Team In-Corpse-A-Rated reviewed this attraction on October 29, 2016.
Final Score: 8.66
The retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet continues to serve the community. She was built by the U.S. Navy for World War II, remained active for the Cold War, retrieved the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts after they returned from the Moon, was reinvented as a museum upon retirement from the Navy, and now serves her second year as a haunted attraction. It was Joshua Overturf, owner of ScareCo Productions, who had the vision to give the Hornet her newest chapter in her storied history. The Haunted Hornet attraction gives us quite a walk through the ship. This has to be the first haunt where we got some cardiovascular exercise from the stairs we climbed up and down to multiple floors. The Haunted Hornet starts out slow with sporadic scares, but builds up as you travel through the corridors.
The Haunted Hornet cast was enthusiastic and believable. One stand-out actor was the doctor who told us that the Hornet crossed through the Bermuda Triangle and now the ship and crew are infected. He trembled as he spoke, and then screamed in fear from post-traumatic stress disorder. Playing the victim actor is hard to convey because it takes more effort to generate sympathy, and this doctor was one of the better actors in this role. It was also nice to get the theme of the haunt in an appropriate moment of dialogue that didn’t feel contrived. Another stand-out was the girl in zombie makeup in a squatting position up on the table hovering over a corpse and eating on it like the Walking Dead. For the most part, actors startled us from hidden corners. The start of the haunt was a long hallway with very few actors, so it felt like ‘dead spots’ that needed more action. As we walked forward through, more actors came at us and our interest grew. There were a few moments when we would enter a room that appeared to be a dead end, and we would look around for an exit. In most haunts, the actors would point the way to go while maintaining character. This cast didn’t do that; they allowed us to struggle to find our way. One annoying moment was in a narrow hallway, a girl was leaning over with her head against the wall and her butt against the opposite wall. We looked and asked where do we go, and she pointed under her torso, suggesting we crawl under her. That may be fine with younger attendees, but Debbie and I have bad knees and we told her we can’t get down and crawl. She did stand up after a minute or two and let us through. Another actress was walking through a hallway, telling us in a country hick accent to watch out for her brother. We asked what’s wrong with her brother, but she carried on about how we needed to watch out for him. This moment came across as odd, because after we passed her, there were several actors startling us, but we couldn’t figure out which one was her brother. Perhaps she was trying to convey that she was losing her mind. Upon the end of the haunt, we walked up to the flight deck where three zombies chased us while wielding chainsaws.
The costumes worn by the actors made perfect sense; they appeared to be Navy personnel. The Haunted Hornet uses more masks than most haunts, and with the Bermuda Triangle infection, facial mutations are one of the symptoms. The masks worn were professional silicone made, which had a creepy realistic look. Those actors who didn’t wear masks but were still infected had zombie style makeup. The makeup was good, but the masks really stood out. The medical staff wore white lab coats and the Navy crewmen wore jumpsuits. There wasn’t anything being worn that didn’t fit within the theme.
Customer Service: 9.25
It must be said that the Haunted Hornet is not wheelchair compliant. Each doorway has a metal lip in which you must step over, and this haunt requires climbing up and down stairs. The Hornet’s stairs are narrower than normal stairways, so caution is required when climbing. We saw several Hornet staff members tending to the stairways, as well as the lady in the beginning who gave instruction. The U.S.S. Hornet is docked at the Alameda Naval Air Station, and upon entry, there are a few sidewalk signs pointing to her location. The surrounding neighborhood is dimly lit, so it’s tough to find without using GPS. Parking is free and it was easy to find the ticket booth. There were porta-potties, but no concession or souvenir stands. The queue entertainment was actors interacting with guests in line. The staff was very friendly and helpful when we asked questions. The main photo opportunity was the ship herself, the Hornet makes for a great postcard moment.
The outside of the Haunted Hornet is a ship dock where you can see the sheer size of the U.S.S. Hornet. There is a banner on a chain link fence with ‘ScareCo Productions’, and there is a pickup truck with custom Haunted Hornet branding. Different types of colored theater lights can be seen lighting the outside of the ship at various places. Other than the actors interacting with guests, there was not much else to call attention to the fact that this is a haunted attraction. There was the faint sound of music, because as well as the haunt, the U.S.S. Hornet was hosting a Halloween party, and we couldn’t tell if the music was the haunt’s ambience or from the party.
Special Effects: 8.5
The Haunted Hornet has some cool props. There are several giant bugs and a large animatronic snake head with glowing eyes. The snake swivels side to side while it opens and closes its mouth. There were a few scenery flats set up sporadically around, but the Haunted Hornet uses the ship herself as the main set piece. There is no music or sound effects while walking through the haunt. The opening long walk down the hallway felt more like a museum than a haunt. There definitely was an awkward silence at the start. Lighting was used in subtle ways, such as red lights down certain passageways, and lights out in certain rooms with only the ambient light from adjacent rooms to provide the only illumination.
The theme of the Haunted Hornet was cleverly spelled out by the doctor in the first third of the haunt: The U.S.S. Hornet travelled across the Bermuda Triangle, and now the ship and crew are mysteriously infected. This theme is well executed throughout the haunt. The ‘infection’ means the ship’s crew has mutated and acts like monsters. The ship is infested with giant creatures. The location of the haunt authenticates the theme in a huge way. If your haunt’s theme is a Navy ship infected by the Bermuda Triangle, then what better place to have your haunt than on a Navy ship?! This is an original theme; no other haunts in Northern California have used a ‘military in turmoil’ scenario.
Fright Effect: 8.25
Haunted Hornet does have scares, but they are slow to build. The opening walkway at the start was too quiet and too sparse in actors. The best scares came when we walked through ScareCo’s added scenery. The ship’s hallways are so narrow, that actors can’t effectively hide around corners. The actors are more effective in spacious rooms. The dark bunk bed room had some good scares and the zombie girl eating the corpse was very creepy. The giant snakehead is an impressive sight. At the end, the zombies wielding chainsaws on the flight deck where intimidating. Most of the scares were startles from behind corners, but some were effective and some weren’t.
It took us about 25 minutes to walk through the Haunted Hornet. With a General Admission price of $30, we consider this to be a hair under average. The ship offers only so much working space, so as far as we can see; ScareCo utilized all of the space it can. Overall, we enjoyed the haunt, but liked last year’s haunt more.