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October 19, 2009

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Haunt Review: Terror in the Park (Buhlow Fun Park)

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I feel bad for haunted house lovers in central Louisiana. Southern Louisiana is one of the most blessed regions for haunt fans with the 13th Gate, House of Shock and The Mortuary all within about 90 minutes of each other. However, once you go north of Lafayette, things become rather dead until you make it to Shreveport or Monroe (and even then it seems to be dicey).

Louisiana Nightmares was a solid haunt in Alexandria operated by Midnight Productions, the same people who do the 13th Gate, but they closed it down to focus on the larger Baton Rouge attraction. Sadly, nothing has risen to fill its void, though the Buhlow Fun Park (do NOT click that link, may cause cancer of the eyes) seems to have made a play to capture its customers.

For those who don’t know, which I imagine to be most of the people reading this, the Buhlow Fun Park is a basic fun park on Buhlow lake outside of Alexandria, Louisiana. It has go-carts, an arcade, mini golf and a place to get your picture taken with The Simpsons among other attractions. However, every October it also opens up its “Terror in the Park” haunted house, which the signs assure us it is a “A Real Haunted House”.

I visited the Buhlow Fun Park haunt two years ago and came away with a mixed impression. Though it was short and low-budget, I had to respect their creativity and imagination. They did a lot of great work with what they had. My review, if I had written one, would have been a 5 out of 10 with a tag line “A less-than-average haunt displays some above-average ingenuity to become a mediocre attraction that’s still respectable.”

However, in the two years since something has changed. The creativity is gone and what is left is a disappointing haunt experience that no longer redeems itself in any significant way.

The Good

Previously, the haunt was very creative and there were many scares that made me think “I’ve never seen that before”. Fortunately, at least some of that spark is still alive. The haunt makes great use of sound throughout, airhorns and lights are well timed and are effective, if somewhat cheap, startles.

The haunt also does a reasonably good job of disorientation. Though it has limited space it seems to make good use of it with lots of twists and turns. While I’m not fond of the use of mazes, which the haunt has, it’s short and actually helps to confuse more than to lose you as you go through.

The actors in the haunt were also very good and worked their roles very well. From the mourning widow to the Hannibal Lecter character they played their parts the best they could and their effort did show.

However, there is very limited that I can say good about the haunt this year. In prior years, the actors made use of everything from powertools to folding chairs to get scares. This year, they were more limited in what they did and that had a very negative impact on the haunt.The

The Bad

The question here is where to begin.

The walkthrough is incredibly short. From ticket taking to completion was only 4 minutes and 15 seconds for my group. This despite a $10 admission fee. Chamber of Horrors, by contrast, costs the same and has three times the walkthrough. It felt like it should have cost half as much.

The decor in the haunt was nonexistent. All of the walls were, more or less, flat black and most of the props were clearly store bought and, truth be told, looked fairly cheesy. There’s also not much of a facade outside to speak of, just faux stone brick wrapping, the kind that many home haunters use.

The scares themselves were fairly unoriginal and ineffective. This was largely because much of the scaring wasn’t being done by the actors or they were working in rooms that didn’t let them get the desired effect. In short, the rooms were working against the people trying run them.

This made most of the haunt walkthrough fairly dull actually. Yes, there were loud noises, good use of lighting and some talented actors roaming the halls, but there was nothing to look at, no really good opportunities to get scared and it was all over much too quick.

In short, it isn’t worth the trip and certainly not worth the money.

Bottom Line

If the attraction had cost $5 instead of $10, I probably wouldn’t be so jaded. That would put it at a price point on par with various charity haunts I’ve been to and have enjoyed and it would be about the same quality. But with the higher price tag comes greater expectations and tougher competition.

Compare this to the Chamber of Horrors. Both cost $10 but CoH has a 12-minute walkthrough, well-designed sets, custom props and a slew of well-placed scares. Buhlow gives you a third of the walkthrough, a quarter of the design and almost none of the scares but sees fit to charge the same price.

What drives me crazy though is that Alexandria is so haunt-starved that Buhlow is doing brisk business. My group had to wait almost 45 minutes to get through the line. Meanwhile, CoH, on the same weekend, was fairly dead (though things have picked up since).

My advice to anyone in the area is, if possible, to skip this attraction. I could only recommend it as a starter haunt for someone who had never been inside one before. Scary enough to get the rush in places, but gentle enough to coddle even the most faint of heart. The reasonably brave or experienced should pass.

Instead, they should take I-49 south and then either I-10 or 190 east to Baton Rouge and visit the 13th Gate. Here’s a map if you need one.

It is what we did and you will thank me later if you do it, even if it is a long drive.

Rating

3/10

My wife and discussed this rating beforehand. I wanted to give it a 4, she voted a 3. After thinking about it, I have to agree with her.

Note: I am loathe to do ratings on reviews in general because it can be impossible sum up a complex series of opinions in a number. This is especially true with haunted attractions as your enjoyment of the haunt will depend almost exclusively on what it is you seek. Your mileage will always vary.

Location

Buhlow Fun Park is located at 1715 Monroe Highway, Pineville, LA., just outside of Alexandria.

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