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Introduction

Horror Hall, in many ways, has not changed in close to a century; it’s familiar, its old-school in its design, and it operates in a manner that is generally outdated in terms of line management and presentation, yet it is incredibly entertaining. For the first time in YEARS it seems like Horror Hall has brand new energy, and while so much potential is still there to be even better, this season, we left thoroughly impressed by the performance and new sense of pride in this long-standing haunted attraction. Despite a lack of overall significant changes, Horror Hall features a host of genuinely useful, detailed set designs, is a lengthy attraction, and with some minor changes/modernizations can be one of the scariest in the area. From a structural standpoint, the attraction is stronger than many mainstream haunted attractions and has rather impressive scenes sometimes not utilized to their full potential. The maze portion of the attraction is also effective at generating anticipation from scene to scene. Periods of darkness, loud sound effects and tight spaces are the perfect setting to generate scares. Character actors are also well hidden along these paths, and while they don’t go beyond the general scream or yell, they can induce a startle scare, and some have displayed a brand new level of energy and skill that we were shocked at the improved performances (a special shout out to the “Swamp Scene” actors who were genuinely disturbing). Unlike previous seasons the actors put the guests FIRST, ensuring a quality experience, and allowing for effective show pacing.

Horror Hall, for the first time in years, added some new creative scares and sets to freshen the entire experience, but again it was the performance and work ethic of haunt staff that made the show far better than previous seasons. When one visits a haunted house, positive energy can be felt, and while the actors themselves are not entirely theatrical and most resort to basic startle scares, they did their best to interact with each guest, and ensure that groups were separated avoiding kings lines and enjoying the entire show. From a structural and design standpoint, horror hall is perhaps best described as a classical boardwalk funhouse with long halls of dark periods where guests feel like they’re in dungeons and effective use of lighting to augment jump scares. Lasting over twenty minutes, most of the scenes featured are unique, some very familiar, but tradition sometimes allows for entertainment. Some of the scenes could use some repairs and modern upgrades, but by and large, the classic designs are practical.

For those who visit yearly, they may know the attraction by heart, which while does not hinder its quality and vintage feel. The set designs and scenes are some of the best you will see in mainstream or non-mainstream haunts, feature impressive details and creativity that adds to the “fun” atmosphere generated by this haunt. Scenes such as the iconic hall of horror villains, a creepy “swamp thing scene,” bizarre morgue, jail break-out scene, creepy graveyard featuring an impressive animatronic rising from the grave, and new tribute to “Halloween” finale set are great to set designs. While familiar, the overall spirit and energy of the attraction have improved the entire experience, and actors, unlike previous seasons, indeed seemed to care, and each had a desire to play their roles to the best of their abilities. Still, with some modern enhancements, Horror Hall can rise to an even higher level, and we hope they are using this season as a launching point for a bright future.

Attraction

Horror Hall is a legendary attraction in Northeast Pennsylvania, and wait times can be lengthy as we approach Halloween. While waiting, we watched the familiar pre-show entertainment featuring Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and provide the rules. The attraction escorts guests into the attraction in larger groups as rows of guests are guided by flashlight upstairs into the main haunt and keeps larger groups together throughout the duration of the attraction.

Horror Hall is designed in a maze-like manner, featuring dark corridors filled with various scare actors who engage in various startle/drop scares. Each corridor is dark, utilizes lighting effects and fog to distract guests. Auditory and visual distractions allow actors to generate “jump” scares, and a few more monsters would make the experience even more fulfilling. The set designs found at Horror Hall are classic, we love several of the classic scenes, along with new scenes such as “Swamp Thing” and a detailed morgue scene.  In many respects, the attraction was ahead of its time as many haunts are beginning to incorporate interactive scenes, and Horror Hall was one of the first to do so, with collapsing rooms, bridges and the infamous room of “saws” (which sadly was not totally functioning on our visit). Horror Hall’s use of dense fog, incredible soundtrack, and blinding lights effectively disorientate guests as they make their way through a complicated, lengthy maze allowing for jump and startle scares. If the attraction can incorporate modern haunt aspects into its classical show, it has the potential to be a genuinely terrifying, unique haunted attraction experience that is above many “major” attractions in the tri-state area.

As mentioned in previous year’s reviews, actors who yell, make loud noises, and pop out of nowhere are only scary if they are complemented with actors who tell a story. The scare actors are very aggressive in some scenes, yet some are reserved in their interactions with guests. The best-haunted attractions visited invest heavily in actor training, finding ways to incorporate “extreme” elements such as light touching and strategies to create characters to create fear.  Startle or jump scares lose effectiveness if they are not combined with more direct or interactive acting. Horror Hall has the infrastructure and set designs in place to create true fear.

Not all scare actors need to be storytellers, but an overemphasis of startle/jump cares distracts from the overall experience. The diversity of scare actors can also help emphasize the more impressive, daunting set designs/ animatronics and props created by the attraction. There are some genuinely unique scenes in this attraction that are often ignored or rushed through due to a heightened pace. Perhaps Horror Hall can incorporate elements used by other local and larger-scale haunts such as “blackout events” in which it can provide a more mature/extreme show or more physical interactions in which guests who wish not to participate are provided a glow neckless. Incorporation of new ideas coupled with an emphasis on using each scene to its fullest potential can make a significant impact on the fear factor generated by this haunt. There is serious potential to create an experience that caters to haunt fans of all ages, and backgrounds. The overall energy and focus of each actor are on point, but a few more interactive characters and concepts can really draw an entirely new generation into this iconic, classic haunted attraction.

Final Word

Horror Hall is finally on the right track to return to its former glory as a “must-see” haunted attraction in Northeast, PA. An iconic, old-school funhouse of fun and horror, we entered the attraction expecting the sad tired performance of previous years but were blown away by what we experienced this season. So much potential exists to be even a more intense experience, combining the traditional concept of haunted attractions with new ideas, which we think would take this legendary attraction to a new level. While there is room for growth and improvement, the attraction’s design has held up over the past several years, and new additions this year add to the overall experience. The unique set designs and special effects are impressive, especially for a volunteer/charity-based attraction, and again some organizational changes regarding line management and the possible inclusion of modern haunt strategies can keep Horror Hall as a must-visit attraction.

 

 

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