Internally I am conflicted about posting this. I have friends that are monsters and I know they make every effort to terrify all ticket holders. I too attended Haunt last night with the Micechat group. Before I begin I'd like to say thank you to everyone... monsters and Micechatters alike (Norm and Dusty especially) for working so hard to give all of us a wonderful evening.
Perhaps my expectations of the mazes were too high. I had fond memories of Haunt from 96-00. I remember several "classics" such as Nightmares. A maze that had monsters scaring you from above and below. I remember a hallway with statues in the archways above. You would walk through never realizing that one of them was a monster until they reached down at you. In another area you walked through a cavern full of rockwork. Several "rock monsters" were in it... fully suited to blend in perfectly with the rocks. I remember people being terrified to even walk through certain parts of Nightmares. They had a statue gallery with the "feet" of every statue hidden beneath robes. You couldn't see someone's boots so you didn't know which one was "alive". A current maze attempted to duplicate the same effect but it was ruined when all the maniquens are size 7 bare feet and one statue is a size 10 woorkboot. Dominion was another favorite. A vampire maze that seemed to come right out of an Ann Rice novel. You walked through amazingly intricate Victorian sets and viewed well dressed men and women enjoying a party. As if on queue all would bare their teeth and claws... showing fangs and snarling as they chased ticket holders into the next scene. I knew guys who were terrified of that maze because the entire cast would "turn" at the flip of a switch. The clown maze was always "interesting"... but my favorite was Underground, a "post apocalypse" maze that played a variety of techno music. I remember certain scenes with burned out cars and corpses on the ground. Imagine the fearful surprise of those corpses suddenly grabbing towards your feet as you walk past. I have memories of the Haunted Shack maze of Werewolves. Nothing really compares to a werewolf jumping down from above howling while another chases you and a 3rd bursts out of an outhouse at the end. I watched several groups as they were literally reduced to tears in a matter of seconds... no chasing repeatedly, no hounding, just a surprise blitz attack that stunned every sense they had and made fear flow through their veins. I remember Elvira in Charles Shultz theater... get there at least 30min early or you're not getting in. I enjoyed the Comedy/Game Show scare show in the John Wayne... again be there 15-20min or you're in the nose bleeds. The Hanging was always a favorite with clever satirical jokes presented by Freddy, Jason and Pinhead. Seeing their "Summer Movie" brought tears of laughter from the audience. So it was with these memories that I experienced Haunt last night.
To be honest it was a mixed bag. In some mazes (Cornstalkers specifically) the old feeling was alive and well. My apologies to the one monster I scared. I believe he/she was expecting someone about a foot shorter then me... Cornstalkers preyed upon the same primal fear I used to find in all the mazes; the fear of the unknown. All the ticket holder knew was that it was dark, creepy, and something was in there somewhere. Los Muertos had amazing effects, as did Bobo's and Alien Encounters... but the neon glow of the effects conflicted heavily with the dark creepiness of past mazes. In several mazes monsters were missing for long periods of time. Perhaps I caught the maze at an "off" moment... London Fog had amazing sets but we only encountered 7 monsters through the entire maze. A lot of mazes relied heavily on the "gross out" factor with campy maniquens and gallons fo fake blood. In years past I remember an Alien autopsy room. I thought the alien on the table was fake (the monsters were walking around the room). Imagine my shock when an alien jumps off the table, entrails hanging out and "blood" appearing to drip, and proceeds to scare the daylights out of the group that just walked past (including me). You can find similar rooms now but all the tabletop's are props. I also owe a thank you to a firefighter in the Quarantine maze. I'm not sure if his effort was on purpose but it was highly effective. I saw movement on the corner of my right eye. As I turned to see it he had already moved to my left and scraped the wall with his metal fingertips. To look one way and hear a sound from another is a classic scare tactic. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face as the group behind me screamed in terror.
More then anything I remember monsters working as a collective group. Setting up ambushes, memorizing blind spots, and directing scares to get the most out of every effort. Last night was a lot of snarls and wall pounding but the majority of it appeared to be individual efforts. I also wondered what happened to the individuality of the maze monsters? I saw more duplicate zombie style masks last night then I've seen at a local Halloween store. I remember every maze having unique monsters (Labryinth and Cornstalkers being fine modern examples). Now I see similar looking zombies everywhere with the same mutilated faces, torn clothes and evil grins.
Something that definately changed for the better were the shows. Tink and I actually regret that we didn't have more time. The Hanging to me was somewhat disappointing. It had it's highlights but I honestly yearned for Freddy vs Wolverine or Jason vs Snake Eyes vs Storm Shadow... even Paula Abdul squaring off against Elen Degenres would have gotten a chuckle. The Michael Jackson references and the constant Kirk overacting/ costume tearing were reminders of shows past. Inferno was amazing... simply amazing... there is a primal attraction to fire and those performers captured that spirit and amplified it. Bloodlust was "interesting". I loved the back and forth banter of the hosts and wish it was more of that and less of the choreographed whatever it was on stage. The magic/comedy act was absolutely hysterical. It helped that we had a few "confused" individuals in our show... and the host was really on top of things with zany hysterical one-liners. That leaves me with the torture show. Wow. Just as amazing as I remember it and even better now that it has an actual theater. To be invited to touch and view the various "props"... so much effort in proving everything was real... THAT was showmanship. So hats off to the show performers. Tink and I regretted we missed the Funhouse in the Birdcage.
So all of this leaves me with a nagging question. In years past I remember truly terrifying moments where hoards of monsters pre-planned ambush scares. I wonder if those tactics were systematically removed because they were too effective, and the over-reliance on gore is to compensate. It could just as easily be the changing trend in horror movies where more gore was somehow equated with more scare. Monster safety may have been another reason. Many of those "ambush" scares elicited the fight or flight tactics as fear and adrenaline surged through the victim's veins. What I am certain of is that this isn't rosy nostalgia. This is a defined difference in styles and tactics. I'm curious what others think and even more curious as to why the change may have been made. Again I want to stress that this is not a slight against the Haunt talent. I enjoyed my time last night with Micechatters and Monsters alike.