|WAVERLY HILLS SANATORIUM:
Upon arrival at "The most haunted place on Earth," and just
prior to entering, guests are treated to a magnificent light show projected
onto the massive, awe-inspiring structure that once served as a tuberculousis
hospital for the terminally ill. Images of ghosts appear in windows,
along with a beating heart that appears to bring the building to life as
the entire facility "expands" and "contracts" looking as though it's breathing!
Blood oozes, and outlines of bed-ridden patients are seen, followed by
skeletons tumbling downward from above like rain! Several windows
illuminate as if someone flipped on a switch, and a nurse is seen hanging,
in an auspicious flashback to the legendary room 502! Skulls and
bats materialize out of thin air as the entire superstructure bursts into
flames and crumbles to the ground! As the brilliant presentation
concludes, entrance is gained through an intimidating arched opening that's
protected by an impressive iron gate that leads into foyer of the facility
itself. An initial photo-op begins the excursion through dimly-lit
hallways that immediately piques the interest of a sultry, female vampire
that stalks progression beyond upright coffins that provokes the emergence
of her snorting master in advance of a live, casket surprise. Eerie
sounds fill the air as a ghost-like apparition haunts continuance past
a mysterious weeping woman dressed in black cautioning, "Don't go in there!"
Not heeding her warning discovers an abandoned laboratory, imprisoned skeletons,
and a vial creature slithering and crawling upon the ground! Forging
onward past drop-down wall panels and a legless man maneuvering with the
aid of a walker escorts the path into a child's bedroom, where a distraught
damsel pleads for help, then into a cob-web infested area where an oversized
fiend armed with an axe blocks advancement, while eying an innocent girl
swaying back and forth on a swing! A baby nursery is on the horizon,
as are a few mechanical startles in advance of strobe-lit announcement
written in blood that reads, "You're next," that leads to a confrontation
with a mentally unstable gal sporting Freddy Krueger-like claws
that entices the appearance of the notorious Nightmare on Elm Street
villain himself! More spider webs compromise furtherance that eventually
chaperones the route into a dual, opposite spinning vortex that accesses
a clown populated zone that yields through a triple claustrophobic passage
into a 3-D section of vividly painted walls, more tormenting jesters, and
a polka dot room startle that gives rise to the assault of poisonous snakes,
and the invasion of a gigantic, sharp-toothed, bloody mouthed monster!
A lifeless morgue waits in the wings, as does a run-in with Michael
Myers, and an elaborate Saw scene that finds two frantic hostages,
one chained around his ankle to a bathtub, and the other around his wrist
to a toilet both equipped with hacksaws, and with the only option for freedom
being dismembering their own limbs! Jigsaw pounces onto the
set admiring his captives' self-inflicted wounds! Body bags guard
the way out, but connect into a devious torture chamber of severed human
appendages, some of which dangle from their suspension up above!
A brief skirmish with a unjust witchdoctor unveils an appalling
voodoo room littered with bones, followed by an altercation with a contemptible
culprit cradling a heart, while displaying recently amputated fingers and
toes. Candles light the way through "falling snow," and onto a series
of cabins occupied by a variety of screeching antagonists, then it's into
the cave of a crouched troglodyte that has his sights set on a screaming,
soon to be victim! Decapitated heads, laser dispersion, and a mirror
maze are still to come, followed by a conflict with an enraged brute and
his vicious guard dog that fades through a succession of events exposing
the seven deadly sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony,
each accompanied by appropriate enactments of each form of "Idolatry of
Self" including a gunpoint showdown (wrath); a jealous lady obsessed with
her own beauty that springs an attack from behind a vanity (envy); a man
gorging himself with food (gluttony); a talkative adversary demanding our
personal property such as hats, glowsticks, etc. (greed); a lazy, bed-ridden
individual (sloth); an injured young lass with bloody gauze bandaged around
her nose (pride), and an area comprised of a collection of women's panties
that finds an offender standing over a helpless woman tied to a bed (lust).
From there, the course moves past secured doors, through lockers concealing
sudden outbursts, through flickering lights, and body vaults, that ultimately
climaxes with a psychopathic chainsaw chase-out of The Waverly Hills
LENGTH - 8½, 19 minutes.
ACTORS - 8½, A rather populated cast roams the
darkened hallways at Waverly Hills. Costuming is appropriate
throughout, and makeup use is outstanding in the sense that some characters
are dripping with blood! Wrath girl with the gun delivers
the most enthusiastic performance demanding to know, "What did you do?"
Female Freddy is likewise memorable for pulling on her own hair,
crawler is a nice effect, whispered warning of "Don't go in there"
is most intimidating, and is best attired and troglodyte has the
most impressive appearance. Witchdoctor was misplaced in the
torture chamber, and would be far more impressive if seen in the voodoo
room chanting some indiscernible spells and claiming a victim. Overall
intensity and aggression could be raised to improve the score. Total
Characters = 43.
SCARINESS - 9, The authenticity of the facility itself
provides a remarkable, arguably unmatched atmosphere that provides for
a good portion of the spookiness on its own! It's often rather dark
inside, especially in connecting corridors, and plenty of unnerving mood
music enhances the experience. Scares aren't overly threatening in
nature, thus could be bolstered by a few acts of violence.
DESIGN - 8½, A Duke's mixture of scenes make up
this season'st theme, which would be far more effective if concentrated
along the lines of a hospital setting and exploiting the storied history
of the facility with abundant doctors, nurses, dying patients, hangings,
room 502, etc. This is what people come to Waverly expecting
to see, and while change is good, not taking advantage of this well-known,
legendary background is most unfortunate. Clowns just don't belong
here. Scenes themselves are adequate, but not elaborate, and transition
zones are mostly undecorated. Occasional quite time exists where
not much is happening, but they're not really "dead spots" because they
serve to play on one's emotions by instilling fear, anticipation, and anxiety
over what might happen next, but some entire scenes are unoccupied like
the lab for example, which shouldn't be the case. Lengthening endurance
would prove beneficial, and impressive scares are necessary to take the
show to the next level, along the lines of one of OVH's all time favorites
- bed levitation seen ONLY at Waverly several years ago. Given
the remarkable impression that radiates just from the sight of the facility
itself, you just have to take advantage of its naturally intimidating presence
by building a strong storyline centered around its lore. Introductory
light show is fantastic, and not seen elsewhere.
PROPS - 8½, Décor is mostly as expected
along with a few standouts that include the impressive, bloody-mouthed
monster; apparition; thunder and lightning; triple, different-sized claustrophobic
passage; and dual, opposite spinning vortex. Additional high-impact
props would raise the score, and increasing pneumatic/mechanical/animatronic
density wouldn’t hurt either.
VALUE - 8½, Just stepping foot inside Waverly
provides a certain amount of value in and of itself! Cost of admission
is $20, which is in line with the price being charged by other seasonal
attractions in the area. $5 parking fee adds to the out of pocket
expenditure, but profits from which are donated to The WHAS Crusade
For Children, and each paying vehicle receives a coupon valid for $5
off their onsite zombie shoot.
RATING: 8½, Built in the 1920's to
house dying tuberculosis patients, The Sanatorium is purported to
be among the most legitimately haunted places in the world! It's
been featured on Ghost Adventures, Scariest Places on Earth,
and Syfy Channel's LIVE 5-hour Halloween night broadcast of Ghost Hunters
back in 2007! Thousands of people lost their lives at Waverly
Hills. The annual haunted house serves as The Sanatorium's
primary fundraising event, with proceeds going towards its preservation
and restoration. The haunt itself scores higher because of the atmosphere
of the building itself than it otherwise would if generically staged elsewhere.
Any opportunity of visiting this remarkable structure shouldn't be missed.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll witness the shadow people while you’re here!