Review of Dungeon of Horrors WV Haunted Attraction

Review of Dungeon of Horrors WV Haunted Attraction

Review of Dungeon of Horrors WV Haunted Attraction

Dungeon of Horrors WV

Dungeon of Horrors WV is a Haunted Attraction located in Moundsville, WV.

818 Jefferson Ave, Moundsville, WV 26041
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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line

Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this Haunted Attraction on October 11, 2019.

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Final Score: 8.14

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Go to Hell!

Don’t worry; at Dungeon of Horrors at least, it’s a wild ride down.

Back again for another season, Dungeon of Horrors in Moundsville, West Virginia features an exciting blend of a realistic death row prison experience and a horrific glimpse of what may come after. It’s a long journey, with some thrilling experiences along the way, and plenty of wicked Hellians to keep you company.

The Fiery Lake awaits in Moundsville. Eternal Damnation has never been so much fun.

Cast: 7.77

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Dungeon of Horrors features a very young cast. It seemed that beyond a handful of adults, most of the actors that we encountered were school-aged. In some roles, this worked perfectly well, but for others, well… it does break the suspension of disbelief a bit being strapped down in Old Sparky by a 14 or 15 year old prison guard.

Still, the first two guards maintained appropriate intensity without shifting into needlessly-uncomfortable territory. The atmosphere generated by the actors in the prison portion were a nice middle ground between the “probably leave the kids at home” intensity of the first season we reviewed and the light-hearted version from last season.

Of course the curiously-horned Last Rites priest excelled as the most intense actor (he REALLY hated us), while the congenial Ringmaster and his lovely assistant were about as close to “friendly” as Hell’s horde was to us.

In fairness, though, several of the young haunters did provide a few of the best performances that we encountered. The pushy cemetery plot salesman got top nods for his comical, interactive delivery, even if his fees were more than we could ultimately afford. A word of caution, however, be sure not to ask him about Bill. He hates that.

The Wheel of Torment-room governess must have been told a unshakably hilarious joke before we arrived. To eschew the awkwardness, we chose to laugh right along with her while performing our menial slog.

The two gals who shepherded us into our afterlife carriages were intense and clever (“GO TO HELL” as one’s parting remark was worth a chuckle), as were the mortuary attacker and victim.

The actor load was a bit light overall, with a few extended dead spots. Though the haunt is, by its nature, very interactive, only a handful of actors offered off-script responses to our inquiries, and there were quite a few rough performances that we encountered.

Costuming: 6.9

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To get it out of the way, the antagonists featured in the first, semi-realistic portion of the attraction were prison guards. They wore prison guard outfits – no problem there; the horned clergyman is a bit of an oddity, but I can see what they were going for.

The real costuming issue commences post-mortem. While prison guards wearing “normal” clothes is as logical a costuming choice a haunt can have, the vast majority of actors that we encountered during the fantastical section of the attraction were ALSO wearing “normal” clothes. Sometimes this could be rationalized away to varying degrees (depending on the context of the underworld scene we were viewing), but it was just far too common and conspicuous throughout most scenes. I realize that a characterization can occasionally get by with a set of dark, otherwise-ordinary clothing, but it’s difficult to envision the great hellions of Hades’s legions showing up for battle in jeans and t-shirts without chuckling.

There were a few interesting costumes on display, for sure. The obvious stand-out was a monstrous bat who lead us past the underground pool. It was a unique outfit with definite menace locked into its scowling exterior. The last actor, sporting a snazzy, webby ensemble made up for an earlier, woeful web-based costume (literally some Spirit webbing tossed over a normal outfit haphazardly). The Ringmaster wore appropriately gaudy and colorful apparel, and the hypocritical friar (we can SEE the devil horns, bro) who well-wished us into infinity, appeared authentically pious from the neck down. The purveyor of the very first scare wore a cute clown costume… as he sought to murder us.

Makeup was largely basic — often adequate, sometimes rough. In general, there was just enough for most characterizations as to get the general “point” across.

There were a handful of masks in use. One mask that was otherwise interesting (a two-headed oddity from the circus area) was unfortunately undermined by its own sloppy usage. Generally, when actors utilized masks, it is highly recommended that the bottom of the mask be covered by clothing. It helps to sell the illusion of being genuine and not an obvious mask. Because this character was only in street clothes, the mask was not tucked-in and, well, looked pretty silly.

Customer Service: 9.23

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Though there weren’t any sort of parking spotters, we saw multiple parking lots open and available near the entrance to the attraction, and plenty of room along the road for additional parking. Given the ticketing style in use this year, this is more than enough space.

The Dungeon seems to switch its starting position every year or two, with this year maintaining that trend. Last season’s thriving hub area is now present only at the end of the attraction. Instead, customers enter the Dungeon from the side of the building (near the parking lots).

Because of this change, the area surrounding the entrance was largely threadbare. Excluding a few portable toilets and an unattended strongman game, there was a single food truck (with some haunt-unique items available). There is a well-stocked merchandise area available inside the prison which I’d imagine is only accessible to customers who have been accepted into the attraction but not yet actually begun their tour. We didn’t notice any pre-haunt entertainment or line scarers, though there also wasn’t a line…

…Because this season Dungeon of Horrors has reverted to a timed-ticketing system. Customers purchase tickets in advance for a specific time slot (at 15 minute intervals), so obnoxious line-waiting has been removed. This is always a very welcome design that helps both sides of the business.

AFTER the attraction has completed, we emerged into last season’s courtyard. It has retained its zombie paintball play area.

All of the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful.

Atmosphere: 8.69

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Due in no small part, I’d imagine, to the reintroduction of timed-ticketing, both the beginning and end hub areas were surprisingly quiet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a haunted attraction inside a massive, Gothic prison, but it was certainly noticeable how calm everything felt. Excluding a few lights strobing the side of the prison, the facade was kept fairly natural. Again, that “natural” is still a mega-creepy prison.

Also, the in-theme bus ride portion that traditionally ferries haunt-goer’s to the beginning of the attraction was discontinued this season. We had mixed-feelings about this. In terms of atmosphere, though, its lack erased a degree of immersion within the attraction. Previously, the bus ride served as the transition betwixt reality and the fantastic. Without it, we were thrust directly into the custody of a guard we had seen smiling jovially a few minutes prior. This change was a bit jarring without the bus ride.

The location still has a great feel overall, with the prison’s oppressive mass providing ample palm-sweat as we awaited our turn.

Special Effects: 8.18

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Fortunately, the Dungeon has retained all its best set pieces from last season. Their River Styx effect/experience remains the apex of laser swampdom. Claustrophobic digestion through the internal organs of a monstrous insect is always a fun journey as well, and the best-framed version of that classic effect (I noticed this year that insectoid body parts are affixed to the end of the tunnel as well… does that mean that we passed through the organism’s entire digestive process? A butt; I’m asking if we just came out of its butt).

Speaking of cramped journeys, the pair of miniature, haunted thrill rides remain as well. Because they are such a welcome surprise to any first time visitors, I prefer to keep these excellent side-expeditions enigmatic. They’re still gleefully fun, though, like abbreviated entries in a macabre theme park.

One Special Effect staple that has lost some of its potency, though, is the concluding dark maze. It seemed much lighter this year which made traversing it significantly less grandiose. Perhaps safety concerns are the culprit here, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

The Dungeon includes two massive animatronic monstrosities, including Ol’ Red who provides a summary of the second half’s story line. His first few years he seemed to suffer from some form of diabolical speech impediment, but this time around he was as coherent and sober as we could have asked for. Also, it occurred to me this year that my boy sounds eerily John Goodmany. Do you have a confession to make, Mr. Conner?

Despite adding a few new sets (an evil church, circus, mortuary), the cemetery stretch is probably still the Dungeon’s best aesthetic segment. With rows of realistic tombstones jutting out of real dirt plots, it’s a great immersive environment. The underground pool/fountain area and it’s introductory drawbridge are also a definite treat.

Set design on the whole, though, felt especially barren. In addition to multiple portions of mostly uninteresting black walls with occasional lighting effects, we passed through one orange room or hallway that seemed to have received no “haunt attention” at all.

One thing that did improve this season was the use of ambient sounds. Many of the areas featured interesting, varied soundtracks. The “wooden maze” “Styx”, “Evil Chapel” and the “sheet maze” were among the best examples, not overpowering the scenes they overlaid, but enhancing them. The chapel’s background chanting was especially effective.

I suppose it should be mentioned here as a form of FX – the haunt rules are presented before the attraction begins via a long, satirical video. It’s an interesting method to provide that information, but… yeah, let’s leave it at that.

Combining decent FX and set design, a post-catastrophe bus lines the outdoor tract that connects the main attraction to the last, self-contained sliver at its end. Hazy and dreadful, it was a nice chunk of eye candy to close out the experience, but it would have been nice to have actually been able to walk through it instead of beside it. Next year perhaps.

Theme: 8.83

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Since their large remodel a few years ago, the theme at Dungeon Horrors has, broadly, remained this same : the customer is taken to prison after having been sentenced of a significant crime, is executed, and then descends into Hades. Sunshine and rainbows – you know. The initial version made a play at Dante’ing up the Pit with a stronger narrative, but that element has been abandoned.

With the abrupt introduction to the attraction, things aren’t spelled out as fully this year and progress too quickly, and one could be forgiven for not really understanding what is happening before the execution scene. After that, the literal and metaphorical descent is pretty tough to miss. The Infernal Big Cheese spells things out as well.

At first, I was confused as to why a circus, morgue, etc, would be in Hell, but after listening to Big Red’s monologue again, I realized that we were being subjected to our deepest fears. I suppose just about anything could qualify within that framework, so no further issues, Your Honor.

Though, there weren’t any people-sized army ants clicking their disgusting little pincered-faces in my direction, so El Diablo may have been a bit off in his calculations. He’s not perfect, after all. That’s the other Guy (I’m told).

As I mentioned in Cast, the teen prison guard was a bit of a stretch. Also, the random, untouched room that we passed through tugged at the fabric of illusion pretty strongly. Does Hell have a maintenance closet?

It’s still a great transition between the realistic death row experience and the underworld. That aspect of the theme continues to hold up well.

Scare Factor: 8.39

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Again, let me begin with the pseudo-realistic prison segment. As I mentioned before, its moderate intensity worked as a good build-up. Obviously being placed in a prison cell with an overbearing prison guard harassing you as you listen to the unsimulated cries of previous customers is an excellent realistic fright. The execution scene with its UNBELIEVABLY loud effects will also amp up the heart-rate of any patrons who are first time visitors.

For any haunt fans who hate glare-scares and boo-startles, the Dungeon was pretty light on both. Most of the actors were involved in the vignettes that played out in each room to some degree, on one side or other of the unfolding sadism. Therefore, most of the fright attempts (and efforts to establish an overall spooky atmosphere) were derived from our interactions with those characters. A few of these were efficient, but too often the “scary” culmination of a scene or interaction simply evolved into the actor screaming as loud as he or she could at us until we left. Obviously this can be a worthwhile tactic but it was definitely overused. On the plus side, these scares generally applied to every member of our group.

Of the few startle scares, the best seemed to involve non-human contributors, at least in part. The giant, chained demon that suddenly appeared beside us was surprisingly startling. The long-standing vibrating hallway still hasn’t gotten old.

There were a few other distraction-infused pop-ups but those must be left to the imagination until you visit.

The dark maze’s potency has been reduced this year as a (kind-of) send-off, but is still a pretty effective way to inflict a final bit of psychological torment on oneself before escaping.

Entertainment & Value: 8.15

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At 39 minutes long, Dungeons of Horrors still runs pretty long for a haunted attraction – longer if one were to include the rules video. A general admission ticket is $25. Therefore the MPD is a healthy 1.56. The duration does fluctuate due to the nature of (actual) mazes, and the Dungeon’s (sort of) ultimate antagonist is certainly the real deal, even if it’s a bit brighter now.

As I mentioned earlier, zombie paintball is still available for an up-charge. More importantly, though, the scary-in-a-different-way North Walk tour is also still going on for $20. Booking a slot for each attraction is a great way to spend the haunted evening.

There’s no denying that we feel that this season’s Dungeon is a step backwards. Since their big redesign a few years ago, we’ve only noticed minor additions each season, but this year was probably the most underwhelming evolution. Fortunately, the best elements of the attraction remain (if surrounded by largely hit-or-miss actor performances), so it was still a very fun attraction, and could even be considered more of a family haunt this year – minus a simulated beheading or two. And who doesn’t love the inherently-creepy architecture of the greatest set piece from the attraction, the prison itself?

The Dungeon of Horrors is still an exciting way to spend a haunted weekend… as long as you remember to pay the ferryman!

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Guest Reviews
Guest Average: 9.75 out of 10

DC Books – 9.5/10
Amazing haunt. One of the best we’ve been. Custom sets, and a themed plot that follows you all the …show more way through a real prison. More focus on creepy storytelling than screamy jump scares, but there’s a bit of that too. Totally worth the trip, and the highlight of this year’s Season of the Witch road trip. Also very reasonably priced for such a detailed haunt.

Mike Adams – 10.0/10
I have been to several Haunted Attractions and this is by far the best in the Ohio Valley. …show more Constantly improving.

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