Review/semi-retelling of attempting the latest incarnation of Dr Pain’s. (You can check out their website here)
I decided to brave a local haunted house with some friends last night. Jamie and I were under the impression that it’d just be us and our two friends, but no, it was a nice fun group of six. The more the merrier and yay for being me and deciding fuckit. I don’t know these people and chances are, I’ll probably never see them again: so sarcasm ahoy!
Our friends decided they wanted to go to Dr Pain’s Nightmare (formerly Dr Pain’s Haunted Asylum). The only time Jamie and I had gone was when they were still located in Salem and some of the actors were known for wandering down the middle of the street and trying to get people to come. But, we met up for dinner and then made our way to the location that they have set up this year.
Right off the bat, there is no lighted signage stating that this is where the haunted house is set up. There were people with no reflective clothing walking around (not actors, just idiots), and the only things to show that this was the correct area was that Google Maps shows a warehouse on one side of the street and a rather large and beautiful cemetary on the other side. There were two of the polyester balloon Halloween lawn ornaments off to the side, a green light, and thankfully a rather large line of people. This could only be the place.
Our friend almost hit someone pulling onto the side-road to go to the designated parking area and we almost hit someone trying to turn around down the street to go to the correct side-road. This was because there were people fucking around and not paying attention to large lights coming at them.
We met up, we stood in line with everyone and after about twenty or so minutes we found that the line to buy tickets is elsewhere and this is the line to wait to go in. What? We discussed who was going to buy the tickets and Robert got volunteered to go. As we got closer to the front of the line, we learned there is just a green “party light” set up and a piece of paper duct taped to a plexiglass window that says something. Probably something to do with buying tickets, but it was hard to see.
Tickets handed over, the…intro kid made us stand in a single file line while we waited to be let in. I have no idea how best to describe this kid besides she was probably a teenager, she was shorter than I am (which I don’t encounter all that often), and was constantly screaming at one of the other girls who was taking tickets and making sure that people were getting their tickets. She was in this weird get-up of a short cloak (maybe knee length. Isn’t there a proper name for this length?), her face was painted half black and half white, and the costume was like a bikini top and a skirt. The website states that the Head Nurse will lead you to your doom or whatever, but that isn’t any kind of nurse costume I’ve ever seen before.
We waited, I noticed there were a couple posters on the wall that looked like Slipknot posters (what the hell) and was already beginning to be disappointed. I was kind of hoping there’d be a cheesy waiting room and over-acting from the “head nurse” like the other time we went to Dr Pain’s.
The intro kid decided to make me walk through first, called out to the rest of the group to follow us “to Hell” and opened the door to the haunted house before realizing that everyone else was…still standing single file. She got them to follow us while Anthony, one of the guys we met, made a loud comment that they didn’t follow because she only pointed for me to “follow” and they were all just waiting. (he had to be loud because holy crap the sound effects were really loud).
We were taken past someone beating on plexiglass and screaming and stopped at a gurney. Hey, they got a gurney! Awesome. And on it was this…weird, sad little mannequin that was a head and a disemboweled torso. We were informed of the regular rules. No drugs, no alcohol (queue joke from someone in the group), no flash photography (why would you take pictures?), stay within your group, don’t touch the actors and they won’t touch you, don’t go off or you’ll all die one by one, yadda yadda yadda. The intro kid makes a joke-thing about how everyone’s going to die except me because I was following her and everyone else was just lagging behind.
We’re told to go to the left. Ok. Anthony offered to go in front of me because he just “always goes first” when he’s with a group of people and is going through haunted houses. I let him go ahead of me figuring that at least I won’t be the one running into the walls and I’ll have something to keep an eye on while I’m going through there. Jamie was somewhere behind me.
We almost walked right into one actor who was dressed as a zombie. From what I could tell, he paid a lot of attention to his makeup, but it was such poor lighting that you could just get glimpses here and there. He shuffled, I said “hi!” and he froze. I really wanted to stop and ask him about his makeup and I don’t think anyone else in the group noticed him.
It was a series of rooms and uncomfortably tight corridors. One room had another mannequin torso on a gurney with a dentist/medical table right beside it. Alright! They got more gurneys! There were a couple pressurized chairs that made things move and there was a small, kid-sized rocking chair that moved and it was kind of hard to tell if it was a kid doing it or if it was a prop. Getting closer to it (because you had to walk past it to continue on), I realized it had to be a prop because it was terribly misproportioned and had no feet. It was seriously a full-head mask and something akin to a “body” wrapped in guaze and white fabric and tied into the chair.
There was one actor dressed in a doctor’s jacket, possibly scrubs (most likely just a dark shirt and dark pants), with face paint that looked like ABK’s without the red on the forehead. He had a little circular saw. There’s something wrong when your first thought is “I wonder if he’s ever tripped” and then “Is that the kid-saw you get at Lowes?” Maybe I’ve just watched too many horror films lately. The guy came up uncomfortably close to me and I wanted to punch him.
Maybe it’s just me, but when you go to scare someone in a group and they wave and say “hi!” and show no fear, you go and attempt to scare one of the group members who hasn’t spotted you. You don’t continue to shuffle up and get two inches away from the first person’s face and bear down on them. Also, he killed my momentum so as he lumbered towards me, I almost walked right into him.
One of the guys we met, Anthony, just basically hauled ass through the whole thing, making comments as he went. The other guy we met, Sam, was quiet through the whole thing. If he said anything, I don’t remember because it was pretty damn loud.
At one point, there was a room of a dummy in a rigged up “electric chair” and an actor in a large metal tub. I honestly thought the actor fell asleep until I heard them scream “help me help me” at someone in our group behind me. I almost ran into someone who was standing right beside a “doorway” because apparently they didn’t see me. The one guy just moved the black-guaze curtain and walked through and I had it in my hand, moved it, and then the actor moved. It was more like one of the awkward walking up and stepping out of the way but stepping in the same direction as the person you’re trying to get around.
They had someone in zombie makeup in a large “cage.” It wouldn’t have been bad if the actor wasn’t bending the faux cage bars every time he grabbed one. He kept hopping back and forth and I only know that he was in zombie makeup because either Jamie or S mentioned it. All I saw was a shadow hopping around like a jumping bean.
We got into the room right after that and as I was looking around, someone stood up and went “Raaaaah!” and I jumped. Then the guy in the makeup got in my face and asked if he scared me. When something is not there and then bam in-your-face, it’s surprising to me. But I was also running on high anticipation and expecting a lot more jumps and screams than what I got. He looked like a friend of ours, and what irritated me was that he stayed at my level grinning like an idiot and I wanted to punch him in the throat. To me, it’s kind of like having someone stand right beside you and stare down at you. It’s annoying and I don’t appreciate it. Yes, I know I’m short, but those who are taller than me do not need to remind me by leaning down a little bit.
The corridors through some of the areas were…odd. Complete visual deprivation, and very tight. Robert, Leland, and at least one other person had to “scrunch” up to get through. I barely moved and my hands were hitting both sides. I didn’t care for the “sharp turns” with no indication besides running straight into one of the other walls. Jamie said it was part of the point, but it reminded me of when I almost broke my nose at the Virginia Beach haunted house when my dad and I slammed into a wall because of a sharp turn.
There was, of course, a spider room. It wasn’t that bad, but I still don’t care for spiders. It would’ve been a little scarier if they weren’t the same ones you can buy in a retail store near Halloween. It would’ve been a lot creepier if there was someone in that room freaking the fuck out. What didn’t help was that Anthony decided he was going to play with one of the legs on the gurney. Don’t play with the props, that’s just rude.
We hit this one area where it was…a recreation of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake where Leatherface is running through the sheets and the leg goes through the air. Except it was “bloodied” sheets and all I could think of was the leg flying in the air and classical music. There was one of the body bags hung up in the middle of this to clearly take your focus away from the fact that there were people “hiding” back here.
There was one actor who was crawling around and he got super close to everyone. I told him “sorry, I’m afraid I’m going to step on you” because I wouldn’t move until he got at least a few inches away from me. Apparently I said this loud enough to cause the girl hiding a couple feet away to stand up when I walked by her. She kinda looked like a sepia version of the Night of the Living Dead girl and I couldn’t take her seriously. Really? You’re not scary just standing there. Gnaw on a faux leg or something.
We went through this area where there were tied up “bodies” where and you have to go through them to get out of the room. To me, it looked like you go left, but you go right because it was poorly formed (or maybe I just noticed it was only some black gauzy fabric over an open spot?) . It was cool to see they kept the body bag things, but it looked like all they did was cut them in half so they’re now horribly misproprotioned body bag things. Sam moved one and accidentally hit me in the head. It was kind of funny.
Then we got to the end where this rather tall actor decided he was going to get uncomfortably close to me and stare me down. We walked through a doorway and…it was sterile.
No fake blood, no black light paint; just a light right above the “exit” sign. I was expecting one last scare. I was waiting for it. It could’ve been behind the mattress that was set up, but it wasn’t. It could’ve come from the little alcove area to our right, but it didn’t. We could’ve had one last scream-and-jump from the darkened room with no door to the left. But no, everything was fine, we walked outside, and stood around discussing the haunted house.
Anthony was highly dissatisfied and became very vocal about how terrible it was. Sam was kinda meh about the whole thing, Robert mentioned going to another haunted house because he found it a huge disappointment. The group after us screamed loudly and hauled ass out of the exit.
The rather tall guy at the end followed them out, stood around a couple minutes and someone pointed out that he “must have a hard time moving his fingers.” I turned around and squeed over the Nosferatu hands. He must’ve heard me because he moved his hands and cast a shadow that was rather reminiscent of one of the scenes from the film. But then he must’ve gotten bored because he tossed his hands on the ground, moved the full-head mask up and lit a cigarette.
A couple other groups screamed a lot and Jamie pointed out that they must be going after high school girls because they’re the easiest to target. A couple people stopped by where we were and asked if this was where Dr Pain’s was and where to get tickets, which Robert pointed them to where to get tickets.
Eventually we agreed to go back to Robert and Leland’s house and just watch a scary movie instead of driving up to Radford and attempting to get into one of the St Alban’s haunted houses.
The overall consensus was: total disappointment.
If it were just Jamie and myself going, it definitely wouldn’t have been worth the amount that was paid. But since we went with some friends and we got to joke about it, it kind of made up for it a bit. The intro kid was literally the only one who seemed to be into working a haunted house. The other actors really didn’t give a shit. There were two people who jumped out and screamed and the only other reactions from the actors were the “I’m going to loom over you because I’m taller than you and that’s scary.” The guy asking if he scared me was kind of funny but also kind of irritating.
It was neat to see they have acquired a large number of props since the last time Jamie and I went. But it was almost like a sterile environment. Sure, some of the walls had blacklight paint and some of the stuff had dried faux blood on it, but nothing was gooey, nothing was drippy or glistening. Yeah, they upgrated in a way, but at least they could’ve done something with the torsos.
Jamie and I agreed that there were a lot of missed opportunities for good scares. The corridors would’ve been great, the end where there’s an obvious space between the “haunted house” and the actual exit of the building, there could’ve been someone under at least one of the gurneys. Jamie pointed out that maybe they were having an “off” night, but then we realized that this was probably all the main actors and if what we got was what they’ve done every night, they couldn’t have done all that great a job. If the music/sound effects weren’t so damned loud, maybe it’d be a little creepier. They obviously don’t use it to drown out the noise their actors make because you can easily hear people screaming.
When Jamie and I had gone to Dr Pain’s when it was still in Salem, yeah they didn’t have as many props, but there were points where everyone in our small group jumped or got startled. They did good with what they had, some of it was cheesey, but they also had spurts and the blood didn’t look like a Kool-Aid stain, the “head nurse” was hilariously over-dramatic. The body bags looked like they had life-sized bodies in them. The guy dressed as Dr Pain followed us through half of the haunted house and tried to freak us out by getting in the car with us and couldn’t get out because he refused to break character. Now that is dedication to your craft, no matter how cheesy it is.
Going to Robert and Leland’s house and getting jumped on by two very happy greyhounds and then watching a “scary movie” was much better than going to this haunted house. Doing this with some friends, joking about it afterwards, and hanging out kind of made up for the ridiculous amount of money per-ticket. The downside to this just made me want to do a haunted house and I hate haunted houses. And we all decided it probably would’ve been a lot more exciting to hop over the fence of the cemetary across the street and try to raise the dead.
(I ended up writing about four pages of notes down on this. I’m trying to be positive, I know they’re a local thing and I know they try [for the most part], but it’s so damn hard. It was basically an expensive ticket for a simulated snuff film and hearing easily scared high school girls scream. If I wanted that, I could just pop in a really bad horror film)