Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to Brighton Asylum

It's been two years since I attended and reviewed Brighton Asylum, the haunt in located in the gritty, industrial section of Passaic, NJ, and this time I returned to see how new, improved, and updated it has become. I knew to expect new scares and new thrills, since my friend Sharon (Joiseygal, from the haunt and halloween forums) works there and she's been updating me about how much its owner has invested in the haunt.

Last year they ran an extra set of shows around Christmas and I believe there was another around Valentine's Day this year, so I could tell they've been expanding, and I was pretty amped to see what was in store. We'll, I can tell you, they're really gone above and beyond. This was truly knock-your-socks-off kind of scares!

There's been more of a backstory built up around the asylum, and they gave enough hints and details that I was wondering whether or not there was a grain of truth (or even more than a few grains) to the Asylum's history (they did invite you to Google it to verify it for yourself, which I have yet to do).

The haunt is completely different from what I saw two years ago, and as much as I liked what I saw the first time, you can tell Brighton Asylum has really honed its craft since then. Where the Asylum was perhaps a little weak in the eye candy department last time around, you can tell they've been putting their profits (and I hope they're making profits, because I want to see this haunt continue) to good use. Virtually every single room and corridor is now packed with detail. That alone can ratchet up the fear factor for attendees and you could hear the screams of others throughout the maze of corridors, attesting to the fact that the actors were getting in the groove, even so early in the haunt season.

And speaking of the maze of corridors, this haunt is long. Most times you feel you're in and out and the experience is over. At Brighton Asylum, I continue to be amazed by the length of the haunt, even mentioning at one time, "Just how long is this thing?" For $20, you're definitely getting your money's worth out of it.

While there's a somewhat disjointed nature to the various scenes you're walking through (perhaps my one criticism, I'd like to see a more cohesive theme running from room to room, but that's really just a minor critique), each set has good overboard with details and props, the lighting was spot on (okay, I'd like a few more accent lights to be able to take in more of the detail that they obviously worked hard on), and the actors had a lot of nooks and crannies to hide in to pop out and startle you.

I'm a fairly hard person to scare in these haunts and they definitely got me more than once. I won't give away any of the real good scares and startles (they've got one in particular I've never seen before that completely caught me off guard and literally knocked me backwards!) but Brighton Asylum has rocketed up to the top of one of my most favorite haunts, and considering it's close by I'll be hitting it again.

From a details perspective -- since I like making my own Halloween props that's what my eye goes towards immediately -- the underground grotto was top notch and the cabin facade that leads to it is right out of Evil Dead. It just looked that good. I also liked the morgue as well. There were a few things that I'm sure will be improved upon as the season progresses, such as a rather long, winding (and dark) corridor where you're bumping into hanging things could use some actor scares in there, and one room -- the doll room -- that I didn't really like (it was good, but I think it's been done a lot) although it did lend itself to a good startle scare.

Two things that I really did appreciate: it wasn't animatronic-heavy, meaning you didn't have a lot of stiffly moving props that were hissing and cracking at each pop-up, and no chainsaw guy at the end. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but I hate chainsaws ate the end, not because they're scary but because every. single. haunt. has them. Yes I know they serve a purpose in clearing out the haunt so there are no stragglers, but haunts really need to come up with something better.

One more "criticism" if you want to call it that: after a fairly amped ride through the haunt I thought it ended with a bit of a whimper. It was cool, don't get me wrong, but I like those haunts where you're going out with a bang -- and not chased by a chainsaw.

In short, Brighton Asylum has used the past two years to good effect spending time and money on creating a kickass haunt that's more than worth the two sawbucks you'll spend to go through it. It's become super detailed, it's got really good actors providing a lot of scares and startles all throughout the haunt, and best of all, they're expanding to 13 different dates throughout the year! Hitting all the major holidays, now you can be scared all year long.

You hear it a lot, but if you go to only one haunt this year, make it Brighton Asylum!
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