Please note: this review is for the 2009 season rather than the current season.
by charmed (Newbie Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 10, 2009 at about 2 p.m.
Submitted: Monday, October 12, 2009
In previous years ATOLS has been really highly ranked in my book, with big marks in fun and in screams.
Perhaps it was the time we arrived (about 1/2 hour after opening), or the group we were put with (which contained a young child). As an experienced haunt-goer, I understand these both can be contributing factors to the overall experience of a haunt, so I am going to chalk it up to one of those two reasons.
When we arrived, there was no one in line for the haunted hayride, a new addition to ATOLS in 2009. We were directed to the spot marked with a sign as the waiting line. We spent a few minutes before the first actor, the Farm Boy, came to chat and entertain (and sniff!) us. We spent a total of 10 minutes waiting to see if we could add to our group. The wagon waiting for us had no hay at all, so it was actually a hay-less hayride. After a while, 3 other people joined our group and our tour guide told the driver to head out.
As we took the 15 minute ride around the grounds of the Expo center, we learned the history of the santitarium from our guide. Unfortunately, our guide seemed completely bored. Our ride was totally uneventful as there appeared only to be two actors during the entire ride.
After the ride, we pulled up and saw another wagon, this one full of hay and people, so perhaps we were just unlucky enough to be on the wrong ride. I will also note that the weather was rather chilly, in the low 40's, which may also have been a contributing factor to the lack of outdoor actors.
The waiting line for the first haunt was non-existent, which meant we were grouped with the other 3 people on our hayride, which still included the young child. Now, either the actors were aware of the young child and really toned down the scare factor, or ATOLS just wasn't as scary this year.
There was a lot of pushing us to go faster through the maze, so we felt completely rushed, but there was very little scaring going on. They had some cool new props and effects, LOVED the "puppies", and a lot of recognizable props from previous years.
What that portion of the haunt lacked, was made up for in fun by the 3D/blacklight clown part of ATOLS. A definite favorite of mine last year, I rushed to the front of the line, hoping for some scare-redemption. I was not disappointed. From beginning to end, the 3D clown experience was great, though I still feel it lacked multiple actors. The one actor I saw spent his time solely on scaring me. But, he did a GREAT job of surprising me AND making it fun.
Overall, to say I was disappointed by ATOLS is too harsh. I think they have a lot of potential and I give them props for trying the hayride this year. I certainly think there is potential for that portion of the experience to be successful. There were definitely some good actors, committed to their characters, (LOVED THE VOODOO WOMAN!) but perhaps staffed a little more lightly than they could have been.
This experience is about what I would expect if it was opening night. Just a few kinks to work out, but the scare potential is there!