Oni and I went to Night of Terror in Mullica Hill, N.J. on October 26, 2012 as media guests. We’ve never been to this haunt, so we had no idea what we’d encounter. They list 6 attractions, ranging from a hayride through to an encounter with the Yeti. Since they have such a range I’ll go through and break down our experiences for each one.
Right off we had a very good impression of the location since they had pumpkin donuts and apple cider, both of which tasted real (i.e. made on site):
So the store “attraction” was delicious.
Our path through the haunt attractions started with their “Ride Of Terror” hayride. It’s obvious that they’ve spent a lot of money on this attraction. I’ve honestly not seen more animatronics, and especially large ones, in any other hayride. Only Bates Motel and Shocktoberfest have had anything near this scale. This being said, Oni described the overall ride experience as “relaxing”, which from her meant “fun to watch, but not actually scary”. I would agree. They had really great set pieces and many innovative and interesting additions to the hayride genre (a pirate area with pirate wenches!), but it was rarely very scary (to us at least). They had the standard “people run up to the cart” stuff going on, and scare actors could run through the cart, but the engagement was less interesting than the set visuals (in other words, the people were a distraction from watching the visuals, not an additive).
This is where I have to mention something strange. Some haunts have an absolute hands off policy (i.e. their scare actors can’t touch you no matter what), and some have it such that you can be touched (or in the case of some, they can even grab and sling you around). Night of Terror had a somewhat strange situation where some of their houses had it that their actors could touch you, but others couldn’t–including the hayride. Honestly, if they had a policy of allowing any touching at all (which they do), they should absolutely have done that on the hayride, and I’m puzzled why that wasn’t so. Hayrides are the most controlled encounter system (as in they control the speed and how you navigate through the attraction), so it’s actually easier to make sure you don’t hit somebody wrong, and would add to the scares immensely.
I really liked the ride, but I’d strongly suggest they extend their touching policy to the ride–it would really amp it up even higher and add that scare factor to what is already a stunning visual display.
Next up we went through their “Mayhem of Darkness” attraction. This was a standard full darkness maze. While there are many people who find these types of attractions scary, we actually find them somewhat dull. This isn’t a specific reflection on Night of Terror’s version, just our overall experience with this concept. If you like this type of thing, theirs was fine, it’s just not something we appreciate. We honestly think that haunts should drop this type of attraction–even in it’s best circumstance it leads to massive clogs of people as they inch their way through and try to avoid hitting other people.
We then proceeded their “Cornfield Maze”, which was unique in our experience. It was in fact an actual maze! We have never encountered a haunt cornfield that wasn’t just a single path through the corn, with set pieces and scare actors sprinkled throughout. I applaud them for doing something different, but after many people entered the maze, it lead to huge chains of people trying to find their way out. After a while there was an overwhelming number of us and very few scare actors, so any “scare” element mostly dropped out.
I think one way to make this better would be to make some sort of narrative–as well as clues being placed throughout, to make it more of a “challenge” than a simple hunt for the exit. Maybe you were trying to find something and the clues would lead you to the right place. Anyway, we liked the idea, and it was fun even when we were all running around together, but it wasn’t an actual scare situation for the most part.
We then moved on to their “Frozen Tundra” attraction. This was, in many ways, a somewhat replication of their “Mayhem of Darkness” maze, but with fog. It started with more set design than the plain darkness maze, but it ended up being about the same in the end. Again, Oni and I don’t really find non-visual haunts very engaging. If you like this type of thing, then it was fine, but we managed to go in and out without really seeing much, and no Yeti popped up for us.
This attraction, like the darkness one, might do well with an addition of some low light at the ground level, and a few more set piece scares. It’s like Hitchcock for us–he believed that a lead up to a shock was always more powerful than simply showing a shock with no warning–darkness attractions by their very nature almost always rely on the second, with little of the first possible. Just our opinion.
So now we went to their new attraction for 2012 “Slaughter Cave”. This attraction was one of their 2 that had touching allowed. This made things way more scary, and made this attraction the first one of the night that really got in our faces and made us jump. It’s got a ton of nice set pieces, and people grabbing your ankles, so watch out! One thing we’d suggest though: They used a ton of flashing lights during most of the haunt, and in many cases this actually made it difficult to see the sets–we really think they should tone that down a bit and allow people to see the scary stuff going on. From what we did see it would have made it even better and scarier. Overall though we really liked this attraction.
The final attraction we went through also allowed touching, and of course it had to be filled with clowns: “3D Fun House”. It was a 3D Attraction. This attraction was surprisingly long, and really good (in fact, we felt it was the best one). We also aren’t huge fans of 3D haunts–in most cases the 3D adds nothing, and in fact makes things worse by screwing up your ability to see properly. In my opinion this house did a balanced job of having the 3D make things scarier (since it was hard to tell what was and wasn’t a real person–plus the faces painted on the walls were super creepy), but I just can’t help but think that the house would have been better without it. The set pieces were really great, but 3D glasses make it harder to see, so we weren’t able to fully appreciate them.
They also were using water sprays in this haunt, as in some things would shoot out water at you. (yeah, a typical clown concept I know). This is fine, but in some cases they had the setting too high, and both Oni and I were hit with a huge amount of water at points. Luckily the night we went was very warm, but on a colder night this wouldn’t have been a good thing. They use water a lot in Florida at Busch Gardens and Universal Studios, but they have the advantage of nearly 80 degree weather. They may want to tone this down a bit and make it more of a spritz than a geyser.
So, overall we really like Night of Terror. It’s got a ton of fun stuff going on. If they can address some of the smallish issues we’ve brought up (a bit more light in the mazes, less reliance on darkness and strobes in some of the set piece houses, less water, adding touch to the hayride) I think they could easily shoot to the top of the class in all counts. If you have a chance, check them out–and especially grab a donut on the way out :)