Updated: Nov 27, 2022
Date of Visit: 10/21/22 (review visit - some photos from opening weekend on 9/17) Reviewer: Lindsay
All things considered, our visit to the old hospital has gone fairly well so far. Yeah, we ran into some... interesting characters outside, the museum they've set up appears to have a ghost problem, and we may or may not have been threatened by bizarre reaper-like spirits on our way in. And the nurse who's decided to join us- while bubbly in demeanor- seems to have personal space issues. But hey, our whole group made it safely inside, and on board the elevator that's delivering us to the upper floors. Surely nothing else can go wrong, right?
The elevator suddenly jolts. There's a terrible, mechanical groan. Then an announcement: "Sorry folks, there... seems to be a problem with your elevator." I barely get the 'are you kidding?!' thought through my head before the elevator shudders... and then falls into a sharp, rocky descent towards a place that we most certainly were not meant to reach. It seems our tour of the former Bracken-Hart Institute has just taken a serious turn for the worse - and it's also the backdrop for the American Horrorplex, a haunted attraction located within a warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
2022 makes season four for the Horrorplex, which rose from the ruins of its predecessor, the 7th Street Haunt, in 2019. With a new attraction and new location also came a brand new storyline, built around the fictional Bracken-Hart Institute. The doctors who ran this facility- Hans Bracken and Lena Hart- moonlighted it as a real mental hospital. In reality, they were using it to experiment on humans and animals in the hopes of engineering super soldiers for military use. Their creations, the parasitic "fleshlumpkins", took over their hosts and imbued them with incredible strength. But as these things tend to go, there were drawbacks... the parasites also drove their victims to insanity, and often, violence. When their experiments began to escape and the doctors' work risked discovery, the hospital mysteriously caught fire, leaving only a husk of a building and a few lucky patients behind. Since then, a memorial has been established, showcasing some of the pair's work and offering tours of the former institute - which, as you'll quickly find, may not be as "abandoned" as was thought!
(Before I get started, a note: I went through this attraction three times this season; once on opening weekend and twice on the night I came back to review. As a result, this review will consist of observations pieced together from all three walkthroughs.)
If you're looking to take a tour of the Bracken-Hart Institute, a General Admission ticket will run you $25. (On more crowded nights, you can also upgrade to a faster VIP option for a few extra bucks.) All parking is free, with limited spots available in their small lot on site and ample street parking when that lot gets full. While you're waiting at the security check to get in, take a look around, as there are some fun things to see - I spotted a gargoyle watching over us from the roof, and the 12 ft. skeleton wearing a Horrorplex shirt seemed to be a crowd favorite. They've also got a trailer set up where you can purchase glow trinkets and concessions.
Immersion is something the American Horrorplex team strives for, and you'll be introduced to the haunt's story as soon as you enter the line. While walking through the queue, guests will find interactive displays where they can lift panels to learn more about the doctors and their work. Announcements go off periodically, accompanied by video clips on a projector screen. And watch your back as you wait... it seems some of the doctors' former patients have gotten loose, and you never know where they might turn up! Ranging from hilarious to menacing, the haunt has quite a crew of characters working the line, and most of them had some fun tricks to spook the crowd. (One actually managed to scare me with a leaf blower - then made fun of me for it afterward. Seriously, drop your guard here at your own risk!)
Prior to going in, you'll have the option to take a souvenir photo you can purchase in the gift shop later. Your group will then proceed into the Bracken-Hart Memorial Museum, filled with odds and ends salvaged from the former Institute. It is here that a museum guide will attempt to explain the doctors' legacy; unfortunately, that attempt is soon thwarted when it appears that this place may be haunted... and the spirits aren't exactly happy to have visitors!
American Horrorplex takes groups on a full tour of the Bracken-Hart property, starting with a treacherous trek through the reaper-infested hospital grounds. (You might also spot an escaped patient along the way... we did, and the fact that a nurse quickly tried to haul her off should've been our first hint that there was more going on here than we were led to believe.) Another member of the hospital staff waits to greet you at the entrance, and usher you on to the elevator to begin your adventure. Of course, things don't go quite as planned... and the elevator soon dumps you off into the belly of the doctors' secret underground lair! From that point on, it's up to you to try to find your way out. As you explore this horrific hospital, you'll find test tube experiments in progress, walk through operating rooms with lumpkin-impregnated victims laid out on tables, witness animal testing labs with frenzied, caged chimps trying to break free, make a stop for "lunch" in the (disgusting) cafeteria, and descend into the facility's boiler room and sewers. And the further you go, the darker and more chaotic the scenes become. (One of my favorites is the room where the walls are seemingly alive, and studded with glowing orbs. Too cool!) Most of the rooms you'll walk through are nothing short of loaded with detail, and they've got some nice special effects as well. Some sets are also interactive, requiring group members to push buttons or flip switches to trigger events and proceed through the house - while also involving them in the story.
Although the house is definitely detailed and interactive enough to stand on its own, this is a largely actor-driven haunt, and they've got quite a cast of crazies running this show! Both patients and hospital staff run amok through the facility; as insane and violent as you'd expect, but also very funny at times. (Pay attention to their costumes if you can - a lot of them are sporting those icky fleshlumpkins!) Encounters with the characters ranged from behavior that was simply crazed and threatening, to those fully under the control of their parasites and looking to drag you into the same fate! We witnessed a live fleshlumpkin birth in one scene, where the doctor approached me with the grotesque, wriggling mass and sneered, "Want me to make you a mommy?" Gross. A red haired, visibly pregnant patient was losing her mind in her room, her tortured screams nearly echoing off the walls as she chased after my group, desperate for help. After a failed attempt to destroy the facility and kill the experiments, the rest of my group members managed to flee, but I got pinned and trapped by an actor in a metal visor and two other characters, who refused to let me go for a good while. The two actors working the final hallways had great energy, especially the one with longer hair - they were all over the place, crawling on the ground, viciously blocking our paths and doing their absolute best to ensure we didn't escape this hospital of horrors.
If you survived your tour of the Institute, your experience doesn't have to be over just yet! This haunt's gift shop is among the best I've seen, with not only haunt merch available for purchase, but also loads of cool Halloween stuff. (They've even got a corner stocked with fully functional, retro arcade games!) And venturing outside will take you into their midway, where you'll find an array of local vendors selling handmade artwork, jewelry, food, and other neat things, as well as a beer garden (new for 2022!). Butterfly Valley Rescue & Sanctuary also made a return this season, offering guests a chance to interact with some of the animals they care for and learn more about their mission.
American Horrorplex is one of my all time favorite local haunts, and IMO, one that really doesn't get the love it deserves. The owners pour a great deal of heart into their attraction, along with a heaping helping of originality and humor - you can tell entertainment is in their blood. And it's got just about everything you could want in a good haunt: an immersive environment, plenty of scares, some laughs along the way, and even more fun things to enjoy once you exit the house. If you are looking for a unique experience you won't forget anytime soon- or you're just feeling a little unwell- stop by the Bracken-Hart Institute and pay the good doctors a visit. After all, it's time to make you better!
ENVIRONMENT: 10/10 - Incredibly immersive on all counts. The line introduces the story, sets are super detailed and interactive, and the midway at the end completes the whole experience.
ACTING: 8/10 - Strong, witty, high energy cast that seems to love what they do! Minimal dead spots in the house as well, always a plus.
SCARE FACTOR: 9/10 - Actors are adept at striking from unexpected spots- often repeatedly- and won't hesitate to gang up on you if they see an opportunity! Watch out!
OVERALL: 9/10 - American Horrorplex is an awesome haunt, and has made my top three every season they've been open. If you're in the Louisville area and looking to see some haunted houses, make sure you put this one on your list!