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Our final stop on our Gulf Coast tour brings me to Jay, Florida. Literally nothing out here except Creepy Hollow Woods. They should just rename this area to CHW, Fl. Pronounce it as “Chew”. As mentioned in past reviews, the drive here is dark, creepy and lonely. It could be a depressing drive if you’re going home. But you’re not. You’re going to a haunt out in the woods and that makes the drive to this place perfect! What makes the difference from this season compared to 2018, it’s a party in the woods. When you park out on the “not so blackest road” you can hear a band rocking out from within the woods with a touch of screams and chainsaws mixed in.  The path has not changed from the road to the ticket booth and why should it change. It still serves its purpose of setting up a great experience. The truth is, the path to the ticket booth could be turned into a prequel haunt trail. It’s what makes CHW unique in its own way. As you make your way into the midway, you’ll notice the massive changes right off the bat. The new lighting, the new setup, the band playing. CHW has tons of room to basically do what they want and they are beginning to utilize it. The band playing all night long was called, “Coastal Fire”. They played from open to close and we never heard the same song twice. They dressed just like GHOST and they were very impressive. You can check them out at www.CoastalFireBand.com 

When you get into the midway, be prepared to have a good time. Mingle, enjoy the vendors. Play some games. Go over to the dunking booth and drown a clown. Throw some hatchets and win some prizes. Enjoy the band. Watch the midway actors terrorize waiting guests. Be sure to follow the rules for when your color ticket is called. I think the past que-line formula has people thinking that’s what they have to do. You don’t have to line up at the entrance. ENJOY THE MIDWAY! 

LET’S GET TO IT! 

Atmosphere: 9.7 

WOW! CHW truly stepped up their game in just one year. This is my 3rd trip and just seeing the progression blows me away. The first year I went, they had a pallet que-line in the midway. Then the following year they opened it up more but were missing out on outside entertainment. This year, they added a LIVE band, dunking booth which features multiple midway actors. Hatchet throwing where you can win prizes. They were giving away a car!! What haunt does that? CHW does that. Not to mention all the vendors selling food, drinks and snacks. During the halfway point of the night, keep your eyes peeled for the entire cast to charge out into the midway. I’ve never seen it done like this at any haunt. They added a color system for patrons to follow so it wouldn’t get so congested at the entrance. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to want to follow the rules. This wasn’t CHW’s fault, can’t blame them for people simply not listening. This was a record-breaking night and everyone wanted to line up at the entrance instead of really going out into this massive midway to have a good time. I would offer a suggestion to rope off an entire section and have a “gate keeper” only allowing in the patrons with the called color. Other than people not listening, CHW has definitely outdone themselves when it comes to atmosphere. I am beginning to fall in love with the “Rock Show” vibe rather than the creepy music and movies on a big screen when it comes to Midway entertainment. 

SECOND SCORE - 9.7

Special Effects: 8.9 

The Swamp wins the award on this one. The way they were able to pull this off in an outdoor trail is amazing. As you enter the swamp, you’re met with a thick layer of fog that just perfectly settles at most people’s waist. Some of you small fries might be beneath it, unfortunately. It’s lit up with green lights and it truly pulls off the effect that you’re in a swamp. With the ground beneath you being uneven, you get creepy thoughts in your head of what you’re walking through or what is underneath the fog. This one scene truly makes the experience worth it. 

As for the other portions of the trail. CHW is exactly that. WOODS. It is very difficult to pull off state of the art effects while dealing with the elements of Florida weather. But, CHW does a great job of submerging you into their world. At some points throughout, I really forgot that I was in the woods. That says a lot. Especially from where they were 3 years ago. The little things matter while in a woods trail. It’s the set placement, prop placement, the lighting that really drives a woods trail. CHW does a great job with this. I also want to give props to the “Voodoo Village”. I noticed certain things in there that most typical haunt goers won’t catch. Like the shaking chandelier and human bone path. Oh, and the smell scents this place has is top notch. Major props to them on this. They have one scent going that makes your eyes water because it’s so bad. Not sure what it is, but it smelled like they have a dead animal just rotting in the scene.  

SECOND SCORE - 8.8

Theme/Trail: 9.1 

There really isn’t a promoted theme with CHW. When you begin your journey, you are given a short story about a murdered girl while in the elevator. But, that’s as far as that goes. 

Our experience time was around the 20-minute mark. Which is great considering the constant interaction with the actors and patrons. You never find yourself in a scene wondering to yourself, “Hmm, where’s the actors?” We did not encounter one single dead spot. That is something you rarely find anymore at a haunt. Well, that’s if a professional reviewer knows what to look for while visiting a haunt. This is one small thing we encountered in the past and they definitely filled those spots.  

During your experience, you will encounter different scenes throughout the woods. Whether it be a swamp, “Voodoo Village” (That’s what I dubbed it), Meat Locker, Clown House, Bathrooms, Mine Shaft, bedroom, containment area filled with zombies, boiler room. Did I just spoil it? No, I’m just telling you how diverse CHW is during your experience. For a woods trail, the transitions of the scenes were pretty smooth for the most part. The only slightly awkward area I found myself in was the spider room. It just seemed a little out of place with everything else and it felt like a filler scene. 

CHW definitely stepped up their game with their trail in 2019. You have to remember that you are in the woods. The actors are not the only things lurking around. Keep your eyes peeled for other things. Like Briars and vines. Watch out for those briars and vines. They’ll get you! 

SECOND SCORE - 9.5

Costume/Makeup: 8.8 

Here, you will find the iconic movie characters. You will encounter Freddy, Michael, Jason, Leatherface, Pennywise and the Creeper. As I always say, if you’re going to put the icons in your haunt. They need to look the part. It’s very important. Michael Myers looked great! He moved liked him and really brought the silver screen character to life out in the midway. Their Freddy looked the part with the entire costume, real glove, quality mask and the actor really did a great job on the voice. CHW has come a long way with this character from 3 years ago when the Freddy was wearing blue jeans and knock off Crocodile Dundee hat.  The Creeper looks great and you can find him rocking out with the band. The one that I am going to slightly pick on is Jason. The mask and costume look great and the actor did a good job portraying him. But the unfortunate reality is that the character simply requires a big dude to play him. And it’s hard to be accurate when the bib of the mask is flopping around outside the shirt. Same goes with Leatherface, they had a smaller actor portraying him. But he looked the part with the quality mask and costume and his motions as the character was pretty accurate as well. 

Away from the icon characters, I noticed some very quality air brush make up with some skilled prosthetic work. I really liked the detail of the clowns and they showed up very nicely under the black light. Loved the look of the characters in “Voodoo Village”. We did not see any actor that was wearing anything out of place. No characters in blue jeans, gym shorts etc.... They even did a nice job of camouflaging the actors controlling the “rat” and “hog”. That shows me that they care about the little things that could make a huge difference. Take a bow, make up crew. You deserve a round of applause!

SECOND SCORE - 8.7 

Bang for your buck: 10 

$15 for your normal experience (at least a 20 min walkthrough) 

$15 for Glo-Rage night. (at least a 20 min walkthrough) 

$20 for Insanity. (at minimum 30 min experience) 

FREE PARKING 

CHW has a great system that they implement throughout the night. It’s very affective so no “conga lines” build up. That way you, the patron, will not get held up by slower groups and have your experience ruined.  Another thing that professional reviewers will notice and appreciate and not take points off for. With the entertainment out in the midway and your heart pounding experience throughout the trail. It is definitely worth the admission of $15. 

For $5 more, you can experience Insanity. This is not for the faint of heart or the “germaphobes”. You will get wet. You will get sticky. You will get dirty. Actors will grab you and make you a part of their scenes. Whether they make you their slave, their toy, or simply just want to make you a prop in the scene. No experience is the same with this. Your experience will last you much longer than 20 minutes. The best thing about Insanity is the fact you become part of the show. As the normal patron ventures through, they get to personally see what you’re experiencing as they leave you behind.  

GLO-RAGE night is basically what it says. On special nights they turn off “Most” of the lights and give you one glow stick and you venture through the trail. It is a unique experience due to how dark certain scenes are and you can’t see a foot in front of you. Then BOOM! An actor appears out of nowhere. 

The wait time was pretty long, but it was a Saturday night at one of most premiere haunts in Florida. Be prepared for a wait time. Would you rather them send you in like cattle and you get a mediocre experience? Or be patient and enjoy the entertainment in the midway and wait a little longer so you can get the best show possible? People who understand the process and want a good experience go with option B. 

SECOND SCORE - 10

Customer Service: 10 

Very professional, courteous and knowledgeable of the haunt and industry. They are constantly talking with the guests asking about their experience. Making sure they are having a good time. They are about your experience. They could easily charge premiere prices, but they don’t. They don’t want you to have to empty your wallet to experience a good time at their establishment. 

SECOND SCORE - 10

Actors: 9.3 

As mentioned in a few categories above. The timing was spot on from every actor. They did a great job with coming out at the right time on patrons. They stayed in character and we did not see one actor break character in front of a patron. Their energy level was outstanding the entire night. At some points, their energy level was so much that they wanted to follow you into other scenes. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you have to reel that in just a tad. The one small issue that we noticed was an actor screaming for us to “Get out”. Anybody within the industry who works with haunt actors knows, “Get out” is the one of the biggest no no’s. Patrons pay good money to be there, they don’t want to hear “Get out!”  Other than that, the actors did a phenomenal job. The interaction with the patrons truly sold the experience. Especially in the clown house. I do want to give a shout out to ALL the zombies. You all made that scene incredible with how you rush the groups and make them feel closed in and trapped. 

SECOND SCORE - 9.5

Overall: 

As I mentioned, this is my 3rd experience with Creepy Hollow Woods. I can definitely say they have improved year to year. They take professional reviews to heart and they always try to fix whatever issues or speed bumps they encounter. They care about your experience. They care about the quality they put out. That is what you want out of a haunt. You want a haunt who wants to improve each and every year. You want a haunt that wants to give you something new and different each and every year. CHW does not rest on their loreals, they are not complacent. They want to be the best that they can. And they have so far proven that in the 3 years that I have been coming to this haunt. Yeah, location is not very good. It’s literally out in the middle of nowhere. But, with it being so far out from everything. You get two truths. 1. You get the realism of being in the woods out in the middle of nowhere. 2. When they can bring over 1 thousand people to this “middle of nowhere”. That says something. I highly recommend you visit Creepy Hollow Woods before this season comes to an end. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for 2020. CHW has begun to set the bar and my expectations higher for each season. This is truly a MUST-SEE HAUNT!  

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