Oni and I visited the haunted attraction “Nightmare At Gravity Hill” as media guests on October 21, 2012 in Jackson, N.J. To say that we were amazed at the quality of this haunt would be an epic understatement.
First off, this is only the 2nd year of operation for this event, which we can hardly believe. The event itself is primarily an outdoor maze, with some indoor elements in line. They list an average time to go through the attraction as 45 minutes, and that’s about right. With these sort of newbie events we usually expect to see some really rough edges or unfinished elements….boy were we wrong in this case–they aren’t perfect, but man are they pretty far toward that goal. The sets and design were practically on the scale of the big name haunts like Busch Gardens and Universal Studios–I’m not kidding. These guys either spent huge sums of cash, or are really brilliant set designers, because the quality of their set ups actually was astounding. We’d even say that it surpassed some of the major name stuff we’ve seen.
So we received our media passes and got into line. Right off I got hit with a scare from a line scare actor–I didn’t realize that she was there until suddenly she was in my face. It’s nice when haunts have people specifically on hand to keep the lines interesting. In fact, when another actor came out and ran around, he practically caused a riot amongst a large group of girls in line, with many so scared they bowed out of going into the attraction! (not that that helps the event, but it shows how effective their people are). They were also pulsing the groups well–no conga line here, with only a small number of people entering at a time.
The Gate To Amazement
When Oni and I were brought up to the main gate, I practically was dumbfounded. looking past the gate showed what looked like an entire small western town leading to a church. I mean the entire area on both sides was lined with storefronts, with a creepy western style church at the end of the street as your endpoint. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, and seen for the first time the main street leading to the castle–we literally had a moment like that. I couldn’t believe they had built this type of set. It was amazing. We were let in, and it was just as good once inside. They had a heavy fog in the area, and it really felt like you were walking down a street. Of course scare actors jumped out from both sides as you walked down, and a crazy western preacher jumped out to inform us that we were arriving for our funeral in the church. Then in we went, with the quality still being really high for the inside set as well.
Past this we were then into their full scale maze. Their technique for demarcations of paths between areas was a high black cloth lining both sides–which we’ve never seen but worked really well. The only thing we can suggest is to increase the number of encounters along these in-between paths–there were some, but in some cases there were long stretches of walking without much happening, though the atmosphere was still creepy. One excellent bit was a visual preview of an upcoming part of the haunt, a large cemetery. Over one part of the pathway you could see a huge statue of Death, that animated! Just seeing this made us freak out. From where we were seeing it it loomed like a huge malevolent omen of the future. I have no idea if this is an “off the shelf” bought animatronic, or something they made/customized, but we’ve never seen it anywhere else and it really worked well.
The entire maze was filled with these amazing sets and set pieces. There were many great scare actors who knew their job well. It felt like we were going through many different houses–even an Egyptian one–so in many ways it felt a bit like going to Busch Gardens Howl O Scream or Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights–but with all of the houses in one big lineup.
The ending was very strong, with a nice use of pulsing to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to get hit with the finale.
They really have a firm grip on things, and I really can’t wait to see these guys again. It was so good I really wanted to get a day tour just to see the details of the sets.
As said earlier, the only things we’d suggest doing is adding a bit more to the walkways between sets, but this is only a minor critique. For any serious haunt fan this place is a must do and we strongly recommend it.