Demon’s Gate is an action-focused, at times, a gritty and violent haunted hayride that displays a passion for “haunting” and scaring guests on a smaller budget. Many of the scenes and set designs are not the most detailed or elaborate, but each has a grindhouse-style nature in presentation, rudimentary special effects, lighting, etc. While some scenes are stronger than others, and even feature pyrotechnic displays (which is surprising for such a developing attraction), the structures are not yet on the level of significant competitors, and investment in design/construction is needed. However, the de-sanitized, gritty nature of the scenes actually seem to generate distinct energy amongst the “scare-actors” and performers of this hayride. Each actor/actress in this attraction goes above and beyond to create scares and engage guests along the roughly twenty-minute journey. What is exciting to see is the performances of those actors (and they are in the majority) that outpaces set design, exceeds elaborate make-up/costumes, and creates moments of genuine fear.
Demon’s Gate’s numerous scenes range in style and intensity, exploring the vast array of themes and depth of Halloween infused entertainment. Wisely, Demon’s Gate utilizes the performance aspect “strength” of a haunted hayride attraction by catering to different fears and establishing a broad range of themes that are guaranteed to get a reaction from a range of guests with diverse fears associated with the season. From a structural standpoint, most of the hayride is richly detailed on a smaller scale with custom-built designs, surprising use of pyrotechnics, and visual special effects that bring to life such haunting scenes as a creepy “graveyard,” “toxic waste dump,” cannibalistic butcher shop, psychotic clowns, an insane asylum” and violent “burned man” scene where a freak chases a wagon and genuinely acts “insane” in an all-out effort to generate fear. Actors are intense and outwork the overall quality of the sets themselves (which are still developing) wrestling each other in scenes of violence, aggressively attacking the wagon, and pouring every ounce of energy into generating scares.
The journey begins with a” toxic waste dump” and abandoned cemetery scenes are heavily detailed, featuring large-scale special effects and immersive set designs that feature aggressive actors that jump on the wagon and threaten to bury guests. A new chainsaw/slaughter scene was added this year, followed by a visit with a group of tormenting witches in what is perhaps the more “theatrical” aspect of this roughly twenty-minute journey. While not many changes have been made since last year, the actors themselves did overall a great job at bringing a sense of chaos, violence, and brutality to each scene. From helpless victims begging for help to the undead stalking “the wagon,” the performances were strong enough to add realism to each scene. However, Demon’s Gate’s actors sometimes resort to a tactic that just annoys, not scares. There is little to no need to hammer objects against the wagon over and over. Luckily, this problem occurs sparingly but can be removed or reduced even further. After a humorous take on the recent issues of today’s society, and an odd scene featuring “witches,” the intensity once again rises with an authentic tribute to the legendary movie “Halloween,” a vile unforgettable visit with a family that has been burned and mutilated” and a psychotic circus tunnel, featuring psychotic clowns yielding a variety of weapons including a giant mallet that bludgeons the wagon.
Actors in each scene carry out movie-like displays, from chasing helpless victims to interacting with guests in creative ways, it is as close to seeing a mini horror “play” as one can imagine, and each actor pours their hearts into each role. Some of the scenes are shockingly sinister and gory, which is a welcome departure from “family-friendly” events, and the physicality of the acting itself is commendable. Scenes in which scare-actors threaten to replace the “faces” of their helpless victims,” to a barbaric butchering by a chainsaw-yielding maniac, there is a spirit of intensity that is refreshing to see in a developing haunted attraction. The extended finale of the hayride generates intensity and insanity with again quality acting coupled with aggressive physicality. It ends with a conclusion that is perhaps inspired by the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” While the actors work extremely hard, we would like to see some more massive sets and more “sound effects,” which will add depth to the show. Sometimes the attraction is too quiet, which hurts the performance. Augmented sound effects can help increase the “immersive” nature of the hayride and should be addressed in future seasons.
The Final Word
Demon’s Gate may not have the most elaborate sets, make-up designs, or industry shattering “special effects.” Still, it has a spirit of fear and a gritty-realistic nature to its style that is a welcome throwback to haunted attractions of yesteryear. As the attraction continues to grow, we would love to see more “big-budget” scenes and longer show, but the performances and the style of scares presented by this still developing haunted attraction. One cannot stress enough how intense the performers are during the attraction, from clowns that slam giant mallets and whips into the side of Hay wagons, to a family of hillbillies that yield pickaxes, mini torches, and chainsaws as tools of terror, this is a haunted attraction that is all action, generates a feeling of danger and at times is downright brutal. Over the course of two visits, the attraction has found its groove with intense scare acting that is physical; actors will play out scenes of horror, tackling each other, bludgeoning victims to their doom, and the custom-designed, small budget feel to this show actually creates a certain sense of danger. Performances such as an iconic recreation of a showdown between “Michael Myers” and “Dr. Loomis” are masterfully recreated on a smaller scale, and not enough can be said about the violent, sadistic nature and costumes of the family of burned freaks that love to torment unsuspecting visitors to their mountain
Demon’s Gate is a great way to celebrate the season for a reasonable cost, and an intense experience we wish was only longer. Over the past five seasons, the attraction has improved immensely, and we are happy to see if thriving in Northeast, PA. Demon’s Gate hopefully will be able to utilize its resources, talented staff, and be able to invest in itself to grow professionally (increasing marketing, social media, adding website) and performance-wise now, and ideally become established as one of the best attractions in the entire region. Support Demon’s Gate and provide them constructive feedback as they continuously use guest comments and feedback to improve the show throughout the season!