Phantom Fright Nights @ Kennywood 10/21

Monday, October 24, 2011 10:14 AM

After a long hiatus, I finally made it back down to Fright Nights @ Kennywood. This was the first time I'd been there since... high school? Yikes. Plus I still hadn't been on Sky Rocket, despite living all of 20 minutes from the park. I know, I know, bad coaster nerd.

Anyway, a brief rundown:

Sky Rocket: Good addition to the park; schizophrenic ride. The first half is quite ballsy, and the zero-G roll is the best roll I've been on this side of Blue Fire @ Europa Park's spectacular finale twist. After that last inversion though, it's bizarrely boring. What the logic was behind stilting that ending 20-30' in the air instead of milking a little more speed and intensity out of the ride... I just don't understand. Awesome first half, almost humorously dull finish.

Phantom and Thunderbolt were both running really well despite temps in the low 40s, quite impressive.

Jack Rabbit: Got my usual last car ride and it didn't disappoint. I did seem to notice a marked lack of fog compared to my past Fright Nights experience... the first year (or two?) I seem to remember the whole Jack Rabbit valley being flooded with fog, which really added a lot to an already good ride. I missed that, but the effects in the tunnel sorta made up for it. Again running great in spite of the temperature.

On to the haunts! As I said, it had been a long time since I'd been to Fright Nights, so I was excited to see how the haunts had progressed. As a warning, there may be a few slight spoilers. Let's start with the good and work our way down...

Dark Shadow: This haunt is back in Kiddieland and is truly spectacular. For me it was the most genuinely terrifying, which was impressive because it seemed to have the fewest actual actors. Sensory deprivation was the name of the game - lots of darkness, lots of fog, lots of claustrophobia. This haunt operates largely on the power of suggestion, and it knocks it out of the park. A fantastic haunt. Must-do.

Noah's Ark: I don't recall the exact name of the haunt, but this is a full-on makeover of Kennywood's classic walk-through attraction. Terrifying, and once you get on the ship, the rocking action just adds another dimension of unsettled-ness to an already spooky haunt. Good actors too. Another must-do.

Mortem Manor: My first time through this one as it usually has a colossal line, and I'm glad I finally made it through. Dark, scary, and I had a particularly good/terrifying experience towards the end - There was a long dark hallway with a very slow strobe light, making for a very cool effect... flash of bright, long time in the dark, flash of bright, long time in the dark, etc. An actor posed as a statue made no sound and with no obvious motion, began following our group down the hall, catching up with us more and more with every FLASH of light. Expletives were shouted - a surefire sign of a wonderfully spooky haunt, and give that creepy strobe light guy a raise. Another must-do for me in the future.

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Voodoo Bayou: This haunt goes through the trough of Raging Rapids, the park's raft/rapids ride. I was... very underwhelmed. It starts off with a guide explaining the story of the haunt ("good and evil souls haunt this bayou, try to rescue the good souls on your way through but watch out for the bad ones!"). "Cool!" thought I, "a story and the suggestion of interactivity? Even cooler! I wonder how that'll work out..." Once inside the haunt however, that story is gone. There were no obviously 'good' spirits, and the 'evil' ones were few and far between. It was a lot of walking down a too-wide, far too brightly lit path, with far, far too few actors to even keep interest. Disappointing, I'd definitely recommend skipping this one.

BioFear: New for this year, this haunt is over in a pavilion by the Log Jammer... I believe formerly occupied by 'Killer Clowns 3D' or something similar. It's apparent that a lot of work went into this one - it's themed to a tour of a genetics research facility (gone wrong, of course), and has a cool, cohesive story.

But.

The execution is very lacking, and the result is that a potentially amazing, well-themed haunt is just not scary. I'll narrate it a bit to help outline why that is.

To start, you're lined up single file by a very serious looking military-esque guard at a very serious looking guard shack. After a back-and-forth with the guard, you're directed into a pre-show room, with a cool video that sets up the haunt nicely, is genuinely spooky, and has some good interaction with the guard who has ushered you on to this point so far. Unfortunately, solidly half the video is a 'scientist/doctor' guy going over the usual 'don't touch the actors, don't use your cell phone, don't take pictures, no flashlights' spiel. It's hugely distracting and ruins any sense of immersion. Weren't we just at a security/guard shack anyway? Why didn't the intimidating, real security guard tell us about all these rules and regulations before the tour was supposed to start? Wouldn't that kind of be his job? Anyway... after the audience has all but completely stopped paying attention, smoky bio-fog fills the room on the screen (remember this), which leads to Very Bad Things, and you are ushered into your tour.

Once inside, the haunt progresses through ever-increasing levels of things-gone-wrong, and you pass a series of really well-done props and some good actors, but it is, among other things, far, far too brightly lit. Also, the bio-fog that filled the room on the pre-show video? Totally absent. The end result is that you can see *everything* well before it happens, and it feels like walking through a bunch of vaguely spooky dioramas that are not actually the slightest bit scary.

I think this haunt has a TON of potential... it has a clear, coherent story but really anti-scary execution. It's more, "Look at all the work we did on this haunt!" rather than, "we're trying to scare your pants off." It would honestly be 100x better if it were twice as dark and filled with fog. But it's not, so... it's lame. Pass on this one this year, and hopefully they stick with it and step up the game a bit next year.

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Some other little touches around the park - in Lost Kennywood there is a wonderfully disgusting port-o-john. It seems to be the perfect place for a photo op, until you get close to it and it sprays you with what you can only hope is water. Gross. There were quite a few really good actors hanging out all around the park too - hiding in bushes where you'd least expect (ride exits, less-taken paths), which caught us off guard a number of times.

All in all it's a really great event and I highly recommend making it down if you can (Fridays rather than Saturdays if you can help it to avoid crowds). Kennywood really goes all out for this event and it's just an awesome experience.

Last edited by BBSpeed26, Monday, October 24, 2011 2:48 PM
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011 6:01 AM

BBSpeed26 said:
Some other little touches around the park - in Lost Kennywood there is a wonderfully disgusting port-o-john. It seems to be the perfect place for a photo op, until you get close to it and it sprays you with what you can only hope is water.

One of Dorney's Haunts..pretty sure it was Backwoods...features that, too. It's not a Port-a-John, though..it's designed as an outhouse.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011 6:50 AM

The same thing is in Cornstalkers at CP.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1:06 PM

Great report! Coasters in low 40s weather - an experience you don't want to miss. Really though, it always gives me that warm feeling - Halloween y'all!

Here's a video shot during a recent ACE event.It seems most parks have a more involved atmosphere (including ghouls) than my home park, SF Great America.

Also notice a sweet cover version of "Science Fiction, Double Feature." A song that has many covers including ones by the Misfits and Joan Jett.

edit - oops forgot to add video link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7XqM1_cuQ8

Last edited by CoasterDemon, Wednesday, October 26, 2011 2:07 PM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1:08 PM

Donde esta el video?

I didn't know ANYONE did a version of my favorite movie title song...

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