Upon approaching Frightmare Farms it was clear this was the place to be. Their parking lot was full, and we were directed to an overflow lot. The Overflow lot was a few blocks away with cars lining the streets all the way there as we passed groups of giggling scare-seekers making their way to the park. Entering Frightmare Farms is always a treat for my senses. As you approach, you hear the sounds of screams, laughter, and chainsaws. A combination you just don't hear anywhere else in life.
The main entry gives you a bird's-eye view of what you are in for. As you descend down a winding path into a wooded valley, string lights from tree to tree illuminate a veritable festival of fear replete with concessions, fire pit, horror movies on a large screen, and monstrous freaks milling about. Excited guests queue up for tickets as others grab the opportunity for a photoshoot with the Frightmare photographer. There just isn't any place like it.
Any place worth going, is going to have a line. At Frightmare, multiple ticket booths with friendly staff, move crowds efficiently through, and roaming actors entertain while you're waiting in the queue lines for the attractions and throughout the park. One standout is Xavier. A mad-hatter-ish freak with a top hat and filthy stuffed doll. He's not as scary as he is insane, and he’s a true asset to the park. Much like an actor at a renaissance fair, or at Disney or Universal Studios, Xavier never breaks character. He makes you feel welcome, and perhaps most insidiously, he does an amazing job of bringing your guard down before you enter the attraction.
This year, Frightmare Farms has three featured attractions; The Haunted House (aka the Professor's Estate), The Labyrinth, and The Condemned Mine Trail.
It's tempting to assume that a place will have one great attraction and a couple add-ons to make extra money. Assuming that would be entirely wrong with Frightmare Farms. Each one is its own full length, unique experience. We’ve heard rumors of expansion next year, but we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store….
The Haunted House:
Upon entering the Haunted House, I was located in the back of our small group. My first expectation was that I would enjoy watching those in front of me get scared but wouldn't likely be startled myself. That lasted about 5 seconds, when I laughed as someone terrified the guy in front of me, and was interrupted by a creature emerging from the pitch black. I swore.
The haunted house is full of the details that speak to my soul. Rooms upon spine-tingling rooms full of dusty antiques and ghostly creatures lurking where you least expect. Scares from the shadows and illusions with mirrors, 'fake mirrors', light, sound, and fog, all choreographed with the timing of a symphony. Each room connected by dark corridors, each with their own unique design. Whether it feels like the interior of a dank cave, or the halls of an asylum lined with old doors… the level of detail, and the quality of work at every turn is nothing short of astounding. Many talented creeps make Frightmare happen, and all around I can see the handy work of a guy we interviewed 6 years ago named Cody Snyder (You can read that interview here). Whether it's a surface that is expertly painted to look rusted, weathered or neglected for decades, or a one of a kind zombie mask that exists nowhere else. Mr. Snyder is easily one of CNY’s top artists of the macabre.
At a haunted attraction, no two visits are exactly the same. You never know who will be working in what role, or whether or not a monster has to use the restroom and leave their post to a floater who works multiple areas on any given night. In the past, the haunted house seemed to have more creatures lurking in the dark than it did on this visit. Either that, or maybe a few ghouls didn't entirely have their heart in it. That said, the exception to this made up for it all. We came around a corner and were welcomed by an absolute mad man in a cage. Played by a guy with wide, crazy eyes and a freakish smile, I thought he was great. Totally in character, totally thrilled that a new victim entered his perimeter, and totally caught me off guard when he swiped his hand across the cage and large sparks flew everywhere. I don't recall his words, repeatedly delivered with the intensity of a maniac, but I believed it. After picking up the pace and getting past him to safety- before I knew it, he escaped his cage and was directly behind me, getting me again! If we could give an Emmy for Saturday night's performance, you would win hands down sir. Great job.
After passing an old pickup truck, upon entering the Labyrinth, another one of the park's standout scare-actors greeted us. A concerned older woman sitting in a moderately lit, small room that transported my mind to an old farmhouse. She'd been frantically looking for her son “Jeffey”... after a brief backstory, she sent us on our way, exiting through her squeaky front screen door, and into her overgrown yard, where rusted bicycles lay and corn stalks and crates form a path… Within moments we were caught completely off-guard by what must have been Jeffey! An imposing, towering farmboy-zombie who scared us, disappeared, and scared us again! Awesome stuff. Around every turn in The Labyrinth we were expertly jump-scared by creatures lurking where we least expected. Including from above! That's where I realized we were being stalked by one of the more convincing vampires I've ever seen. All in all, in large part due to the fervent, in character scare-acting, on this visit, the Labyrinth was easily my favorite attraction.
The Condemned Mine Trail:
Per their usual method of operation, Frightmare Farms does not rest on it's laurels. The Condemned Mine Trail experience is a perfect example. It feels like it's easily 25% longer, or more, than past years! Upon entering we were directed to an impressively detailed gate system where groups of guests are filtered into one of four or five stalls. These fenced stall areas have a red light-green light system to signal when you can begin the attraction. Such a smart way to ensure each group is spaced to maximize their experience. Unfortunately, in many haunted attractions, guests can experience timing issues where you may catch up to the group in front of you, or the group behind you catches up to you and eventually it's just one long line of people walking through, seeing the scares coming from a mile away. That wasn't our experience at all, and I tend to move through attractions slowly, taking it all in.
The Condemned Mine Trail is unlike any other Haunted Trail I've been to. Much of it is trails and wood lined corridors connecting small outdoor buildings with scenes and scares. The clever design makes for much more opportunities for jump-scares, without giving it away as is the case on many haunted trails. I was somewhat confused by the billing of the Haunted Trail as the "7th Barn" this year. While it's a cool name and is totally fitting with the Frightmare Farms Scream Park theme, I'm not sure which, if any barn on the trail was the “7th Barn”. I wish I paid better attention, but the hair on the back of my neck distracted from that. The Condemned mine Trail made much better use of Darkness than any other attraction at Frightmare. Multiple times we were greeted with pitch dark, something hard to achieve in and outdoor attraction. My partner-in-crime immediately shuddered, saying “oh no it's dark, I don't like the dark”.... In pitch-black dark, my heart immediately races. Perhaps that anticipation set us up for a let down when we didn't experience any scare immediately in that darkness. There could be safety reasons for that so I won't judge. One of my favorite parts of The Condemned Mine Trail is a scene reminiscent of many horror movies that still for some reason creeps me out. The path took us through multiple clothes-lines filled with sheets and clothes blowing in the wind. Knowing something would be in there, knowing they fully knew exactly where we were, but not knowing when or where they would get us... They got us. :-)
Frightmare Farms did it again. They truly earn the title 'Scream Park'. They've created an experience worthy of spending your entire evening. Everywhere you look people are laughing, screaming, and having the time of their lives. A frightfully FUN way to celebrate Halloween season every year!