's lots of stuff to do; snacks and hot cider and hot kettle korn are sold at either a little trailer or a tent or by people wandering around like the little cigarette girls from the olden times.  They also have what looked like a small bakery on premises (!) in the main outbuilding, where they sell little crafts and homemade fudge and cookies.  Wait is alongside the building, and they projected the first Children of the Corn movie on a shed wall while we were waiting, so that was pretty cool; that's not as impressive a movie as when it first came out, by the way.  No ghouls really roamed around while we were there, but that was fine, I think they saved them all for the forest. 

Actors' Performance


Some really cool characters and actually some little scenes for you to watch, sprinkled out amongst the usual ghouls-emerging-from-unlikely-hiding-places.  Tip of the scalp to the "little old lady" who drives your cattle pen at breakneck speed down to the forest and her trembling "little old lady" voice and patter ("and if you're pregnant, well, now, you probably shouldn't have come here anyway") and there's a terrible accident in the middle of the forest but someone called the wrong kind of cop...And, I have to say, they must have some kind of first class training program for teaching some of these ghouls to motionlessly mimic mannequins, because we got to the point where we were all mixed up and thinking mannequins were ghouls and about to jump out at us and then a ghoul would arise from some other area and everyone would start screaming, etc etc I assume you know the drill.  There are some other actors (and pairs of actors) I'd like to highlight here, but don't want to give anything away, so, find out for yourselves!

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Some really great ideas and sets and excellent use of the wonderfully creepy night-time forest setting, some creative people are obviously involved here.  There are little vignettes in some locations, numerous small buildings to make your way through, and even a weird junkyard.  They also do things like attack your sense of smell at one point, which makes things even more disconcerting.  Again, I don't want to give too much away, so won't go into any further detail...except to say there is an abandoned bus.  And there are clowns.  Enjoy!

Oh, and I should add that there is one compression scene here in which even I, after all my years of going to haunted houses, started to feel claustrophobic and vulnerable.

Length


Took us more than an hour to get through; you first wait in line to get on the cattle pen, and then they drive you out into the freaking middle of nowhere.  I'm not kidding, there was no light, no sense of civilization, nothing; we weren't even sure where the farm or road were compared to our location.  Anyways, you're dumped off at the edge of a forest all by yourselves and have to find your way up a forest path in the pitch black, until you run into a slanted cabin, all lit up by a torch, where you wait to be sorted into groups and get let into the haunt proper.  This is totally cool -- there are no directions here, you just have to find your way up to the cabin and get in line.  Let me tell you, there's nothing like waiting in a pitch black forest with some thing wandering in the woods around you but never really revealing itself. 

Crowd Control


As above, two waits; you can watch movies during the first wait, and you just have to hope you're not attacked during the second wait in the cold dark of the endless forest with the shivery stars shining down on you as you catch glimpses of the fire-lit cabin up the hill there, right past that grim reaper statue....Also, an excellently-paced haunt, we never ran into another group. 

Most Memorable Moment


1)  One rambunctious companion wandered off the trail in the forest and apparently surprised a ghoul who was "tinkling," with said ghoul literally chasing him down the path and then following us menacingly for the rest of the haunt.  We weren't sure if he was actually upset or just really intimidatingly into his character.  These bitches don't mess around, folks. 
2)  Best. Vortex. Ever.  Seriously.

Summary

This is one of those experiences in which the seasoned members of our group were really excited and energized when we left the haunt; lots of thrills and chills, and you really felt like you had been through something exciting and impressive.  Excellent characterizations and scenes at different points, terrific and creative strategies for freaking out the squares, and overall a real sense of menace and darkness and being kind of lost and out there on your own in the middle of the woods where someone might have had a heart attack earlier that night...or maybe something came through the mesh of that cattle pen cart and dragged them away....  Highly recommended. 

View all Schuster's Haunted Forest reviews

Comments: (0)

Please note: this review is for the 2009 season rather than the current season.

The Haunted Barn Stoughton (PERMANENTLY CLOSED)

by louiscyphre (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at about 2 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

Another nicely scary working-farm haunt, The Haunted Barn consists of a trek through a haunted barn (ironic, no?) and "Blood Shed," followed by a night-time hike through some spooky fields, up and down a moonlit hill, and then over a spooky rutted path.  It's a good home-grown haunt, not all overly-fancied-up like the more corporate haunted houses out there, and there are some cool scenes and good characterizations.  The ghouls interact and threaten well at times and it has a really nice sense of place and atmosphere, with the stars stretching out above you, and with all the autumnal smells and night time sounds of a rural farm in October.  Unfortunately, the final leg of the haunt might need a few more scares, as we found ourselves wandering around a little too much and hoping for something further to happen a little too much.   Still, a good haunt fer yer money and definitely worth the trip from Madison. 

Signage / Visibility / Location


Very easy to find, just follow directions on Haunted Wisconsin (that's hauntedwisconsin.com, its on the internets, oh, wait, you're probably there right now), there's a big lighted sign pointing you toward the working farm on some rolling hills.  You park on the lawn, which looks like it might get out of hand sometimes, so pick a spot on the outskirts where you can get out easily; we saw some cars almost parked in even at such an early hour, I dunno, maybe that's part of the terror. 

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


We got there very early and really had no wait, but by the time we left, a bit after 8 PM, there was a huge line, so get there early.  There were some ghouls harassing the crowd (let us praise an excellent Beetlejuice, whom one does not see very often amongst the Freddys and Jasons and Leatherfaces out there in this crazy topsy-turvy haunted-house world of ours), and there are a number of snacks'y things to purchase to keep your spookin' energy up.  It's again on a real farm, so there are outbuildings to wander around and there's a pretty cool little giftshop trailer with lots of black-lit halloween/horror-themed stuff going on.  There's also a big lit-up tent with picnic tables, which was a good place to rest with the group, quickly hash over the haunt, and enjoy the screams of other patrons gently cascading down the hill. 

Actors' Performance


Quite good.  The aformentioned Beetlejuice popped in and out of the haunt, doing a pretty dead-on Michael Keaton, and there are several scenes where the actors really act like they mean it; shout-outs to the little girl in the nursery who apparently is of two minds about what she wants you to do with her doll, and the most excellent little vampire girl toward the beginning, who forced one part of our group to engage in a twisted game of Simon Says.  There were also evil children who yelled at you from inside an abandoned schoolbus; yes, that's right, evil children on an abandoned schoolbus, but we weren't sure if they were supposed to be there or were other patrons' nasty little kids, so basically, hat's off to the nasty kids, whoever you may belong to.  Oh, and you end up at Camp Crystal Lake at one point and don't make any assumptions....

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


This haunt set up some of its scenes quite well; there are some interestingly-developed little vignettes which depend on characters, such as the little girl in the f***'ed-up nursery, which always adds a little sumthin' sumthin', and the natural setting of the farm at night, and walking around through fields and up and down hills, is suitably atmospheric.  Had some good props, really loved Camp Crystal Lake and it's misdirection.  Did think that the Blood Shed lacked a little in the creativity department and seemed a little sparse, at least when we were there, which again, was the very beginning of the night.  Apparently another part of our group heard some kids calling out in the Blood Shed that they wanted daddy to get them dinner and they wanted "people meat" tonight, so maybe there was more going on in there than I saw in my group. 

Length


Three different areas with no waiting in between:  the haunted barn proper, then the "Blood Shed" and its outdoor accoutrements, and then a hike up a haunted hill, through a graveyard and back down again through a spooky field.  Took us about 45 minutes, a real value for your dollah. 

Crowd Control


As stated before, there are multiple waiting areas and stuff to distract you patrons while you wait.  You purchase yer tickets and you takes yer chances and then you wait to get in.  Groups were spaced out well throughout the haunt, we never ran into another group, and there are some cool moments outside when you see other groups wandering around and can wait and watch them get freaked out by the scares you know are almost right upon them....

Most Memorable Moment


1)  Camp Crystal Lake and that pneumatic Jason prop. 
2)  Simon Says with the one little vampire girl.  

Summary

A good haunted-house value for your eight bucks -- an enjoyable haunt and a great "cold night on a spooky farm" experience, but not as kick-ass as it could be, as it ends with a whimper, not a bang.  They might be stretched a little thin or something; the haunted barn and overall setting are quite cool and there are some excellent characters and interactions with ghouls, but, at least in my experience, the "Brand New for 2009 Blood Shed" seemed a little underwhelming, and the haunted hill/field/forest area a little lacking in the scenes.  It might be that we were there very early, and perhaps some of the ghouls had not had their din-din yet or were delayed otherwise, I suppose time management can be an issue when one is slaughtering and spooking and terrorizing all day.  We may also have missed some stuff in the Blood Shed, as other people in another group seemed to have seen (or heard) more.  Whatever the case, the wonderful setting itself really seals the deal, and it's pretty much an evening's worth of entertainment and then some.  Recommended. 

View all The Haunted Barn Stoughton (PERMANENTLY CLOSED) reviews

Comments: (0)

Please note: this review is for the 2009 season rather than the current season.

The Dark Side Haunted Adventure

by louiscyphre (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 10, 2009 at about 3 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

Ah, the Dark Side, how we love thee, let us count the ways. 

Set at an actual farm, the haunt is spread out over what looks like acres and acres of land, and made up of at least four different segments, an abandoned mine (with one heckuva cool, disorienting spiral staircase/vortex thingie), a hayride with an accompanying soundtrack, a haunted forest with some elaborate setups, and a haunted corn maze that kind of speaks for itself;  by the end you may feel almost entertained-out.  We loved the mine and the forest, but the hayride was kind of short on ghouls; perhaps H1N1 is hitting the ghoul community hard. 

Don't expect an over-arching theme or anything art-y or anything like that, but these guys are serious about what they're doing and they do it well.  There's some clever set-ups, for instance, with distracting you into looking at something that's slightly lit (what's that little fire over there about?), and then dazzling you with blazing flames (Fire Bad!), so your little retinas are overwhelmed and non-operational for a minute, and then a ghoul lurches out of the dark and slams his powersaw into the side of your haywagon, sending up sparks (yes, sparks!) and everyone screams, etc etc.  Is it wrong to think of this as fun?  Whatev. 

It does look like a lot of effort goes into this haunt, and it takes a long long time to get through, so give yourself an hour or more, at the very least, and savor the terror.  And it's all for just the one reasonable admission fee, so kudos to them.

Signage / Visibility / Location


Well, it's pretty easy to find, but it's more north of Ixonia than one might think for having an Ixonia address; Google worked great, though be aware that if you're coming from the west on 19, there is a detour around Watertown that takes you down to 94 or something and back up.  Once you get near the place, they have a lit-up sign off the main county highway that points you in the right direction, and it's pretty clear it's the farm with all the cars parked on the lawn with all the screams and weird lights emanating from it, anyway.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


We honestly had very little wait, probably because it was so freaking cold on Saturday night; it looks like they have a covered barn area, and there are multiple outbuildings you could check out and portapotties for the gentlemen to enjoy and the ladies to recoil from. 

I think they sold little treats and stuff at the main building, but we were kind of rushing in.  Anyways, you line up on a hill and wait to get the high-sign from some ghouls to approach the entrance to the mine; when you reach the entrance, there's a witch who tells you the "Story of Glacier Rock Farms and Its Mad Owner."  I think the story has changed a bit since I was last there, but that's how legends grow, I suppose.  Actually, the waiting on the hill is kind of cool, with the stars all lit up behind the mine and over the ridge and farm as you look down over the whole place.... Some random ghouls kind of wander around, too, but my favorite part is that you still line up next to a real cow pasture, and so cows wander in and out of the scene, and they're kind of spooky, at least to city slickers like us, but I don't think they're vampire cows like the ones featured in the commercials for that Little Vampire movie (it came out in 2000, god help us, look it up on imdb if you're confused), although that would be interesting, I suppose, as long as I didn't have to have any kind of contact with that horrible gel-haired Jonathan Lipnicki kid.  Sorry, accidentally tapped into the decades-old rivalry between me and Jonathan Lipnicki there.   Curse you, Lipnicki!

Anyway, the wait is nice and pleasant and suitably atmospheric. 

Actors' Performance


Well, not a lot of characterization here, but that's fine, it doesn't appear to be one of those haunts where one depends on actors acting out scenes and interacting with guests too much, it's more of a scary chase-you-down-and-menace-you kind of thing.  I do love the witch at the bonfire at the entrance to the haunted forest, though, who uses the screaming of other guests to time her allowing your group into the forest.   She's pretty hilarious, too. 

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


Sets look quite good, there's an impressive cemetery scene and an abandoned cabin, and the mine is quite convincing at points, with it really feeling like you're going down into a mine and now you're underground and the walls are starting to close in.  Some cool outdoor fire effects, and love the lights blinking off and on in the cornfield, all it needed was Mel Gibson's kids running around in their little tinfoil hats.

Length


Took us about one hour (or more) to get through all the different areas; this is one thing they do so well, you get a whole lot of hauntin' for your tiny little entrance fee.  Also, just so you don't get completely worn out, there are breaks between segments, with each being broken up by a bonfire you can stand around while you wait to be allowed into the next phase; this is a good time to eavesdrop on other guests and then make fun of them later amongst your group.  Just sayin'.

Crowd Control


Again, we had no wait, so -- terrific!  Actually, beyond the initial entrance, they had multiple strategies for spacing groups out, which really worked well; we never ran into anyone else, and felt like we had the haunts to ourselves most of the time.  There is some waiting in between different phases of the haunt, as above, but there's always a campfire and some form of ghoul to entertain you or keep the peace.

Most Memorable Moment


1)  Companion getting beaned in her "nether regions" by a fast-pitched corncob flung from the depths of the corn maze by some unnamed ghoul, who was lucky she didn't catch him, as his ghoulish ass would have been seriously kicked.  If one has a goalie or catcher's uniform, one might be advised to wear it; gentlemen, pack your jockstraps or codpieces.  (Actually, to be fair, I think the ghoul was aiming for a metal tub and missed; I guess it did add an element of danger to the proceedings in the end). 
2)  When you enter the abandoned cabin, give the bed a wide berth...that's a pun, sorry.
3)  Oh boy, if you can't stand enclosed spaces, you're going to have a hard time in one part of the mine.  It felt like we were being forced into a cattle slaughtering pen...seriously disturbing.


Summary

The Dark Side is a great "spooky working farm on a crisp fall night" haunt, with a varied approach and a whole lotta heart and energy.  The people working (both ghouls and staff) seem to be having a good time, and the whole thing has a very pleasant and chilling Wisconsin atmosphere to it.  It's really an evening's entertainment, and if you only have time, inclination, or fundage to go to one haunt this year, this would be well worth your investment.  Viva La Dark Side!


View all The Dark Side Haunted Adventure reviews

Comments: (0)






January 29th, 2023 1:12 p.m. CST 15.29