Haunted Attraction Reviewed: Frightland
Location of Attraction: Middletown Delaware
Date of Review: Saturday October 12th 2019
Total Number of Attractions Available: EIGHT + Carnival
Overall Haunted Attraction Rating: 6.5/10
Entertainment and Food Rating: 10/10
Atmosphere Rating: 8.5/10
Overall Costume and Make Up Rating: 7/10
Overall Cast and Crew Rating: 5/10
Overall Props, Animatronics and Set Design Rating: 7/10
Overall Scare/Thrill Factor Rating: 5/10
Overall Feedback: Frightland is one of the most unique haunted attractions in the area and can be an all night adventure. Why? Along with eight (yes, eight!) haunted attractions, Frightland pulls out all the stops in the “entertainment” category by setting up a season-long carnival complete with bumper cars and a Ferris wheel (along with numerous other rides for all ages), carnival barkers tempting you with offers of games and prizes for all ages, plus a decent amount of food options. By “decent food options,” we mean most carnival cravings you think of for fall seem to be there — including funnel cakes, cotton candy, popcorn, candy corn, caramel apples, pizza and a host of other food options. The atmosphere here is live, fun, enthusiastic and overall has great energy.
Guests can enjoy the carnival alone, or join those looking for a frightfully good time and experience the haunted attractions. The hayride, a 4-in-one attraction, closes earlier than the other haunts, so we encourage people to get in line early for that and experience the hayride first. Once you have completed the hayride and the three subsequent attractions, you can experience four other individual attractions. Scroll down for more on that, below.
On the night we attended, the crowds were absolutely huge. Easily, lines were over an hour wait for the hayride. If you are coming during the last few weeks of the Halloween season, we encourage you to come early, get in line early and bring a friend or two to hold your place in line in case you need to step out of line. Upgrading to a VIP pass might be the make or break point for how much you will get to experience here, so if you can budget it, we strongly encourage an upgrade. The VIP pass can be purchased online or upgraded at their ticket booth, and on the night we attended they played an interactive horror movie trivia contest via social media for a chance to win a free boost to VIP for the speed pass.
Now, on to the haunts themselves. We have to be honest, this year we were underwhelmed and disappointed overall. Many of our members have experienced Frightland in the past, so without comparing Frightland to other haunts and strictly comparing it to themselves and their own typical standard of performance, they fell short in almost every category in every attraction. What is typically a decent hayride was a speed race to the finish line, cutting through scenes, shortening visual interaction with props and giving actors what felt like only seconds to attempt interaction with guests on the wagon. You are loaded into small rooms with benches while you await the boarding process, and given instructions on how to safely board the hayride and what to expect, so the process was orderly — but rushing to get the crowds through and handling the lines really damaged Frightland’s ability to perform as something to scare.
Exiting the wagon, you enter three additional short walkthrough areas sequentially as they flow: Ravenwood Cemetery, FEAR, and then the Zombie Town. Ravenwood Cemetery is entered immediately after you exit the hayride wagon, with an introduction from an actor who controls the pace and flow of those entering. Spacing was good here. Even though you offload as an entire hay wagon of 20 people, groups are broken down in such a way that you walk through in a smaller group. We were able to walk through all three attractions without having to catch up to groups too close ahead of or behind us, so the experience was more personal and allowed the natural atmosphere to help set the scene for spooks. Ravenwood Cemetery had limited actor interactions, using fog and actor positioning to give jump scares — but the actors were few, so the jumps never really happened. The one actor most of us encountered seemed to hurry us along after a brief attempt at a “jump scare.” Ravenwood flows into FEAR, a short attraction with only 2-3 scare actors. It gets a bit lost between the other two walkthrough areas and ends quickly, so we unfortunately don’t remember much about it besides the failed attempt to play off common fears and phobias that typical patrons possess. Of these three walkthroughs, Zombie Town was the strongest — with a zombie southern belle introducing us to the area (acting as a delay performer to help continue the same gaps between groups). Her performance was enjoyable. We met a zombie cowboy, before entering a small well designed saloon with one saloon girl, well two saloon girls if you count the one who essentially seemed to be sleeping in a nearby chair. A bit more action or interaction inside the saloon could bring the haunt to life. As it stands, it felt like a waste of a complex scene to have one greeter make a single comment to our large group and then end the interaction there. This works when there are many other actors, scenes, or props to spook you, but here the saloon was the main building to walkthrough and entering it lacked a noteworthy show.
Once you exit these three attractions and finish the hayride, there are 4 more individual attractions with queues to wait in. Several of the attractions have pre-attraction videos to help establish the storyline. We entered the Zombie Prison next, which in previous years has been filled with high energy actors and many jump scares. The scene begins with an “inmate bus” and a prison guard ordering you and you group to line up, while chain link fences surround you. You are able to hear screaming and shouts inside the prison, and the energy hypes you up. The first scene is an elevator that guests aboard. A lack luster elevator attendant brought us aboard, seemed enthusiastic as the elevator began to jolt around and then pointed to the exit when the doors opened. This year, after the first room, the performance relied on several visual displays and lowered the amount of light, creating another near-blackout experience. The few scares were decent, and use of fake audio screams that always seemed slightly ahead of our group kept us on edge waiting for a scare or something to happen…but it often never did, leaving a displeased feeling for our crew. Instead, darkness and disorientation seemed to be the predominant tools to spook us. From the first scene to the end of the attraction we encountered a total of three scare actors, two of which seemed content to just watch us stroll by, unwilling to provide any interaction or engagement with our crew. This attraction could definitely use a few more actors, or at least actors whom seem to care and possess some form of passion and energy.
Next, was the Haunted Barn. This attraction typically has a host who tells you the spooky story of the Dr’s Daughter and the events that happen within the barn, heightening your anticipation and thrill. This year, the entrance actor said only something along the lines of “Wait, hold right here, how many?” And then walked away to check the locations of other groups ahead of us, before making a spooky face and telling us we could go forward into the attraction. We lost a great deal of the storyline through that interaction, and since we have seen actors set the scene for the Barn in the past, it was disappointing. The entrance haunt worker practicing a few quick but spooky lines to collect our group numbers and still set the scene would be helpful. We understand that on busy nights haunts have to push people through, but there was dead wait space after the conversation with us that could have been used to tell the Barn’s history as in previous years. The set designs here are decent, although the use of fog machines made some things less visible. Overall, this was a successful attraction but only “OK” in comparison to prior years that Frightland has been in business.
The Attic was next, and was several of our group’s favorite walkthrough. This is the real “blackout” style attraction at Frightland, and there was an actor who controlled lines entering the building who successfully handled a bit of storytelling and humor before allowing us to enter in small groups. The Attic relies heavily on disorienting and confusing guests, with actors moving through locations to create jump scares in rapid-fire sequence, before ducking through their secret exits and moving on. It seemed like this attraction, too, was understaffed. But the performers here were definitely trying their best to handle the large crowds. While usually this is a lower ranking attraction at Frightland, it was one of the top few of the night. The one thing we feel that is important to mention is that we saw one actor standing halfway out of a hidden hallway with his mask up, talking with someone on the other side. It was casual and didn’t seem like it was an emergency (lost child, scared or injured guest) so it appeared that he was chatting with another actor in the haunt. He turned around and said “oh,” in surprise when he saw our group and put his mask down and tried to spook us as we walked by…but how could we be scared at that point? The rest of the walkthrough was a bit less spooky after that, because we had seen the “man behind the curtain,” so to speak. Group members who did not see that interaction had positive opinions of the Attic, so overall the experience was fine. Again, there seemed to be a lack of training, a lack of actors and a lack of enthusiasm in this attraction.
Idalia Manor was the final attraction, and is a historic two-story home. The props and set design are the most fun, visual and interactive here. The small old house already has its own “feel” that makes it seem creepy, and small hallways heighten anticipation. Many of the actors are female in this haunt and that works well here. Rather than focusing on aggressive, loud jump-scares, there are subtle creeps and silent threats and unsettling “dolls.” One actress positioned herself atop a refrigerator in a semi-contorted fashion that was both visually well positioned and incredibly startling when you realized it was something alive. The house feels ominous, so the way this team works is successful. There was more enthusiasm here in delivering a scare, and between set design and props that work themselves, there felt like there was less of an absence of workers here. It was a good final attraction to end the night on.
Overall, Frightland is an entertaining all night experience. You can come with friends, family or a date and have an entire night filled with all different kinds of options for entertainment. You never have to leave the grounds for plentiful food options. And, with 8 haunts, you have plenty of options to be scared. We just feel that overall, this year was lacking. The potential is there, but Frightland needs to push to have more actors and more actor training. One person cannot scare hundreds of people and the lines of patrons at Frightland were HUGE. Exhaustion and understaffing alone could have caused the situations we saw. We are hoping that next year, we see more heavily staffed haunt attractions here and that through trial and error this year, the actors discover their characters and what works best for the different guest experiences they are forced to handle on a given day. We’re moving into Hell Week levels of guests as we get closer to Halloween and the peak of the Haunt season, so these acting groups are working with huge crowds. We just hope the haunt attractions don’t fall victim to being a secondary priority to the carnival. We travel through many states and haven’t seen anything else like this in the sheer amount of entertainment that Frightland provides with their carnival-meets-haunted-house offerings, so for that alone, it is worth a visit. But if you push away the entertainment value of the carnival and take a look at just the houses and hayride this year, they simply didn’t perform to the level that they have in previous years. So depending on the experience you are seeking you may want to consider visiting a different local attraction. We hope to see Frightland back on track next year.
Fright Review Squad - Top 3 Overall Attractions
#1 - Idalia Manor
#2 - The Attic
#3 - Haunted Hayride