The Darkness-“2010 Transworld Edition”
The Darkness in Saint Louis Missouri opens for another year of fear during the annual Transworld Halloween and Attractions Show. There were many events open to the public during the show such as the Columbia Haunt Tour, Mr. Bill’s Thrills and more. But the most anticipated haunt of the show was of course The Darkness. For 3 frightful nights this world famous haunt would be open to the public.
Thursday March 25th there was a lights on behind the scenes tour where visitors could experience the inner workings of this elaborate haunt. You could tour the makeup room, actor’s changing stations, take as many pictures and videos as you’d like and more. March 26th-27th the haunt was open where you could experience The Darkness with haunt season conditions and lighting.
This is when fog would be used and all the dynamic effects and high startle props would be in full force.My ticket was for 9:30 PM and as I arrived I was shocked at how few people were outside. But once I walked inside, it was apparent that there were technical problems or something that caused so much congestion. It was packed, but the wait wasn’t too bad. I was ready to experience one of the nation’s best haunts, The Darkness. Hopefully it would live up to the hype.
Length-10: The Darkness takes place inside an over 25,000 square foot building. While not all of the space is utilized for the haunt. the majority is. Your journey through The Darkness and Terror Visions will take close to 40 minutes to tour with few spots that won’t impress you. After you are done exiting Terror Visions please make sure and explore the new Monster Museum which features horror movie memorabilia, classic arcade games and many nostalgic horror pieces that will bring back memories of Halloween past. This is a frightfully fun haunt with very few dead spots that are without decor or something interesting happening.
Design-10: Over $200,000 has been invested in overhauling The Darkness and Terror Visions to make both haunts fresh and new. This is great, but where is the outside facade? Hell, there wasn’t even a banner or sign saying that it was The Darkness. The first impression a customer gets from your haunt is the outside of your building. If the outside doesn’t look scary, it ruins the whole illusion that this place is haunted and has been taken over by ghouls. People know that your haunt is a producticn, but if it resembles a decripit haunted house from the outside then the entire haunt on the inside becomes much more convincing. People want to be transported into another world and sometimes haunts have a hard time doing that. The addition of a massive Scare actory Facade or homemade set would help create a realistic exterior.
Inside The Darkness are some real amazing set pieces.
These include hanging corpses, an animated alligator, a large elephant, a moving t-rex head, CGI effects, detailed natives , tipping barrels, a dizzying vortex tunnel, animated corpses and more. Prop companies include Scarefactory, Unit 70 Studios, Distortions Unlimited, Scare Parts, Halloween Productions, Dark Raven Designs and more. The most anticipated prop of the tour was the large barrel wall effect. You would walk past a wall that shelves massive barrels when suddenly they fall towards you almost crashing down on their victim.
Unfortunately this effect wasn’t working because of a shortage of air pressure. This would also cause some of the other animaronics to run slower than usual, but it was barely noticeable. Considering how many props are housed inside The Darkness, there are bound to be some props that aren’t working just right. It happens to the best haunts in the nation.Once you are finished touring The Darkness you can grab your 3D glasses and experience the newly expanded Terror Visions.
While I’ve never been a huge fan of 3D haunts, Terror Visions is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Most of the props and animatronics found inside Terror Visions have been painted with 3D fluorescent paint so they come alive as you look at them through your 3D glasses. Props include cotton candy cocoons, hanging heads, caged freaks, various static clowns and more. This is a really fun haunt. While it’s not scary, it’s entertaining none the less. Overall The Darkness and Terror Visions have some great props, but the addition of water blasters, shock strips and air cannons would add more interactivity to both attractions.
Acting-7: As I said earlier, the purpose of The Darkness tour was to inspire haunt owners to take their haunts to the next level. This may be, but if you have mediocre actors those detailed rooms you worked so hard on throughout the year aren’t going to have as big of an impact. The best haunts have a combination of great design, dedicated actors and creativity that’s beyond belief. None of the actors were that convincing and many times their timing was way off.
At a certain point in the tour, I walked into a scene where actors were standing around talking and getting ready to walk back into their hiding spots. Because many of the actors at The Darkness were guests from other haunts that weekend, they were unfamiliar with the haunt and unprepared. Even veteran actors seemed off on their timing. This happened in the church scene. A small well known actor named Cameron who has played the baby killer in the haunted nusery numerous times played a corpse inside the haunted church. He blended in well with various dummies sitting in church pews and as people left the room he started to get up.
Unfortunately he really didn’t do anything that was worth wild. It was obvious that some of the actors were unprepared and really annoyed that people weren’t as scared as they should be.An actor has to remember that just because a person doesn’t jump and scream in terror doesn’t mean they aren’t scared. People react differently and actors should know this. I’m sure the crew used during the regular haunt season is much more prepared, but when the ticket price is $50 you expect an incredible cast of characters and there is really no excuse for anything less.
Scare Effect-7: The main purpose of The Darkness during Transworld is to inspire haunt owners with something that will help improve their attraction and take it to another level. The Darkness achieves this with it’s incredibly detailed sets, but fails in catching customers of guard. When it comes down to it, if your haunt isn’t scary it won’t leave a long lasting impression on its customers. And unfortunately The Darkness wasn’t very bone chilling the night I went through.
Many of the areas where actors were hiding could easily be spotted due to the hiding spots being placed right before you entered some scene.These areas need to be camouflaged better so customers can’t locate where actors are hiding. There was also a big shortage of characters who reside in scenes. Because of this many scenes became somewhat dull and boring. I was always waiting for something to happen, but all I saw was impressive scenery. Actors are the bread and butter of a haunt and if they aren’t present a scene will fail no matter how beautiful it is.Terror Visions has the exact same problem as The Darkness. It’s possibly one of the best looking 3D haunts in the nation, but lacks actors to fill up scenes and solely relies on its 3D effects and props. It’s entertaining, but not frightening.
Customer Service: The staff at The Darkness are very passionate in creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and safe for all customers who decide to tour this world class attraction. But there are improvements that could be made. First, there needs to be parking attendants directing traffic or a sign that says where to park. If it’s your first time at this haunt it may be confusing as to where to go since there is no banner or sign on the outside of the building saying that it’s The Darkness. There is a hearse that says Scarefest, but this isn’t visible from the street. Plus some people may be unaware that The Darkness is part of Scarefest.
Additional staff members walking around the queue line could also help with the flow of customers inside. It seemed to be pretty hectic inside and the lines moved pretty slowly due to the congestion. But the congestion doesn’t stop at just the outside queue lines. It’s very apparent once inside the haunt. Depending on how fast or slow the group in front of you is walking you may end up right behind them. This causes the person in the back to miss some of the effects or scenes that are targeted at the middle of the group. While there may not be any food available onsite there are plenty of concessions in the Monster Museum. This includes T-shirts and other merchandise. So if you are a fan of The Darkness then please make sure and pick up one of their new T-Shirts that features their new flaming skull design.
Fright Value: During the regular haunt season The Darkness charges $20 a ticket. This is a great deal for 3 distinctly different attractions that last nearly an hour. But during The Haunt Show tickets were $50 a piece and if you purchased them after March 22nd, it’s a hefty price of $65. Even though the makers of The Darkness invested over $200,000 in renovations, it’s still a very high ticket price considering not everything is going to be complete until September when the haunt opens to the general public. If I’m going to pay $50 I want to be certain that I’m going to be experiencing the same attraction that everyone else is during the regular haunt season. This isn’t the case. In the end you are paying nearly one dollar a minute which is very hard to swallow.
Final Stab-8.8: The Darkness proves once again that it’s one of the most detailed haunts in the United States, but there are elements that it needs to work on to take it to the next level. This includes the lack of music in many rooms, a building that is dying for a scary facade, better lighting to highlight details and more originality in various scenes. The addition of the Funeral Parlor theme used on the second floor was a great idea, but wasn’t executed as well as it could be. It becomes repetitive and somewhat predictable half way through the end. The Darkness has a talented group of artists and these areas could easily be fixed with just a little bit of effort. Either way you look at it, this is one of the most over the top haunts in the United States in terms of detailing.