For my birthday this year, I decided to kick-off my haunt season with Carnage Haunted House in Columbus, OH. Despite living in Tulsa, OK, I love visiting my home state during the fall for pumpkin patches, football games, and some of the best haunts around. For Carnage, this is the first year at their new location, as the building was purchased in 2019, but stifled by COVID-19 for their scheduled 2020 grand opening. Parking at this haunt is free with a large lot equipped with a porta-john for patrons to utilize before ever stepping foot in line! I unfortunately was never able to attend their old location, but it is worth mentioning that a third and final themed walkthrough is still in construction for the 2022 season. Overall great work for only the second night being open after nearly a two-year regular season hiatus!
Before walking into the building, folks are encouraged to get some grub from a curated food truck (very fair pricing!) and take photos with several actors and backdrops. Immediately inside the doors, we approached security who assist you through metal detectors, and direct you to which direction you will enter based on the type of ticket you do, or don’t yet, have. Since we were there on a quiet night already having purchased our tickets, we were able to immediately walk to the entrance of the haunt. Had more attendees been present, the setup of the queue would have easily accommodated a large crowd and kept them entertained while waiting. The atmosphere was dark and eerie with black lights that caused our lightly-colored clothes to become nearly incandescent- so cool! I appreciated that the setup allowed a convenient visit to the merch stand either before or after walking through the haunt. We stopped before getting in line, and the staff member was very friendly. I almost wish we would have had at least a bit of a wait, however, simply because some anticipation—hearing screams up ahead and nervous groups behind you in line—adds to the experience.
Carnage *really* excels in this area! The scene-setter at the beginning gave insight about the various “Easter eggs” throughout the haunt where in every scene, you can find small references to movies such as Beetlejuice, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, etc. I cannot say enough positive things about this aspect of the experience. It is brilliant that they preface it at the beginning, being sure to let you know they are placed purposefully, so it allows for all patrons to have something to look for. This is foolproof design to still entertain those who claim to be impossible to scare, because it gives them an intentional task to look for in every room. Bravo! Costuming and makeup were all very solid, and no characters seemed out of place in a scene. Carnage relies heavily on all their visual effects, so be sure to keep your eyes open this entire haunt or you will indeed miss something! I did not notice any scents being used throughout my walkthrough, but I can not be an unbiased judge on this since I was wearing a mask indoors as required in Columbus right now due to COVID-19. Overall, I rank the visuals at this haunt one of the best I have ever experienced!
This year, Carnage hosted two separate walk-throughs included in your ticket: The Bayou and what their website calls The Entity. However, the two experiences were not comparable, unfortunately. The Bayou was top-notch—a great story line, wonderful flow and very scary. After the break to enter the second, however, it felt like much more of an afterthought. From what I could tell, the theme was mostly pertaining to an asylum—an overplayed trope with generic scenes. A few dead spots, and very few quality jump scares made it hard to compete with the first experience. I will state that due to the very few people in attendance, there was no opportunity for us to catch up with or be caught up with—we saw no other patrons during the actual walkthrough. A big piece I noticed that severely inhibited the ability to be fully immersed was the mass amount of security employees who were poking their heads in scenes and even opening doors. We saw more security (not attempting to hide or anything) than patrons, which was an overkill. Perhaps on a busier night, that level of security would be necessary, but they need to be trained how to not interfere with the experience.
I do feel that overall, Carnage was an upper-level scare haunt that would not be recommended for children. Although it is a touch-free haunt, the actors do a great job of encouraging proper pacing and drawing out scenes when necessary. Between the two haunts, we went through in about 20 minutes, with tickets being $25. On a night where there were many more guests, this would have been an appropriate price, but I might have considered doing a half price night or weekend as an opening at a new location to try to bring in new customers.
Nearly every single actor played their part well within each scene. All of the characters with speaking parts were wonderful and really added to the experience overall. For the limited number of folks in the haunt (remember, there was no one in line, either), the actors engagement felt truncated—they didn’t follow beyond scenes and didn’t really play off one another. I would have liked to see some chemistry in the scenes where there was either coupled dialogue or diversion/distraction techniques being utilized. No actors ever broke character or used any overplayed lines/phrases the entire time, however. Overall, solid solo performances with convincing characters and seemingly seasoned professionals regarding timing of scares.
The “Easter Eggs” of movie references is worth a second shout out here. Incredibly creative and hidden in plain sight in every room! The Bayou looked wonderful and had several creative components of the story (sorry, no spoilers here!) that were well-worth the time spent to set the stage at the beginning. I love what they did regarding the story and am excited to see what the third theme under construction will be for next year!
-REP PERSONAL THOUGHTS-
During the second haunt, the banging on filing cabinets seemed a bit out of place and had no follow-up with a live actor. There was also one scene in the asylum where an actor was on a rolling office chair. There was too much light in the scene for them to be directly under the light without much makeup or costuming, regardless of intent. They looked like a patron and might have been better placed off to the side speaking their lines instead of directly in the pathway under the light. Overall, this haunt did a great job working with an entire new location, especially as a budding attraction with only a few years under its belt. So excited to see what’s next!