Saturday, October 29, 2011

Battling Hordes of Pittsburgh Zombies at The ScareHouse

By Brizblack

Well, once again we saved what most people consider to be one of America’s scariest haunted houses for last. After another spine-tingling season that resulted in Bratzilla and me visiting too many local haunts to review, we wrapped things up at The ScareHouse, which had left us blood thirsty for more after an appropriately unpleasant visit last year.

While two of the three attractions (“The Forsaken” and “Delirium”) in The ScareHouse contained most of the same elements from 2010, a new ‘Burgh-focused “Pittsburgh Zombies” haunt was a welcome overhaul of the old steampunk-themed space, which was cool, but a little lighter on scares. Seeing our fellow yinzers as flesh-eating ghouls (one of them might have been our neighbor) and some of our most iconic sights—such as the Steelers proud Strip District—was an experience not to be missed by any fiend who loves the Steel City. Luckily, since they seem to cycle through attractions every two years, it stands to reason that this will be around in 2012 too.

Here is what keeps us going back to this impressive showpiece of Pittsburgh spookitude:

Scareativity – One of The ScareHouse’s greatest strengths is its “out-of-the-box” thinking on what makes something scary. From scene design to props and costumes, the scares that lurk inside the haunt don’t always come from the most obvious places, or when you expect them. In fact, just about everything becomes suspect in this place, where even a chair can make you feel uneasy!

Creative Reuse – The ScareHouse’s knack for using “found” items is not only a testament to their scareativity, but also to their ability to create a high-quality, high-detail haunt without having to buy everything new. Even monsters like to recycle, so I hope this trend catches on.

Makeup – Most, if not all, of the actors are painted up with ghastly results. Interacting with characters whose purposely not-so-good looks are achieved with makeup instead of masks is far more frightening because it enhances, rather than hides, the fearsome creatures in front of you.

Lighting – The use of lighting (and darkness) to intensify scare zones is also very skillful at The ScareHouse. There is good overall balance between scenes that are lit well enough to highlight detail alongside scenes of total darkness, which puts patrons on edge. Both lighting design methods were punctuated by the actors, who took advantage of times when their unfortunate visitors were distracted by a cool prop or clumsily feeling their way through the blackness.

At the end of a long, dark day, from the level of detail to the quality of the overall production, it is clear that The ScareHouse owners and employees take a lot of pride in their work, and, for that reason, I think we can continue to expect great and evil things as designers continue to improve and retool it, giving us new nightmares to face each year. Now, if only we could shorten those devilishly long lines …

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