These guys are always fun to watch for a while since they spew insults at passersby. Hey, are you talking to me?
The Roaming Hoardes, which consist of various monsters on stilts, strange DJ-Tron-like men with glow bracelets on stilts (not scary just confusing) and ghille suits among others. However, we did notice that there were empty spots around the park that used to have more scareactors milling about. We didn't see the usual "regular people" scareactors around, such as the lady with the stroller with the demon baby or the guys with the shovels making sparks. Hopefully they return again or replace the void with something new, as it was obviously rather empty compared to previous years.
Shop of Horrors
In the front of the park you'll find the specialty Shop of Horrors. This is their wonderfully themed and decorated gift shop just for Howl-O-Scream. Do not miss this, you need to walk through this store to see the incredible detail and care they put into this shop - it's unlike anything you'll find at that other halloween event. Howl-O-Scream still has the best merchandise between them and HHN. Lots of fun and unique items that you actually want to buy.
If you're interested in our thoughts of the Fright Feast, here's our review of it from last year:
The buffet consisted of beef brisket, macaroni & cheese, fish filets, chicken nuggets, various salads, mashed potatoes, a taco bar and more. There are seperate display tables for desserts and non-alcoholic beverages. You can purchase a beer or a mixed drink at the Dessert Grill Bar as well. The buffet is your basic "safe, pleasing to everyone" kind of buffet. Let's face it - you're not getting this package for the food - it's for the early house access. However, there is one exception - the pumpkin cheesecake. We've read comments from others who were drooling and dreaming over eating this again, and we have to say - they are right! Creamy, smooth with just the right amount of pumpkin flavor, this is nearly enough reason for the buffet!
The buffet is from 6-7pm, and Fiends begins at 6:30. As far as Fiends goes, we've never been big fans, but maybe it was something in the food because this year we found ourselves enjoying the campy, raunchy, naughty nurse show more than before. Could it be because we were inside in the A/C? The more intimate atmosphere? Whatever the reason, it makes for fun entertainment while eating.
As we mentioned, the real reason to get this package is for the early house admission. From 7-7:30pm, you get exclusive early access to all houses, and then front of the line access to the houses until 8:30pm. This is a great option to knock out several houses early in the night.
Food & Cocktails
Yet again the stand in front of Zambia Smokehouse has our favorite menu item - individually priced ribs! Grab one to go instead of a whole meal for a zombie-approved snack. Other snacks are available at the various Food & Drink stands. For a full review of HOS Specialty Drinks, visit our other post here.
At the entrance is where you first encounter The 13. The set up with all the doors and every one of "The 13" wandering about is a fun way to start the event, and makes for great people watching and photo ops. The #11 Psychopath asked me if I liked his doors.
You'll find this scarezone near the train station in Nairobi. Here you meet #2 The Torturer and #12 The Hangman. You'll come across some grotesque torture scenes that basically make good photo ops. We found this zone rather unstaffed and, aside from being really foggy, not very scary. Hopefully this'll improve during the run of the event.
We've been attending Howl-O-Scream for several years, and it seems that each year the house queues improve in detail and scope. They do an excellent job of preparing you for the house's theme before you actually enter the building with the detail in the queue.
We will be rating each house on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best, scariest, best themed & detailed, down-right don't miss this one! Please keep in mind this was opening weekend and the event grows & changes over the course of it's run.
Zombie Mortuary gets to hold it's title as our favorite house of the event for the third year. The zombies are still in control of the mortuary and the make their presence known immediately - along with their new pet Rover - a stunning and scary addition that catches you off-guard. What makes us like this house the best might be that you move through several different scenes: a mortuary, funeral, and ultimately, the burial. Each of these are executed expertly by some scareactors with impeccable timing. Scenes such as, the funeral with the crying women; having to walk through a herse (that was new!); the feeling of being 6ft under in the dirt with family looking down saying their goodbyes.
We got one of our best scares ever while walking through the morgue. Drawers were pulled out that you had to walk around, and as we brushed a hanging sheet away to continue walking, a scareactor in a drawer above our heads yelled down at us, and since we didn't see him & weren't expecting that, we both screamed and ducked at the same time. An employee who had gotten behind us in line a while back said out loud quietly to himself "Ooooo, that was a good one"!
We'd love to see a little more theming added to the queue to match the other houses.
This house premiered 2 years ago, and it has only improved each year. This may be the most intense this house has ever been. Scare after scare after scare, this one doesn't let you catch your breath. There's a high level of intensity and energy flowing through this house thanks to the talented scareactors who obviously have put their full heart & soul into these characters. The madness of Poe is evident and perfectly executed by the scareactors and complimented by the incredible detail of the numerous scenes of the house. Neither of us have screamed as much in a house in a very long time.
This is another house with excellent queue theming at the beginning and, where you least expect it, the exit. Right before you enter the house, you'll pass a cavernous scene with a skeleton reciting "The Raven", which is frightening and funny at the same time - still one of our favorite spots. At the end, take a close look at the statues...they're not exactly all stone...
We feel it's worth mentioning that neither of us is familiar with Poe beyond the Raven and we still got throughly freaked out, so knowing his work isn't crucial to enjoying this house.
Blood Asylum returns for a second year and has matured in gruesome ways. The escaped prisoner from this asylum has done a good job of slaying his captors and fellow prisonmates as you find their dead bodies scattered around as he tries to get you next. The level of intensity of dread and fear while in this house is unlike anything I've experienced before in a house. They got me just right here - one of the prisoners blocked our way, said he wanted to keep "the pretty one" and then blew on my neck. Talk about a goosebump freak-out! Go through this one slower if you can to get the best experience.
Death Water Bayou - NEW!
Themeing and set design for a haunted house has been taken to the next level with Death Water Bayou. First off, the exterior makes you feel as if you just wandered into the bayou of New Orleans as you're greeted with an old, decrepit house and hillbillies hollering at you from the porch. Unfortunately we went through at night, which doesn't make for a great photo with our camera. After entering the house, you immediately meet #6 The Voo Doo Queen working her magic on some poor souls. You'll meet up with her again in the house for some great scares and encounters. The most unique detail of this house is that you start out inside and soon find yourself outside at night in the swampy woods of the bayou - except you're technically still inside the show building. The detail of the bayou - the bridge you cross over the "water", the trees and of course the scareactors bring this house to the next level of set design. Beautifully detailed while still serving up intense scares and interactions make this a must-do house of the event. We hope to see this one on the list for next year's houses.
The Basement - NEW!
You don't want to eat what Mamma's cooking! We really enjoyed this new house because of it's campy, comedic parts that were still plenty scary and gross. You'll meet up with #4 The Butcher in this house as he tries to collect more "ingredients", aka people, for Mamma's meats. A fun theme with several startle scares and well-played scenes. Our favorite scene in the house is where a man is strapped into a highchair and being force fed Mamma's food. He's covered in vomit and begs and pleads to us to help him and not eat the meat! Great scene and expertly played by the scareactors.
Ultimate Gamble Vampire Casino: Reversal of Fortune
While we feel like we lost our hand in Ultimate Gamble last year, we think we came out even this year. This year's rendition proves scarier, darker and better detailed. More sudden scares and unexpected turns to give you a pretty good thrill. Kinda a meat & potatoes house - a good base, but nothing particularly notable to reflect upon, hence our not mentioning any particular scenes because we don't remember any. Much better than last year's though, so if you enjoyed that one, this one is only better.
Circus of Superstition 3D
This is the house that broke new ground on themed queues last year, but has lost it's queue crown to Death Water Bayou. The entire area leading up to the house is heavily decorated with a grand lighted entrance and giant circus sign. Clown barkers are yelling into megaphones, trying to draw in more victims, umm.. guests. They even have a clown working the line, making bad jokes and inappropriate comments to the guests - such a great "why didn't they think of this earlier" addition. It makes waiting in line go much faster when you have entertainment to interact with.
This house is about superstitions, and you will be forced to break them in the house, heck you start out by walking under a giant ladder, which happens to have a creepy clown (are there other kinds?) hanging on the ladder grabbing and yelling at you. Sadly, we found the exterior and queue the best part of the house as we did last year, and that's coming from someone here who HATES clowns that didn't find this house very scary - again. Lots of colorful rooms with different superstitions to experience, but not that many good startle scares. More creepy and fun than truly scary. Still a good one to see, but we'd save it for last.
The Experiment - NEW Upcharge House
We decided that one house for another $60 for the two of us just wasn't a good value for us this year again.
We visited Club 13 a few times over the night to grab a cocktail refill and tacos from Tampa's own Taco Bus. That's right - they parked a real food truck in the club. The club is completely open air so you can see what's going on just by walking by which is much better than the year they had walls around it. This layout feels friendlier and more inviting to those walking by. One time we walked in the DJ was having a contest with some women on stage to see who was the better twerker. Yup. This was also our first time having Taco Bus, and fell in love! Delicious, authentic and full of flavor. Highly recommend these. Now if we can just get a Taco Bus Orlando...
At risk of sounding like a broken record (yet again), we have to repeat our thoughts that the scareactors are absolutely top-notch at creating a personalized experience. They actually interact with you instead of just a quick "boo". You can tell they love their job and it shows with their contagious enthusiasm and love for the event.
Every year we look forward to Howl-O-Scream because the designers take it just a bit further with fun, excitement and entertainment every year. Yet again, Howl-O-Scream catches the heart, soul and spirit of Halloween, along with best overall integrated park theming and atmosphere.