Busch Gardens Tampa unveiled the 12th year of their haunted event, Howl O Scream. The event is a separate ticket event meaning that they close the park to the daytime guests, and reopen it as a dark and sinister mirror of itself. Only instead of seeing animals in their natural habitats, you see zombies. How does it measure up? Is it scary? It really depends on what you find scary, and what you’re looking for in a haunted event, but we’ll take a look at the houses and other components that make the event this year.
There are three new haunted houses this year, and three returning houses, plus the upcharge house Alone. This gives us the total number of houses of 7, which is down one from last year. Each house tells a different story and tries to immerse the guests in their world.
- Zombie Mortuary-A new house this year which takes you into the funeral parlor of a small town. It uses a very detailed set of rooms, and gives you different types of scares. Yes, there are zombies here, but there are also tons of other little nasties looking to do you harm. There’s also an appearance by the original hearse that was used in Dr. Paul Bearer’s Creature Features show.
- Nevermore-Another new house which takes you into the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and the house of Lenore. Lots of references to the various different titles of books, and a hilarious scene (which was taken from the story A Cask of Amontillado) where a chained man screams a warning about the Amontillado. The house is also very dark in parts which helps with the scares and offers a few surprises.
- Vampire Casino-Yet another new house this year, and this one dazzles. A big bright Vegas style casino sign lights up the night and invites us to come in. The house itself makes use of slot machines, and a very “bubbly” bartender who’s not there to serve you drinks. Elvis makes an appearance, and you see the back rooms of a casino laundramat.
- Nightshade Toy Factory-The evil toy factory returns with tons of new charactes in the house, more than in any other house in the park. Tina Tinkle tinkles, and bears reach out to grab as you walk the demented hallways of the insane factory.
- Deconstruction-Dr. Edgar Von Angst is back with his horrific creations. The doctor takes you apart only to put you back together again, with more than you bargained for.
- Death Row Vengeance-The inmates at Grey Echo Penitentuary have sought revenge on those who executed them. Now zombies have over run the house.
Thoughts-While the new houses brought a lot of new fun to the event, the old houses were just kind of there. Not a lot of new innovations are used in the houses, as most use the ever faithful “Boo Doors”. Still, it’s haunt season, and there’s not really any such thing as a “bad” haunted house.
This year instead of scare zones, Howl O Scream has chosen to go with the approach that the “scare is everywhere” and send hoardes of zombies roaming through the park. While it’s great in theory, it sometimes misses. There are props set up for the actors to hide behind and interact with, but because the scare is everywhere, they tend to be empty, with the exception of the front of the park. There seems to always be a hoarde of zombies in the entrance of the park. There’s also a hoarde of zombies that are in the parking lot, something that hasn’t really been done at a haunted event.
The make up on the zombies range from being really grotesque to nothing more than eyeliner, and some zombies even utilize props such as glowing syringes and eyes. What they lack in make up they more than…make up for in intensity as I saw a group of around four zombies pouncing on a little girl who was screaming how she didn’t want to be at the event anymore as her mom laughed and tried taking pictures of the zombies. Tears tend not to stop these zombies as they looked for those who were already shying away and hiding their eyes as they walked past. Lesson for you parents out there…don’t take your kids.
The event also featured two shows, one brand new and one…not so much. The Midnight Hour followed the hopes and dreams of a young girl who wanted to become famous, and her pop culture coaches who were brought to the “Hellfire Club” to help her. You see appearances by Sarah Palin, Barrack Obama, Charlie Sheen…oh and Amy Winehouse. Yes, it’s wrong. Yes, they go there. Yes, it’s utterly brilliant.
Fiends returns once again as Dr. Freakenstein holds a party for his monster friends while his horny sidekick Igor spends his time chasing after the nurses with big….needles. Lots of pop culture jokes, and everyone wants to do the time warp again.
Overall the energy is high at the event, and it’s definitely worth going to at least once.
For more information on Howl O Scream visit the official Howl O Scream website.
For more theme park adventures, be sure to follow me on Twitter.