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HAUNTED HOUSE REVIEWS
2011 OHIO VALLEY HAUNTS MULTI - VENUE HAUNT OF THE YEAR!
LAND OF ILLUSION HAUNTED SCREAM PARK
Ohio Valley Haunts
OVERALL RATING:
Reviewed  9/7/13
click below logos for reviews of each individual haunt
Land of Illusion
Land of Illusion
LAND OF ILLUSION
Haunted Scream Park
featuring
MIDDLETOWN HAUNTED TRAIL
(5 Haunted Attractions and Zombie Sniper Patrol)
8762 Thomas Rd
Middletown, Ohio  45042/(513) 423-9960
Sat: $34.99 for haunts ($49.99 VIP) - plus $5 parking
Sun (Oct ONLY): $24.99 ($39.99 VIP) (Trail CLOSED)
$5 VIP discount online/$5 Coupons at Kroger
click logo (center) to visit their website
Dr. Psycho's Haunted Estate Middletown Haunted Trail Temple of Terror
Voodoo Bayou Shanty Killer Klowns Zombie Sniper Patrol
Plus LIVE nightly entertainment on the STAGE OF RAGE, tasty refreshments at the CREEPY CAFE, and adult beverages at the ALL NEW VOODOO LOUNGE
REVIEW
Zombie Sniper PatrolZOMBIE SNIPER PARTOLNew to Land of Illusion for 2013 is Zombie Sniper Patrol.  Patrons actually participate in this unique attraction by climbing aboard one of several customized U.S. Army cargo trucks equipped with rows of paintball gun turrets mounted along both sides of each vehicle.  Each paying customer is seated behind one of the weapons, and is in total control of firing off rounds of ammunition as the rig forges into the woods encountering four separate scenes of “targets” that include various road signs, abandoned cars, a deserted campsite, random structures, and of course roaming, undead zombies!   Because of glow-in-the-dark lighting, individual shots can easily be followed from the time they leave the rifle all the way up until the point of impact.  The object of the challenge, of course, is to eliminate the “walkers” via direct headshots.  Reloading is available for a $5 upcharge if you happen to use up all of your “bullets” prior to the end of the adventure.

Analysis:
The event takes about 15 minutes to complete, and there are approximately 3 zombies in each scene.  It isn’t scary per se, and there aren’t any props other than arbitrary static targets within the various scenes, thus this attraction hasn’t been rated as an actual haunt.  It’s designed to be fun, and actually INVOLVE people in the action.  An additional $12.99 ticket must be purchased in addition to regular park admission, which might be a bit on the steep side considering customers have already paid around $35 to get in, but it’s definitely a one-of-a kind experience, and one that is certain to be enjoyed when visiting Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park!

Middletown Haunted TrailTHE MIDDLETOWN HAUNTED TRAIL In traditional fashion, the 2013 Haunt Season officially begins across the old wooden bridge that leads onto The Middletown Haunted Trail! An immediate machine gun attack initiates the experience, and ushers in exposure to some sort of military post equipped with a variety of equipment and camouflaged gear that climaxes upon arrival at Area 49 - a polluted action zone inhabited by albino alligators and other animated monsters, and characterized by piercing air-raid sirens, loud gun shots, other warnings, and alarms; and with the only option for navigation being a vibrating iron-grated bridge that terminates into a fenced-in toxic holocaust topped with barbed wire!  Contaminants fill the air reducing visibility to next to nothing, completely engulfing the escape across a lengthy overpass that obscures a run-in with notorious slasher Michael Myers!  Fleeing through near complete darkness, and various snarls and growls brings a warning of danger as progression exposes a command/trauma center supervised by irrational individuals clad in white smocks that exits onto a Pumpkin Master scene in the midst of a crazed cornfield.  Giant spiders spin demonic webs, wicked witches seek to add human ingredients to their bubbling brew, and chainsaw wielding lunatics including Leatherface who is actually referred to by his cohorts as "Bubba"(the character's name in the movie) subdue and chop up helpless victims as severed body parts litter the ground, and a human body is roasted over an open fire!  Next up is Cherry Hill's Legend of Sleepy Hollow ruled by the infamous Headless Horseman, then it's onto a nearly abandoned ghost town that comes alive with cantankerous hillbillies confronting trespassers at gunpoint, while attempting to corral them into a mobile hog pen!  A spooky, fog-filled cemetery is on the horizon, where undead zombies stalk from behind, slithering along the ground in pursuit!  From there, armed guards capture new prisoners and lead them onboard a bus, then it's into a torture chamber-like "room of doom" that delivers the course directly into the path of a maniac waving a blowtorch in advance of a pair of school buses that have been tragically driven straight into the ground!  Howling werewolves beckon the approach to the deepest, darkest part of the inhospitable woods - an immoral underworld known as The Nest inhabited by eternal female vampires thirsting for blood!  A new kitchen/cafeteria scene is up next serving up nasty delicacies before a mysterious organ player introduces the School of Hell, where the lesson being taught is "16 ways to die!"   A barbaric instructor attempts to educate pupils in "jugular cutting" before a spinning skull-lined vortex transitions into Bloody Buddy's Butcher Shop!  "Who the Hell wants to grill out on a Saturday night when you can have it raw" Buddy demands as his feminine accomplice tears the intestines out of a pig!  Vibrating morgue-like body vault drawers guarded by a demented vixen attempting tooth extractions guide the way through freezers of suspended body bags that serve as the finale to this one mile of night terrors known as The Middletown Haunted Trail.

Analysis:
LENGTH - 9+, 25½ mins.
ACTORS - 9, The strongest cast at LOI staffs the star attraction!  Witch gave an enthusiastic performance, as did chainsaw lunatics who cleverly refer to Leatherface by his real first name! Crawling Zombies are a nice addition to the graveyard! Blowtorch actor likewise gave a commendable performance, along with those specifically mentioned in review above.  Buddy the butcher remains a standout, along with his assistant, who have meaningful things to say, and are covered with blood!  Failed attempts at humor that were present last season have been properly done away with.  Things are a bit weaker in the opening legs of the trail with a predominance of insane giggling, laughter, and "goofiness."  Myers scare could use some strengthening, perhaps with the addition of a victim.  The second half of the trail (from the witch on) is much better from an acting standpoint, although cops in bus scene seem more focused on crowd control than delivering scares - "Keep moving" could be replaced with something more sinister and intimidating. Nest vampires could stand to be a bit more sultry and seductive.  Total Characters = 47 (down 6 from 2012).
SCARINESS - 9, As mentioned above, the first part of the trail sets the stage for what lies ahead.  As such, aside from a few early startles, scares take awhile in coming.  Introductory segment portrays a few too many mentally distraught subjects, most of whom are interchangeable with one another. Focusing more on delivering scares than lunacy would prove beneficial.  Costuming is more elaborate, bloody and gory this year, which plays a huge role in amplifying scares!  Soundtrack is top notch throughout.
DESIGN - 9, Course continues to get off to a slow start, as already discussed.  Myers scene needs some action, and extensive military presence would benefit from some sort of purpose as well.  Fog density on bridge reduces visibility to practically nothing, but snarls and growls heard alongside fail to produce any sort of invasion, which too would prove beneficial.  Scenes are often random in nature and sometimes don't flow well (military segment yielding to hillbilly cornfield, and Nest to school to butcher for example).  The Nest needs to crank things up too, and finish should be strengthened, perhaps by having another Butcher provide some sort of vicious chase-out.
PROPS - 9+, As is the case throughout much of LOI, plenty of overwhelming props and animatronics are on display, and scenes are elaborately detailed with  Butcher Shop taking home top honors.  Blowtorch is awesome, and Headless Horseman is a classic that's hardly seen elsewhere! Area 49 likewise is a masterpiece, although it could stand some human interaction.  Scarecrows nailed to crosses have been removed from cornfield, or weren't well lit or noticed.  Props of this nature are always appreciated because of their uniqueness from the "same old, same old" body parts and bones, etc.
VALUE - 10, The Trail remains the most powerful attraction on the site, and unlimited entry makes the LOI "trump card" quite a worthwhile bargain!
RATING:  9. The feature attraction at LOI lives up to its billing with a lengthy, action-packed adventure. If you like haunted trails, this 5-time Ohio Valley Haunts Best Trail winner is not to be missed!

Temple of TerrorTEMPLE OF TERROR:   The adventure begins through mysterious doors, covered with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics where an immediate, darkened entrapment delivers a mesmerizing warning of imminent wrath that's sure to be incurred by those violating the sanctity of the Temple.  A major surprise is on the horizon before the actual exploration gets underway through a lengthy claustrophobic passage, then into a skeleton lined corridor that finds mummified bodies clinging to life, and bony remains rattling imprisoning bars desperately seeking freedom.  Horrific sounds escort the torch lit path past upright caskets serving as tombs for decomposing bodies, impressive sarcophaguses, and eventually into the clutches of a gigantic, irate Impaler that awakens right before your eyes as the course winds deeper into the tragic catacombs.  Enormous bats hover directly overhead, violently flapping their elongated wings while guarding a pyramid of skulls, and venomous cobras spew forth poisonous sprays in advance of a wooden sway bridge that traverses cascading water to the accompaniment of a sudden, overhead surprise!  Musty smells and collapsing ceilings hamper navigation, while darkness obscures a variety of disgruntled creatures including a huge, bloody-mouthed behemoth that unexpectedly discovers your presence and bursts forth to attack!  Continuance witnesses the tortured remains of a forsaken victim violently being thrust upon a bed of nails, setting the stage for a gun blasting finale for the lost souls brave enough to invade the Temple of Terror!

Analysis:
LENGTH - 6½, 8 minutes. 
ACTORS - 8, Cast size has unfortunately diminished significantly over the past few years, but there's still  a few engagements consisting of intriguing dialogue.  A few "live" mummies were introduced in 2012, and it's good to see them returning.  It would be nice to see their population multiply as these signature creatures perfectly compliment the theme, and an increased number of them to stalk and pursue would prove beneficial and raise the score.  Total Characters = 14 (down from 19 a year ago, and 24 in 2011).
SCARINESS - 9+, A frightening mood is set by mysterious lighting and an exceptional soundtrack that ranges in nature from the unnerving effect of dripping water to all out assault when the various monsters go on the prowl!
DESIGN - 9+, Not much has changed from a design standpoint over the past few years other than increased detailing, and the "bloodying up" of monster's mouths, etc.  Duration remains a bit on the short side which is the attraction's major weakness, although the experience is fairly action-packed for the most part while it lasts.  "Bridge over troubled water" scene, animated monsters, imprisoned skeletons, mummies, and claustrophobic passage are among its most memorable attributes.  Darkness combines with loud, masterful audio enhancement to make your skin crawl!  Additional actors and an amplified finish are necessary to reach the next level.
PROPS - 9+, Plenty of eye-catching animatronics, appropriate décor, and mechanical surprises are on display.  Use of fountains and water is quite impressive, and is most suitable for the environment.  Caskets and sarcophaguses leave lasting impressions.
VALUE - 10, An unbeatable bargain on the combo ticket, and UNLIMITED entries!
RATING:  9, Another independently themed attraction that's arguably the best haunt at LOI!

Dr. Psycho's Haunted EstateDR. PSYCHO'S HAUNTED ESTATE:   A CGI entrapment with a blood splattering surprise introduces the approach to the house, where groups are confronted at gunpoint and quizzed about being "infected" in advance of a trek past animated grave diggers, bodies springing forth from coffins, and a scary old hearse.  Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor beckons the way into a funeral wake that's first seen from a short church pew maze, and yields through a spooky looking graveyard into an unexpected chainsaw pursuit!  Thunder, lightening, and howling wind accompany the first glimpse of the frightening old house standing mysteriously off in the distance.  Tombstones, animated corpses propelling from their eternal tombs, a thrashing body hanged by a noose from a nearby tree, and caged skeletons struggling to escape imprisonment guide the way past a deranged fiend, and into a newly constructed barn that houses a moonshiner's distillery adorned with body parts and guts hanging from the rafters.  Into the house itself, the Estate portion of the experience begins in a botanical greenhouse growing vicious Venus flytraps among other deadly species, then detours through a freezer stocked with body bags, and a gory kitchen of recently severed limbs!  A dining room surprise delivers the course into a wicked laboratory, and a face-to-face confrontation with Dr. Psycho himself engaged in some sort of diabolical experiment!  Various rooms of the spooky old manor are explored one by one as well as a morgue of vibrating body vault doors before ascending upstairs to an extended bathroom scene, a dead body unexpectedly falling through a trap door in the ceiling, and a dentist-like encounter that witnesses a patient having her flesh torn completely from her face!  A distraught child's playroom gives way through a hallway of doors covered with blood into the open arms of another monstrous surprise!  Waiting in the wings is a casket-lined corridor of poisonous, hissing snakes beneath overhead pipes that leak blistering toxic steam impeding the escape from Dr. Psycho's Haunted Estate.

Analysis:
LENGTH - 7, 12½ minutes.
ACTORS - 8½, Dr. Psycho and his Experiment rightfully play more prominent roles in this years installment.  The former delivered several space invading, in-your-face scares while the latter followed us throughout, actually overdoing it a bit as he was often in the way of mechanical scares.  Similarly, highly motivated, enraged characters occupy practically the entire house, but goofiness prevails at times during the outdoor segment, which defies the nature of the attraction.  Bloodier and more elaborate costumes help to elevate the score.  "Stilt man" is conspicuous by his absence, as is unique zombie-like female undertaker that's been replaced with useless hillbillies that don't fit the haunt's theme.  Total Characters  = 16 (consistent with last year).
SCARINESS - 9+, Lots of well-timed traditional, and technological scares are present from beginning to end.  More threatening encounters exist inside the house as suggested in last year's review!  However, that benefit is offset by out of place rednecks that don't fit in here.  Sound enhancement is somewhat quiet at times.
DESIGN - 9, Outdoor soundtrack is fabulous, even incorporating blowing wind in accompaniment to thunder and lightening.  A new barn has been added to the outdoor portion of the haunt this year, but it really feels out of place, lacks impressive pneumatic scares present elsewhere in the attraction, and is inhabited by mooonshiners which serve no purpose.  It's as though a scene has been copied from the Trail or Shanty and inserted into a frightening environment where it simply doesn't belong.  Botanical garden, while elaborate, remains uneventful, and should be replaced given it isn't scary, thus violating the attraction's central theme. Dr. Psycho properly has more attention focused on him this season, and he has a much better experiment, but we'd still like to see him somehow involved in a more dramatic finish.  (We were treated to a send-off engagement with him our first time through, but that wasn't the case on a revisit.)
PROPS - 9½, This attraction is filled with overwhelming décor complimented by an abundance of animatronics.  Props have been "bloodied up" for the second consecutive season legitimizing their scares via the additional gore, and contributing to a more frightening experience.  Kitchen severed leg prop, for example, looked real!
VALUE - 9½, Unlimited visitation opportunity propels the worth of each LOI attraction. 
RATING:  9,  The Estate continues to fight it out against The Trail and Temple of Terror as the dominant LOI attraction!  A few tweaks here and there would result in significant improvement. More aggressive indoor acting is definitely a step in the right direction!

Voodoo Bayou ShantyVOODOO BAYOU SHANTYHillbilly music blares through the old, country shack that's home to a family of incestuous, off the wall rednecks.  The dimly lit course explores various rooms of the dilapidated old structure where groups are suddenly confronted for disturbing some blood-stained laundry and even threatened by a country boy pointing a crossbow as the jovial bluegrass tunes give way to a darker, more sinister soundtrack.  Total darkness suddenly gives way to hissing snakes suddenly appearing beneath your feet, as the course heads through a foul smelling kitchen littered with dirty dishes, and continues through spider webs inside an undead nursery.  Next up is the "Tribute to Jimmy" room adorned with wheelchairs, a walker, and a corpse having syringes protruding from its body!  Loud horns temporarily blast trespassers down a path over-run with weeds, where the considerate offer of the use of a corncob emanates from a cowpoke exiting an outhouse, and another fiend attacks with an over-sized hand!  Body bags, decapitated heads, more oppressive smells, severed limbs, and a wicked soundtrack lead back inside where chained freezer doors shake and vibrate on their own, a half human-like creature screeches at the top of his lungs, and animals have been skinned alive and left to die inside their cages!  Out back rests a dilapidated old camper that's home to a scruffy character that warns of an impending gator attack, then a brief wooden maze-like segment dumps into a voodoo room inhabited by a deranged witch doctor, and a revisited chainsaw assault that serves as a chase-out of Voodoo Bayou Shanty!

Analysis:
LENGTH - 7, 8½ mins.
ACTORS - 7, Dialogue isn't very good, and another decline in cast size makes undersized actors more noticeable.  Favorites include confrontational crossbow character, "screecher," and the chainsaw assailant, who gives a relentlessly aggressive performance.  "Witch Doctor" needs revamped as his insane demeanor isn't in compliance with the role.  He occupies the final room of the Shanty, thus this needs to be an impressively memorable scene - one that witnesses him conducting some type of eerie voodoo ceremony would be perfect, and raise the score.  "Wanna play" doesn't belong, nor does the offer to smell one's underwear coming from an underage actor.  TOTAL CHARACTERS = 14 (down from 18 in 2012).
SCARINESS - 7, More enriched engagements with "the family" are needed in order to provoke more scares.  Soundtrack is one of this attraction's major strengths.
DESIGN - 8, Theme is consistent throughout, but little has changed in comparison to last season except for illuminating snakes, and the attraction remains a bit on the short side. 
PROPS - 8, Detailing is good, but props aren't nearly as impressive as those found in Temple of Terror or Dr. Psycho's.  Alligator remains most memorable.  Last year's short circuit was absent, or not functioning, which is a shame as it was one of the more interesting effects.  Foul smells were a noticeable addition.
VALUE - 8½, 2013's Shanty has improved significantly since its inception, but little in comparison to last year.  The unlimited access policy raises the value of each LOI attraction.
RATING : 7½, Voodoo Bayou Shanty serves as a differently themed, supporting attraction to "the big three" at Land of Illusion.

Killer KlownsKILLER KLOWNS:  Coulrophobia (an extreme fear of clowns) comes to life via fluorescent colors, disorienting strobes, distorting mirrors, a pair of spinning vortices, a new checkered "surprise," a confusing chain link fence maze, and some ever present Killer Klowns.  Carnival-style games that include firing a man out of a cannon compliment the adventure past "Jojo" the gorilla, as well as an "infinite" tunnel, then through a white claustrophobic passage that exits into a decrepit kitchen, play room, and a jack-in-the-box surprise as the curtain comes down on the shenanigans inside LOI's Killer Klowns!

Analysis:
LENGTH - 7,  9½ mins.
ACTORS - 5, Although some of the cast is armed with a variety of weapons in an effort to solidify their reputation as "killers," there simply aren't enough of them, and dialogue is tremendously weak.  Maze is inhabited by only one character who served up a bit of misdirection, but climbing/jumping antics that were appreciated a few years ago, and served to supplement confusion are no longer present.  Carnival was empty and uninhabited, and the presence of child actors hurts the score as well.  Total Characters = 10 (down from 20 last year).
SCARINESS - 5, Attractions of this nature must rely heavily on actors to intimidate and boost scares, and unfortunately that just isn't the case.
DESIGN - 6½, Somewhat short, and nothing all that unexpected.  The 3-D gimmick has been done away with this year which eliminates the main element that gave this attraction its appeal.  Soundtrack is quiet in places, but cleverly incorporates Insane Clown Posse songs as noticeable attributes.  Carnival is way too uneventful, and last year's "mirror surprise" has been lost in favor of a quiet Wizard of Oz scene.  Cage maze is mostly dead, and finish remains weak which is the Achilles' heel of most LOI attractions.  An extended mirror maze would compliment the theme, and likewise lengthen the duration, raising the score in the process. 
PROPS - 6½, Nowhere near as exciting in comparison to the other attractions.  Spinning vortices are appropriate for this facility, but fiber optic chandelier that impressed with its debut a season ago is no place to be seen.  Not taking advantage of the 3-D aspect makes no sense.
VALUE - 6, The price of admission includes unlimited access, but there aren't an abundance of scares, and not taking advantage of the 3-D paint job is a mistake.
RATING : 6, Because of their inherent nature, clown houses sink or swim almost totally on the talent of the actors and diversity of props, the latter of which aren't all that impressive.  The optical effect was the major draw, and its been eliminated.
Note:  Revisiting the attraction on 10/26 found the lights darkened, scares on the increase, and the Klowns FINALLY adopting a Killer instinct!  Their more sinister demeanor stems from the new, more foreboding environment, which is far more intimidating than the bright lights and colorful, almost cheerful abode they formerly occupied!  This haunt will score significantly higher in 2014 and beyond if these changes persist, and continue to be implemented.

Land of IllusionLAND OF ILLUSION - OVERALL EXPERIENCE Purchasing a ticket to Land of Illusion grants UNLIMITED entry to all 4 haunted houses as well as the trail!  That's an unheard of bargain in comparison to the competition where you stand in line for a while, go through a 15 or 20 minute haunt, and you're done!  At LOI's HAUNTED SCREAM PARK, you're there for the entire night!  All of the attractions are equipped with elaborate technological props making LOI one of the most highly acclaimed haunts in existence.  Online ticketing simplifies the admission process with access to a special entrance gate that's been established so those that purchase in advance aren't required to wait in line to enter the park.  V.I.P. admission is also available for only $10 extra, and entitles guests to front of the line access to all 5 haunted attractions the whole time they're there.  Waiting areas are sheltered from the weather, and snacks are available from the Creepy Cafe

Major renovations continue to modernize the facility with large, newly constructed restrooms, and a full service bar known as The Voodoo Lounge Zombie Sniper Patrol debuts for 2013, and although it requires an additional ticket, it shouldn't be missed as there's nothing else like it anywhere! 

HINT:  Ohio Valley Haunts recommends arriving early, visiting on Friday nights when crowds are a little smaller, and hitting the Trail first as lines forms early and get longer as the night goes on.  Investing $10 in unlimited front of the line entry is likewise the way to go.

Overall Analysis:
LOI showcases a variety of frights throughout their differently themed attractions, and the Park continues to expand and improve every year.  Although cast size has diminished practically across the board in order to adequately staff Zombie Sniper Patrol, many scenes and characters have been strengthened with more impressive costuming, extravagant make-up, and additional blood and gore!  However, too many of the actors mistakenly try to act funny, goofy, insane, or crazy, as opposed to focusing on providing more quality scares.  Higher impact finales to each attraction would also prove beneficial.
OVERALL RATING  9½, The event achieves its score by gathering an impressive assembly of quality attractions at the same venue.  Thus, the overall LOI experience rates higher collectively than any of its component haunts considered on an individual basis.  In today's world of price gouging, LOI is perhaps the best haunt bargain to be found, not only in the area, but in the world!  Take advantage of $5 discount coupons available at area Kroger stores in order to save even more!  And be sure to spend a frightful, action packed evening this Halloween season at Land Of Illusion!
Note:  Parking proceeds benefit local non-profit charities including Somerville Volunteer Fire Department, Madison Athletic Group, Southwestern Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue (SWOKSAR), etc..

Land of Illusion - Zombie Sniper Patrol
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