Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction
Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction
Review of ScareHouse Haunted Attraction
ScareHouse is a Haunted Attraction located in Etna, PA.
118 Locust Street, Etna, PA 15223View All Details
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, Indoor/Outdoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction, Family Friendly
Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express reviewed this Haunted Attraction on September 29, 2018.
Final Score: 9.18
You asked for it, you got it : Scarehouse has brought back Pittsburgh Zombies.
Largely in response to customer outcry, but also in reverence to the 50th anniversary of locally-filmed Night of the Walking Dead, Etna, PA’s Scarehouse has resurrected one of their most popular attractions, now dubbing it “Pittsburgh Zombies: Re-Animated.” This new experience acts as a spiritual successor to last season’s “The Lodge,” checking back in with that titular hotel and its surrounding city after the fallout from an undead epidemic. Attempting to escape from this living dead-infested nightmare may not be very easy, but it certainly is a lot of fun!
3-D attraction “Nocturnia” returns, offering a colorfully-festive jaunt before customers come face-to-face with the final incarnation of the demon-plagued infernal, “Infernal Darkness.” As intense as these attractions were last season, Scarehouse has managed to make them even better.
So come down to Etna, Pennsylvania’s Scarehouse this October for an opportunity to experience an homage to a true legend of horror cinema; and don’t forget:
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
There seemed to be a decrease in the overall number of interactive characters (how much witty dialogue can one expect from a member of the undead, anyway?), but Scarehouse retained a good variety of them, primarily within Nocturnia. The gentleman showing off the world’s tiniest swine and the affable marionette gal were the best of these.
It may seem inappropriate to label a largely zombie-themed cast as “enthusiastic”, but that’s what I’m going with. Most of the post-human growlers and shriekers believably lunged toward us with feral fervor or simply issuing guttural warnings as they ambled along. The hyper-active flesh-feeders of the concert scene were a rowdy bunch, with one female zombie in particular omnipresently stalking us across the set.
Whereas the ill-intentioned residents of the other two haunts maintain a definitively-malicious disposition, Nocturnia’s crew rarely rose beyond “mischievous.” In addition to the borderline-benevolent stand-outs above, we noted more giggles than growls while navigating this 3-D experience. That didn’t make this troop’s actors any less creepy, though.
Nocturnia’s playful tenants were a stark contrast beside Inferal’s intimidating demons. Right down to Mr. Lou C Furr, himself (who was actually better portrayed this season), the brooding Infernalians were certainly a humorless bunch. After being “greeted” by a very creepy fun-sized demon at the entrance to the museum, we quickly realized that the previous attraction’s jaunty hi-jinx had reach their conclusion. There is a darkness that hangs over the performances of Infernal’s brutes that is carried over into their characterizations, a blunt enmity that is nearly palpable. The haunt-tactics displayed in Infernal were largely more subdued than the other attractions, but no less effective.
I’ll let you in on a secret: this is almost always my least favorite category to review. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the creative flair that generates wardrobes or the attention to detail required to properly smear a demonic visage, but… ok, maybe I DON’T really appreciate these efforts enough.
One haunted attraction that can set my thankless eyes a-popping, though, is definitely Scarehouse. I can’t imagine anyone successfully scuttling through, say : Infernal, without at SOME point pausing to admire the artisan deviltry displayed on the resident fiendish countenances. Their costume and make-up artistry really is top-notch.
Are zombies a bit of an outfitting cheat? Sure. Still, all of the undead that roamed the first attraction looked properly decayed, with nary an unrumpled street garment in sight.
As usual, Nocturnia’s lot were the most varied bunch, several in full-body costuming to allow them to sink into their techno-colored surroundings. Others were done up as an assortment of bizarre carnival oddities (we really liked the marionette girl), as well as less classifiable (but no less peculiar) creations.
With Pittsburgh Zombies as the make-up-heavy Yin, Infernal strongly contrasts it with a costume-filled Yang. So many great ensembles were on display, but an imposing “spike-head” (work with me here) creation who broodingly glared at us was, again, our favorite haunted attire across the entire haunt. While I will always miss the sentient sofa or the dancing Christmas tree costumes from previous seasons, it’s difficult to find fault in the current wardrobe available to the vicious minions of Scarehouse.
Their mascotic Bunny even joined in the fun, inexplicably trying his furry paw at the clown hustle this season. THAT was a costume to remember.
Customer Service: 9.39
Parking for the Scarehouse still occurs at the Pittsburgh Zoo (in the zoo’s PARKING LOT, though I’d imagine that unloading alongside some of the local carnivorous animal life would offer an entirely different sort of “haunted” experience), with customers then bussed to the haunt-proper. It’s still a bit of an awkward system, albeit a necessary one.
There wasn’t much to speak of in terms of entertainment on the zoo side of things – no line scarers or concessions or anything, but, then, there were about 4 people in line. There are several portable toilets available, though.
The duo of line haunters (the Scarehouse Bunny and super-sized clown) outside of the Scarehouse building maintained an upbeat atmosphere, akin to last season, and did a great job of entertaining patrons as they awaited their opportunity to enter the attraction.
The entire selection of merchandise and dietary options are still located on the backside of the haunt, though one could certainly access them before or during their wait if they know to look for them. Simple snack fare and a variety of Scarehouse swag are available for purchase.
All of the Scarehouse staff that were kind enough to offer us some of their time were very friendly and helpful. Extra special thank you to our gracious host, Dudders, an amazing employee and all-around, extra-swell person.
This is the only category that we felt slid a bit this season. Being located in the middle of a city was already not the most conducive environment to bolster a creep atmosphere, but Scarehouse has always maintained a themed-lobby area. This year, as far as we could tell, they’ve removed all but the most threadbare props and decor; only a single zombie apocalyptic poster near the beginning of the attraction remains, as well as some music. The eeriness of initial dark parking lot (patrons park at the Pittsburgh zoo and are then bussed to the actual attraction) and the external pomp of a furry b-boy strutting to some tunes just couldn’t overpower the emptiness of the lobby this time around. Even last season’s chintzy, taxidermic set-up could have been reused, considering that segments of the corresponding hotel-themed attraction have been returned to (albeit in a post-infection alternate universe). In fact, a few clever, undead-inspired modifications would have made it a perfect entry point for their new take on the Pittsburgh Zombies Theme.
Alas, it was just not to be this year. We will always have Scarehouse’s former, wonderful, old-timey theater veneer to remember.
Special Effects: 9.3
Scarehouse has continued to display an incredible variety of intricate set designs. Infernal was a huge step forward for them last season and we were thankful that, beyond some minor accentuating “smudging”, it has returned largely unmolested. The museum’s life-like facade, standing out in the midnight haze, is wonderful, and the various “bone” hallways are still completely unnerving. There is almost TOO much detail layered into the sets of Infernal (just kidding – too much detail? IMPOSSIBLE!)
The best scenes from The Lodge have also been saved (the hallway, bedroom, absurd heart-shaped jacuzzi, along with the latter’s swollen occupant), but have thematically devolved from tacky to decaying. Zombies builds upon that excellent foundation, adding dim alleyways and abandoned buildings to the labyrinthian attraction (including a wonderful bar scene), building up to a finale at an open-air concert gone wrong.
The newly-added “white sheet mazes” are about as basic an effect as can be affected, yet incomparably vexing. How a (reasonably) logical human being can become lost between 4 or 5 rows of ordinary white sheets is both a feat of great design and a prolific failure of navigational incompetence. Never, ever ask me for directions if bedding is involved.
I’m apparently feeling cathartically candid today, so how about another secret? 3-D attractions are, generally, pretty lame. Splashes of paint on otherwise-barren corridors are not acceptable, even if I’m wearing a half-broken pair of cardboard frames (Seriously, how long are these on your face? Five minutes? Who breaks something ON THEIR FACE that quickly? What are you doing, wildly swinging right crosses at the bacteria on your nose? 3-D glasses are ALWAYS broken!). The rise of 3-D attractions across the haunt world some years ago seems have to have brought with it a corresponding willingness for mediocrity. Perhaps it’s a lack of creativity, I don’t know.
FORTUNATELY (you knew there was some form of “but” coming, right?), Scarehouse continues to defy the inadequacy of their contemporaries by embracing this medium instead of ducking behind it. Set construction in Nocturnia is enhanced by 3-D amplification, but would stand perfectly fine on its own. The clever use of textures, coloration, and effects (sometimes simple, sometimes grandiose), though, does make for a really unique and fulfilling visual experience.
Sticking with Nocturnia for a moment, we also appreciated that, though Scarehouse does employ some effects that have become quite commonplace across the community, they have customized their own uses for them – their half-birth canal tunnel and swamp laser effects, though fairly wide-spread by this point, have been reallocated into singular applications.
That’s not to say that Nocturnia didn’t provide wholly-new effects: the World’s Smallest Pig manipulation (and the whole room it was in, really), the disorienting “alternating light fog room” (blue is the superior hue, for the record), the mask and dot rooms… really, too many interesting effects to name, honestly.
Regarding the other sensory organs, Scarehouse has employed several new smells… and we noticed. A few pleasant, a few horribly noxious, they certainly added an additional level of color to the environment. Likewise, the audio accompaniments, which definitely reach their apex during Infernal, are a welcome addition to the experience. The blend of atmospheric whales, deep, pulsating thrums, and darkly-ethereal chantings of Infernal are one of the best aural conglomerations that we have heard in recent times.
There are a lot of “Easter eggs” tucked into the set details in of Zombies. Perhaps a “hidden object” bingo card version of the experience is in order. At the very least, make sure not to miss the world’s most despondent Smiley Cookie.
Loud, Quiet, Loud – that is the game plan for this season. While the pulsating blasphemy of Infernal still anchors the experience, the return of Pittsburgh Zombies as the introductory attraction adds a second intense bookend to surround the “lighter” thrills of Nocturnia, making the haunted middle child a bit of a necessary breath-catcher amidst the take-no-prisoner aesthetic of its malevolent siblings.
Zombies is a fun theme-within-a-theme. It both revisits one of Scarehouse’s most popular heyday attractions while celebrating the 50th anniversary of Zombie Lord George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but also essentially overlays this new experience atop one from last season. Some of the most memorable sets from The Lodge remain, now dilapidated and corroding… just like the reanimated corpses that fill its halls. It’s a nice, if subtle, meta-continuation of the previous, retired attraction. There wasn’t an explicitly-stated storyline present in the The Lodge, but there is still a certain thematic continuity carrying over that we appreciate.
The other two attractions are fairly similar to their previous versions, though Infernal has (somehow) become an even darker twilight of its former wickedness and Nocturnia has received a few tweaks to what was already a very impressive 3-D experience.
Beyond the derivational identities of the three attractions, they really do FEEL and function differently, making them stand out from each other and provide a fuller experience overall. Even high-quality haunts can suffer from too much “sameness” as they stretch on, but Scarehouse has an excellent variety of content this season.
Scare Factor: 9.34
Any discussion of Scarehouse’s fright-accumen must begin with its actors’ unparalleled ability to “hide in plain sight.” Though this effective tactic assumes many different scowling faces, they all share a common goal: making the customer incapable of distinguishing set from scoundrel.
Nocturnia’s version of this scare involves blending actors into the environment itself. Made easier by some clever set design and the “enhanced” visual capabilities provided by 3-D glasses, Nocturnia reminds us that a wall might not REALLY be just a wall at Scarehouse, so tread lightly.
“Prop or Not” is the game of choice for proficient haunters across the other two attractions. In addition to simply finding handy, nearly-invisible coves from which to perch, we encountered several collections of human-sized mannequins or monster props, collected in bunches. Sometimes we passed by them, hearts-in-throats, and simply carried along on our merry way. At other junctures, though… honestly, it didn’t matter how attentive we were or how thoroughly we scrutinized the rigid interlopers; we never did identify our assailants until it was too late. Spontaneous potty break! Hooray…
In tandem with this, the cast was excellent at spreading their scare radius across the entire group, even occasionally offering a reprieve to the head of our column to tear into the middle or rear. The combination of these two factors alongside other well-timed distraction-based startles really worked together to create a persistent anxiety and uncertainty.
Between the more profound encounters outlined above, a variety of briefer startle scares and animatronic spook-outs filled the gaps. There was actually a lot of zest displayed by many of these boo-actors, proving that one often does not need much more than a good hiding spot and a healthy set of lungs to execute a proper shake-up.
Have I mentioned that the startles can come from any angle? After the second incursion from literally above my head, I understand now that there can be no refuge; I have surrendered. Friends, I have elected to give in and let the monsters take me.
Life is easier this way, here, inside the esophageal lining of some crazed hellspawn. Time passes slowly in this place but I have evaded his acrid stomach juices as long as my quavering limbs will allow me, I’m afraid. Soon fatigue will overwhelm me and I will descend to my blissful dissolution. I followed an auspicious young woman with the face of a cat to this tormented passing – an impossible vision, yet… she must be real for this putrid chamber is no hallucination. Too, then, was her siren call the song of despair… or deliverance?
Does this unhallowed gut-tomb represent my destruction or my redemption? Have I misconstrued her whiskered intentions? No, this can not be the end; I shall not succumb!
I must know the tenor of that song; I must escape!
Entertainment & Value: 9.43
Our journey through Scarehouse lasted approximately 25 minutes. Though they have done away with timed-ticketing, their price still changes based upon, not only which day of the week one chooses to visit, but also when in the season they do. Prices range from 16 to 25 dollars (Thursdays, early in the season being cheapest). That makes their minutes of entertainment per dollars spent bottom out at 1.0 (with a significantly better return of investment possible, of course). VIP tickets are available as well, as are tickets to the separate resident, extreme attraction, The Basement. There’s even a season pass available.
Scarehouse has so much going for it this season – they replaced what we felt was their weakest attraction last season, reintroducing a revamped version of Pittsburgh Zombies in its place, while retaining their still-very-strong latter two attractions. The cast is good, the effects are excellent, and the entire haunt has sustained the same qualitative upturn that it began last season.
Visiting Etna (by way of the Zoo) is a no-brainer this season… in fact, with the return of Pittsburgh Zombies, it’s probably best to leave that spongy organ safely at home. We highly recommend a visit to experience Scarehouse for yourself this holiday season.
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"Lions, tigers, and bears; OH MY!" - Best Costumes (Non-Humanish) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"Shoot 'em in the head!" - Best Zombies (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"Do you hear what I hear?" - Most Effective Sounds - Infernal (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"I want to dress you up in my love" - Most Original/Entertaining Costume - TIE Dark View (Fluffy) and Scarehouse (Bunny [Clown Version]) (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
"I want my mommy!'' - Scariest Overall (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)
Scariest Haunt in Pennsylvania (Given by: Team Scary Potter and the Hauntwarts Express)