Laurel's House of Horror - 2019 Review
Haunted Attraction Reviewed: Laurel’s House of Horror
Location of Attraction: Laurel Maryland
Date of Review: Sunday October 27th 2019
Total Number of Attractions Available: ONE
Overall Haunted Attraction Rating: 6/10
Entertainment and Food Rating: 6/10
Atmosphere Rating: 7/10
Overall Costume and Make Up Rating: 7/10
Overall Cast and Crew Rating: 6/10
Overall Props, Animatronics and Set Design Rating: 6/10
Overall Scare/Thrill Factor Rating: 5/10
Overall Feedback: Laurel’s House of Horror located in Laurel Maryland has been an annual visit for our squad since the haunts start in the industry several years back. The haunt itself is situated in a unique location, inside an abandoned movie theater located on the backside of a busy shopping center. Being housed in a shopping mall certainly has its pros and cons. Pros being plentiful parking, shops and restaurants; plenty of options haunt patrons can bundle with their haunt experience at Laurel’s. But on the downside, the commotion of the shopping center certainly doesn’t allow for a spooky build up on your walk/drive to the haunt. But on the bright side, Laurel’s is nestled into the darkest corner of the shopping and boy do they capitalize on the space they have.
As guests park their cars and head towards the haunt you’ll begin hearing screams of the guests and music pumping out from the nearby DJ stand. Once in front of the old abandoned theater guests are immediately immersed into the old school movie theater theme. The old movie theater build board advertises the haunt walkthrough and escape rooms. Just above this sign is a large demonic looking creature, staring down at the hundreds of guests awaiting the thrill of their lifetime. Guests will snag their tickets at the old ticket booth and then jump in line. Ticket options at Laurel’s are rather straightforward; general admission, fast pass admission and RIP combo featuring fast pass admission and a 45 minute escape room!
Our squad arrived at the haunt around 7:30pm on the last Sunday in October. A decent crowd was already on hand and more guests were funneling their way towards the haunt. As we began towards the haunt we immediately noted a few roaming scare actors. Two baseball players, one in a Houston Astros jersey and another in a Washington Nationals jersey, were playing tricks and taunting one another while also scaring and entertaining guests. This was neat to see as Laurel’s isn’t far from Washington DC, home of the Washington Nationals, who are now Baseball World Series Champions! We were told Laurel’s had been displaying the games live at the haunt for guests to watch while waiting in the queue line. The other scare actor roaming about was portraying Adelaide from the movie “Us”. She was downright creepy and in character at all times. Kudos to these few actors for getting the guests engaged and amped up before even entering the haunt.
Once inside the front doors at Laurel’s guests will gather around and watch a brief intro video reviewing the rules of the haunt. Guests are then funneled into another queue line. Something we always loved is how perfectly Laurel’s plays off the movie theater theme. The queue line wraps around the original snack stand which still features movie theater favorites. The walls are plastered with new and old popular horror film posters. The wallpaper itself was intentionally distressed to give off a decrepit appearance. It truly feels as if you are waiting to watch a classic horror film in a run-down movie theater. Laurel’s as usual did a solid job spacing out groups and only allowing a small group of patrons to enter the haunt at a time. Our squad is always eager to revisit Laurel’s House of Horror as they typically produce quality work and put forth a spooky fun show. Well unfortunately, our experience this go around was simply underwhelming and flat out disappointing.
What is usually an action packed, thrilling and engaging experience seemingly turned into a rather bland and unremarkable journey. We hate to say it, but we haven’t had an experience this disappointing at Laurel’s House of Horror since their first year in operation. On the weekend before Halloween, fully staffed was a skeleton crew of what seemed to be no more than 20-25 scare actors. And unfortunately the scare actors we did happen to encounter were simply lackluster in their performance and failed to engage with our crew. The skits the scare actors use to possess were ditched and turned into a repetitive staring competition or an overabundance of classic actor lines such as “get out”, “what are you doing here?”, “do you want to play?”, etc. Scare actors with any form of unique skit were way to few and far between! Kudos to the scare actor in the church scene as well as the two scare actors in the theater/show scene for being energized and eager to entertain. Areas of the haunt with lively and upbeat music often featured lifeless scare actors, who failed to match the scenes energy, often leaving us feeling unamused. This type of performance from the scare actors at Laurel’s House of Horror usually doesn’t exist! With nearly the entire cast possessing lifeless and flat out lackluster performances it’s hard to believe that we simply caught them on a “off night”, but we can only hope that’s the case!
This year, every element that made this an exciting, thematic haunt was removed. Laurel’s shifted out some of their props and high impact visuals and filled the spaces with zig-zag tunnels that had limited interaction, completely bare bones decorations and almost no sensory engagement. Plywood was visible in several areas with no theming, really taking away from the experience. This is a haunt that we’ve praised for several years for having amazing handmade props and stunning visuals. We were shocked to see such amazing set designs from previous years be “revamped” with rushed appearing and mediocre work. It almost felt as if they placed all their sets in a blender and then splattered the mixture throughout all the scenes. Our crew failed to notice any sort of theme consistency as we hopped from one random theme to another. Several of our crews favorite scenes from previous years were removed. The beautifully crafted Krampus scene vanished from existence. The downright creepy Well scene from the movie “The Ring” was pathetically covered up with random bed sheets. The actor in the bungee jumping suit use to always catch our crew off guard but this season the actor was left no space to actually jump off the platform, essentially making this a wasted scare and engagement opportunity with the patrons. The full theater sized Purge and Clown scenes were significantly shortened and unlike in previous seasons featured no energy or thrill. Overall, when it comes to set design, it seemed as if the Laurel’s team changed things just to change things for 2019, and they certainly weren’t for the better. We hope future set design changes revert back to the detailed and quality work that we’ve come to know and love at Laurel’s. But for now, we are simply underwhelmed and unimpressed with the set design and theming that the 2019 experience possessed.
After exiting the attraction our entire crew was all in consensus that Laurel’s House of Horror failed to provide the same spooky fun experience that we’ve come to know and love over the past few seasons. What puzzled us even more was how rapidly they went downhill, as they provided an exhilarating and spooky fun experience at their Halfway to Halloween event in May. Laurel’s House of Horror was one of our most looked forward to visits of our 2019 season and boy do we feel like we took an unwanted punch to the gut. To this day, two weeks later, our crew is still scratching our heads trying to determine what the hell happened. We suppose every haunt has its “off season”, and Laurel’s certainly had theirs this season! For general haunt goers we’d expect they likely didn’t pick up on some of the flaws that our crew mentioned above. But for Laurel’s fanatics, like us, that have religiously visited over the past few years we’re sure you were simply disappointed. In our eyes, 2019 certainly wasn’t Laurel’s best year of haunting. We can only hope they rediscover their passion and previous spooktastic form; hopefully reverting back to providing a top-haunt, spooky fun experience! Our crew plans to give Laurel’s House of Horror a much needed year or two to regain form before we revisit. Better luck in 2020 Laurel’s House of Horror!