Cut to the chase: Frightland is, in our opinion, the worst haunt we’ve been to, ever.
That was a bit harsh right? But it’s unfortunately true for our experience. Before I go through the reasons we really didn’t like this event, let me give some basic info on it. Frightland is located in Delaware and is set up much like a farm haunt. It was one of the few events that we’ve gone to that actually had security at the gate, with an eye toward frisking you / metal detector screening. This should have been an indicator to us immediately. The crowd at the event was definitely very young, with teens seeming to make up the bulk of the people there. Given it’s vaguely remote location it seemed like this was one of the few hangouts that young people in the area were able to go to, which might have contributed to their need to have security.
So, the first thing that made us annoyed at Frightland was the realization that their advertized 8 attractions were in fact 4 attractions. 5 of the attractions are a conga line through, with no ability to do them in a different order or individually. This “attraction inflation” has been a new trend in haunts, which we absolutely can’t stand. It’s like saying your haunt has 15 attractions because your one house has 15 different rooms. If they aren’t separate to go to, and they wouldn’t stand on their own, they shouldn’t be listed as such. It’s marketing crap to get people to think they are receiving more value than they are. Frightland isn’t alone in doing this, but it was just the start of why we didn’t like the event.
Luckily (and sadly) we bought their fast pass for front of the line access. Honestly, if we hadn’t, this review would be even more harsh, since waiting in long lines for little pay off would have caused us to be even more pissed. And that’s the crux of things–little payoff. Our biggest issue with Frightland is that given their budget (which seemed decent) they actually were inept in understanding how to actually set up a haunt. It really felt like the case that some people had gone to some other haunts, thought “I can do that”, then, with little understanding of the psychology or experience of designing haunts–just threw things together.
The saddest bit is there were some possibilities raised that just didn’t deliver. It’s like they had an idea, but had no idea what to do with it. An example: At one point we were loaded onto a bus. At first we thought it was your standard walk through, but it was in fact designed for you to sit down. Wow, we thought they were going to do something interesting. The front of the bus’s windshield actually had some projection screens that made it look like you were driving somewhere. But then….nothing. Really, we sat there for awhile, then we were told to get off. No payoff, nothing interesting. No one was even running around on the bus. Just get on, sit down, then get off.
Later, when we were on their hay ride, all they really did was have a small number of people come up to the ride and shout at intervals. No real effort to have a reason or motive, just people shouting. It was again like they saw a hayride somewhere else and thought “the point is to have people scream at the riders” and didn’t understand anything about set design or building up the idea of tension. Amidst this very boring ride they had though one set piece that was actually very good: a growing monster animatronic that was actually very effective and scary. In fact, it was one of the best set pieces we’ve seen all year. But it was only one small part of the ride and not enough to save it from being overall bad.
In a few other cases, like one of their walk through houses, it’s obvious that there was effort done to actually spend some money on the set up–But it too was undercut by the sheer lack of actors, and with obviously almost no training and design for the scares themselves. In all of their houses you felt like you were walking through a fairly empty place with no real scares other than the most obvious placements. (and again, the idea that a scare was just someone yelling in your face).
Which is really the entire problem. We can accept when a haunt is simply low budget, or very new. But Frightland was neither. It’s the same reason why big budget films that are bad are savaged by reviewers–versus low budget B movies. Everyone expects a low budget film to be bad, but when you actually spend money and effort to make a bad result, it’s feels worse. The saddest part is there was evidence everywhere that there were some good ideas in the making–that someone had thought to do something different–but the distance between the idea and actually knowing how to work them out was too great, with the result being a mess.
If Frightland can find some experienced designers, and commit to the same spirit of trying out new ideas, and take the time to work with their actors, they still have potential. But right now it’s just not there and should be an “avoid” until they do some significant revision work.