Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gateway's Haunted Playhouse 2014 (Review)

You never really know what you'll expect when you go to a haunted house. The night before you go, you start dreaming up worst case scenarios, the unthinkable, the WTF. These dreams become nightmares, frightmares and terrifying dreamscapes. When you wake up, you start to realize it's all in your head. Your mind playing tricks on you.

Then you head to the haunted house. Relatively ready and prepared that none of what you dreamed up couldn't actually be true, you enter all ready to go.

That's when Gateway's Haunted Playhouse takes your nightmare and makes it into reality.

Gateway's Haunted Playhouse is one of the most inventive, creative and clever haunted houses in all of America. This year, they've incorporated a theme of dreams and nightmares and the haunt takes this theme and amplifies it into maximum terror. You'll be diagnosed by doctors and nurses, rattled by mad patients and be stalked by killer kids. This all happening in the midst of a maze spanning indoors and outdoors and have you jumping at every corner.

This is my second time going through Gateway. I have always thought their layout is what a haunt should be. Located in Bellport, NY the haunt is built on top of an actual theater/playhouse and its all done by a cast and crew full of that DIY and indie spirit. An outdoor bar supplies liquid courage as you wait for your turn to enter the haunt and food trucks supply some fast treats. They also have outside acts like fire breathers, coffin rides and will have on tap some interactive entertainment for the family to enjoy in the next few weeks. Gateway really makes it a true night of horror-ific entertainment.

But the creme de la creme is the haunted playhouse.

The entrance is a spooktacular homage to an asylum gone wrong. You'll go in and see mental patients, doctors and nurses in all states of disarray. As you walk through, the constant echo of a simple whisper of "Don't go to sleep" will be heard, a reminder that you've enter a Freddy Krueger like dreamworld where your worst fears are now coming to life. Children, tweens and teens cackle in the dark and what seems to be lifeless corpses will reanimate without notice. Each room is crafted into it's own box of nightmare artifacts and has its unique brand of creepy. The smells will fill you with revulsion, the floors will feel like jello and keep you off balance. Tight spaces, body bags and well timed gusts of pressurized air are just one of the many things to keep you on your toes.

One of the highlights that got me literally jumping up and down are the well timed, human and computer activated props. Look out for things from above and when you think your safe an innocent looking room will fall and contract. One gigantic mechanical prop monster jump scared the shit out of me. The genius in this is that all these props and monster effects are hand crafted by the team at Gateway. These aren't your bought through a haunted house Halloween factory animatronics. They are detailed, built in house and meticulously crafted instruments of terror. You'll also encounter a school bus from hell and an ending that will have you holding on for dear life.

The production team at Gateway does a good job of spacing out the haunt so that the people don't feel like cattle. It seems a groups span 6 or so people and they are spread evenly and when it does get to feel like a line at the post office, actors will make sure to "trap" you so that it evens itself out.

The overall theme can get lost if you're not paying attention. I had hoped the actors would keep reiterating the sleep theme as you go along but it wasn't that evident at times. It did also get a bit crowded during the walk through and as I played leader, I tried to do a bit of separation from the people ahead of me. Also, some well conceived scares where darkness and an actor with a flashlight didn't go as planned. Finally, you may have to wait a bit to enter if you don't have a fast pass but being in the Midway with drink and food should keep you occupied as you wait your turn. But these are all little nitpicks in an otherwise awesome haunted house.

Gateway Haunted Playhouse should be the example of what a well executed, done with passion haunted house should be. Haunt Director Michael Baker and Managing Producer Paul Allan run a haunted attraction with stellar actors, top notch special effects and a desire to make sure you walk out of the haunted playhouse exhilarated and entertained.

Whatever nightmare you've long feared will be right in front of you when you enter Gateway's Haunted Playhouse. Halloween is a time to meet them the face to face.

Why don't you face it head on and have fun doing it at one of the best haunted houses in America.

The Vitals

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