2011 - Howl-O-Scream 2011
at Busch Gardens Tampa
Review by Justin Hitaffer
Introduction - This year’s itinerary at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream includes a few all-new attractions, including Ultimate Gamble: Midnight Casino, Nevermore, and Zombie Mortuary. Other returning favorites are the Nightshade Toy Factory, Death row Vengeance: Fear the Dead, and Deconstruction: The Doctor Is Out of Control. Also included was the new Alone house; in which you and up to 3 other people can journey into.
Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino - One of the newest Haunted Houses, we were granted the honor of being the first to enter. Prior to entering, you are greeted by the owner of the Revivara Casino, and he ushers you into a casino that is run entirely by vampires.
Atmosphere - 4 / I enjoyed how realistic all of the slot machines and tables looked; it helped make it feel as if we were in an actual casino. As you progressed, it kept that sense of realism; things you imagine being in the back doors of a casino were represented nicely, yet it got creepier after every turn you made.
Story - 5 / The story is of a casino called the Revivara Casino, which is supposedly “set off of a major highway, where all travelers pass by.” The theme of the attraction was kept very linear, and the story was very believable in my eyes.
Fear Factor - 4 / In the end, it really comes down to how frightening you think vampires are. But it is their charm, wit, and appearance of humanity that ends up being truly frightening. There was a lots of blood, and *Spoiler Alert* the room full of categorized hearts, right before the kitchen, was what really sealed the deal for me.
Nevermore - Another of the new Haunted Houses is Nevermore, described as a “gothic’s terror.” You journey into the manor of Lenore, and are overcome with the nightmare and torment that haunts the lord of the house.
Atmosphere - 5 / The attention to detail in this one was just staggering. The statues that hid the people looked very much alike, and they got me a few times. And the repeated use of the phrase “Nevermore” really embodied the main theme of paranoia in this house.
Story - 4 / This story was a bit more difficult to grasp in the beginning, as there isn’t as much a tangible theme, such as “zombies” or “vampires”. But the underlying theme of paranoia and nightmares are what really end up being the most realistic and terrifying upon further evaluation.
Fear Factor - 3 / The fear of the attraction is really dependent upon how well you understand it. Not as much blood and gore as others, but the use of statues and the like (things that are in plain view) can end up being as frightening as someone popping up from nowhere.
Zombie Mortuary - The last of the new houses, it centers on a small-town funeral home infested with zombies. These zombies feast on the mourners to satiate their hunger.
Atmosphere - 4 / The house sported some very nice attention to the scenery, such as the garden of zombies before you “enter” the mortuary, and the mortuary itself. An all-around well-crafted house.
Story - 5 / I really enjoyed this house’s story. The interesting part about this house is that you kind of experience the beginnings of any zombie; how each comes from its own individual life. It changed my mentality of the zombie itself; I envision each individual zombie as a single entity, and not just as one of the masses.
Fear Factor - 3 / This house’s focus, in my opinion, was the atmosphere it conveyed, and not as much as each individual scare. But to me, this will be one of the houses you won’t forget.
Deconstruction: The Doctor Is Out of Control - A returning house, Deconstruction is about insane Dr. Edgar VonAngst, a reconstructive surgeon that reconstructs his patients in grotesque, sinister ways.
Atmosphere - 5 / It is a very gruesome house. Full of body parts, human bodies, experiments gone wrong, and much, MUCH more, I guarantee the house will have images that stick.
Story - 4 / The story of an insane reconstructive doctor was well followed. The seemingly endless and slightly unnerving saw blade grinding above us at every turn was a nice touch. That was a part I can still hear grinding in my head as I type this.
Fear Factor - 4 / Overall, this house gets high marks. While a bit more of a gross-out house in my opinion, there were parts of the house that were particularly frightening; for instance, the strobe light hall toward the end, which was probably the best strobe light hall out of all of the houses. A very surreal experience.
Nightshade Toy Factory - The Nightshade Toy Factory appears to be an abandoned toy factory by day, but by night the factory becomes alive with the deranged toys it used to manufacture.
Atmosphere - 4 / What really makes this house creepy is the toys you and most everyone is familiar with and loved are now alive and just creepier than ever. That is what really made this house’s creepy atmosphere: the dandily familiar turned disturbing.
Story - 3 / The story wasn’t very clear to me, and it really left it up to the imagination to fill in the gaps.
Fear Factor - 2 / Unfortunately, this house scores the lowest of them all. It wasn’t as scary as the other houses, and the dolls and bears just weren’t as scary as other themes. I did enjoy the twisting tunnel at the end of the house, though. I actually stumbled there, and had to hold onto the railing. That would probably be the main thing to check out this house for, I am sorry to say.
Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead - A zombie plague infects Grey Echo Penitentiary, and the inmates scheduled for execution must choose between death or torture from the zombies.
Atmosphere - 5 / Prison, to begin with, is a very creepy place. And with zombies, there’s really no competition. The sight of each inhumane execution, mixed with the zombies afterwards, really hit it home for me.
Story - 5 / The conflict between eternal suffering and death that is shown in this house is philosophically poetic, in a sense. While many other houses do the same, this house is a pure and easy-to-see example of things worse than death.
Fear Factor - 5 / This house, even while being one of the oldest houses, scored highest, was our favorite of the houses. The realistic horror scenes such as the electric chair and the firing range can truly startle you. It was surreal, and rather terrifying, to say the least.