Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adam Green's 2014 Halloween Short!

via ArieScope
Adam Green has done 15 Halloween shorts and he continues it this year. I've featured these before and they are always fuckin awesome.

And you know what, I'll watch anything with the lovely Brea Grant.

Here's the synopis:

A quick Skype call between a husband and wife on Halloween night takes a disturbingly dark turn in Adam Green (HATCHET, FROZEN) and ArieScope Pictures' 16th annual Halloween short film starring Shawn Ashmore (X-MEN, THE FOLLOWING, FROZEN) and Brea Grant (HEROES, DEXTER). Lock up your dog and stock up on full-size candy bars for the Trick or Treaters coming to your door this year as you watch and enjoy.

Check it out below!


Check out all of ArieScope shorts!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Blackout: House (Review)


Let's talk horror remakes OK?

Some people love horror remakes, some don't. Some people fall somewhere in the middle. I'm one of those people who falls in the middle. I loved the Evil Dead and The Ring remake, others hated it. I hated the Friday the 13th and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, some didn't. You're also going to get some horror remakes that were just good but not great. Maniac comes to mind. Horror remakes can divide horror audiences like no other.

This is exactly how I feel about this years version of Blackout Haunted House: Blackout: House. It falls somewhere in the middle. It's still got a bit of the old that I absolutely love and it's got a bit of the new.  Every year Blackout remakes itself and creates a new version venting brilliant scenes of the uncomfortable, the weird and the WTF. But this year, you'll notice that some things are missing from previous haunts.

Gone is the walking alone aspect; now replaced with groups.
Gone is the old abandoned storefronts and random buildings in the middle of nowhere. This is now replaced with a former dance club that seems to have been recently shut down.
Gone is the physical and elevated extreme nature of Blackout replaced with a psychological and more fringe theater feel.

Sure some previous years aspects are residually there, but any past reviews or walkthroughs you've read by me should be disregarded at this year haunt, just like last year themed Elements haunt, this is a new year, a new theme.

This is a  Blackout that you will either love, hate or feel something in between. You'll need to judge for yourself.

Blackout: house is a visceral interactive experience, where you'll encounter uncomfortable scenes set up for you to solve, the unseen horrors done to others and some role playing that tests your determination. In the midst of this is your group, now paramount to the experience. In a new twist, if two people in your group SAFETY, your entire group is escorted out (as mentioned in the creators AMA). Now you'll need to rely on friends and/or strangers to survive. This can either be good or bad but it actually had me terrified that a stranger could end my own experience.

This years haunt seems longer (could it really have been more than 30 min?, I'm not actually sure) than previous ones. The cult like figures return as Blackout employs a world where they are the guards in this Stanford experiment gone awry.  There is a bit of waiting before the haunt begins. But when it does, it throws you in ready or not.

Each scene is crafted for maximum WTF. Blackout virgins may be unprepared for the assault on their senses. Scenes play out and you'll need to get on board quickly with the subtle directed action ques you'll need to do to move on. Savvy veterans will easily work out what needs to be done and get that shit done. Each room you head into will have you interacting with the actors and the things in it. As this is a group thing, some people will get more attention than others. I think the actors were picking on the noobs to give them something a bit extra.

As you go along, the group will have to work together to move around and each member will be chosen for a special moment. Mine was an encounter with a lovely young actress who gave me something that tested my revulsion. I totally did it without any problems because I'm the motherfuckin jaded viewer.

The final scene plays out with everybody in your group in some sort of odd and crazy situation and here I found myself telling my fellow survivor not to SAFETY and to just do whatever instructions she was told. I followed my orders to a tee as did my entire group. After the experience, I sincerely apologized to that person in my group. She was a stranger after all and what I had to do to her was bizarrely not normal. Yes you will need to probably apologize to strangers.

My initial reaction after experiencing Blackout: house was one of confusion. I didn't know what to think. It took me a few days to digest the experience and as I replayed scenes in my head I thought of what Blackout was trying to accomplish. The group dynamic had me initially fearful that somebody would safety but as it went on, I knew the people I was with wouldn't SAFETY, they decided it was not an option. You're going to have to trust your group, that's something scary in itself. I've been use to having my own personal Blackout experience, you sometimes start comparing the past with the present. I disliked sharing and wanted it all about me.

After thinking about it, each haunt should be judged on its own merits. This years version is all about teamwork within a group of friends or strangers where the scenes are designed for you to work together for a common goal. It should be judged with all its nuances and ways this can be fun as well. Some will either dislike this and say Blackout has left what made it so memorable, the you versus Blackout, one on one experience. Others may say this opens up Blackout into a whole new way of experiencing their haunt.  I thought the group thing would have made me to do things in front of people I would regret or be embarrassed about but that wasn't the case.  I for one miss the alone experience, but I can see the merits of opening it up to groups. Again, this is for each person to decide.

I've been reading the other reviews and talked to other veterans who've experienced this 2014 haunt. The initial consensus seems to be it's less extreme this year and has more general scenes of David Lynch-ian weirdness. There also seemed to be less touching for a haunted house built on the fact they are suppose to touch you. What you get is more of the psychological and what your willing to do to get through it. I can't believe I'm writing these words, but Blackout: house is not as scary as you think it is this year.

I am sure for newcomers, they will get a thrill from all the weird shit that happens. For many, this is Blackout boot camp and they'll be seeing shit they've never seen or experienced before. Blackout has always amped up their performance as the season went on. I went on opening night where press and a few hardcorers were first to attend so maybe what I experienced will be different compared to somebody going on Halloween. I hope they get back to some "old school shit" and make alpha males and sorority girls SAFETY along the way.

Blackout is still the king of permanently embedding raw emotions and vivid memories in their haunts. It sparks a conversation like no other haunt in America. To try Blackout is to test your limits, to go to that Rope Swingers level I've written about before.  If there is a time to see if you can make it through, this is the year.

Blackout has been remade. Good or bad it has to be experienced to be believed. You have to give credit to creators Josh Randall and Kris Thorgeirsson for always reinventing Blackout every year, experimenting with new challenges and changing the rules to make it different. It's a testament to them they have not just done the same thing year in, year out.

As much as change is inevitable, it doesn't mean I have to like it. With Blackout: house you have some old and some new and a remake that Blackout survivors will be divided on. You will be saying WHAT THE FUCK?!?! and this year it will have two different meanings.

Which one will it be?


 The Vitals

Blackout Haunted House Reviews and Walkthroughs
Blackout Haunted House Invite Only, Off Season Winter/Spring Haunt Reviews and Walkthroughs
Leave any comments/questions on The Jaded Viewer Facebook Page or on Twitter  
    



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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Waldorf Estate of FEAR Haunted House (Review)


The final leg of the Pennsylvania Haunted House road trip with The Jaded Viewer and The Raven and Black Cat took us to The Waldorf Estate of Fear aka The Haunting at the Waldorf. Located at Lehighton, PA, it's hard to gauge what a haunt will be like as you first enter. Everything looks like a county fair in the middle of nowhere. The drive over to the Waldorf was filled with backroads and endless cornfields and as all our phones began to die, a real life horror movie plot was peeking its head.

But as haunt veterans, we've done this before and with an hour to spare, we got our haunt on.

The Waldorf Estate of Fear is a horror trilogy of terror with each unique experience bringing in adrenaline pumping scares with zombies, a relaxed prepackaged haunted hayride and a hotel turned haunted house that has style and substance all wrapped in one. I had mild expectations for the Waldorf and after, it literally blew my mind. The attractions are, simply put top notch for an indie haunted house production.

You can do a lot with less and Waldorf does just that. So here's a quick review of each attraction.

Terror in the Corn

There are super awesome haunted hayrides and then there is your hayrides that are nicely produced but don't pack a WOW factor. Waldorf's hayride has some nice touches (a cameo from your favorite hockey mask wearing, machete wielding maniac) and scenes with damsels getting distressed. However, actors who scream at the top of their lungs is kind of irritating. The barn stops were standard fare and overall could keep tweens happy. I just wish it was amped up with more of the crazy.


Infection

Infection is one of the reasons you HAVE to go to Waldorf. It's a outdoor maze with a twist. You're given a belt with 3 straps on them representing your viral organs and have to dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge all sorts of minimum waged teenage zombies. In a nutshell, its zombie flag football. Infection is an interactive Walking Dead homage that got me panicking and out of breath in the midst of this zombie gridiron. You'll be face planting into the ground and tripping over obstacles as you try to escape these Dawn of the Dead remake zombies. And they're relentless. Goddamn kids seem to what to take your flags at all costs. Lucky for me, I survived barely. With 1 flag left. Good shit. Fuckin really good shit.

The Haunting at the Waldorf

Greeted by James Cudie a British demon host whose sarcasm and one liners were a great way to start the haunt, the Haunting at the Waldorf is a minimalistic haunt that walks you through the many ghouls and ghosts and other random dead people at the Waldorf. It's pretty brilliant with what you can do with the remnants of an actual hotel, from old 70s furniture to wine racks to an actual hotel lobby. As you maneuver through the tight spaces, crawl on all fours through hidden passages and go up stairs each room gives off a sense of creepy and Shining like madness.

The actors play a mix of offbeat ghosts guiding you through a story as you check in. My favorite was going to the restaurant as the angry "ghosts" play on being welcoming then demeaning. Good times.

It's a great little maze, a haunted house that takes its time to get its jump scares and ends with some questionable content.

The Waldorf Estate of Fear is a little gem hidden in the cornfields of Pennsylvania. They go through the whole 9 yards to maximize your experience and had me talking about it hours after going through.

And i think they even offered pirogues to eat.

Now that's a DIY haunted house.

The Vitals
Check out the trailer

 
hauntcomm4 from Stephen Cognetti on Vimeo.



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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Field of Screams Haunted House (Review)


There is nothing like going on a haunted house road trip with some haunted house veterans.  That was the case last weekend when I headed to Pennsylvania with the crew of The Raven and Black Cat to partake in a double dose of haunted house goodness. The first stop was Field of Screams in Lancaster, PA. 

Having been on many top haunted house lists, Field of Screams sits on a quaint American town where Main Streets seem to be Leave it to Beaver-esque. But in the middle of suburban homes sits a collection of haunted houses, food stands and a stage that made me tweet this:

Yes jaded viewers. They had 8 Mile like freestyle rap battles with Eminem wannabes going head to head. Now that's some quality fuckin entertainment. But I digress.

If that doesn't get you to go, the haunts were all unique in their own ways. Field of Screams is a carnival of wickedness, where each haunted house is a living horror movie and you get to flip the channel to whatever you're in the mood for. Wanna see some lunatics in an asylum or take a casual hayride to hell? Field of Screams offers diversity and some fun carnie games to boot. It's a Disneyland for the unstable, offering terrors and screams, think Mickeys armed with machetes.
Solid maze filled with all sorts of decaying death and actors looking to get in your face for those we'll timed jump scares. The sets were top notch and actors at the ready to sneak up on you with serious ninja skills. I didn't think I'd be touched but I felt my hair standing tall not from fear. Good shit.

Frightmare Asylum

Solid walkthrough of an asylum filled with hospital malaise and medical malpractice. The smells and tight spaces get you knee deep into a feeling dread and nervousness. Gotta love body bags and wrapped up dead bodies hanging. Also a nice twist of crawling through some darkness where I lost my way a few times had me nervously trying to bring up my inner GPS. Good times.

Haunted Hayride

I've been to other haunted hayrides but the one at Field of Screams is probably the best one I've been to. The barn stops seem to go from super awesome to yawn then to super awesome but overall they had a few twists that I've never seen from a hayride before. Some crashing gates and a retracting pork were nice touches. But the hayride is really for people watching and seeing little tween girls scream they are "having heart palpitations" made it way more enjoyable. I even saw1 little girl be braver than the pumpkin latte tweens and asking her mom "that's it?"

Nocturnal Wasteland

The last haunt we went to was an outdoor trail seemed to be filled with props that didn't make the cut. A few twists and turns, but nothing I'm writing Wes Craven about. Good props from ambulances and buses and actors that braved the weather to get their scares in.

The attractions are designed to be interactive and I was hoping to get some sass back from the actors but clearly the kids are running the asylum on minimum wage. You also sense a sequel (going again) might not be necessary as replaybility for these haunts is about A 3.

All in all Field of Screams is worth the trip as the kids, tweens and teens won't be disappointed to get their Halloween on with some great mazes while eating some BBQ pork sandwiches and fried oreos. Even the adults are in for a treat. It's a pre-packaged Halloween world in a normal quiet American town.

Halloween in America right off the shelf. 


The Vitals
Check out the trailer



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Friday, October 03, 2014

Nightmare New York Haunted House (Review)



I love my city. It's got almost everything you can think of. If you want to buy a pair of swimming goggles and grape drink, the corner bodega probably has it. You've got nightlife, restaurants and culture. NYC really is the greatest. But it wasn't always this way.

Back in the 70s and 80s, it was a living breathing cesspool of fucked up depravity. Millennials weren't born yet so giving them a chance to time travel to this evil version of NYC is a horror movie come to life.

That's where Nightmare New York Haunted House comes in. For the last 2 Halloweens, Nightmare has given us an array of serial killers in all different forms but this year they've given us a theme that will have you looking over your shoulder in each unique and nostalgic room.

Nightmare New York is a stroll through the pre-Disney, hobo loving, pervert molesting, roach crawling cesspool of NYC 2-3 decades ago and it's nostalgic depraved fun. It's hard to imagine this dystopian NYC was actually real but for those who lived here (including myself) have memories, some good mostly bad. A time where the ghosts of the Dakota went all Shining. A time where once you got off from Times Square, you got mugged in 2.9 seconds. A time where the subway was the most dangerous place in the entire world. A time where flashers and degenerates had you running to the other side of the street. A time of rampant serial killers including David Berkowitz and the legendary Cropsey legend. A time where killer viruses created Typhoid Mary, a person who knowingly spread this Ebola like virus. And finally a time where roaches and rats were as common as pigeons and squirrels and could make Stone Cold Steve Austin squeal.

Nightmare NY gives you a showcase showdown of the worst NYC had to offer back in the day. With the actors spinning tales of days gone by and giving you in your face performances, they leave a lasting imprint of this bizarro NYC some have tried to forget. In the midst of this, the scares will come from expected places haunted house veterans will notice but noobs and Ugg wearing tween girls will be in for some shocks and surprises. I loved the Dakota room's "special effects" and subway car room the best. The maze from room to room isn't without some in between fun and the infamous pseudo safe haven that has you going outside at Nightmare has a new twist this year.

Veterans of Nightmare may find the walk through of the 20 minute maze unscary but Nightmare is a mix of old school animatronics, actors hiding in plain sight and well designed throwback rooms that should be seen to be believed. There were some missed opportunities that could have been improved. The 1980s subway car was asking to play on old school stereotypes (maybe some stereotypical hobos and mugger types mixed in with Wall Street types and the killer is not who you'd expect). Also, Nightmare gives you the option to be touched (faux blood will be marked on your forehead) which was an ample opportunity to be exploited in different ways (especially when you go outside) and in other rooms where getting up close and personal would have made even the most alpha-est of alpha males squirm. Finally, past end rooms Nightmare has done ended in a literal BANG! though Nightmare could have had you covered in pretend critters and crawlers that would have freaked anybody out.

Nightmare New York is a relentless look back to when the city that never sleeps took a long Rip Van Winkle nap and while the city slept, the lunatics and maniacs decided it was time to party. Nightmare celebrates this and it's most amped up level and if you have nostalgic memories, have longings to relive this version of NYC or want to see what it was like way back when, Nightmare New York is waiting for you to give you a full self guided tour.


The Vitals
Check out the trailer


For a full schedule of performances visit www.hauntedhousenyc.com



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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blood Manor 2014 (Review)


Blood Manor really wants to provoke all sorts of reactions for all who go through its doors. And that reaction can come in many ways. Being scared shitless, getting angry after a well timed quip or hainv a feeling of dread as you enter from room to room.

It's why it's the go to blockbuster haunted house in NYC.

I've been going to Blood Manor since 2009 and the rooms have always been top notch and the actors as intimidating and sarcastic as ever. What you don't realize is the level of effects that go in as makeup and costumes transform regular actors into a split personality schizo monsters. They'll get in your face, chew your ear off (literally if they had a chance) and the sheer girth of some of these actors is as intimidating as their personalities.

All of this happening while you're trying to find the exit.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Blood Manor is the Michael Bay of haunted houses. The walk through in Blood Manor is as frenetic or as easy going as you want it to be. The actors laugh hysterically and maniacally. They say they want to be your friend but they're probably going to just fuck with you in every way possible.

The ending is as its been for the last few years, highly colorized. But still seems to make Blood Manor distinctly pre-packaged scary. This year they've added a few new touches to scare and to make everything more orderly. A time ticket cuts wait times and a "Touch Me Thursday" as limited touching by the actors. After Halloween, Blackout Nights aim to amp up the dread.

If your tween girl needs to get her haunt on, Blood Manor is her pumpkin spice latte.


The Vitals

 Check out the trailer below.



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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Jaded Viewer Returns!

 

Wow that was one hell of a hiatus. Have I not really blogged since Nov 8th 2013?? Jeezus. And no explanation of my disappearance. WTF me! Well if you've just abandoned all ye hope, I don't blame you. It is what is is.

Well I don't know what to tell you. I just needed a break and honestly I was lacking in viewing any horror of late. I watched a few Marvel movies and a few comedies, I really don't know what happened. It probably has to do with a busted computer infected with all sorts of digital Ebola and my lack of access to film screeners. But these are lame excuses I know.

However with Halloween fast approaching, I think I need to get back into the horror state of mind. That means hopefully reviews of NYC haunted houses and the season crop of horror movies.

And maybe a walkthrough of an infamous haunted house that I've been promising for like fuckin forever.

Let me start off by giving you what I thought was the best in 2013.

V/H/S 2, Maniac, Evil Dead, The Battery and the best horror flick I saw last year was You're Next.

I think what's rejuvenated me are two flicks I'm super psyched for.

Kevin Smith's Tusk and Adam Wingard The Guest.

God I hope they are fuckin awesome.

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus and I hope you'll come back and read up on my random horror musings. One final thing. I want to end this blog on a good note so I'm officially letting it be known this is the final season of the jaded viewer.

I'm not sure what the exact end date is but this time, I'll let you know. No idea why I put up that Superman 2 ending. It was floating in my head when I decided to reboot.

Sorry I've been away to long. I won't let you down again,

'Murica!



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Friday, November 08, 2013

The Green Inferno (Review)


The Green Inferno
The Green Inferno (2013)
Directed by Ei Roth

"I wonder who the real cannibals are."

-Professor Harold Monroe

Its funny. Every now and then I'll check my stats and realize this post "Top 5 Cannibal Movies Of All Time" will get some traffic. It's an old post, the videos don't work anymore but it still resonates with people searching for the exploitation of old. The cannibal genre.

I've been itching to see The Green Inferno ever since I heard Eli Roth was making of it. I knew this genre was in good hands as Roth knows the people who made the genre what it is. He's well aware horror mavericks like myself will compare it to Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Uberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox. But he preambled the NYC premiere of The Green Inferno by saying that it was a different kind of cannibal film and that we need to put what we know of those films in a vault and take The Green Inferno as it is.

And what it is, it's an Eli Roth cannibal film. And it's fuckin awesome.

The Green Inferno is a buffet of modern day exploitation and wicked satire with a heaping spoonful of blood, guts and splatter.  This is probably the best movie Roth has ever made. His other films only touched on fleeting fears, but with The Green Inferno, his scathing critique of slacktivism is smart as it is millennial.  Generation Y is in the crosshairs and Roth scalps them cleanly by using every tool in his horror arsenal. It's a fun romp seeing good-doers face ultimate terror by the people they are there to protect. The cannibals are unleashed and make no apologies for who and why they are. It's fuckin brutal and fuckin glorious. What we have here jaded viewers is a perfect game within the horror exploitation trope. This is as good as it gets.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

A group of student activists travel from New York City to the Amazon to save a dying tribe but crash in the jungle and are taken hostage by the very natives they protected.


Awesome Review-O-Matic

If only our slacktivists had read this list, they'd probably be alive.

With The Green Inferno, we see the pillars of the horror and exploitation genre mixed in. Our final girl Justine (Lorenza Izzo) a student at Columbia University in NYC learns about the modern day horrors of the world she lives in and feels obligated to do something (see white guilt). Her roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferriera) is like the rest of us. Her 'tude: That shit isn't my problem. When she meets some hippie radicals led by Alejandro (Ariel Levy) she self motivates herself to join them to stop the evil corporations from bulldozing the native tribes homes in Peru.

The set up is of course designed to ridicule this new Twitter world of hashtag slacktivism. Conversations in the film echo how real world change is a process instead of a viral video. Ignoring this practical advice, the group has their sights on live streaming the horror from the Amazon with hashtags and shaky phone cams. Roth alluded to the KONY video and how a like and retweet are now the methods Millennials show they are smart, pseudo activists and PC.  Rarely does anybody get off their ass to do something real. Such is the world we live in and as these American kids see how the 3rd world lives it's full of full frontal irony.

These are bookends of The Green Inferno. Roth forces us to chug how we think the world should be with what it really is. But in between we get chock full of the wickedest slaughter I've ever seen on film.

The gore and splatter hit high marks all around in Inferno. You can thank Make Up Effects guru Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead fame for some of that. The spectacular plane crash with stunning  "Oh Shit!" kills to the slice and dice meals for our natives are spectacularly done. Body parts are removed, ocular and mouth trauma will make gorehounds happy and yes, we get heads on poles.  Roth homages Deodato and Lenzi and if you have a keen eye (or have watched Cannibal Holocaust 1000x) you'll see them. It's cruel deaths in it's most undiluted form. It has spectacular bloody kills, even more than all the Hostel films put together.

Within this chaotic blood-o-rams are colorful cannibals that bring another dimension to the savages. They are not evil per say, but more so uncivilized which probably is more frightening to the city dwellers. Led by a queen and an enforcer, the cannibals are happy to be munching on what they perceive as the real savages. Their meals are our worst fear and though we should detest their actions, it's more of a WTF, it's who they are type attitude. The funny part of all of this is that Roth and his crew used real natives who had never seen a real film before and were even amazed by ice cubes. Lots of indie DIY filmmaking too. The realness shows here, on the faces of the tribe playing a fictional secluded tribe and more so in the children who mock and are intrigued by our gringos. Roth puts in his own touch on real animals doing real shhit but not as fucked up as Deoadato's real life cruelty.

So you'd think a movie with sharp critiques and splatter would be a straightforward horror film. But with Roth, the gags, funnies and humor all seem to find a balance in Inferno. You'll see it play out between the students, the cannibals and in the fact that somebody is getting chopped up and fuckin eaten. In this most absurd premise, Roth makes the hashtag #cannibalsgetthemunchies take on a whole new different meaning.

The performance by Lorenza Izzo is solid. You feel obligated to root for her as compared to the other hotties, they play out as stereotypical panic girls. Levy's Alejandro is tall, dark and ambitiously mysterious. Comic relief comes in the form of Jonah (Aaron Burns), some stoners and a bearded hipster.

I will say a lot of people will be surprised by Eli Roth's latest flick (it's been 6 years since he directed Hostel II). It's as good as a Quentin Tarantino exploitation homage but without the long winded conversations and alternate histories. What The Green Inferno seems to show is that the cannibal film defies any decade when done in a way that is clever, insightful and has the most gut wrenching scenes of civilization gone awry. It's a genre being introduced to the generation that should be ashamed they don't know shit about what happens in the real world, but see it filtered through tweets and posts and goddamn Instagram coloring.

Who are the real cannibals?

Probably the current generation that consumes that shit, shits that shit and enjoys it all.

Fuckers.

Nude-ipedia 

Surprisingly none

Gore-ipedia 

Heaping mountains of it. It's all glorious. GLORIOUS!!!!

WTF moment 

Ants. Nuff said.

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

The Green Inferno will be in theaters next year. It's MUST SEE. It will probably be one of my best movies of 2014 list for sure (going to rank this when the flick gets a wide release). Oh lovely cannibals, how I love this fuckin genre.


 Rating:

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Jaded Viewer Halloween Super Awesomeness Adventure Guide


Happy Halloween jaded viewers.

If you're looking for super awesomeness today, you've come to the right place. Below you'll find all my reviews for all the NYC haunted houses and Halloween events as well as a few of the Long Island haunts I went to.

Whatever your poison is this Halloween, remember to check for razor blades in apples. That really happens.

New York City

Long Island
Maryland

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gateway's Haunted Playhouse (Review)


To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island a few weeks back. Our final stop was Gateway's Haunted Playhouse, a haunt that has been on top 10 lists and voted #1 haunt in LI for consecutive years. I didn't know what to expect, I had only read a few Yelp reviews but "C" from TRABC had proclaimed it as one of the best haunts she's ever been to.

And after experiencing it, I absolutely 100% agree.

Just to put it in writing, Gateway's Haunted Playhouse is one of the best haunted houses I have ever been to. The set pieces, the actors and the dedication to making something new and inventive separates Gateway from the rest. It's a haunt like no other. Located in Bellport, NY the haunted playhouse takes place at an actual working playhouse. This theater is transformed into an inside and outside haunt that this year goes from circus freakshow to twisted fairy tales. It's this dedication to authenticity that stands out. The props and rooms are made from scratch, the actors immerse themselves into their parts and the scares are well timed and flow perfectly. This is as close to a perfect haunted house as you can get.

First, let's go over the atmosphere and how they've set up their ticketing and line system. Sure they have a fast pass option but you buy tickets on a first come first serve basis. When your ready to be called, they'll let you know. In the meantime, you get to wait by having drinks and being entertained by performers (when I went I saw a fire eater, you know typical HH stuff). Even the waiting is designed to be less of a hassle as you can wait.

Entering the haunt in small groups, you'll encounter the backstage...literally. Each prop, room and setting seems systematically designed to transport you into another world.  From the bizarre world of behind the scenes of a theater to a 1000 Maniacs like circus county fair, you get to walk into a maze of twists and turns that have you literally trapped with these crazies. And they are wonderfully awesome highly interactive crazies.

Outside you'll walk into an assortment of freaks and weirdos. Dog and lizard boys and a grandmaster who mocks you. It's a miss mash of the bizarre and the abnormal and it's done with that flair for the absurd that makes you glad you were here. An ambulance oddly placed is creatively fun to go through and as you head inside, you wish you could hang with these lovely nuts for the rest of the night.

Inside the funhouse it gets funner. We enter a dreamworld of the most fucked up fairy tales you'll ever encounter. From Hansel and Gretel to Rapunzel, each room is a twisted Disney prince and princess as if they were locked in a dungeon and brutally tortured. The rooms are brilliantly dressed and even the in between rooms connect it all together. It's not just the visual and the auditory. Here at Gateway you'll smell things that go from sweet and happy to repulsive and disgusting. It's smell-o-vision and it is freakin awesome. Darkness leads to strobe lights that lead to rooms where walking becomes a chore. This leads to an ending that will literally knock you off your feet.

I do think this wonderland could have reached into the fear bucket a bit more. It's more a walk through Oz than a terror factory. Sure there are your fair share of jump scares but all was pretty standard when it came to the BOOs! If there is one place that can make the darkness more terrifying, I think it would be Gateway and I hope they try next year to add this element in.

Aside from my wish list, when you have your working parts working in sync, Gateway Haunted Playhouse is 40 or so minutes of exhilaration. You can see this isn't your store bought haunt with Travel Channel approved animatronics but a world class production making sure you get a one of a kind experience. Each room is like a hot set, dressed  a Hollywood production. The actors engulf themselves in their roles, their costumes designed to be realistic, their makeup world class. It's like getting walking through an interactive Broadway horror show.

My last stop in LI turned out to be the best. It reminds me that the best isn't always in the city limits. Gateway Haunted Playhouse is the type of haunted attraction that is made by people who want to scare and entertain you in the best way possible. It's far from those assembly line haunts you've all been to. When you've been to as many HH's as I have, you keep looking for the next best thing.

All I had to do was make a trip out east to find it.

The Vitals



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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The 5 Basic Levels of Haunted Houses


There are a lot of lists on the Internet telling you what the best haunted house in America is. Other lists will tell you what the most extreme haunt is. The Raven and Black Cat has a list of the most extreme haunted houses where they will touch you. Clearly, there are levels of haunted houses ranging from family friendly to WTF.  And though I love haunted hayrides my bread and butter has always been the WTF. More and more haunted houses have been setting up more extreme experiences for the 18+ crowd.  But why would anybody subject themselves to full body contact haunts? Why would you want to have bags thrown over your head, suffocated, water boarded and suffer through all elements of torture?

if I had to guess, it would be this.

To me, it's an adrenaline rush and ultimate thrill like no other. I can only equate it to why somebody does an extreme sport like skydiving or bungee jumping. You want to challenge yourself by doing what only a few people get to do. Also, surviving such a crazy attraction is an overall sense of accomplishment. It's a badge of honor you can share with only the others who've done the same.

But ultimately it's a battle of wills. You take on the challenge to face your fears head on. A skydiver is battling gravity and in a sense, a fear of dying. Haunted Houses are man made and create artificial fears. These fears though not life threatening, can clearly be heightened to a crazy degree. All haunted house creates fake phobias we all have in common. Darkness, claustrophobia and others are universal fears some people have experienced head on, while others not so much.

Below is a list of what I think are haunted house levels compared to their extreme sport equivalent. What level are you?

1.) The Roller Coasters (Funhouse Haunted Houses)

I think of roller coasters the same way as I do campy funhouse haunted houses. Long lines and a few minutes of thrills. Coasters come in a variety of forms. Extreme speeds, looping and old timey wooden ones. When compared to to your PG-13 tweenager haunted houses, you'll get your animatronic and prop heavy ones and your Disney ride-along haunts. But they all try to scare the shit out of you. And there seems to be lots of clowns.

2.) The Bungee Jumpers (Traditional Haunted Houses)

Your traditional haunted house these days will come in a variety of ways to scare you shitless. And so it's paired with bungee jumping. All across America, haunts are trying to find new ways to scare the crap at you and bungee jumping has that same effect. You can bungee jump from a bridge overlooking a river or you can bungee in an amusement park. I've also seen people bungee in pairs and off cliffs.

The risk is greater when you bungee jump, you're still safe but it feels a little more exciting. Haunts these days are getting bolder with their haunts. The traditional HH has you going in big groups and they want you to feel like its unsafe (when it actually is) They also want to give you moments of pure helplessness like being in the dark for long periods of time. Are you in danger? Not really. But its the jump scare that gets you in both experiences.

Relatively speaking,  this is the most extreme regular people will get.


3.) The Rope Swingers (Experimental Haunted Houses)

Rope swinging is a  relatively new phenomenon.  It's like bungee jumping but on steroids. Want to know what it's like? Check out this video. I would say this goes in the immersive theater/interactive horror movie like experience. A lot of haunted houses are being experimental and in the same way they are blending the traditional haunt with the more extreme one creating a hybrid. You'll see this in the form of Freakling Bros in Vegas as they offer a traditional haunt with a more extreme one.  Nightmare Killers has the option of being touched. You can even add the haunts run by amateurs. All these haunts are trying something new and looking for people to try it out for the first time.

Experimental haunts can test shit out to see what works and what doesn't. They're still scary as shit but they are trying to find that proverbial edge people won't cross. Crossing that border is where the next level kicks in.


4.) The Skydivers (Extreme Haunted Houses)

There are some people who will skydive but not go to an extreme haunted house. You'd think they'd want the same thrills though I guess those are different levels of extreme. With haunted houses, over the last few years, haunts and productions have been advertising to the Rated R, 18+ crowd.  They've introduced touching and waivers to the mix.  Haunts where the actors get to touch you and I don't mean a tap on the shoulder. Bearhugs, slaps, bags over your head type shit. Pseudo torture in all its forms are employed.

The Raven and Black Cat has an extensive list of haunts that do just that. These are where the weirdos and even more curious weirdos come out. No longer wanting the hayrides, the mazes or the experimental, these brave souls want the shit beaten out of them and want strong sexual content.

With skydiving, it can be relatively safe, one can be tied to an instructor and experience free falling without worrying about all the controls. Others will go further learning to do it alone and even others will now use wing suits to glide through the sky.

Extreme haunts come in a variety of forms as well. Blackout is part theater, part crazy. Freakling Bros Victim Experience seems to be all about the crazy. Other extreme haunts are psychological and get in your head while others like McKamey Manor seem to be an endurance challenge.

This level is clearly on the fringe and is expanding with an audience hungry to challenge them. No longer happy with free falling with trained professionals, participants want to go alone and they want a haunted house that will scare them beyond belief.

People who partake in this extremeness haunts are few and far between. They want waivers and they require safety words. And if they're not going by themselves, something seems wrong.


5.) The Felix Baumgartner (???)

I don't think haunted houses are at this level yet. Hell I don't even know what this stage would entail. But clearly it would be the most extreme thing ever. This could be part Survivor, part play acting. This would be like the Star Trek holodeck without the safety protocols in place.

I made up a fictional experience for April Fools Day called "Stalker". Here is what I said it would be:

"Renegade Productions is proud to introduce a new interactive experience that will be unleashed to the people of New York City this summer. What would it be like to act as a serial killer stalking your prey? What would it be like to be the prey being stalked by a serial killer? In the world of Stalker, those questions will be answered as 2 willing participants face off head to head in a battle of wills straight out of a horror movie."



Does this even look far fetched these days? A while back, I read about a water gun assassination tournament happening in NYC and SF. Kind of underground, kind of ARG-ish. Could a immersive serial killer game really happen? Knowing that extreme is all relative, who really knows?

What would be your idea for an space jump level like haunted house?

*****************************************************************

So what level are you when it comes to haunted houses? Are you a Roller Coaster? Maybe a Skydiver? What would be your idea for a crazy Baumgartner haunt? And if you do go to extreme haunts, sound off on why you go. I'd like to know why people take on the craziest, WTF haunted houses in America.

Leave a comment here, on the Jaded Viewer Facebook page or tweet me!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Nyctophobia 2013 (Review)


To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island a few weeks back. Our second stop was Nyctophobia, an interactive experience I've been dying to try for the last few years.  It changes year after year and what people experienced in 2011 is long gone.  So with some excitement, I headed to my first Nyctophobia haunt.

Nyctophobia is not a haunted house.

That's the tagline this year though in years past, Nyctophobia brought the interactive horror like experience to eastern Long Island.  But creator Eric Striffler has changed it up and this "not a haunted house" resembles more of an audience participation in an real life movie. Part scavenger hunt, part ARG,  the experience itself was absolutely entertaining though the story and timing could use more work.

I immediately tweeted this right after it was over.


Nyctophobia had elements of the PS3 game The Last of Us which cinematically were outstanding. Slight moaning and sounds through the woods will have you jumping on a broken twig in the dead of night. The J-horror I compared the haunt to is in reference to Japanese horror, which tend to use flashbacks to unveil the horror stalking those cell phone obsessed Japanese teenagers. Blended together, they were very different and somehow got muddled as the story developed. It's the hunt that got me giddy.

With "S" and "C" from The Raven and Black Cat, myself and fellow Survivor Bailey Squared, our valiant group of four ventured to the far reaches of LI. Arriving late, we sat in our car, then were approached with a waiver and clipboard and we emphatically all signed on the dotted line.

And it was a go. I won't go into details until after their run is over.  Expect a walkthrough soon.

But if you ever wanted to act as 4 "teenagers" in a mystery, Nyctophobia 2013 makes it happen. We all participated and each had our own "scenes" by sharing the experience together. I got to interact in one scene with an actor and eventually we all "escaped" from the potential dangers set up for us. We drove from one scene to another piecing together clues that would lead us to our next destination. in In one scene, darkness and a wooded path was a mesmerizing cinematic touch and the ending led to an uber jump scare that had one of us stepping back.

The story for 2013's Nyctophobia was hard to comprehend. The clues were there but not easily digestible as you were going through it. We all listened intently but still couldn't understand who was who and what we needed to do to progress the story. I'm sure it's been fixed but I think it could have evolved into a full on IRL theatrical experience that had you improving lines to progress the story. Like a real life Star Trek holodeck. It's not until after did we get it and realized who and what it was all about.

Nyctophobia is definitely not a haunted house. It probably falls into that Sleep No More and Then She Fell category but instead of immersive theatre, it's immersive cinema. The Gen Y Millennials are short attention spanned and need the quick cut Michael Bay explosions. They also need the horror movies that have less build up and more kill scenes. They want the torture porn and instead got slow burn Ti West cinema.  This generation can't appreciate the methodical plotting of good indie horror. It's kind of sad. But if you want to enjoy Nyctophobia, you'll need to take it slow, enjoy the build up and make your own conversations between you and your friends entertaining. Somebody has to be comic relief right?

I will say that it did end abruptly. It seemed like it could have lasted more than an hour but we completed it in less than that. I would suggest it head into the more digital realm, maybe use more text messages, tweets and social media to lead a team to their next destination. As much as the horror myth of having no cell signal is ever evident in movies, it's not the case IRL.

Nyctophobia is going to evolve the interactive immersive cinema experience into a must go event. Striffler will make sure of that. This wave of interactive theater is clearly only beginning and talented artists are redefining the conventions of our entertainment. I'm excited to see what's next and believe when your partaking in a world constructed for you and your friends, we've only seen a glimpse of what's to come.

And I'll be excited if Nyctophobia is leading the way.

The Vitals

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Adventureland's Nightmare on the Midway (Review)


To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island. Our first stop was Jesse Eisenberg approved, Adventureland's Nightmare on the Midway and if you're looking for a place to take the kids, this is it.

The Long Island staple of amusement parks Adventureland is rich with nostalgia and oozes of summertime throwback fun. Adventureland is trying their luck with Nightmare and for a family friendly Halloween adventure, it's pretty solid. This month it as has been turned into a spooky Halloween attraction complete with monsters running amock and rides to be ridden in the pale moonlight. And they do have some haunted houses to get your fright on.

After sundown, you'll get to go to a zombie themed maze, "Zombie Asylum" which is a quick romp with screaming actors and an Addams family approved props ranging from wired gates keeping the costumed undead away.  It's as PG-13 as you can get and the tweenagers should be happy with their walk through. Teenagers may have attitude as they get accosted by other teenagers looking to scare them. Lots of screaming by both parties.

A haunted train ride which probably in the daytime is innocent is turned into something the kids who need to get their hayride fix in may enjoy. The train takes you all over the mini me park and slows down as stealthy actors in a variety of costumes and make and even one in a military style grass camouflage BOO you during the ride. The train passes a few stationary settings with Spencer Gifts props and animatronics but it's the actors that do their best to make it work. "S" from RABC, suggested there should be a tour guide who possibly could give you a story to what you'll encounter. I highly agree. A guide would distract from the actors ready to pop up for the jump scare.

Finally, we encountered a ride that made inner kid me smile. An old school Haunted Mansion like ride-a-long that has you encountering old school animatronics mixed in with some digital tech and packed with Universal monsters from Dracs to mummies. Good stuff. I love Disney like rides and with the ride a passenger for two, tweens will probably like it more.

Adventureland is trying something new and they are off to a good start. They've been adapting as they go along and have already made a few changes to make it all a good time for the Halloween starved Islanders and city folk who road trip out there. To compete in the multi million dollar Halloween haunted house industry in October, you really do need to stand out from the rest. I would highly suggest they take their namesake and milk the fact a movie with zombies in it took place in something similar. Wouldn't you want to go to a working Zombieland attraction? I would.

Nightmare on the Midway is a solid Halloween attraction for families, tweens and those high octane millennials. Riding a roller coaster at night with Jason Voorhees stalking you in is great (this happened!), a few mazes for your jump scares and old school rides that make you all nostalgic.  For a packaged price, the rides and Halloween themed attractions are hard to resist.

Now if we get a few more zombies chasing me around the park, I'd be happy as Carl when got his gun back from Rick in the last episode of The Waling Dead.

The Vitals

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