I'm going next week for 2 nights so I don't have an opinion on the event yet but as someone who has gone every year for the last 20 years I can say for the past 4-5 years the scare zones have become basically an afterthought for the event and if it weren't for the awful shows they have put on after Bill and Ted stopped they would be the low point of the event.Managed to do all 10 houses last night without Express!
1. Wicked Growth - Just fantastic set design, character design, and concept. I love when the original non IP houses have one cohesive concept and setting throughout, as opposed to some which are a mixup of themes or ideas. Every year my favorite is an original house. I feel its pretty obvious that they do better work when they are not under obligation to do specific things, like with many IP houses.
2. Puppet Theater - Likewise.
3. Beetlejuice - Although this was the comedy house, it was the only one that had a moment that startled me. Great tribute to the film.
4. Bride of Frankenstein - Was open last year but still really good.
5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre - This IP is overused by HHN but the house was very well done.
6. Icons: Captured - just lots of fun reliving past events.
7. Case Files - This was a really interesting and fresh concept that makes it worth seeing, but it basically wants you to stop and read all the details to appreciate and understand it. Unfortunately, this is not possible, so it makes no sense.
All of the above I felt were worth it and if you don't have time to see them all, I would recommend these.
8. Scarey, Ohio - Look, I've been to this event so many times. It's hard to remember every single house and many of those featured in this were forgettable. So to me, it felt like a disjointed series of "b-roll" houses. Side note, this house location, in my opinion, has never had a good house since it's introduction in 2016.
9. Haunting of Hill House - I don't feel that it captured the feel and tone of the show well at all. In my opinion this should have tried to be more similar to the Stranger Things houses where it's more about setting foot in the show than the scares. I don't recall seeing any of the Crane family characters either, only the ghosts. Maybe I just missed them? I also felt that the sets in this house were sub par for HHN. Lots of bland hallways.
10. Tooth Fairy - didn't like this house last year and same for this year. The little tooth fairy creatures are lame and are the only real scare.
- Scare zones - terrible! They're just photo ops/meet & greets now. Not a single one had a good or interesting theme. I used to describe the atmosphere of HHN as feeling like "a theme park in hell", but with these toned-down scare zones, that no longer applies. I'm sure there are several factors behind this change, but I do miss how it used to be.
- Lack of fog - am I remembering it wrong or did there used to be a LOT more fog throughout the park?
- This year's BGM. Not a fan of thrash metal (or whatever that would be classified as) at all. It's obnoxious and overkill hearing it endlessly. Thankfully it wasn't blasting everywhere in the park.
- Lagoon show - also terrible. Heavy metal + colorful water = scary!
- I could not care less about Nightmare Fuel so I didn't bother.
I think I say this every year, but after so many years of attending this event, there are absolutely no surprises left in it for me unless they find some way to do a new approach. I know the house design. I know where the scares will be. I know the signs of a misdirect and can anticipate that too. They won't change anything, of course, because they have a winning formula that makes them a ton of money.
The scare zones are either too large of an area or too understaffed. Either shrink them so the actors aren't spread out so much or pack the large area with more actors. You can walk though zones the past couple of years without even seeing actors let alone interact with them. Also, the lack of roaming chainsaw people hurts the atmosphere a lot. You use to walk anywhere in the park and you'd still be able to hear the chainsaws rev and people scream which kept a sense of dread wherever you went. You also aren't remembering it wrong, fog use to be everywhere.
The greatest scare zone they ever did was the foam area when it was held at IoA with the clowns walking around in it (I can't remember the name of it) and I doubt they'd put that much effort into a zone now.