Team Jefferson Starship reviewed this attraction on September 30, 2016.
Final Score: 6.43
St. David’s is back for a second season. Last year, St. David’s opened as a haunted asylum and gave visitors a glimpse into terror and madness. This year, they’re back, but they’ve been run out of town and into the deep Southern woods where the crazies have found an abandoned village and made it their own. If you’re looking for creepy madness deep in the middle of nowhere, St. David’s Village might be the place for you.
St. David’s is a young haunt and has a lot of room to grow and make improvements, but seems to have a good staff and some talented actors to drive that future growth.
St David’s employs about 80 volunteers to scare visitors. On the down side, many of these volunteers have not yet had the time or experience to truly find their voice as haunters. Dialogue was sparse and sometimes very stiff. Often, most of the actors simply did not speak at all – opting for silence or simply screaming in your face. There are haunters who can pull this off, but most of these have not reached that level of skill yet.
However, there were scenes were the haunters were very well done. There was a late 1800’s-era saloon where the undead ladies of the night and the bartender were communicative and almost all of the cast at the Big Top Circus at the bottom of the village were good at interacting with visitors.
St David’s is a volunteer crew and, as such, there’s not a lot of budget for the costumes. That said, some of the costumes were nicely done and really fit with the character that the actor was portraying. A few did seem out of place, but typically the characters are either in dim light or only seen for a brief moment, so the lack of costuming isn’t too distracting when it does happen.
Customer Service: 6.5
The Village has been carved out of the South Carolina, forested countryside – literally. Just a few short months ago, the St David’s team were cutting down trees, clearing lumber, and assembling a village in the middle of nowhere. Regrettably, it shows. The dirt trail you drive in on is filled with jagged roots and branches reaching for your vehicle’s paint. Some cars may not be able to make it through. However, with luck and lots of visitors, the worst offenders will likely be crushed or knocked back. Too, the trails that you must walk through this haunt can be treacherously unstable, occasionally littered with roots, branches or mud.
All of that said, the staff are friendly, helpful, and attentive. In addition to the haunt actors, there are staff in almost every area wearing staff t-shirts and equipped with radios and flashlights. Should a visitor need something, they are likely not very far from a staff member that’s capable of assisting.
The move from a creepy, abandoned school to the middle of a Carolina pine forest, while unavoidable, has not helped St David’s. The entrance to the haunt at the top of a hill seems to be part construction site, part parking lot. The area around the ticket booth was well-lit and there were some clowns (apparently from the Big Top) who had migrated up to help scare the line, but there wasn’t much that screamed “haunt” or let you know that you were about to enter a reclaimed village.
What does add to the creepy factor is the fact that you are out in the middle of nowhere. There are no interfering lights, aside from those of vehicles that are approaching the parking lot behind a tall fence or from the village down in the valley below. In the dark of the woods, you get a sense of isolation.
Special Effects: 6.3
There were few unique effects used at this haunt. We did get to hear some rattling chains and clinking bottles from some of the chained-up residents. There is a bus ride that takes you from the ticket area down the valley to the village that has some interesting additions. We were told that each bus trip down is unique; our trip was entertaining, but more of a dance party than a fright fest.
Some of the ‘rooms’ of this outdoor haunt were sparsely decorated, whereas others were detailed with static-filled T.V.s, antique lamps, and tattered chairs. We hope that St David’s continues to invest in décor and furnishings for their haunt.
There is a story behind St. David’s Village and it’s a good backstory that would lend itself to a wonderfully-themed haunt. However, the story seems to be told from different voices or, perhaps, even different books.
There is a haunted bus ride down to the village that seems to be out of a zombie outbreak scenario, but our host was a dancing, if macabre, clown. The village started out with a seeming late-1800’s vibe, perhaps out of the Old West, but shifted to more modern accoutrements in the latter parts before sending visitors down a dark trail to a big top circus where diabolical and maniacal clowns and performers cause you to flee back along another trail to be picked up by another bus for a ride back to the top of the site.
While it is possible to construct a narrative of sorts from this, it requires some mental gymnastics akin to the contortionist side-show girl who leaps and scrambles at the visitors in one scene. There is an attempt at a theme, but it’s hard to piece it together once you get away from the speaking cast.
Fright Effect: 6.3
The Haunters at the Village do a fairly good job of providing distractions while other haunters come up from a different direction, but most of the scares are predictable and tend to focus on the front of the group coming through. However, a lot of standards are present, from chainsaw-wielding clowns and screaming, wraith-like women to the undead.
Most of your time at St. David’s is spent walking. We estimated that it’s, perhaps, a mile-long walk over uneven terrain with a 5-minute bus-ride down and a shorter one back up. You can pretty much walk at your own pace as long as you’re moving forwards; we spent a little over a half-hour walking through the village and looking at everything we could. With a ticket price of $15 a person ($30 for fast pass), that equates to 2 minutes of fear for every dollar spent.
We did notice that there were several “empty scenes,” which we’re hoping that St. David’s will fill in the coming years with even creepier strangeness.