The Dungeon of Doom is a haunt I have been attending every year for a good 10+ years. I’ve always enjoyed the attention to detail, the energy of their actors (both inside and out), and the general experience that my hard earned money buys me here.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself, for the first time, seriously thinking that this may be the last time I consider wasting my money on this haunt.
First off… no wait entertainment? On the Thursday before Halloween? I know, it’s a Thursday. That being said, we waited in line for an hour, and were more entertained by the other patrons in line, than by any actors. I will say that, once getting to the front of the line, the door actors were great. The priest there is a character that I’ve seen many times in years past, and he, once again, did not fail to entertain while we waited. Just a shame that we had to wait that long just to enjoy it!
Once inside, you enter an opening scene that sets the tone for what you are about to see. I was torn here. In past years, this room has been well lit, so the detail can be appreciated. I was a bit disappointed to see that the lighting levels were much lower, and took away from the awesomeness of this 2 story set. I will say that there are a few characters in this area that were impressive.
Once the opening scene is played out, your groups are split and sent through different doors. The door we were sent into resembled a sort of “Leatherface” type scene. We stood in front of a “door” with a video screen that showed a chainsaw-wielding character attacking his victim. As the victim slams against the door, it shakes and rattles. As the madman gets his kill, the chainsaw blade actually pops through the door! This was an effect I appreciated. In addition there were a few other surprises here that I don’t want to ruin, but when we were moved out of the room and into the haunt, I will say I was left feeling very hopeful for what was to come!
Too bad I was almost immediately let down. Dungeon of Doom has always impressed me with the level of detail in their rooms. My complaint is that each of these detailed scenes is so far separated by boring, black hallways, they completely take away from what I just experienced. To me, it almost seems like wasted space, or more so like I was just duped out of the money I paid to go through a
27,000 square foot haunted house. Doesn’t really count when most of it is hallways in which I do not see ANYTHING.
Our first pass through the house was where I noticed that crowd control was an issue. Within a few scenes, we’d caught up to the group in front of us. Ultimately, we stuck with them, because our efforts to separate ourselves found us being forced ahead by the actors. I did hear one of my least favorite lines in a haunted house, “Why are you here?” To be entertained or scared, which you’re not doing.
I also noticed in this part of our walkthrough that there were more than a few of the “claustrophobia” pieces (large inflatable airbags, that you have to push your way through). While one is appreciated, two, very close to each other, seems a bit much, and again, wasted space.
There were many areas here that seemed to be very light on actors as well. We spent a lot of time walking, anticipating the next scare, only to turn a corner and find… another dark hallway.
At the end of the first pass, we were sent through a hallway that appeared to be covered in stone walls, with detailed skeletons climbing the walls, and popping out at you! My complaint here is that these props pop out at about face level, and when combined with the strobe light, make for a very painful experience when they swing into your face, or you walk into them.
Our second pass started out well. We were sent up a flight of stairs, with instruction to stop at the bottom of the next set of stairs. Imagine my surprise when we realized that upon going up, we were actually at the top of the opening scene! Great use of a two story set. Too bad the lighting was, again, so low, that we couldn’t even stop and giggle at the misfortune of the patrons below us.
We were sent through a second door, where we walked over a bridge with a few surprises, and then into a very nice detailed hallway with hanging, mangled bodies. The actors here made good use of these props, and got a few good scares out of the group in front of us here. Too bad there was no crowd control, so we knew it was coming!
Within this pass through the house, there were many areas where you had to duck down to walk through. I appreciate the effect, but some of these areas were a bit long, and began to get uncomfortable. Breaking these up might have made this more effective, and less annoying.
A memorable room (and not necessarily in a good way) on this side was the clown room. The actor in this room, dressed as a clown, was generally annoying and in our faces (which works for a clown). However, he had a wig in his hand, which he repeatedly shoved into my face. An in your face approach is great; a wig in my eyes and nose is not.
Again, on this pass through, I cannot stress enough… QUIT WITH THE BLACK HALLWAYS!
At this point we arrived at the Buried Alive portion of the haunt. I’ve experienced this many times, and for me it is getting a bit old, but for someone who has not been through it, I do recommend trying it at least once. I do still find this to be a unique experience for a first timer.
Lastly, we headed upstairs to Mercy General. In years past, this is one area that can actually get me. With the curtain walls, level of detail, and intensity of the actors, there is always something in this area to make me jump (and this doesn’t happen often).
This year, Mercy General has been made into a 4D experience. You are given glasses at the beginning of this area, to wear throughout the scenes. You start off with an opening scene that has a surprise ending. It’s a great effect, but the actor here was lacking the enthusiasm that I’ve seen in years past.
Upon entering the hospital, you’re confronted with crazy patients, corpses, tons of gruesome, gory hospital items… that are all splattered with blacklight paint. Effectively, I would say about 80% of the “new” 3D effects in this area appear to be blood splatters. The few parts that were more than this, were paintings that seemed not to mesh with the hospital theme. Perhaps this effect would have worked better in some of the many dark hallways? I was disappointed, to be honest. This was one area that I felt was an amazing example of how a haunt should be, with attacks from ANY angle, and the feeling that everything was so dirty, and bloody, that you didn’t want to touch anything. Adding on the glasses and paint completely took away from this.
Another complaint here was the actors. First of all, let me compliment them on their energy. It was definitely high. My issue was that every one of them appeared to be patients, hardly any doctors/nurses. A little more balance here would have been nice. Because there were so many patient-type characters, their performances all seemed to run together, no one really stood out.
In general, I have to say that gone are the days of the intense, in your face, get under your skin Dungeon of Doom style. What remains is a huge potential that just isn’t being played upon, or worse, being ruined and covered up. Stop spending money on animatronics that no one pays attention to unless they hit them in the face, clean up that cheesy, overdone blacklight paint, and go back to the type of haunt that, just by the look of it, makes me shudder and want to find the nearest exit. Until this happens, I think my days of faithfully visiting the Dungeon of Doom may be over.
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