“The Return” Reviewed by the “Virgin”
Written by: The Dragon
It all started the 2020 haunt season, you know when I tried out scaring at a haunt for the first time? She would get so excited talking about Freakling Bros. Every time the tales began her voice would squeak with glee. She constantly interrupted herself to stop from revealing spoilers. It was and is still super cute to see, shhh, I didn’t tell you.
Once the realization that they weren’t going to be an open set in her voice went flat. As she mustered the energy to continue, you could see her body slump down and shake ever so slightly. It was awful, the happiness and hope sucked away from her as she muttered, “hopefully next year I can show you.”
Well, it’s 2021, COVID-19 is still a thing but there are vaccines and we’ve learned a lot more about it. As a result, Freakling Bros. is back! In what they’ve dubbed “The Return”, they updated Coven of 13, Gates of Hell, and brought back Castle Vampyre.
During our visit, they informed us this would be the last year for Castle Vampyre so make sure to get your fill. As best as you can because well it was clearly popular.
They’re all new to me so in that sense I’m glad I got to share the experience with the Bat as she was able to fill me in. If Red Bull gives you wings, Freakling Brothers gives her a gods damn rocket.
Since I was the “virgin” I was “chosen” to write the review. The Bat felt it was the only way Daring Damsels would be able to get an unbiased and honest review.
Yay! Horror movie rules dictate I survive!
Wait… that means I can’t go back to haunts… Screw that! Besides, I think Scream broke the rules so they don’t count anymore?
Gates of Hell
We started with Gates of Hell, the line was small (yay for going early in the season and right when they opened). There were 3 giant “6”s on the outside and a lit upside-down cross. To top it all off, a tall lanky figure with charred, withered tree branches for claws stretching out from their cloak welcomed us. I’m not sure what it says about me when I couldn’t help but feel safe as we stood with the figure.
Turns out Gates of Hell was the most extreme of the 3 attractions at the Freakling Brothers Haunt. There was an extra waver and everything, I hadn’t a clue what the details were. A lovely nun helped explain the details as we signed our souls away.
Hmm, looking back I don’t know if I should have seen them as being so nice… They seemed to have taken a jagged blade of some kind to carve out the upside-down cross on her forehead. They were also rather eager to get us to sign as quickly as possible… Ehh, it can’t be that bad. I must have made it out as I’m writing this review…
As we ventured into the Gates of Hell we experienced a variety of fears. On a much more extreme level than I’m used to which you can take as a huge selling point like me or as a word of caution. It was quite a shocking change from what I’m familiar with haunted attractions.
Oh! There’s a safe word… I don’t remember what it is though… Honestly, I forgot it before we even started the experience. I survived, the Bat survived not only once but twice as this was her second time through.
Two damsels dared and survived to tell the tale, will you dare?
Coven of 13
After getting back from the Gates of Hell we were called by the chants of dark figures. We followed the chants until they grew louder at the Coven of 13. We found cloaked figures who happily welcomed us to join them. Err, eagerly? They had full cloaks on so I’m not sure but off we went.
There was a figure shrouded in dark gloom at the entrance. We were warned at the start we would be tested. We entered a dark room to start the initiation, after all, who doesn’t want to be an all-powerful witch?
The Bat was found to be impure and thus taken away.
So I set off to rescue her first. Through various trials to test our fears, we reaffirmed our witchiness.
We left what clearly was the fan favorite for last. I was excited! I didn’t know what to expect but with a name like Castle Vampyre, I hoped for blood and biting.
While we waited in line the Bat bounced around, “there will be rope!”
That’s all she said… Confusion overtook my face as I stared. After a moment or three, “So do I get tied up?”
“No, when you see it promise me you’ll swing!”
Instead of biting and blood, what I got was a mind-fuck and I loved it. As we ventured deeper into the castle we were bombarded by illusion-style scares. There were so many variations.
We finally got to that rope the Bat was so excited about… it was surrounded by nothingness. I could not see which way I was supposed to swing. I got over my reservations and picked a direction. I picked the right direction!
We continued to make our way through the castle as it had more to give. More illusions, confusion, and fun. I’m sure some might question the “fun” but if you can conquer your fears, I think you’d find all the scares to be fun.
We escaped the illusions!
Honestly, they don’t need extras, the 3 haunted attractions Freakling Bros. has put together were well worth the ticket. That said, they have extras!
This is a fun reprieve if you will… Well assuming you get a good fortune or heed the fortune teller’s warnings when you aren’t so lucky.
There’s a hot dog food truck called Alpha Dawg. Sadly neither one of us was hungry so we can’t say how they taste. I can say they looked amazing and not your standard hot dog.
There were a lot of things that stood out to me in terms of the sets. Almost all of them were good.
I loved that nothing looked old. Err, old as in falling apart not aged. All of the sets looked like they were well maintained. It definitely felt like they were cared for which is a huge help when it comes to the scare factor. Don’t get me wrong, the dilapidated look done right is definitely creepy. When the sets look like they’re falling apart now I’m scared of getting hurt.
Beyond the care for their sets, I loved their use of lighting. There was very little complete darkness. Now they weren’t blasting spotlights either… It was all appropriate and the dark areas felt dark but I didn’t feel like I was going in blind.
There was one thing that even a few days later still stands out. This is a bit tricky without giving spoilers… In one of the attractions, there’s one section I just don’t get. I’m not sure if it’s something I missed with the story at that point or if it’s a clunky part of the set.
That said it’s a very small part of the given attraction as a whole so while a meh moment it was short-lived.
I know that it is early in the season, the actors may not have all gotten into their grooves. A catch-22 situation I learned first-hand last year. Sometimes you need to practice to find or remember where your groove is when it comes to scaring.
Err, not that kind of groove, although maybe they do dance as a pregame thing?
Besides the few times, I noticed that I thought they all did a good job. I felt a few parts were rushed though I’m not sure if that was supposed to be part of the pacing for that scare or not. So I can’t weigh that too heavily.
Everyone I was a smartass with handled it amazingly and stayed in character. I did try not to be too much of a smartass as I know it can be annoying but sometimes I couldn’t help myself. Lowkey bonus? The actors can take solace in the fact I created 2 tiny smartasses who haven’t learned when to give it a rest.
One thing I will say that was cool to find out was that one scene had partially broken. I had no clue there was a problem. The Bat knew or at least had an idea of what was supposed to happen.
The actors rolled with the issue seamlessly.
Also when the Bat informed JT about the issue his response was perfect. He was bummed I missed out, radioed over to let people know there was an issue so they could get it fixed, and he was grateful we told him about it.
There are 3 different themes. I love that they are all unique, not just the themes but also the stories they use to convey a given theme. One thing that stands out is that Freakling Bros. definitely loves to play with various concepts of fear and scaring.
The stories were also very well put together. I love the way they played with the themes of witches and black magic in Coven of 13. Gates of Hell felt like I was led through various levels of hell. Not Dante’s levels but a twist of taking fears and making them feel like different levels of hell.
Castle Vampyre was the most interesting at least with the way I interpreted the story. As we went through it, I couldn’t help but feel sad for Nosferatu; his castle was overtaken by somber energy. I’m pretty sure I got the wrong message but then again with all the illusions can you blame me?
Let me preface this section with two things; First, I don’t get scared… or at least rarely get startled. Apparently, I might be a psychopath as a result of that. I also blink less often… ooo, another one… I do like chef knives, a favorite for horror movie killers too!
Or you know I feel safe at haunted attractions for various reasons. I subconsciously felt blinking made my ability to play video games worse so I learned to blink less. It’s called a chef’s knife… I love to cook for others and I’m kinda lazy so having 1 knife that does it all decently comes in handy.
Anyway, I’m going to use common scare tactics and other patrons’ reactions.
All of the scares I saw used were well-timed and well done. There was also a large variety through the various attractions. I can’t think of any that were repeated, so if they were then it was rare enough to not feel overdone. I loved being out of the attractions to watch the strollers find their next victim(s), set up, and scare!
You know maybe that psychopath thing might have some merit… I did enjoy watching the various patrons run away screaming in fear from the actors.