The ticket booth is at the very front of the camping facility and after purchasing your tickets you will be directed through a winding que to wait for the tractor pulled wagon to take you to the attraction. A host will give you “the rules” then you’ll board the wagon. Hold on, because the tractor driver seemed in a hurry to get from point A. to point B. and we wouldn’t want anyone to be flung to the road. ;)
This year marks the first year of the attraction under new management with a new name. The previous attraction had a 20 year run and this is evident in the well-established sets and impressive assortment of animatronics. There is a variety of well-planned effects winding along the indoor/outdoor maze. The plot is simple and clear in the name; Campground Nightmare. However, the description on the website emphasizes that they are attempting to bring movie style horror to life and hit people with their worst nightmares. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the execution of their theme. If the shambling half-awake zombies from Night of the Living Dead is the movie they have in mind, then they’ve nailed it. If your worst nightmare is to be bored to death, you’re going to love this haunt.
We won’t dwell too long on the sets, because a haunt with 20 years under it’s belt should be expected to have detailed, properly thought out sets – and this one does. There was definitely a Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel to the attraction which fed right into their “living horror movie” promise. I would dare say the sets are for the most part of a movie set quality. However, these sets are being woefully underused by the actors.
The haunt boasts 50+ actors, but in some scenes there were no actors and in others they were running into each other. There is a phenomenal strobe tunnel (best I’ve ever seen) that was begging for a skilled actor to surprise us…but alas, we just walked unhindered, though. There is also a lovely graveyard scene and in this one there were just too darn many actors. They were all shuffling around, most in plain view upon our entering the scene and not one startled us or jumped out. It felt like a dull zombie cocktail party. There were numerous places actors could have hidden and then done a great startle scare supported by an actor acting as a distraction, but it just didn’t happen. It almost seemed the only purpose of this scene was to slow us down…and considering that we were three parties of two each it might have made more sense to use this area to split us up. Sadly, we were herded like cattle into a tight group so the chance to scare any of us got that much smaller. Let me add here, though that there were two actors in this scene that caught my attention. There was an actor writhing on the ground that was quite interesting. There was also a lovely wraith of a girl searching for her “husband”. I would have loved it if her “husband” had burst forth from some hidden spot while I was distracted by her haunting beauty.
There were also several instances of what I consider just plain bad haunting. On six separate instances actresses got directly behind guests in our party (me on two of those) and screamed in our ears. This is not only annoying and decidedly un-scary it can also be very painful. This should be taught as a big bad NO along with the haunt bad word “Boo”. Also, four times we were told to “get out” or the equivalent. In addition, there was even a prerecorded voice in one room telling us the same. In my opinion that is the last thing a haunt creature would want. I always wanted my victims to stay and play as long as they could….
However, it wasn’t all shambling zombies and painful screaming. My favourite point in the night involved a one-two punch. I won’t spoil the scene or the set-up but I wanted to compliment the actress in the trailer with the bathroom. She was the highlight of the night.
I think the bottom line is that this haunt suffers from a lack of energy. Opening weekend should be have been electric with excitement, but it felt like we were walking through a haunt that was into it’s 4th week of a 6 week run. The powers that be at The Campground Nightmare need to give it’s actors concrete direction. I got the impression that there were a lot of green haunters, but that isn’t necessarily bad. That just means you have a clean slate to work with. There are a ton of Scare Technique tutorials on Youtube that would really benefit these actors. No one seemed incompetent, it just felt as if they were all untrained. Haunt acting is a skill. This isn’t something you just decide you’re going to do and then you scare people. There are levels and techniques. Startle scares, tableau scenes (with actual purpose), conscious use of animatronics and effects…these things have to be developed and nurtured. Sending a bunch of untrained actors out and expecting them to just “do it” is asking to have a bunch of bored disenchanted actors decide haunting isn’t for them.
Hopefully this haunt can turn it around and amp it up…we’re rooting for them!
2 out of 5 bats