I'm a big fan of Halloween and haunted attractions and especially Halloween Haunt. I haven't missed it any year. Although they have added some of their best mazes over the past few years (Cavern of Terror, Slaughter House, etc.), I have continuously felt a little disappointed with the whole Haunt experience overall as the years have gone by. At this point I don't expect to actually get scared at Haunt but I still enjoy going and love the atmosphere. I don't buy a pass yearly like I used to so it's also nice to ride some of my favorite rides in some nice, cool weather and during the nighttime which is my favorite time to ride.
I always prefer to visit earlier in the season to avoid larger crowds so we planned to go on Friday, the 26th. I was happy to read that the park now opens at 6pm on Fridays but with the temperature above 80 still and knowing they stayed open until 11, we ended up showing up a little after 7pm and was happy to see a low crowd and had no problem entering the park. The weather ended up being pretty great all night. It cooled down but was still warm at times being surrounded by larger groups of people.
Instead of a long, drawn-out story about my night, I'll just write a little about each attraction that we went through.
Kill Mart: This was the first maze we went through. Luckily, the line was short and we only had to wait about 10 minutes. The theming in this one seemed pretty nice. You feel like you're in a department store as you go through the different departments throughout the maze. The lights are kept low and there's a lot of blood and gore with a decent amount of actors inside. We were at the very end of the group and none of the actors waited to get the people at the back so we didn't get scared once in this one. The people in the front and middle let out some screams and jumps, so I'm not saying it's not good as far as scares go, but none of the actors in there tried to get either of us unfortunately and she is someone who gets scared easily but didn't jump once. It's a nice addition though and great to have a completely new attraction that doesn't have a lame theme. The zombie theme also fits nicely with Urgent Scare being right around the corner. It would be cool if there were a lot of zombie roamers around this area.
CarnEvil: If there wasn't a short line and a whole night ahead of us, we would have had no problems skipping this one. I can understand why this one is kept around from a business standpoint, but as a long time Haunt fan, I wouldn't be sad to see it go. Outside of the fact that it's been around for so long, my other main concern is the lack of 3D glasses. I find it ridiculous that Kings Island continues to recycle the same exact maze that was built originally to be viewed with 3D glasses and now expect people to pay an upcharge to experience a 10-year-old maze the way it was originally intended to be experienced. I don't even know how much they are charging for them but I didn't see anyone walking in wearing them. I didn't buy any last year either so I already knew the experience wouldn't even live up to the typical expectations I had for nearly 10 years prior of going through the same exact maze. For me personally, the lack of glasses ruins the experience. I will always refuse to pay for the glasses out of principle and also because I know exactly what to expect from this one since it's been pretty much the same since it started in the Festhaus years ago. It did seem like a step up from last year however. There were a decent amount of actors in here and the props all still looked nice. I don't hate or even dislike this maze. I would certainly rather have it here than have nothing replace it. I just think the lack of 3D glasses is ridiculous and would love to see some sort of major revamp or something new altogether next year.
Madame Fatale's Cavern of Terror: This is one of the better mazes they have to offer. Having the cave entrance really goes a long way setting up the amazing themeing in this attraction. The decorations throughout the actual maze are really great. I don't know what all was different from last year because it's a decently long maze with plenty of things to look at. There's a lot of actors in this one and scared people in our group a decent number of times. I wouldn't mind seeing this one stick around for quite a few years and hope they continue to roll out mazes like this. Kill Mart is a nice addition as well but I wouldn't say it meets the expectations that Cavern of Terror set when it comes to new attractions.
Board to Death: This one is stupid. In my opinion, if Kings Island wants to recycle some of the same mazes for so many years, then they should have kept The Asylum/Maze of Madness around. That maze was almost always the same aside from a slight variation of theming (Psych ward / Prison) but it always felt fresh because they set it up so you could actually get lost inside of it. To me, it always stood out from all of the other mazes because of the this unique aspect. It added a whole new level of fear and actually made the maze scary when you're surrounded by psychopaths and you really can't find your way out and keep meeting dead ends while they mock your inability to escape. When they changed it to Mysteria, it was a complete turn around and by far the worst maze they have ever had. Board to Death is slightly better than Mysteria but nowhere near as good as the variations of mazes in this building that came before them both. I add this in with Holiday Horrible and Mysteria as some of the worst additions to Haunt and find it disappointing to see them all come within the past few years that we also got great ones like Cavern of Terror and Slaughterhouse. Much like CarnEvil, I noticed an improvement in the maze compared to last year as far as the number of actors inside but not enough to make much of a difference. Bored to death.
CornStalkers: There is a major improvement in the themeing of CornStalkers this year. No longer do you feel like you're walking strictly on a big wide open path, but now you feel as if you're walking through tall rows of corn and have to genuinely worry about what might be right next to you opposed to 50 ft away around a randomly placed stack of wood crates. I've always liked this one because it's a fun maze and they've changed up the location a few times as well as going from a Scare Zone to a full maze attraction. They've nailed it this year and it's the best it has ever been. It's nice to see this one gradually get better because some of the other ones continue to get worse.
Tombstone Terror-Tory: And here's where it continues to get worse. Along with CarnEvil, if there wasn't a short line for this one as we were passing by, we would have been fine skipping it. The idea with the train / trail continues to set it apart from the other mazes but it's always the worst one. The combination of waiting in line for the train to arrive and then waiting in another line ends up being a lot worse once you finish the walkthrough and realize it's the worst attraction in the park. I assume because of excessive lines in the past, they have decide to now send groups in packs of 50 opposed to 5-10. They've been doing this for a few years but it ruins the experience. If you get stuck at the back then you're pretty much screwed because you see all of the scares happen before you encounter them. This one is also extremely lame because you're walking on a giant platform with random crates stacked up on the sides. Outside of two covered areas that you walk through, the crates are the only place for any actors to hide so it's never surprising when someone pops out from behind one. It would be amazing to see some sort of actual trail make its way back into the lineup. This one just doesn't compare to how good their haunted trail used to be. Even when Tombstone Terror-Tory was slightly better than it is now, it still didn't even compare to the Trail of Terror.
Slaughter House: This was the last attraction we went through and the line had died down majorly from hours earlier. I love the new location and the whole maze seems a whole lot better to me. The props are really great in this one and the actors were all pretty good. This is one of the only mazes that actually gives me a creepy vibe and it feels a whole lot creepier than it did in years prior.
We didn't do any of the other mazes because we were also riding rides and didn't stay until 1. We knew exactly what to expect with Delta Delta Die. Someone in another thread summed it up perfectly as "Massacre Manor with cheerleaders and beer cans on the ground" or something to that extent. That one has been around for forever and is always the same. I wanted to do Urgent Scare but didn't get to. I always enjoy Club Blood but skipped out on it and Wolf Pack is one that I've always thought was just ok but not bad. If I visit another time this year, I'll make it a point to go ahead and give them all a shot but I doubt I'm missiing anything that I haven't already seen but hopefully I'll be surprised.
As for the Scare Zones:
Nightmare Alley: Last year I recall this zone being barely decorated with just a few inflatable eyeballs and no actors. This time around there are a whole lot more eyeballs and a few more decorations scattered around but we didn't see a single roamer in this zone any of the multiple times we walked through it throughout the night.
Cemetery Drive: We went from seeing no actors to seeing at least 5 or more in this zone. The theming is really cool and I think it works better as a smaller scare zone than taking the place of CornStalkers in its current location. I can't say there were many screams or people running during any of the times we went through but the atmosphere was still very cool and there were multiple actors.
Freak Street: I thought it was creepier last year when they had it in the wide open space leading into Holiday Horrible but there seems to be a lot more actors in this zone this year. There's someone speaking on a microphone and an evil circus theme which is fitting near CarnEvil.
Backwoods Bayou: Again, plenty of actors but not many scares at all. I loved the theme and actors all looked cool but I don't remember hearing many screams during the many walkthroughs we had. I just remember a lot of standing around and maybe some hissing or growling in someone's ears.
The roamers were really disappointing. Although I saw a decent amount roaming compared to the past few years, I didn't hear too many screams or see people running like I usually do. Outside of the overplayed droog sliders, I can't think of any other significant times I saw someone so scared that they screamed super loudly or went running from the roamers. It seemed like most of them were freely walking out amongst everyone and making some people jump slightly but no major scares really. It would be nice to see a lot more hiding and blending into the environment opposed to seeing every single one of them walking right out in the middle of the open pathways the whole night. The sliders are the only ones who seem to "come out of nowhere" and genuienly surprise you... most of the other ones you could see coming from a mile away unless they happened to be walking behind you.
Overall, we had a very fun night as we always do each year. In addition to the haunts, we rode Banshee (my first time on it and I loved it), Adventure Express twice, The Bat, The Vortex and Backlot Stunt Coaster. The experience was a lot better than last years but I continue to hope for them to really step it up and deliver an amazing Haunt experience. I think they're on the right track with some of the newest mazes they've added over the past 5 or so years like Slaughter House and Cavern of Terror. But it gets set back when you see a decline in all of the other attractions such switching out great mazes like The Asylum for horrible ones like Mysteria/Board to Death but continue to recylce other mazes from 10 years ago that aren't even good (Delta Delta Die) and even adding upcharges to some (CarnEvil) while there's also a noticible decline in the quality of the roamers. I hope to see them continue to add quality haunts likes Cavern of Terror and Kill Mart opposed to the silly cheap ones that aren't remotely scary like Board to Death as well as adding in more scare zones or roamers. But seriously, please bring back The Asylum! lol.