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Author Topic: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2017  (Read 221 times)
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« on: October 04, 2017, 07:41:22 AM »

Darkside Haunted Estates
Date attended: 09/30/2017
Submitted by: Screaming_Diana

Scare Factor:  5/5
Darkside was given a huge makeover this year and is bigger and better than ever.  We arrived just before dark and at first glance Darkside appears to be a cheerful place with actors running about in laughter through the midway.  There's a delightful jack-o-lantern propped above the welcoming entrance.  All seemed good until darkness came.  There's a drastic change in mood once the sun fades away. The laughter dies and screams take its place.  Our journey began with a wagon ride through an almost abandoned old western town.  While we experienced plenty of scares along this ride the real terror begins when you're dropped off at the edge of the woods and left alone to travel the woods of Darkside on foot.  Things get pretty intense out there and get even more harrowing once you discover the end of the trail isn't the end at all but the beginning of three other haunts, the Asylum, Dungeon of Torment, and the Slaughter House, each more terrifying than the last. The trail harbors countless buildings each with a different theme so you're sure to run into at least one of your biggest fears.  What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of the dark, clowns, chainsaws, dogs, the dead, those that were once dead but have risen, funeral homes, bridges, trains, planes, Christmas, heights, bathrooms, demons, fire, guts, or elevators?  They've got it all and so much more.       

Actors:  5/5
One of the biggest improvements I found at Darkside was their actors.  In years past they've had a ton of children actors but this year they've amped up their game and have some very talented more mature actors. There's a very noticeable difference in the skill level of the actors this year.  With that said kids still have their place in the haunt world and Darkside knew exactly how to add in the creepy little children at just the right place and time. Pop scares were around every corner but there's also a lot of actor engagement. They'd give you a riddle to answer, chant in laughter at the scaredy cat in the group, or heed warnings about entering their dwelling.  The actors are definitely on point this year.  The make-up, masks, and costumes that I saw all looked fantastic but honestly every time I would open by eyes to take a peek something terrifying was right in my face so I would duck back to safety behind my friend.  Unfortunately, due to my fear, I missed a lot but I did see the costumes of the midway actors and they all looked amazing.  The actors working in the sets by the midway would occasionally pop out of their sets and come terrorize people hanging out in the midway.  While in the midway I met several characters including a demon guarding the Dungeon of Torment, a completely insane clown that I couldn't get away from, and Cousin Levi who bolted out of the Slaughter House and scaring me so bad I left a puddle behind.  It's very obvious these actors are having a good time and truly enjoy what they do.       

Set Design/Props/FX:  5/5
Their sets and props are spectacular from top to bottom.  The church and cathedral facades are some of the best I've seen.  A couple of my favorite optical illusions can be found here.  One being a narrow bridge that appears to be thousands of feet above the ground and the other is an elevator shaft full of mangled body parts. Santa's workshop is brilliant with the colorful lights and creepy little elves however we were disappointed Santa Clause was nowhere to be found in the North Pole.  However we did meet up with Santa later.  He was out spreading his Christmas fear in the midway.  Detail, detail, detail, these sets are detailed.  There's a room that's upside down where everything that should be up is down and everything that should be down is up.  I was very confused and just as I was trying to decide if I was upside down or the room was wrong side up an actor pops out and I was outta there and on to the next terrifying section.  The fog was so thick in areas the only chance you had to escape was to use your sense of touch and feel your way to the exit.  It was terrifying because I wasn't sure we were alone in that fog. If you have a weak stomach you're in for a real treat because things can get very gruesome, bloody, and gross especially in the butcher shop and slaughter house.  I heard members of my group talking about how awesome the slaughter house looked but I only looked up twice I think because it was truly horrifying in there.  I saw someone being sawed in half and I saw blood, lots and lots of blood everywhere.  Oh and be careful with the bell at the checkout counter in the slaughter house.  Ringing that thing leads to nothing good.  I met Justin Beaver and learned all about chitlins.  Things can get fairly nasty when they're dealing with their chitlins.  The Asylum has many sets and props with the elevator being one of their bigger hits.  However I think what makes the Asylum so good is the actors within it.  Many of these actors have speaking parts and do a fantastic job making you feel like you've just entered an old institution with mental patients roaming the hallways.  At one point severed heads started dropping from the sky and bouncing off the ground around us.  I love the lighting throughout the old western town and their use of jack-o-lanterns throughout the haunt.  There's also a real train parked in the town and that's just cool.  We crossed over uneven floors, passed by disorienting walls, and walked through dark mazes all while being stalked by creatures of the night.  They have a ton of things packed into this haunt.   

Value:  5/5
You get a lot for your money here.  Regular adult admission is $20 or you can upgrade to fast pass tickets for $30.  They also offer a $40 ticket package that includes fast pass admission, a t-shirt, and midway tickets.  For other options and discount tickets such as children, group, military, student, and teacher discounts visit their website.

Length: 5/5
This one's gonna take you a while.  You've got a haunted hayride, the walking trail, the Asylum, the Slaughter House, and a ton of things to do and enjoy in the midway.  You could spend all evening here if you'd like.

Other:
Parking is $2 but they offer a $2 ticket discount online so print that coupon out and that will make up for your parking fee. 

Overall Impression:  5/5
I'm not sure there is anything else to do in Middlesex, NC but it's worth the drive out there just for this haunt.  We drove 3 hours and I would've driven further for the amazing experience we received here.  The haunt is super scary but also a lot of fun.  When you come plan to stay a while as the midway is hopping with things to do.  There's an entertainment pavilion that was showing a hula hoop performance while we were there plus there are games, a short escape room, concessions with picnic tables available, a store with merchandise available for purchase, many photo ops, and of course plenty of scary actors roaming about to keep you on edge.  As I was running out of the final house one of the staff members gave me a celebratory high-five for making it out alive.  Darkside is a scary haunt but also has some funny aspects too.  Where else are you going to hear "just like an STD I'm back"?  I experienced a lot of fun, fear, screams, and yes lots of urine.  I can't encourage you enough to check this place out.
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2017, 08:58:06 AM »

Darkside Haunted Estates
Date attended:  9/30/2017
Submitted by: packbacker

Scare Factor: 5/5
Screaming, running, and a bit of urination....our group experienced it all!  Within just a few minutes of entering the trail we had one group member isolated between two actors running back and forth and asking to quit.  It only got more intense from there.  Scares this year were extended and instead of a simple pop scare we had actors running and crawling after us in nearly every scene.  If you're not scared you will be thoroughly entertained by the beautiful sets, gory props, and wonder of what's ahead.  Neither The Asylum nor the Slaughterhouse let up on the scares.  In actuality I think the tightest scares of the entire attraction are found in The Slaughterhouse where actors re-appear time and time again to freak out patrons all while animatronic props are triggered left and right.  The hayride section elicited a few shrieks from our wagon-mates but it was a good warm-up for the frights we found at the rest of the attractions.   

Actors: 4.5/5
Darkside has made tremendous strides in their actors since last season.  It used to be that seemingly half the actors were very small children who didn't take scaring people very seriously.  This has changed radically.  The actors on the hayride section are still the least polished group with some timing issues and not enough to give a startle to both sides of the wagon.  That being said, it is an improvement from years past.  The biggest change, however, is on the fright trail.  I didn't notice any young children (guess they all grew up into more hardcore haunters!) and there was palpable difference in their ability to scare groups.  We were chased through entire scenes, had a lot of verbal interaction with multiple actors, and experienced impeccable timing by the pop scare actors.  It was a much more intense experience than in years past.  A lot of the heavy duty actors are in the other two attractions- The Asylum and The Slaughterhouse.  You have several dedicated screamers in the Asylum and every family member in The Slaughterhouse sells their role with flair.  This category is a giant improvement across the board and makes the trail that much scarier!  I should also add a disclaimer that our visit was on only the second night of their season so I even though we had a great show I expect things to ramp up the further we go into October.

Sets/Props/Fx: 5/5
Darkside Haunted Estates may have the best exteriors/facades of all the trails I've visited.  The hayride doesn't just go by dark areas in the woods but rather it traverses an entire old west ghost town.  The trail itself goes through chapels, mansions,  Santa's workshop, a giant clown area, and more.  While the exteriors are fantastic the interiors are just as well decorated.  Darkside features the best bottomless pit I've ever encountered and even though I know it's coming my knees buckle a little bit walking over the bridge.  Costumes are solid and there are some great animatronics.  The Asylum has deliciously decorated medical sets and a great elevator.  The Slaughterhouse one hundred percent captures the essence of a backwoods cannibalistic family.  The circling meat hooks, Grandma rocking back and forth, and the telephone gag make me smile in fanboy delight. 

Length: 5/5
Count on at least an hour to ride the hayride, walk the half mile trail (I swear it's longer!) and then hit up the two smaller attractions on the midway. None of this is accounting for lines which tend to swell later in the season.  You're going to spend some time at this haunt but trust me it's gonna fly by in the best way!

Value: 5/5
Tickets are $20 with a $2 off coupon readily printable from the website.  Note that the coupon is not good on certain nights.  A general admission ticket grants you admission to the main hayride/fright trail and two other stand-alone attractions: the asylum and the slaughterhouse.  Upgrades are available for fast passes or VIPs as well as tickets for the midway attractions.  Twenty bucks goes an incredibly long way here as you're going to spend close to an hour without major lines to hit all three of the attractions.  You just can't beat that!

Other:
Parking is now $2 but is much easier to access and is well lit.  Darkside offers a full midway experience with a walk in gift shop, extended concessions menu, multiple photo opportunities, side attractions including an escape room, zombie paintball, etc., as well as a stage for performances.  From the midway you can access the three attractions covered by a general ticket: the asylum, the slaughterhouse, and the hayride/fright trail.  There are also numerous actors roaming the area for quick scares and photos.  You can easily spend an entire evening here partaking of all their various options.  We visited the escape room which is a very cool tie-in to Mudcats baseball while still remaining seasonal as well as the Dungeon of Torment a quick walk-through haunted area. 

Overall: 5/5
We visited Darkside Haunted Estates on the second night of their season.  Instead of kinks and rough edges we found a highly polished show that one of our group members deemed the scariest yet of the year.  Darkside worked from top to bottom for me.  The midway area is a delight with its various offerings and roaming actors.  You can choose to do the three attractions in any order you'd like so you can avoid lines as needed.  The walking trail is long, well appointed, and significantly scarier than years past.  You still get to experience two additional attractions for the one ticket price and neither of those decrease the scare factor.   With all of the things to see and do at Darkside Haunted Estates it's a fun, easy, and frighteningly fantastic way to spend a fall evening.  Check 'em out!
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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2017, 12:42:55 PM »

Darkside Haunted Estates
Date attended: 09/28/2017
Submitted by: k2quiere

Scare Factor: 4.5/5
There was so much to see that the sets helped with the distraction factor, so the actors could do their jobs. Some of the timing was a bit off because it was early in the season, but for the most part, everything was executed so well.

Actors: 5/5
Every actor stayed in character and obviously enjoyed his/her job. Our clown friend was so much fun; he showed us all over and seemed to always be where we turned. I also want to give a shout out to the actor who comes out from underneath the car...fantastic!

Set Design: 5/5
The scenes are so elaborate that there is something to look at from every direction. Even the scenes on the hayride where there weren't any actors were complete sets with no details missing.

Value: 5/5
With the 4 haunts in 1, and each so well done, it is definitely worth the $20 entry.

Length: 5/5
You travel at your own pace for the majority of the haunt, so you make the length what you want it. The hayride is much longer than expected and full of things to see and do throughout. There are 4 different parts of the haunt, not counting the dungeon or escape room, so even though the Asylum felt short, the other parts made up for it with enough momentum to keep things interesting the whole time.

Other:
Things have changed so much that at first I didn't recognize I had been here to see Slaughterhouse Horror when they were separate haunts. The amount of work that has been done is truly amazing and made the 2-hour drive well worth the trip.

Overall Impression: 5/5
We truly had an awesome time here. From the props, staged scenes, actors, sections, escape room, etc. It was all just so well done!
« Last Edit: October 08, 2017, 12:46:11 PM by NCHadmin » Logged
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