If you look through the archives of this site, you’ll see that in the past Harknell and I have always had a great experience at the Field of Terror in East Windsor, New Jersey. I am really sad to say that this was not the case this year. I’m going to talk about what worked and what didn’t in the hopes that they consider changing some of these things for 2013 because I really do like these guys.
We went to FoT on October 21st, 2012 and paid about $130 total for 2 VIP tickets to get into all 4 attractions.
Zombie Attack Haunted Hayride:
First we did the hayride. In the past, I have thought this hayride needed some improvement. I am glad to say that they have made some improvements to it! They now enter through what was once the exit and have added a bigger finale to it. This makes the ride seem bigger and more impressive. I felt that the scare actors were better this time around and a bit more funny, which I like. Both Harknell and I thought there were some good improvements here.
Our suggestions: We feel they should continue to evolve this and love that they are moving in the right direction.
Dementia 3D Haunted Barn:
Next was Dementia, the 3D haunted house. This is where things began to plummet downhill for us. Some good changes have been made in this one. In the past the house was more sparse – they have done some great work adding props in the space. About 1/3rd of the way through this one there is a dark hallway and a guy dressed in all black who follows you down it with claws on the wall. This was awesome. Just after that some of the rooms seemed empty, but I didn’t think much of it. I turned as I was leaving a room to see if we missed a scare to see a female scare actor hiding under a table on the left side of the wall texting away like if she didn’t want to be there.
This is not the first time I have seen someone at FoT texting or heard texting sounds come from a scare actor’s pocket. That does not bother me that much if they have the phone in their pocket and are scaring people. This was the first time I have seen someone clearly holed up hiding away texting and NOT scaring. It was not like she just received a quick text or was texting someone that she needed a break – she was clearly set up under that table for the long haul and to hell with the customers.
I found this to be completely ridiculous – especially since they tell the customers “no cell phones”. I had the urge to turn around, walk back into the room and scare her (which I would NEVER consider doing normally), but thought better of it.
The rest of Dementia seemed a little long to the point where we were a bit tired of it. Wearing 3D glasses for more than a short period of time is really annoying. I wondered if my finding the house too long was just me and my temper at the person who was texting, but Harknell confirmed with me that he also felt it was too long.
Our suggestions: We feel they should consider scrapping the 3D concept and replace it with narrative. Dementia seems to rely on 3D as it’s primary trick, and that trick is a 1 trick pony. You can plop me in any 3D house in the country and I won’t be able to tell you which haunt I am at because they all look the same, feel the same, and aren’t really that scary once you’ve been in 1 before. I think that having this haunt for a couple of years was great and innovative, but it’s time to evolve toward something new. 3D haunted houses aren’t unique anymore and frankly look the same in nearly every haunt I have seen them in (with the exception of Circus of Superstition at Busch Gardens Tampa where they only used the 3D to accentuate 3D surfaces and did not rely on it as a Thing.)
If they want to keep the 3D around, a regular house with a 3D portion where you don’t have to wear those terrible glasses for so long would be better. It’s amazing that the attractions here are so long, but having to wear the glasses for so long is a negative in our opinion.
The Unknown Barn:
Next was The Unknown Barn. This is normally a favorite of mine due to the amazing visual gags they play on you. This year they redid much of it. We both felt that the changes they made really detracted from the attraction.
They were pulsing people into the house in small groups, which was awesome. All of this was quickly negated due to the changes they made resulting in rooms that created bottlenecks and a resulting conga line of cranky guests. They previously had a place where you had to crawl, which created a bottleneck. 1 of these areas is really cool and can quickly resolve itself. The problem was that I counted no less than 4 bottlenecks in this house. 2 crawlspaces, 1 room of total darkness, and 1 room of fog so thick you may as well have been blind. One only had to listen to the complaints of the guests going through these areas to get that most people were unhappy. An attraction is not scary if you are standing in a near static line inside over half of it. Our annoyance level quickly reached critical mass and we just wanted to leave the attraction but were stuck in a slow moving line during most of it.
Our Suggestions: Rethink tricks that result in bottlenecks. Consider how crowds work when you are in high capacity days. We don’t feel total darkness/blindness should even be used in a haunt due to it resulting in a standstill every time and people bringing out their cell phones for light. Eastern State Penitentiary did it best with Night Watch where they used very low lighting. The result was that the actors could scare better and people didn’t stop moving. Our experience in The Unknown Barn were scare actors just acting as security staff to funnel a long, slow line of people through the bottlenecks.
What once was the best corn maze I have ever experienced fell prey to the same kinds of design issues we experienced in The Unknown Barn. The changes added to the trail all created bottlenecks. The most annoying addition was a maze of flaps that hung down. This could have been amazing, but they didn’t tell you it was a maze with dead ends before you entered it. Most people would get stuck in a cul de sac and everyone else would stop dead behind them assuming they were just stuck somehow but you could still go forward. A lot of the scenes in this entire trail were bottlenecks, and the pathways felt completely empty of scare actors. This means you could be walking for minutes with nothing happening. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when I feel like taking my phone out and tweeting to alleviate boredom in a haunted trail.
I know it was not this way in previous years, so I do not know what happened for us. Scenes that had 3 or 4 actors in them last year had none or one guy laying on a table screaming. Did we come when everyone was out to lunch or something? The entire last 4 or 5 scenes of this trail were empty for us. Totally empty. No joke. No exaggeration. There was not one actor in them. 2/3rd of the way through this we just wanted to leave. At the exit we saw some scare actors walking past us like regular people and didn’t even try to scare us. I believe they were returning to the finale scene which had been 100% empty.
Our Suggestions: Put some scare actors in all of the scenes and at least a few on the paths for crying out loud! Rethink the flow of scenes on this trail. If there is a maze with dead ends, it would be better for capacity to mention that on the door so people understand to keep looking and not to just stop moving.
If this had been my first time visiting Field of Terror this would have been my only time visiting. It was extremely expensive for us to go (admittedly, we bought up to VIP, but then it would have been very time consuming for us to go if we hadn’t, which would have been as bad in a different way). While the attractions were long, they were relentless in the wrong way. It’s as if someone had a lot of really cool ideas, but placed them in the attractions at random without considering crowd flow/capacity or the length of time the attraction took.
The scare actors were all doing the basic and rather boring “lunge and scream” technique and didn’t appear to be trained very well. We saw very little advanced technique being used by the actors (typically “character actor” or psychological methods embodying a narrative). We did see at least 1 actor texting. The hayride had some improvement, but everything else was either the same as last year, or with changes that we feel made the event less enjoyable and more crowded.
I love these guys, but I really do feel like something major degraded this year.
Oni Harstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Art, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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