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.
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.
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.
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.
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.