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The Haunted => Fright Team Haunt Reviews - 2016 => Topic started by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2016, 10:30:48 AM

Title: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2016
Post by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2016, 10:30:48 AM
Darkside Haunted Estates
Date visited: 10/1/16
submitted by: packbacker

Scare factor: 4/5
Darkside starts off with a hayride.  The hayride mixes both prop and actor scares.  The acting scares missed their mark a bit with some timing issues and if memory serves no actors actually getting on the hayride to torment passengers.  That being said, multiple people on the wagon screamed and hid their heads.  The trail is your higher scare attraction with the big punches coming at the end.  We unfortunately ran across some horrible groups (super drunk guy and some baffling pre-teens) so the early part of the trail was kind of hard to review scare wise for us.  None of this was the fault of Darkside Haunted Estates- it's just a hazard you can run into occasionally.  Once we finally passed by our intoxicated trail mate the scares really ramped up.  Darkside does a good job mixing scares between their actors, sets, and props.  I have to admit that while normally unflappable I get weak-kneed walking across the bridge over their "bottomless pit" and yes I had to reach out for the railings.  Actors here are not afraid to get in your face and chase you out of a scene.  The last two attractions- The Slaughterhouse and The Asylum really, really up the scares.  The Asylum starts with a rollicking elevator ride and then drops you into a mental hospital with loads of unstable actors, fantastic medical sets, and some great props.  The Slaughterhouse was the tightest area for me in delivering screams.  From the queue line you're greeted by a backwoods family with a taste for human flesh.  If you're not scared you sure will be entertained.  The house delivers scare after scare from well placed drop doors to liquids splashing on you to actors who seem to appear at will.  Any scares we lost early on (again due to bad luck with other groups) were more than made up for with the last two attractions.   

Actors: 3.5/5
This is a truly hard category to score due to our experience.  As explained above, we missed encountering actors in multiple sets due to a lumbering alcoholic.  The actors we did encounter varied widely from small children to your average screamer to very talented individuals.  The actors populating the hayride section seemed to have some timing issues by appearing after the wagon was out of the scene and at times just didn't seem into things.  Actor numbers and talent increased on the trail proper.  Actors were much more interactive and at times very in your face.  Timing was well executed and no one broke character.  The actor talent really peaked with The Asylum and The Slaughterhouse.  These actors were very interactive with customers- going above and beyond the standard screaming or easy lines like "Do you want to play with us?".  There was a lot of verbal back and forths, persistence of the scare, and these actors could often get you a second, third, or fourth time around their sets.  Special kudos should be given to the litany of "cousins" at the Slaughterhouse.  These guys did an amazing job working the meat counter, playing with toes in the queue line, and generally terrorizing everyone with their backwoods nature that is wholly believable.   

Sets/props/Fx: 5/5
I've always enjoyed the sets at Darkside Haunted Estates.  The hayride drives past basically an entire town's worth of storefronts that are believable as an old west/country area.  At one point you pass an airplane wreck, a locomotive, and more.  The trail has multiple fantastic buildings you have to maneuver through.  While we missed some scares due to the drunkard I was able to even more closely look at the details in various sets.  I love the pieces you come across that aren't integral to scene- a gothic looking grandfather clock, and old cobweb covered piano, and a litany of others that sell a scene rather than old fashioned black plastic or bare plywood.  The exteriors of the buildings look amazing at night by themselves but Darkside does a wonderful job with lighting.  The right ambient lighting sets each scene and often times gives a ghostly pallor to a building which ups the creepy factor immensely.  The bottomless pit section as mentioned earlier is just fantastic- the "bridge" spanning it seals the deal as an amazing prop.  The clown area has been re-worked and lengthened complete with floor movement in places, a vortex, and a amazing fog filled room.  Again the set pieces and props soar higher with The Asylum and The Slaughterhouse.  The Asylum has a fantastically bumpy elevator ride, detailed medical sets, some cells that have video patient representation, and more.  The Slaughterhouse is actually a previous haunt's front house moved onto Darkside's property.  It was detailed before but they've upped the game even further here.  Inside is a full meat counter (with service bell!), a walk through cooler with realistic meat, and a variety of animated props. Outside the fun doesn't stop with excellent old country props (love the gas pump) and a pay phone that can even deliver a scare.  This house alone is worth the price of admission for the detail and scares inside but Darkside top to bottom has upped their game in terms of their "look".  I also should mention I love the use of pumpkins lighting the way on both the hayride and the main trail.  They deliver that seasonal feel and are an icon that too many attractions just don't use.

Length: 5/5
Darkside Haunted Estates starts with a hayride that loops the property.  After disembarking you queue for the trail and when the self-guided trail ends you still have two houses to walk through- The Slaughter House and The Asylum.  Also you have the option to peruse a midway area with an add-on attraction, games, and a stage for fire dancing and more.  It took us between 45 minutes and an hour to finish everything without significant queue lines. 

Value: 5/5
Tickets are $20 but there is a $2 coupon printable off the website.  You'll get multiple attractions, a long trail, detailed sets, and some craziness to cap off your evening.  There are zero complaints with this price!

Free parking!  After passing through a security check you have an area with some strolling actors, a photo op, concessions, and bathrooms.  There is a midway area at the end of the trail as well as a gift shop.     

Overall: 4/5
Darkside Haunted Estates is ever-changing.  Zombie Paintball is gone and the hayride has returned in an improved fashion.  The trail itself is long with detailed sets that are a joy to admire.  I always get a kick out of Santa's set, the bottomless pit, and the visuals of clown town. For years The Asylum was the cherry on top at the end of the trail but now you get a double whammy with both the asylum and the slaughterhouse.  Great sets, tight scares, and dedicated actors really send you out of the trail with a bang.  The improvements made at this attraction across the board speak loads as to the dedication they put forth to delivering a great experience.  The scares escalate the deeper you retreat into Darkside.  It starts out soft and homey as friendly dogs wander the initial staging area (or in our case jump on the hayride!) and it progresses to mild scares on the ride itself turning to darker scares with evil Santa, demonic clowns, and reaching a crescendo with escaped mental patients and a inbred cannibal family.  If you've never visited this attraction before then you need to put it on your list.  If you have visited before then I'm just going to assume it's on your annual list for haunts to visit!

Title: Re: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2016
Post by: NCHadmin on October 05, 2016, 08:45:27 PM
Darkside Haunted Estates
Date Attended:  10/01/2016
Submitted By: Screaming_diana

Scare Factor:  5/5
I was hesitant to get out of my car due to seeing a guy in a pig mask chasing people with a chainsaw through the parking lot.  So I was scared before I even got out of my car.  The midway itself has several actors taunting patrons waiting to enter the haunt or perhaps those too afraid to go through.  I barley made it to the ticket booth before a creature of some sort was sneaking up behind me.  It's always a good sign good things are to come when you hear screams coming from the woods when you enter the haunt grounds.  The haunt consists of three parts that all tie together very well.  The first part is a wagon ride through what appears to be an old western village.  While not extremely scary it was amazing to look at and I still screamed more than once during the wagon ride.  The second part is the actual trail.  The trail consists of an outside walk through the woods that leads you through many different buildings each with a different scene and its own set of monsters.  The final section is at the end of the walking trail and consists of several more buildings including The Asylum and The Slaughter House.  The Asylum was fun with some great actor speaking parts while the Slaughter House was full of nonstop scares.  The haunts end also has a small midway with a flame thrower/dancer to entertain you while you catch your breath before your drive home.

Actors:  3.5/5
The actors ranged from extremely intense in their scares to not attempting a scare at all.  Part of this might be due to the use of several children actors however there was one very well hidden little girl that made me jump back a couple feet.  She wasn't even noticed by my friend and she let him pass by without making a sound and then jumped at me at precisely the right moment and scare the pee outta me.  So children actors do have their place in a haunt.  There are a lot of pop scares but also some stalking and interaction from the actors.  The Slaughter House had the most intense actors and were much more interactive.  Cousin Levi kept threatening to burn my toes and no matter where I'd go he always seemed to find me.  Make-up and costumes were solid with several really cools masks.  I feel we missed several good actor scares due to a drunken man who unfortunately we were behind.  We were able to lose him partially through the haunt which improved our tour drastically.  A special mention to the clown at the beginning of clown town for attempting to reduce group sizes and keep groups from bunching up.  It's always better to go through a haunt in smaller groups and this particular clown was good with line management.  It's still very early in the season so I imagine the actors are only going to get more intense as the nights pass.

Set Design/Props/FX:  5/5
The sets are amazing so much that I'd love to walk through the haunt without the scares just to take in all there is to see.  It's hard to fully admire all the sets when you're scared and trying to rush away to safety.  While not super scary the wagon ride takes you through an old village that looks like something straight out of an old western movie.  At first glace the town looks abandoned but don't be fooled there were some crazies left behind.  The walking trail is a mix of woods and buildings.  The buildings are spectacularly detailed inside and out.  Every inch of space inside the houses, churches, and other buildings is filled to the brim with things to see.  You'll pass through a building that's upside down and cross over a bridge illusion that will make you weak in the knees.  There's so much to see here I could never take it all in.  You'll never get bored going through this haunt with colorful clown town, a gory butcher shop, graveyards, a wagon ride, churches, and so many other amazing sets and scenes to marvel at.  You'll even have the chance to enjoy a bit of Christmas. The final section of this haunt consists of two smaller attractions the Asylum and the Slaughter House.  The Asylum had a really cool elevator ride and some well done medical sections.  The Slaughter House looked so realistic and also reminded me of a movie set in a horror film.  It looks just like a grungy old slaughter house with a realistic meat counter and all.  I also found out Justin Beaver is running for president this year.  The beginning of this section has a really cool photo op mixed in with the haunt which I can't recall seeing at another haunt.  This section is realistic, gory, and probably the most frightening section of this haunt.  I have to give special mention to the lighting throughout this entire haunt.  The dimly lit lights are perfectly placed to provide a spectacular glow over the front of the buildings.  The use of lit jack-o-lanterns to light the pathways added a nice traditional touch to the haunt.  

Value:  5/5
General admission is $20.  The haunt is well worth the ticket cost which includes the wagon ride, walking trail, Slaughter House, and the Asylum.  Kids 10 and under get in for $12 and they offer several other discounts for military, students, and teachers with proper ID.  The VIP ticket includes admission, fast pass, a t-shirt, and more for $40.

Length:  5/5
It's long.  It could be half this length and I'd give it a 5/5.  Even with the haunts longer length they keep the haunt tight with it's scares and sets.  There's no dead space along the way.

Parking is free.  Concessions are available for purchase.  The ticket staff and other staff members were very friendly and helpful.

Overall Impression:  4.5/5
Darkside is definitely a haunt you dont want to miss this Halloween season.  Whether you enjoy marveling at their amazing attention to detail, like being scared, or enjoy watching the flame dancers in the midway while seeing folks run screaming for the exit you're certain to have a good time.  I like that Darkside mixes things up each year and adds something new but doesn't completely throw out the old.  I missed a lot due to being terrified and keeping my head covered but that's nothing new with me.  I'd like to say I made it til the end with out peeing myself but Mama always said it's not nice to lie. If you're in the area go if you're not still go.  It's worth the drive. 

Title: Re: Darkside Haunted Estates - 2016
Post by: NCHadmin on October 30, 2016, 12:23:31 PM
Darkside Haunted Estates
Date attended: 10-29-2016
Submitted by: krb187

Scare Factor:  4/5
The scare factor at Darkside does vary greatly from very intense, to a bit lacking at times, that being said those times are few and far between and for the most part Darkside keeps the intensity level ramped up. The haunt starts with a hayride that is enjoyable, but mostly a warm up for the trail to come. The actual trail itself is the main attraction and most of the actors here are in your face and scare driven. There were a few times where actors seemed to just stand in their space and kind of stare without doing very much, but much of the actors were on their game. We were sent through in a group of ten, which is pretty high but the actors did a very good job of hitting the group multiple times to make sure that everyone got a good show. Almost everyone in my group jumped or screamed at some point and usually multiple times throughout. After the main trail there are the additional attractions the Slaughterhouse and the Asylum, which in my opinion are the real stars of the show, with the Slaughterhouse being my personal favorite. The scares are off the charts in both with relentless actors seemingly everywhere making sure that you donít escape without a fright. Timing in both areas was on point and there was a flawless mix of both prop and actor scares.

Actors:  3.5/5
This is another mixed bag category, with actors ranging from seasoned pros, to very small children. While most of the actors were intense and scare driven there were instances where as I said before the actors seemed tired or bored and would just stand off to the side and wait for you to exit their scene. However the actors who were on their game were brilliant and many of them would hit our rather large group multiple times using the landscape to their advantage to continuously take our group off guard. The bus area was probably the most effective at this on the main trail. Again the Slaughterhouse and Asylum were the strongest area of this category with every actor being in top form in both attractions. There was definitely no standing around here and the intensity of these guys was off the charts, with special shout outs going to the brain eating zombie and the two girls who wanted me to take them home in the Asylum and literally everyone in Slaughterhouse; those guys never stopped and really reveled in the screams. I did dock a few points for two instances of character breaking though.

Set Design/Props/FX:  5/5
To put it simply, Darkside Haunted Estates looks gorgeous. The level of detail is very impressive and honestly I would love to just walk through it normally just to look at everything. The hayride drives through an entire old western town that looked incredibly realistic, with my favorite part having to be the actual plane wreck in the middle. The main trail steps the game up even further boasting some truly amazing sets with the standouts being the church and graveyard set, the doll house, and the clown house towards the end. The clown house especially was great and a lot of work has gone into making it a marvel to look at. Also I must say that the bridge over the bottomless pit is absolutely genius and even gave me a bit of vertigo looking over the railings. That is without a doubt one of my favorite props Iíve seen all year. The Asylum looked incredible as well and contained one of the best medical sets of any of the haunts Iíve been too, with the brain eating zombie part stealing the show. And where do I even start with the Slaughterhouse? If youíre into the old school, backwoods style of haunt then the Slaughterhouse section is going to be your heaven. The level of detail here was unmatched and there was so much to look at you could go through five or six times and still not see everything. The whole place just gives off this perfectly grimy vibe that gets me hyped up beyond belief.

Length:  5/5
Between the hayride, main trail, Asylum, and Slaughterhouse attractions plan on spending quite a bit of time at Darkside Haunted Estates. I think in total I was there for over an hour not counting wait times. Thereís plenty to do and see here and they definitely maximize their space.

Value:  5/5
Tickets are $20 and that includes four separate attractions as well as carnival/midway area with plenty to do. They also offer a $2 off coupon on their website, and even at full price $20 is an absolute steal for the experience.

Free parking! They also offer concessions as well as a very cool midway/carnival area at the end of the trail with add on attractions, games, photo ops, a stage for fire performers, and a neat gift shop area.

Overall:  4.5/5
This was my first ever trip out to Darkside Haunted Estates and they blew away all of my expectations. The entire show was great from top to bottom and to be honest just the Slaughterhouse and Asylum areas would have been worth the trip alone. Add in the hayride and main trail and youíve got one heck of a fun experience. I saw people run, scream, and try to hide, my friend got harassed by a bone wielding zombie, I saw a man get peed on my a beaver, and a zombie take a bite out of an almost too real looking brain. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip out to Darkside Haunted Estates and without a doubt recommend it too any haunt goer.