Hidden in the gloomy backwoods of the North Carolina foothills lies a secluded not so secret area commonly known within the haunt community of the Carolinas. It’s a name that’s been mentioned in whispers, but never fully experienced personally by Scurryface writers until now. Brace yourselves, readers, as we prepare to reenact the unknown terror that I faced this weekend at Hillside Horror.
Hillside Horror is a regionally known haunted attraction in North Carolina, located in Roaring River. It is currently celebrating 13 years of fear this season. Being no stranger to the haunt industry, I had heard of the name and knew what their logo looked like, but I never managed to make a trip out to see them in action until now. The surrounding scenery on my journey to Hillside Horror definitely helped set the tone as an added bonus. You’re encased by extensive cornfields and southern crossroads. Combine that with the sound of distant chainsaws in their empty field used for free parking and it’s an eerie foreshadowing of things to come. Part of me could imagine the Sawyer family inviting me for a cannibalistic feast and the other half of my mind was envisioning that one Goosebumps episode where the scarecrows are walking around snatching people up. This uncanny, rural landscape fuels haunt goers with creepy anticipation as they head inside this attraction.
I’ve always been someone who keeps it real with our Scurryface supporters, so that being said before we get into all of the juicy details, I will warn you that I’m putting a big disclaimer for anyone who tackles the Hillside Horror trail. It features a lot of physical challenges in tight, dark spaces. If you are someone who is claustrophobic, has nyctophobia or prone to panic attacks, this is NOT the feature for you. They also offer a hayride option, if you decide to sit this one out, so you won’t be missing all of the fun. Make sure you check out their three interactive games they have on their small Midway of Madness as well…axe throwing, a coffin ride simulator called Buried Alive and another fan favorite, Fork the Farmer’s Wife - pitchforks are involved.
The Haunted Woods Creepy Corn Maze feature of Hillside Horror is a terror trail that aims to disorient thrill seekers from the moment they step into its rustic cabin entrance. I made my way through a highly charged 3D vortex tunnel and was ushered straight into the mouth of a darkened, twisting crawl space tube. I was grateful when I saw the literal light at the end until I realized you had to maneuver through tiny spaced bungee ropes to find your way out. Already thrown off balance, I didn’t realize the entire room was built sideways, flooring and all, with nothing to hold onto. Upon my attempted landing, my combat boot became lodged in the ropes and I’m hanging upside down, flailing around like a chubby baby chipmunk stuck in a tree while a stoic haunt actor laid motionless on a nearby couch, solemnly staring at me, no help provided at all…not even a snarky comeback. While this may have terrified other haunt patrons to turn back, I’m a trooper and powered on for all of our readers. The best way to describe this maze would be to think of it as if you’ve physically stepped into House of 1,000 Corpses without a vivacious Captain Spaulding to help navigate your treacherous trek through this attraction.
If you’re worried that I’ve spoiled the best parts of the haunt, don’t fret! There is a cornucopia of shocks and surprises left in store for you along your 45 minute journey in this feature of Hillside Horror. Another helpful hint for you, don’t trust the clowns in the corn maze. They will purposely keep sending you in the wrong direction and enjoy doing so.
A majority of the Hillside Horror trail relies on cloaked, pitch black darkness and rough, unusual terrain. There is extensive stumbling and crawling involved when navigating your journey through. At several points, we encountered what looked like a fun prop or interesting scene, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t visible in the nighttime setting. It also would have been helpful if the pathways had better lighting as we poorly waddled along, attempting to avoid props and large tree roots sprouting from the ground. However, there are still a series of innovative twists and creative turns within Hillside Horror that I haven’t seen incorporated at other haunted attractions in the area, such as black abyssal rooms with trap doors, secret refrigerator passageways and used hearse crawl space exits!
The actors of Hillside Horror were baffling to me. Most of the characters were silent or extremely wooden in their execution of scares. At first, the former haunt actress in me strived to see them interact more with customers and incorporate them into the experience. However, once, I took a step back and viewed it as the average customer would, their detached mannerisms became quite chilling. The actors’ impassive approach builds an immediate wall between themselves and the haunt goers. It does a significant job of alienating them. It adds a good component towards psychological scare tactics. Reminiscent of the horror movie, Haunt. Are the creatures you see really human actors wearing classic monster masks or are they sinister conspirers plotting your demise? At Hillside Horror, I’m still unsure of the answer.
Overall, Hillside Horror was a unique experience for me. It didn’t hit the “wow” mark personally, but there were memorable moments. This haunted attraction is probably the first that I can say literally “swept me off my feet.” A fairly suitable description for Hillside Horror would be it has an old school, Rob Zombie influenced slasher aesthetic. Other than a vortex tunnel, a few strategically placed fog machines and several strobe lights, Hillside Horror plays to the simpler side of haunt life. There are no over the top electronics or set designs. It’s reminiscent of a vintage late 90s haunted tail. If you’re local, not afraid of a slight physical challenge and you’re looking to escape into your very own life-sized version of a B horror film, definitely check out Hillside Horror this season. It’ll be an eerie, mind boggling journey start to finish.