Howl-O-Scream has announced 6 houses: Nevermore, Ultimate Gamble:Vampire Casino, Zombie Mortuary, Night Shade Toys, Death Row Vengence:Fear the Dead, Deconstruction: The Dr. is Out of Control. Returning this year is the Alone house, which is an up-charge house. Based on it's popularity last year, buy your tickets now to guarantee your spot. In place of where Scarezones should be, it simply states "Zombies". Looks like the scares will be scattered throughout the park. Fan favorite show Fiends returns with those naughty nurses, along with a new show called The Midnight Hour. Just for the adults, visit Club Virus for drink specials and dancing.
Don't miss the information & reviews on the Specialty Cocktails & Drinks at the event.
Below you'll find the official descriptions, and our reviews of the event.
Howl-O-Scream Review 2011
Review with trip report from our Friday, September 23, 2011 visit.
We will be rating each house on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Please keep in mind this was opening weekend and the event grows & changes over the course of its run.
Let the Zombie Invasion Begin!
The Good News: This year we had the fortune of being invited to their media VIP Bleed-up event. For full disclosure, we did receive free event tickets and front of line passes for the night. We usually go twice a year on our own anyway, so the invite was a much appreciated bonus. However, we will not let that influence our thoughts or reviews of the event. The Bad News: You would think that 3 hours to get from south Orlando to Busch Gardens would be enough. Not this night. Thanks to rain, traffic was horrendous and made us miss the VIP party, though we did still get some swag that we'll be giving away at a later date. Huge thanks to @HOSInsider.
When you arrive by tram to the park, be sure to notice the handicap parking lot - zombies have already arrived. In the entry way you may come across a few zombies on a leash as you make your way to the turnstiles. There is a bar out in front of the main gate as well, in case you need a little liquid courage to get this party started!
The general theming throughout the park is well-done and helps set the mood. Special lighting in the trees, an important "breaking news" overhead announcement and other small details & photo ops pull it all together.
They have 2 DJ booths set up for the party, one by Sheikra and one by Cheetah Hunt. We love that they have these, it really makes it one big party. Heck, even the zombies were dancing for a while!
When we first read that there weren't going to be any scarezones this year and just "zombies" we figured it was a cost-cutting move and knew it'd either be amazing or weak. We are happy to report that they hit it out of the park with the roaming hoards. Nearly everywhere you went you would come across a hoard of zombies, giant masked creatures, or ghille suits hiding in the bushes. There is a nice variety of zombies looking to scare you - everything from construction workers, cheerleaders, haz-mat workers, clowns, werwolves and more.
The majority of scareactors at HOS are absolutely top-notch at creating a personalized scare experience. They are excellent at actually interacting with you! Instead of just a quick "Boo!" expect to have your personal space invaded by a goul for the next football field or so.
Clownbies! (Because Zombowns sounds stupid)
Apparently the big top didn't provide much protection against the zombie invasion. The clown zombies are a huge HOS success. I, like all of you, hate clowns with a passion. Unfortunately, one of the members of the troup was made aware that I'm not a fan of clowns; he was even gracious enough to mention my name. I was immediately surrounded by a hoard of zombies calling my name in the most disturbing zombie-like voices! Even as we walked away from them (ok, I ran) I could still hear them yelling calling for me! Now those are committed scareactors! Big props to the clown team (as much as I hate to say that!).
OMG That Bush Just Moved!
Who doesn't like a good ghillie suit scare? Nobody, that's who. This year Busch Gardens has cleverly hidden people all over the park . . . right in plain sight! Excellent job. Great cheap scares that startle everyone.
"Beating hearts, swinging pendulums and a raven's cries haunt the manor of Lenore, creating a demented and twisted nightmare. Step inside to experience the gothic terror that maddens the lord of the house and feel delusion overcome reality. Find your way out of this horror story before paranoia authors your final chapter" - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located behind Zambia Smokehouse, near Sheikra.
Nevermore - 9/10
NEW HOUSE! Enter the queue through a large ornate stone gate to find the giant, gothic-style house named "Lenore". Busch Gardens has truly raised the bar for detail and immersed us in his world. Don't miss Poe himself up in the tower right before you enter. A dark, gruesome house combine with excellent use of misdirection to create some great startling scares. This is definitely one to hit more than once.
"Fanged fiends entice you to test your luck in this sultry hangout straight from Sin City. The seductive games and high-stake thrills at Revivara Casino are sure to get your blood pumping, but will you escape before your luck gets drained? Just stay away from the killer All-THEY-Can-Eat buffet." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in Gwazi park area.
Ultimate Gamble: Vampire Casino - 7/10
NEW HOUSE! A bit more on the humorous/creepy side with the "all-they-can-eat buffet" and bar scene. The fun starts before you even get in the house with a very energetic carnival barker welcoming you to the casino. Great detail and some startle scares make this a fun house.
Read behind-the-scenes details at BuschGardensTampaBlog.com
"No one remembers how the epidemic started, but now, zombies live here. The undead that infest this small town funeral home fed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Avoid the walking dead or you may find yourself deeper than six feet under." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the carnival area, by Sand Serpent.
Zombie Mortuary - 9/10
NEW HOUSE! HOS designers are flexing their muscles this year and this house is doing a great job of showing us what they're capable of. Expect an amazing eye for detail and a nicely unique storyline to join forces with a very talented cast to make this one of the best houses yet. Be sure to go through a couple times to really see everything. There's nothing creepier than their new funeral home. Be sure to pay your respects or you may offend the mourners. There's a lot of "I see you hiding over there . . . Whoa! But where'd you come from?!" going on in this house.
Read behind-the-scenes details at BuschGardensTampaBlog.com
"By day, the old NightShade Toy Factory appears abandoned. But as night falls, the mysterious manufacturing plant glows and hums as it creates the diabolical dolls, terrible teddy bears and possessed playthings of your childhood nightmares. These twisted toys are alive...and they are coming after the adults who have forgotten them." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front entrance area of the park.
NightShade Toy Factory - 4/10
Sorry Nightshade. It's just not working. It's not you, it's me. Unfortunately we've never been a big fan of this house and this year was no exception. In theory, "scary toys-come-to-life" should be scary, but it's almost just silly. If you need to skip a house, we recommend this one.
"The inmates of Grey Echo Penitentiary are slated for execution. But as a zombie plague infests the crumbling cells, those prisoners left alive must decide which is worst: facing the firing squad, death by electric chair or an eternity of torture at the hands of their undead captors." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located by Jambo Junction.
Death Row Vengeance: Fear the Dead - 7/10
A returning house, but with a new overlay theme of infected prisoners. We still love the jail cell scene - don't forget to look up! The way in which you must 'escape' the jail is still one of the best ideas we've ever seen. If you've never been to HOS this house is top notch but it doesn't offer much new to the veteran. Still a fun scare for all to be had.
"Dr. Edger VonAnst has the skill and technology to make you over...but what will you become? This mad reconstructive surgeon has fallen one notch deeper into insanity and is putting human parts back together with mechanical pieces, combining flesh, bone and steel in the most hideous ways." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park, near Montu.
Deconstruction: The Dr. Is Out of Control - 6/10
Another returning house that's full of gory, gruesome hospital scenes and creepy doctors & patients. Some good startle scares, but not quite as strong as last year.
"Get exclusive access to one of the most horrifying houses of all when you and up to 3 friends make your way through this deranged labyrinth. This solitary scare experience will get you screaming and there won't be anyone to hear your shrieks. It's the ultimate test of fear. Can you make it out ALONE?" - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park, across from Gwazi area.
***NOT included with regular Howl-O-Scream admission. $40 for up to 4 people.
Alone - ?/10
Yet again, we waited too long to purchase tickets and missed our opportunity to experience Alone. Next time for sure! If you'd like to see this house be sure to purchase tickets weeks in advance.
"Is there a doctor in the house? These captivating creatures of the night will infect you with dance fever and keep your pulse pounding with their deranged dance party. But when Dr. Freakenstein's naughty nurses start operating, the diagnosis is always "code pink"." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the Stanleyville Theater.
Skipped it this year. We did see it last year and thought it was a bit tired and slow-moving. We know it's got a big fanboy base, but that probably is only because of the sexy nurses. Save your time and spend it elsewhere. Like on a photo op with the sexy nurses...
"The Midnight Hour: The music industry can be a devilish business to break into, especially at the Hellfire Club, where some of pop culture's most sinister personalities are there to coach you." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the Dessert Grill.
The Midnight Hour - 2/10
The Good: Well, the actors tried really hard. The Bad: Everything else. It started out ok, with the plot of an aspiring singer getting help from other celebrities, but then it turned very political. Like weird political. As in pro-Sarah Palin political? Seriously. We cut our losses and left before the end. We recommend you do better than us and skip it altogether.
"Escape the hordes and head to the transformed Marrakesh Theater to join the party at Howl-O-Scream's exclusive dance club. This adults-only nighttime playground keeps the energy pumping all night with non-stop music, signature cocktails, drink specials and appearances by some terrifying personalities." - Busch Gardens Official Description | Located in the front of the park.
We stopped in towards the end of the night, and it was relatively empty with a few people milling about with drinks and chatting, though we're sure that will change as the event goes on. If you want a break from the park, step in here for a club scene for a little variety. The drinks served here are the same as the specialty ones served at all bars. Read our Specialty Drink post for more information on libations.
We stand by that one night is simply not enough to really take in the whole event. Thankfully we had front of line passes, or we wouldn't have seen all that we did, let alone enjoy the atmosphere and a ride or 2 (our first rides on Cheetah Hunt were this night - AWESOME!!). If you have one night here, we would recommend springing for the front-of-the-line pass, or the Fright Feast.
Best place to stop for some food: Zambia Smokehouse - Best. Ribs. Ever. Plus, what's more zombie approved than gnawin' on some rib bones?
Overall, we are highly impressed with the improvements on the quality and continuing innovation of the event. Sorry HHN, we love you but Howl-O-Scream wins again for best overall, integrated park themeing and, of utmost importance to us, party atmosphere. This is our 3rd year attending HOS and we are happy to see that each year keeps getting better than the last.