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The Haunted => Fright Team Haunt Reviews - 2015 => Topic started by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2015, 09:10:27 AM

Title: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2015
Post by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2015, 09:10:27 AM
Darkside Haunted Estates
Submitted By: Screaming_Diana
Date Attended: 10/03/2015
Scare Factor:  4.5/5
Iím going to start off my warning you that things arenít always what they seem here.  I mistook an actor for a prop and peed myself before I ever got to the ticket booth. Iíll never trust a pumpkin head or my friend again. The haunt is broken down into several different attractions.  It consist of a walking trail, a haunted midway (new this year), and Zombie Paintball Shootout.  They sent us through in a group of four but early on the couple paired with us disappeared/got behind so we ventured through the haunt as a group of two.  Small groups always amp the scares.  I spent the better half of the trail screaming and hiding behind my friends back.  The scares came from above, below, and from all sides with creatures skidding across the ground, clowns popping up on top of buildings and one crazy character who leaped from a watch tower right above my head.  There was always something happening.
Actors:  4/5
They do not lack in numbers here.  A lot of the actors are children which work great in some sets and not so much in others. They scream a lot.  Thereís some talent in those screams but repeated ear piercing screams became a bit annoying.  The adult actors had their scares and timing down.  They didnít hesitate to stalk and continue to harass those that showed fear.  The parking lot zombie made some incredibly eerie sounds and kept the folks outside the haunt entertained or terrified.   The costumes that I saw looked good but I did see folks out of costume as well.   Iíll give them some slack here because it was a nasty rainy night during a hurricane and perhaps some of the costumes would be ruined by rain and makeup could possibly become a smeared mess.
Set Design/Props/FX: 5/5
The trail consists of many shacks, churches, houses, and outdoor sets.  They do not skimp on detail.  From the gory slaughter houses, odd smelling funeral parlor, the North Pole, the colorful clown town, creepy doll house, and more youíll never be able to take in all there is to see.  They use smells, optical illusions, moving/uneven flooring and fog to test your senses.  The clown town looked great but could use more actors. The cotton candy room was simple yet very effective.  Their churches and cathedrals are spectacular.  The Christmas scene is original and a nice break in tradition.  Where else are you going to visit Santa Claws in the middle of the woods in October?  Heís not your typical jolly old Saint Nick.  I love how the trail opens up to a midway at the end.  It has a carnival/fair feel to it with a haunted twist.  There are games, entertainment with a fire hooping girl, and a couple additional attractions including the Asylum and The House of Torment.  It was a bit confusing as to where to go once you enter the midway.  A costumed character guiding and welcoming people to the midway wouldíve helped but itís a new addition and early in the season so Iím sure some kinks still need to be worked out.  The asylum was fun with a haunted elevator and lots of crazy patients who all had their speaking lines down.  The House of Torment was a separate smaller attraction in the midway.  It was loud, dark, gory, and the murderous man within tried to hammer my toes.  It was a great way to end the haunt and provides another spot for people to hang out and have a good time.
Length:  5/5
You could spend hours here.  It depends on how many attractions you partake in and how quickly your group goes through the trail.  I didnít do the Zombie Paintball so I canít say how long that takes but the trail alone was long plus you have the added midway and extra attractions at the end.  Iíd plan to come and stay for the evening.
Value: 4/5
The walking trail is $17 with a $2 off coupon on their website and worth every penny of that.  I canít give an opinion on the Zombie Paintball because I did not participate in that part of the attraction but people seemed to be enjoying it.  The added attraction, The House of Torment, in the Midway, does require a second ticket.  I did not buy my ticket so Iím not sure of the cost but itís worth checking out.  Zombie Paintball is $20 or you can buy a combo trail and paintball ticket for $30.  They have special group discount rates as well as discounts for kids, military, students, and teachers.  Check out their website for more details.  Fast pass tickets can be purchased for an additional fee.
Parking is free.  Porta potty scares are free!  It was fun watching a grown man run out of the parking lot porta potty in fear of a groaning zombie.  Darkside has several events including a special low scare day for kids with face painting and glitter tattoos (Iíd go for glitter tattoos).  The last weekend of their Halloween season is a blackout event, and later in November they have a special Zombie Paintball event and you can have a photo shoot with Santa Claws.  Thereís a lot going on at Darkside.
Overall Impression:  5/5
When driving 3 plus hours to a haunt you always worry youíll drive all that way and be disappointed in what you find.  Darkside Haunted Estates did not disappoint.  The trail was long, well staffed with actors, and packed full of scares and surprises.  If youíre in the area itís a no brainer go to Darkside Haunted Estates if youíre not grab some friends and make the drive.  It will be an evening well spent getting scared and shooting zombies.

Title: Re: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2015
Post by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2015, 09:10:53 AM
Darkside Haunted Estates
Date visited: 10/3/15
submitted by: packbacker

Scare factor: 4/5
This review focuses on the walking trail at Darkside Haunted Estates as we did not sample zombie paintball this year.  Screams are plentiful at DHE.  As each group went through we could hear every one of them shriek at multiple points...all great advertisements for what was to come. Groups were sent through in manageable numbers and were well spaced apart.  Actors were numerous if not the most skilled at follow-through scares.  Generally if you showed fear they would let up.  In fact we had an uncostumed person tell two child actors to stop scaring my trail partner in a really odd encounter.  Scares seemed to increase in intensity the farther you went along the trail with the butcher area being one of the most intense sections followed by The Asylum.  Clowntown, while visually appealing, seemed under-staffed and almost scare free.     

Actors: 3/5
Darkside does not lack in numbers.  At times it was hard to count how many creatures were around us.  All the sets and woods were staffed well except for the clown area.  A large portion of the clown set is a maze / fog filled room but we went several minutes without encountering anyone living after having 2-5 people assaulting us almost constantly up until that point.  Actor quality varies wildly along the trail.  A large number of actors are children.  While this can be beneficial (and creepy!) at times too many seemed to be younger than teenage age and unable to fully sell the scare.  The adult actors encountered did a better job with both timing and following through with the scare.  The strongest cadre of performers was in The Asylum with the introductory actor as well as the patients verbally interacting with everyone in menacing and entertaining ways.  Other actors along the trail too often settle for just screaming.  While the screams were incredibly impressive in volume and pitch they became repetitive after awhile.

Sets/props/Fx: 4/5
Darkside features a sprawling trail that has a variety of scenes as well as a dark wooded trail that wanders between sets.  Buildings feature impressive exteriors and the interiors offer loads of details and special little touches.  One effect, a bridge over a "bottomless pit", was so effective that I had to reach out for the bridge chains even though I knew it was an illusion.  The butcher area feels sufficiently grimy and the cemetery looks spectacular as you zig-zag through a zombie filled mish-mash of tombstones.  The clown area has one particular room so filled with fog that you literally can't see in front of your face which provided an incredibly fun sense of disorientation.  Masks and makeup are generally strong.  Santa Claws looks fantastic as do all the asylum patients.  Unfortunately we did see more than a few actors early in the trail were spotted with either no makeup/costume or minimal decoration.  The props used are amusing and well spaced.  Special props should be given to the elevator which shook us non-stop once activated but honestly I really loved the casual elevator music at the beginning.  Just a lovely little touch!   

Length: 5/5
The trail is a solid thirty minutes or so in length with various buildings, mazes, and wooded scenes.  It is a free-flowing trail until the final house, The Asylum. 

Value: 4/5
Regular ticket price is $17 with a $2 off coupon available on the website for most evenings.  There are also groupons available for discounts or a buy one/get one option.  Zombie paintball tickets are $20 with a combo pass available for $30. 

Free parking!  The entrance area has concessions as well as a merchandise shop.  Towards the end of the trail is a midway type area that is still under development.  Attractions in this area function under a separate ticket system like rides at the fair.  We visited the "House of Torment" which was a quicker walk-through that still packed a wallop with props and actors.  There was a fire dancer doing a free show and some other areas still under development. 

Overall: 4/5
Darkside Haunted Estates is a large enterprise that delivers something for everyone.  Composed of zombie paintball, a sprawling haunted trail, and a budding midway area this is a location that you can spend the majority of an evening visiting.  DHE has a homey feel with kids directing parking, dogs running around the large field to greet you, as well as younger actors staffing early parts of the trail.  As you progress further into the woods, though, things do turn scarier, grittier, and the scream levels rise.  Sets are produced with obvious care and feature full fledged buildings not the ubiquitous black plastic walls that can be seen elsewhere.  Despite some complaints about younger actors or under-staffed areas earlier in the review, Darkside delivers a very enjoyable time.  In fact it has one of my favorite sets in all of my travels- a demented ode to Santa that always leaves me smiling.  For a larger set-up it still has a personal feel with small groups in the woods and the plethora of screams piercing the night tells you that the folks here are doing something right!