Infected- In this house, the old hospital was rebranded and somewhat updated. We were greeted at the door by an actor in makeup, not quite in character, but at least it was not just a park employee with a radio and a vest reading us the rules. When we first walked in, you get the same opening and hallway feel of a the old hospital from previous years. At the first scare, you know you're in a different type of haunt. I liked the way the infected attraction is looking, as you wander the halls and the further you go you notice more and more plant life seems to be taking over the building. As you twist and turn to the hallways, you see a lot of different generic types of props that can't quite be described. Many props and sets seemed a bit foreign.
As you're going, you notice more decorated hallways with windows or smaller scenic rooms, to give more of an extra dimension than the large empty rooms such as the surgical room, an office and even the morgue of the haunt design of previous years.
You come across the actors interacting with the scenery along with them doing their pop scares, and you will also notice their makeup get more progressive. The first actors you will see will have basic "zombielike" makeup, then as you venture further, more actors will gain a few pustules and cuts or lacerations. As you progress, so does the infection of the residents. Their skin tone will turn and plantlike growths will be on their bodies until you get to the full faced plant monster gaping mouth. Many of the actors, unlike most haunts, do not focus on the guests as much and try to frighten them as they walk through but more of see them as visitors and they interact in a different way. That is a pleasant change. I would like to see more of this and more actors. There were a few areas where they were doing "double duty" and using the "HHN method" where the actor triggers a spotlight and sound effect, while at the same time they break out of a hidden or covered area. This adds a nice effect, but only doing it very rarely in a single maze. Like a drop down panel, you don't want to see that every five seconds and around every turn.
With the design of the maze itself, you get more of a feel of a experimental lab or test hospital, complete with a few large scale props and scenery in different zones of the maze. Some of the build is very unique and if you look at it in detail, it seems to tell you a story. I believe it's incomplete in parts without particular narration, being signage, or dialogue from the "earlier stage" humans. Actor driven and interactive with props, I could see potential of actors interacting with animatronics or other movable / articulated decor. The end of it all was a little anticlimactic, but this was a really great change and see nothing but growth here.
Gates of Hell- Going to the main entrance, I immediately noticed a difference. When you first enter the haunt, there is a beginning part with cyclone fencing that has been pretty bare in the past. Now it's a little more decorated with some vacuum formed panels . The path winds into different decorated sections through the park's picnic grove until you come to the main haunt inside the building. Sadly, there were only three actors in a single room, yes the awesome thing is you being surrounded by actors. But, unfortunately this is the highlight of your experience here. As you enter the mausoleum, you travel into dark halls with "paintings", with web and pallet wood along side you. This is another improvement from past designs. As a character leads the way, most of the maze here does rely on animatronics and squeeze walls. Coming to the prisoner elocution there is a very effective effect, but at many points there really was not much to look at. The rooms were not very decorated but you would get an involved with some werewolves and a few coffins along the walkway. There are a few squeeze walls that come pretty standard, and try not to get run over by any vehicles.
The last leg of the trip is the white hallway with strobes silhouettes of zombies and ghouls. This white wall pathway is decorated with random pieces of body parts hanging along the hall. There is a nice detailed centerpiece of a table and the hanging of more body parts over that. This entire time there were no actors to be seen. There were so many missed opportunities that were used last year and now completely ignored. What was once the crown jewel of haunted houses on the property is seems like this is now where old props and scares are sent to die.
Manslaughter Manor- As we lined up, we realized there was a difference in the design. Right as we were being read the rules, we were standing on the porch of a built facade of the manner. It gave the feel of a small farmhouse, so we entered the front door into the living room, then the kitchen. There were a few costumed characters there mostly looked at you. To give a little back-story, these are supposed to be an apparition of the home and appear all around the house. The first two rooms were actually decorated along with the hall connecting the two, had some additional scare tech (animated props but not quite animatronics).
The office area seemed either new or designed in a way where it was more memorable. The girl again was moving erratically around the room between the file cabinets and hiding around another area playing with the items on the walls. There was a very spastic picture frame (which is a nice addition) uncontrollably bouncing and banging againts the wall. At every turn, there was at least one actor. Then walking to the bathroom which was fairly decorated and entering a little girl's bedroom or the doll room into an extremely long closet, then into the laundry room which exited out into the backyard.
Now I have to give a very special and unique special shout out to the opera singing woman in the laundry room. That was a nice "WTF" moment. Most of the scares were around the hallways and corridors, which is pretty common for them. I was surprised to see more detail than previous years, with paintings and other pictures on the wall to give you a feel of going through a residence, rather than dark long hallways which usually connect each room.
13th Order- Last year this space was used for the Hell Fest promotion. Since then, the changes have been massive. Let me start by saying that this is a leap and a jump from all the other haunts at Great America, THIS IS NOT FOR KIDS. I'll tell you why. The amounts of blood and gore is huge compared to anything else here. The scares are orchestrated better and none of the actors are popping out from behind a corner yelling "BA!!!!"
Let's start with the first room the "Dining Room". Here is a static feast of horrifying characters, from human forms wearing animal masks to absurd creatures seated around a table of limbs and blood and what seems to be a gross demon baby as the centerpiece from the shattered section of the table. It's a grindhouse version of the mad hatter's tea party. The next room is a little tamer and just as disturbing, from the cloth covered audience bound and then tethered in their seats, from all directions with chains (Imaging the sequence of the puzzle box being opened in Hellraiser). On stage, more human figures with animal heads / masks on either side of a buff Abraham Lincoln???
While walking, you enter a pleasant open air ship yard dock location but quickly return inside. Here you meet the cult and its members through the bedroom and tunnels. Turning the corner, you are faced with the tallest man I believe I have seen in person who welcomes you to the Hall, A pure white room with a fellow member inside. More of the cult populate all various locations like the sacrifice room where they take your innards out, in through a forest to a shrine of more bloody body parts. Many of the scenes and actors are all very impressive. Some scenery has gone well beyond the standard eight foot height, like every other maze found at the park. This is a must see haunt and this is what Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America should be. Doesn't have to be this gory exactly, but details of pathways and transition halls should follow this guide. I have seen progress in the park, but nothing here compares to 13th Order
Big Top Terror- As soon as we were lined up, we already noticed an immediate difference. They did have a costumed actor at the door, and in character instead of park staff reading you the rules and letting guests in. The maze itself is mostly walls with no roof and since it was located in a covered kids area, the music and sounds inside were very clear to hear outside. I did notice from previous years that the music seemed to be a different style than before, possibly custom made or some a little more creative than just vanilla calliope or circus music. This maze has not changed in years, with the exception of maybe a few small changes. When you entered, you see the room and first hall bathed in UV light... the only haunt of it's kind in the park. After a quick jump scare by one of the clowns, you would continue to the next corner where it could be an actor... or it could be a mannequin. Could be an actor pretending to be a mannequin. As we continued on, you will see that the walls are decorated with circus themed graffiti and DC Joker references (well they DO own the property) and hand drawn pictures. Making it to the first room with a scare was actually very effective, sadly this was the end of the scares for a while. At the point of the scare, we lost the rest of our group. They were not having it at all apparently. As we went through the rest of the maze, it seemed to be mostly just traversing through the same walls and the same scenery until the vortex and the clown jumping around the area. They must have a very good equilibrium, by their movements and they seemed unaffected by the vortex effects. Here we came to the red and white maze where we joined another group that was ahead of us. It seems they may have gotten a little lost and may have been stuck there for a bit. After a few bad decisions, we continued on to the exit and last hall. Here we had a few more interactions with some more clown actors. A little late to the party for my tastes. Overall, I counted maybe a total of 6 actors in the maze. Not impressed.
Infestation- This one had a theme of the creepy crawlies that come in packs or swarms. I have always liked the theme, but the execution has something to be desired. They have some really great props and a solid theme here. The whole path seemed way too open and the wooden walls kind of kill the whole ambiance. Once we entered, it was rats and the use of pallets was creative, which was a big change from previous years. They had a few actors in their hidey holes to get a few jump scares. It was on to the spiders and insects, decorated well and had more coverage of the walls to give you that spider web feel, with a few actors that seemed to be roaming the halls but not really doing too much.
The bees and hornets section came with soundtrack and some nice looking nest props. They also had the one beekeeper whose suit was simply not keeping the little buggers out and they were stinging him inside the suit. A phobia for many. Next, the snake section had many great props. This seemed to zig zag often and create a better maze than before beating out the long hallways with a few turns and large open rooms for scenes. The whole time walking, I saw many opportunities for actor pop outs, but have not seen very many, I should have counted the actors as I did with Big Top Terror, it would be a close call on who had the least amount of actors.
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