Date of Visit: 5/14/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
May is here, and you know what that means - we're officially Halfway to Halloween! Everyone has their own way of celebrating, and the haunted house industry is no exception; once something only a few were doing, this trend has exploded in recent years, with several haunts opening for a weekend or two to put on special shows and keep their business fresh in the minds of customers (who might very well come back to see them over the Fall season). What better way of paying tribute to the favorite holiday of most everyone in the industry, right?
But when this occasion happens to include a Friday the 13th- as it did this year- that's when things can really get interesting. For on a night that evokes thoughts of machete-brandishing murderers stalking the woods, many haunts will choose to celebrate in the spirit of slasher films, and everyone knows these horror flicks come accompanied by copious amounts of BLOOD... something the residents of the Haunted Hotel, one of Louisville's craziest haunted houses, have always had a taste for.
SLASHway to Halloween is the Hotel's first ever "Halfway to Halloween" event, combining horror movie homages with the extreme scares that have made this place notorious. The normal walkthrough is still available at the usual ticket prices, from $25 for General Admission to $60 for Front of the Line. But the more daring who'd like to up the ante can drop an extra $20 and purchase a "Blood Soaker" ticket. The ticket includes a special white t-shirt to be worn as you're going through, because... well... the name oughta tell you something! (Hint: you're gonna get blooooody.) This option also promises a more intense and personalized experience for those brave enough to select it - in other words, it's not for the faint of heart! As for parking, you might be able to find a spot on a nearby street, or you can park in one of the lots immediately surrounding the haunt (note: this will usually involve some cash).
Most events at the Haunted Hotel come with their own twisted little spinoff of its current storyline. In this case, it seems some unexpected... guests... have completely overrun Thomas Gribbons' fine establishment, and he needs your assistance in dealing with them. What sort of guests, you wonder? Well, they all bear a striking resemblance to some familiar faces you may have once viewed on the silver screen. Like that hideously scarred man in the red and green sweater who wears a glove full of blades. Or the hulking brute in the hockey mask, carrying around a machete. There might even be a few with ghostly faces lurking about, and they'd just love to know what your favorite scary movie is. (Get the picture yet? I thought so.)
Anyone who knows me as a haunted house fan knows I always have to have the worst they can dish out, so it should come as no surprise that I had to spring for the Blood Soaker ticket. And in true Haunted Hotel fashion, it did not disappoint! After throwing my white shirt on for a "before" photo, I was whisked away to the hotel entrance, where I found myself immediately under attack by a spray bottle-wielding clown! First blood! (Oh Lester, I missed you. Wish we'd grabbed a photo.) Following a brief wait, I ascended the steps and was swiftly grabbed and yanked through the door into the hotel lobby. Now faced with various members of the Gribbons clan, Thomas himself explained the situation as others busied themselves anointing my face with more (and thicker) blood. The opening sequence that came next was nothing short of excellent: some unfortunate young man had a nasty-looking device strapped to his head, and I had to dig around in a mess of sticky, congealed entrails to try to find a key to save his life before it went off. With only five seconds to accomplish this task, I failed miserably and was blamed for his death. (And left with hands thoroughly coated in gore... it was here that I began to question my life choices.) Then I was promptly scooped up into Mr. Gribbons' arms like a bloody little princess, and carried off to the elevator to begin my adventure.
I'd like to preface this by stating I'm not the biggest fan of movie monsters in haunts. They're a crowd pleaser for sure, but if you're going to do them, you gotta do them right. But the Haunted Hotel puts love into every one of their shows, and SLASHway ended up being a surprisingly enjoyable tribute to horror. Artwork was painted up throughout the house of the various slashers you could expect to encounter - and believe me, if you saw it, they'd be making an appearance *very* shortly. Music and sound bites from their respective films were playing in each room, too. Some scenes were redesigned to be closer to those you'd find in the movies; for example, one character's famous boiler room in the outdoor maze area was pretty cool. I also noticed that they seemed to make an effort to place these characters in scenes where they'd be best suited. A pair of chainsaw-slinging, leather-faced cannibals waited to escort you out at the end, our friend in the red and green sweater ran his claws over the spark table (nice!), a priest attempted to exorcise a demon-possessed girl in a guest room, etc.
Another plus: the haunt had plenty of actors for their event. If I ever thought I was alone, I got a quick- and often, harsh- reminder that I was not! Those portraying movie icons were true to their roles, so characters like a certain hockey masked monster did not speak, but others- such as the "ghostly killers"- delighted in taunting as they attacked you. A handful of the normal Hotel "staff" were around as well, including the aforementioned Gribbons family and "Zizzle", a creepy character with a leering yellow mask and metallic gloves. It's hard to name stand outs because everyone was- pardon the pun- *killing* it in there, but I do want to drop a quick shout out to the actors in the exorcism scene. They were interactive and quick with their dialogue (and also to scare me just before I could escape!).
You've probably more than gotten the hint by now, but if you visit the Haunted Hotel, you absolutely have to know that it is a full contact haunted house. This is not optional. The level of contact varies from guest to guest, but the folks who work here know they have a reputation to maintain and you will get what you deserve! I was shoved, dragged, wrestled with, chainsawed, and even picked up - they were NOT messing around! And purchasing the Blood Soaker option made the experience significantly more interactive. Every effort will be made to get red on you- a little or a lot- and gross you out. I had to rummage through viscous red goop more than once, and occasionally had globs of it smeared in my hair or on my face (seriously, sh*t was NASTY and got everywhere). Not choosing the blood option doesn't mean you won't get any, either... I'm really not kidding when I say it was a glorious mess. By the time I returned to my car, the steering wheel and seat belt were inevitable casualties. No worries; you only live once, and most of it did wash off the next day.
I wouldn't have thought I could love a movie monster-based show this much, but SLASHway to Halloween was one of the best special events I have ever taken part in at the Haunted Hotel. It was a fun homage to well loved horror icons and the Friday the 13th holiday, and the option to upgrade your ticket for a more extreme show just made it even better. Major shout out to this haunt for putting on a flawless off season event! You could certainly say I had a BLOODY good time, and I hope they'll consider bringing this back someday.