Hotel of Horror 2017 Review - Dread Central
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Hotel of Horror 2017 Review

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Web Page: http://www.hotelofhorror.com

Location: Cherry Valley Rd, Saylorsburg, PA 18353

Introduction

Numerous haunted attractions use social media and advertising to promote their haunts as “horror movies” come to life. Often, even the best haunts fail to achieve this lofty goal, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from variable actor quality, and ineffective structural designs that fail to convey any sense of “realism.” Several years ago, we became tired of the traditional “haunted house concept” which generally can be described as a variety of mazes filled with fake looking animatronics, and actors who did little to create any sense of fear. Many of these haunts advertised themselves as “extreme” experiences, but all fell short of their goal. Around this time, we first came across advertisements for the Hotel of Horror attraction.

Our first encounter with the dreaded Lake House will always be etched in our minds because it proved to us that haunted attractions could genuinely bring nightmares to life. Hotel of Horror was one of the first haunted attractions in the tri-state area to take on a gritty, mature, adult-themed approach to scaring guests, using its one of a kind environment to serve as a backdrop for scare actors to create legitimate scenes and storylines. Insane scare actors and the ominous “Lake House Hotel” created an experience that struck at our inner psyche, inspiring a passion for haunted attractions that has grown exponentially.

Hotel of Horror demonstrated that quality set designs, mature/adult themes, incredible scare acting and sensory triggers are the critical components of an immersive horror experience that goes beyond generic jump scares. Our first visit to Hotel of Horror provided the spark that has fueled our love for haunted attractions, and we have visited every year for the past several seasons.

Even though Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares have always been held in high regard over the past few years, we were saddened to see that both attractions seemed to lose focus, and became less competitive with newer attractions that embraced tenants of immersive horror in their attractions design philosophies. Hotel of Horror grew almost outdated, a shadow of its former self due to a variety of issues ranging from misguided themes and weaker scare acting. The attraction fell behind in quality compared to others within the region and failed to capture the same horrific magic experienced during our first visit. However, over the past three years, Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares haunted attractions have undergone a renaissance. Improvements made over last two seasons put the attraction back on track towards achieving its rightful place as one of the most psychologically twisted, memorable attractions you could ever visit. Revamped set designs and almost perfect structural components of the haunt itself created an environment unlike any other, transforming the Lake House Hotel once again into a submersion into pure terror. An almost insane attention to detail and emphasis on adult themes injected new life and aggression into this innovative attraction. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are once again among the few attractions that can generate genuine fear, tailoring its show to target the personal, inner phobias of all guests that enter its imposing doors. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares embrace twisted creativity and bring to life scenarios that will forever remain scarred in your memories.

In 2017, Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares once again pushes the limits of psychological terror. This season, Hotel of Horror features the theme termed “Stricken” inspired by a storyline in which the “inmates” have overtaken the asylum. Altered Nightmares features a show termed “Spellbound,” a take on dark magic and nightmarish themes that complement each other in a hellacious combination aimed at twisting one’s reality.

History

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares haunted attractions are located inside the infamous abandoned Lake House Hotel in historic Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The legend of the Lake House Hotel spans more than two-hundred years and serves as the backdrop for the sinister haunted attractions brought to life within its confines. The tales begin with the original stagecoach stop, circa late 1700’s whose foundation only remains, sheathing the walls of the furthest basement rooms under the encapsulated Victorian mansion. The destruction of that original stagecoach stop gave birth to a tavern referred to at the time as The Saylorsburg Hotel, an Inn for Travelers, built by Charles Saylor in 1847. Over the course of the following 53 years, it saw much expansion and construction. The first “rebirth” of the Saylorsburg Hotel came around 1882 to 1888 with the coming of the railroad, removing the roof, building a third story, and renovating the exterior to celebrate the wonderful architecture of the Victorian Era. This remarkable mansion still exists inside the grand hotel addition built sometime between 1894 to 1900 and remains the same in size that you see today. The Hotel hosted the entire Monroe County Battalion of six companies of soldiers during the Civil War and was also used a residence seeing its share of births and deaths. The local mines and railway used the Hotel at several points in its early history to house their business operations as well as the infirmary and place of “pick- up” for the next of kin when tragic accidents would occur. It is recorded that many men died on its front porch waiting for a family to arrive after suffering significant injuries in those local mines and railway construction.

In October 1918, the local press reported that the Spanish Influenza had arrived in the Pocono Mountains, bringing sickness and death. The recently built county hospital was inadequate, and temporary hospitals were established in local resorts surrounding Stroudsburg.  Then in 1929, again in October- just a few days before Halloween, investors in New York City began to panic- stocks bought high started to drop, and so the Great Crash of The New York Stock Exchange devastated the economy. Guests of the Lake House, having left New York in shame and despair, not knowing how to provide for their families, checked into the Hotel, had drinks in the bar, dinner in the dining room, and saw their final night on earth in the guest rooms on the second and third floors. It was at that time that Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania became known as “The Place to Hang Yourself.” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s the basement area housed the Vickie Lee Blouse Company, employing ladies who worked on original textile equipment with minimum safety precautions. It can only be imagined the injuries suffered in the lower level of the Lake House Hotel during this time. After the close of this company, the lower level saw use as a barber shop, and then a state liquor license permitted the serving of alcoholic beverages in this same lower level, in addition to the first-floor bar.  The basement was turned into a marine-themed bar, and in 1985 a failed robbery attempt left the owner of that time entirely incapacitated and resulted in the hotel closing for good. It was purchased in 1990 and turned into an Antique Co-Op, and then in 1992 saw its first haunted house attraction.

Attractions

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares coexist within the confines of the infamous Lake House Hotel and perfectly complement each other. Stylistically, Hotel of Horror is a sinister attraction that celebrates the dark energy conveyed by the Lake House Hotel, while Altered Nightmares uses environmental scares to prey on inner fears using mature themes to create a twisted, adult-themed attraction. Hotel of Horror is celebrating its 24th year of operation and has once again developed a memorable, sophisticated horror movie quality show that brings to life horrific freaks, monsters, and violent inmates. An emphasis on providing a story driven show that embraces controversial themes ensures that haunt fans looking for more than a traditional “boo” haunt will leave you at times questioning if the haunt has gone too far in using custom characters to create fears that strike at one’s deepest, darkest fears and phobias.

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares embrace diversity in a manner, unlike any other haunted attraction. Additional experiences incorporate new technologies that infuse the vintage “Lake House” with a modern approach to haunting. This season, Hotel of Horror partnered with Recall Studios to create a virtual reality experience, “360o of Hell” that is available for a variety of mobile devices. Within the attraction, itself guests can pay a nominal fee to use the “iPas” system to trigger custom animatronics that adds to the unpredictable nature of each attraction.

Guests looking to extend their experience at the Lake House Hotel can visit “Exhibition Macabre,” a museum housing a private collection located in the original front parlor of the long-abandoned hotel. “Exhibition Macabre” features artifacts and antiques ranging from medical to funeral, prison, and asylum along with remains. “Exhibition Macabre” is an additional experience that caters to the interests of those curious about historical medical experimentation, preparing the dead and memorializing life.

It is important to emphasize that Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares strive to create a show that touches crucial tenants of a world class haunt, theatrical production. Structurally, each of the two attractions is designed to generate anticipation, fear, and trepidation using sensory triggers, immersive soundtrack and unpredictable scenes of horror designed to create personal reactions. Gore and horrific imagery add to the realism of each attraction helping guests forget there are in a “safe” environment. The transformational design is a strength of each attraction, allowing the amazing characters custom created by each scare actor to target each guests’ innermost fears, stripping away any sense of reality. Hotel of Horror has achieved monumental success in creating an adult-themed attraction that doesn’t venture entirely into the realm of “extreme” haunts yet never waivers in its mission to provide guests with a horror movie quality experience. Both Hotel of Horror and its coexisting haunt, Altered Nightmares, are unforgettable, actor-driven experiences that have returned to their rightful place as one of the top tiers haunts in the tristate area.

Hotel of Horror

Hotel of Horror’s 2017 theme “Stricken,” loosely features an “asylum” or medical ward based theme promoting the disturbing nature of both attractions. Hotel of Horror focuses more on the grittier, darker aspects of haunted attractions with character designs that convey a sense of violence set upon the backdrop of scenes that feature the most intricate of nightmarish details. Extensive work has been undertaken to add a new level of complexity to the interactive mazes found within the Hotel of Horror. Each scene is themed almost perfectly allowing twisted scare actors to create unique personal interactions with guests.

We had several encounters with truly disturbing freaks, who use personal reactions to drive their character’s directions. Hotel of Horror prides itself on creating situations and interactions that are borderline disturbing, uncomfortable and psychologically memorable. Hotel of Horror is not an “extreme” haunt per say as they do not “touch” guests but instead use methods that aim to strike at one’s’ psychological core. Grotesque imagery, closeness, and demented characterizations are used to create fear without touching on a mature level. We were taunted, cursed at, forced to crawl and at times came eerily close with the horrific inhabitants of the Hotel of Horror and enjoyed every minute of it. Additional scare actors hidden throughout the dark corners and in various rooms’ added additional “jump” scares to the theatrical presentation expected by the attraction. Structurally, Hotel of Horror’s atmospheric soundtrack, lighting effects, and diversity in maze/scene design allow for a constant build of tension, anticipation and cautious exploration which enhances the overall experience. Hotel of Horror’s design coupled with the violence cultivated by its insane scare actors creates a mature haunt that is once again at its very best.

Hotel of Horror creates an ever-dominating sense of paranoia, dread and apprehension which is the result of excellence in set design and structure. Periods of darkness, a disorientating soundtrack and disturbing scenes create legitimate fear without actors having to touch to garner a reaction. Use of slow strobe lights, periods of pitch black and chilling sounds of horror fill each corridor, building excitement and a sense of being isolated from reality.

Some of the characters featured in the Hotel of Horror are almost indescribable. For example, we encountered a “mother” who gleefully showed us her mutated “conjoined” twins, and we were pinned in a corner by a truly terrifying creation, a female bound to a wheelchair, with a fetus hanging from her innards. The noises and sounds made by this character haunt our memories to this day, as this was not a design typically featured by many mainstream haunts. Other insane characters include numerous “clowns” who stalk throughout a chain-linked basement, throw themselves violently against walls and portray a sense of insanity. A disturbing “Black Mass” encourages guests to join Satan and a variety of straight-jacket bound “inmates” roamed each floor. The hulking “Snort Gore” was waiting for us as we escaped the attraction and off-color “nurses” forced us to our knees and took great glee in our feeble attempts to escape. The entire experience was at times mentally exhausting and a mind-bending experience.

While Hotel of Horror is a terrifying attraction, the “asylum” theme fell somewhat flat. “Asylum” themed haunts are featured across the country, and while character actors did a fantastic job of playing the insane, it truly did not feel as though the theme “fit” the Lake House Hotel and thankfully they did not transform the entire attraction into the run of a mill “asylum” haunted house. Furthermore, Hotel of Horror shares its finale with Altered Nightmares, taking away a proper ending to both unique attractions.

Altered Nightmares  

Altered Nightmares’ 2017 “Spellbound” concept embraces dark magic and creates an interactive, theatrical journey through one’s nightmares. “Spellbound” is a demonic celebration of the occult and excels at cultivating paranoia. Altered Nightmares has slowly become more of a sister haunt to the Hotel of Horror focusing design on creating surreal horror experiences that typically veer towards the more fantasy side of haunting.

Representation of nightmarish scenes is not an understatement, “Spellbound” at times is not only terrifying but a mind-numbing experience. Scare actors are relentless, and perhaps even more aggressive in this attraction in comparison with Hotel of Horror. As was the case of Hotel of Horror, the scare actors and creativity in character design are what makes this attraction standout. Early on we faced off with a character known as the “Dutchman.”, a horrific monster that walks the line between angelic and demonic, as well as spent time with a rather off-color coven of “witches.”

 

Altered Nightmares successfully transforms the entire hotel environment into a living, breathing nightmare, challenging guests to escape.

Final Word

Evolution of haunted attraction design and presentation is starting to take on a more visceral, psychological approach aimed at targeting the innermost fears of veteran haunt fans yearning for a personal, immersive experience. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmare’s Haunted attractions have mastered the art of using psychological triggers to spur real “fear” that goes beyond the traditional expirations associated what is best described as a “boo” haunt. Traditional tenants of haunted attraction design coupled with sensory-based triggers, augment a twisted, nefarious approach to attraction design allowing one to live out their darkest fears. One must let go of preconceived notions and open themselves up mentally to an immersive experience aimed at inspiring real-life nightmares challenging social and cultural norms. Both attractions housed within the confines of the Lake House Hotel are unapologetically mature, and at times downright brutal. A constant sense of paranoia spawned by disturbing artistic and theatrical designs compliment the demented scare acting, as well as exploitive nature of this gritty, “real” horror attraction. Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares, thrive on psychological horror, encouraging careful exploration while challenging one to confront one’s innermost fears.

Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are character driven nightmares that are perfectly housed in the dark atmosphere that permeates throughout the Lake House Hotel. The attraction has spent the past few seasons developing its show to focus on creating a haunt that once again stands out among many of the local and national haunts visited this season.  Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares are on track towards creating an innovative show that is engrossing and terrifying. The historical backdrop of the Lake House Hotel adds to the “realism” of this gritty attraction, which aims to constantly create situations that are creepy, sometimes uncomfortable and pleasurably unsettling. As mentioned previously, what drives the success of each attraction is the creative design that aims to strike at mature themes and incredible scare actors that play innovative roles that are unlike any other haunted attraction. Scare actors stalk, they breathe down guest’s neck, they use adult language and play of personal responses to interact with guests on a real level. Make-up and costume design are top-notch, and each strives to garner genuine reactions from each guest. These scare actors “believe” in their characters, which feature exquisite make-up and costume designs that are not purchased from local Halloween stores. The attention to detail (even the most minor) needs to be witnessed to appreciate, as each room features set pieces that are unlike any other found in most major haunted attractions.

Exploration of each set design is used as a misdirection tool, and we often admired the disturbing details of the attraction only to be confronted by an insane scare actor.  You will see scenes of satanic worship, demented clown rooms, a witch “dinner,” grotesque bathrooms, and many sets that embrace violent imagery. In between each room/set design, sensory triggers such as periodic darkness, blood-stained walls, strobe lights, fog, visual effects and incredible soundtrack built a constant sense of paranoia that increases from scene to scene. Hotel of Horror is not for those easily offended by scenes of gore, crude humor, and disturbing themes are hallmarks of this terrifying attraction.

The Lake House Hotel is the perfect backdrop for a horror movie quality experience, and the quality of acting and inter-scene experiences have once again brought this attraction back to the point of being a horrific mature experience.  As you visit the Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares this season, please be advised that they let only small groups into each attraction to experience the full effect of each “show. An emphasis on close actor/guest interactions add to wait times, and VIP upgrades are available. Furthermore, it is important to note that each attraction is rather lengthy, roughly a half hour or longer, so this is one attraction that provides value for its prices. Visit the Lake House Hotel this season and experience one of the most disturbing and mature haunted attractions from a design and acting standpoint visited this season, with a renewed emphasis on using innovative concepts and mature themes to cater to adult fans looking for a dark, horrific experience.

We would like to express our continued gratitude to the actors and staff of Hotel of Horror and Altered Nightmares. Furthermore, we are especially thankful to Marlo Ambrosio for her creativity in bringing to life this beautiful, yet horrific attraction as well as the detailed insight into the rich history of the Lake House Hotel.

 

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

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Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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