Haunt Review: Chamber of Horrors (2009)
Last year I reviewed the Chamber of Horrors and gave it an 8/10. This is the reason I am usually loathe to give numeric scores. Though it was a great haunt in 2008, I’m realizing in 2009 that it wasn’t quite an 8. I was too excited to find that kind of haunt in the New Orleans area again and didn’t grade fairly. It should have been a strong six, maybe a weak seven.
But where the Chamber of Horrors, last year, was a good haunt with some minor flaws, this year it is just a flat out good haunt without any caveats or precautions. Though it is not an event haunt, like House of Shock or 13th Gate, both of which I am reviewing later (I’m doing them in the order I visited them), it is a solid haunt that fills the niche of a smaller, more casual haunted attraction nicely. It is a perfect example of what a good mid-range haunt should be like and it deserves more recognition than what it gets.
This isn’t to say that the CoH is flawless, every haunt has room to grow, but it is a well-rounded attraction that has addressed its weaknesses and emerged stronger and better for it.
Last year, the greatest weakness the CoH had was a lack of actors. Less than half a dozen people roamed the halls when we went through then, but that has more than tripled this time around. Now, rather than feeling empty, the haunt almost feels crowded. Several rooms have multiple actors and every major scare is being manned this year. Now, you are never far from a human being.
Located in LaPlace, the CoH is a free-roam-style haunt where you make your way through the haunted house in a small group (usually no more than four) and do so at your own pace. This serves well for getting your money’s worth out of the haunt and ensures that you aren’t rushed more than necessary. This is in stark contrast to other area haunts that seem to rush patrons along either in a conga line or through a constant pressing via the staff.
The haunt itself is largely unchanged from last year. a few minor alterations were made in the layout to improve both clarity about where to go and the effectiveness of some of the scares, but it is still very recognizable for the most part. However, this is not a bad thing, the design and layout were two of the biggest strengths last year and remain so this year. Though it’s not as high-end as House of Shock, it’s overall very good and worth stopping to look at.
However, the best part of the CoH is the deal. I timed my (fairly slow) walkthrough at about 12 minutes and 13 seconds. At ten dollars per ticket, or free admission for donating blood, it’s a great value haunt. Though it isn’t the House of Shock it doesn’t try to be. It takes up less out of your wallet and less of your evening (save perhaps the drive out there) and is still a lot of fun.
In short, it’s got the balance just right for a medium-tier haunted attraction.
With the actor problem resolved, I find myself having to dig a bit deeper to find things I didn’t like about the attraction.
The issue with certain areas of the haunt not looking “finished” remains in effect. Gaps and other minor issues break the flow of the haunt in places. Also, there is sometimes confusion as to where to go. While this can be good if intentional, in one case it almost had me walking into an actor’s scene.
I also, as a matter of personal taste, find it a bit frustrating that there isn’t any central theme to the haunt. It can feel random as you go from room to room as everything is different, with nothing to tie it all together. Some people enjoy this, but I prefer a threat of continuity or at least some trademark style.
The biggest problem, however, is the location. It’s a 40-minute drive one way from downtown New Orleans and the location itself is not easily visible nor does my GPS represent it accurately. The result is that, if you’re coming from the city, it can be an almost hour haul. I don’t think many casual haunted house fans are going to make that kind of time investment. Even if the haunt is good and only 10 dollars, getting people from downtown to LaPlace is a challenge.
If there is any reason that the CoH is not “worth it” it would be the drive. Though I hope it wouldn’t discourage people from going, it’s hard to claim that it won’t.
If I could write last year’s review over, the tagline would be “A solid haunt is hampered by actor issues making it a worthwhile visit, but with caveats.” This year, I would just revise it to say “A solid mid-range haunt with the right mix of scares, scenes and fun, all at a great price.”
CoH is a cheap haunt that manages to avoid being outright cheesy. It’s a solid haunt that manages to both maintain a professional appearance, some good scares and a high amount of imagination and creativity on a smaller budget. You won’t be blown away by the budget or the production, but you will have fun and, considering it is only $10, you will get your money’s worth.
If you’re in LaPlace or passing through it, perhaps on the way to the 13th Gate, you need to check it out. If you’re a big haunting fan in New Orleans, you need to make the drive.
If we assume that I redid my previous year’s review as a solid 6, this rating makes more sense. It is a solid 7 and I even debated giving it an eight. However, I think the haunt still has a lot of potential for growth so I want to leave some ceiling for it.
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.
The Chamber of Horrors is located at 702 E Airline Hwy. If you are coming from the city, take 310 and exit Airline heading toward Norco. Drive across the Bonnet Carré Spillway and it will be on the left.