Howl-o-Scream Has Risen from the Grave 2021
Halloween arrives earlier each year. Remember when pumpkin-spice, well, everything wasn’t even available (or discussed) before September? Now you can drink pumpkin beer in August. The same is true of Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens, which officially started on Friday, September 10. Of course, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights beat them by a week (or was it more?), but this is pretty dang early for a Halloween event.
But I’m not complaining.
I checked out the first Howl-o-Scream since 2019 last Friday. It’s great that this event, which has always been a big one for the park, is back, with three new mazes; two new TERRORtories (that is, scare zones)--Meat Market and Hexed Hollow; and two party zones with DJs (France and Festa Italia). The park is also using “roaming hordes” of scareactors to make the scare zones more lively. There was lots of chainsaw action that night.
I only saw bits and pieces of the new shows: Skeletones (Italy) and Phantoms of the Festhaus (Germany). The former reminded me a bit of the old Starfright Orchestra show--only scaled down (four musicians and two singers). It was a decent way to enjoy a lunch or dinner while listening to some old holiday standards (such as the “Addams Family” theme or “Time Warp”). Phantoms featured a larger cast. The show had something to do with a sing-off to choose the “top ghoul” of the night. I caught a tiny bit of it after having a beer in the Brauhaus.
Monster Stomp on Ripper Row has returned, and Jack Is Back in Ireland. But I go there for the mazes.
Nevermore (Oktoberfest in the old DarKastle building)--This gothic maze was the best one of the night, with lots Edgar Allan Poe going on (particularly “The Raven” and “Masque of the Red Death”). It reminded me of Masquerage, a maze they ran one season in Festa Italia. Nothing groundbreaking, but a good, solid park haunt.
KILLarney Diner (Ireland in the Battle for Eire building)--This was a fun cannibal maze with some good 1950s atmosphere, well-done sets, and a fair amount of gory stuff, but it was a bit short. It has the same problem that other mazes in the building have shared--that long, narrow exit corridor where nothing happens.
Witch of the Woods (Germany, behind Verbolten)--This was their “flagship” maze, but I think it was the weakest of the new mazes on Friday night. Yes, it’s in the woods, there are creepy minions, and the Witch herself looks pretty cool, but there was no real “payoff.” Another good name for this one might be the “Island of Misfit Props.” What’s some Greek statuary and a dude in a Spartan helmet doing in here?
Circo Sinistro (Festa Italia, by the Roman Rapids)--The creepy clowns and such are back, but their haunt has been changed a bit. They eliminated the “preshow” with the ringmaster and creepy girl on a swing, along with the railroad car. The result is an OK evil-circus maze. It’s really showing its age, though.
Dystopia (Italy in the Pompeii building)--This returning maze is about people being turned into automatons by some mutant overlords in the not-too-distant future. This one has been hit-or-miss in the past (I think it depends on how may scare actors they have).
All in all, an enjoyable, if somewhat cautious, return for Howl-o-Scream following its hiatus because of the pandemic. Most of the scare actors in the mazes who weren’t wearing full monster masks were sporting face masks--some with appropriately creepy faces painted on them. I wish I could say the same for many of the guests. As for me, I went through the mazes while masked.
Here’s a look at Howl-o-Scream’s opening night.
Why, hello, you sexy thing.
“You better be talking about Pantheon and not my girlfriend, punk.”
“Blair Witch Project 3, Subsection A: Sticks of Doom”
“How many times have I told you to never play with your head! Do you wish to go blind?”
Awww, aren’t you the most adorable wittle . . .
. . . PLAGUE RAT?
So, according to the poster in Big Ben, there’s been some “Ghastly Murder,” too? Well, isn’t that just great.
Where shall we go first?
May as well grab some dinner and watch the Skeletones.
Hey, Edgar? Where’s your house?
So turn left at the melancholy House of Usher? Thanks, pal.
The message the purple lights above us bore,
It shall be DarKastle . . . nevermore!
Hmm--looks like the witches and demons kicked the vampires out of Vampire Point.
“Excuse me, are you being helped?”
Hey, are you really dating that Reaper guy out front?
Well, this is another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into.
Looks like they changed the menu at the Smokehouse.
“Beware! Don’t order tonight’s special. It keeps coming back on me.”
“Hey, don’t knock our BBQ until you try it! Right, Chauncy?”
“Right, Edgar. You can beat our prices, but you can’t beat our meat!”
“Hey, where ya goin’? Sheesh, make one silly pun . . .”
“‘Can’t beat our meat’! How droll! Did you hear that, my dear . . . oh, that’s right. You can’t hear anything.”
“I say, you now have permission to shake thy moneymakers.”
“Typical guy--waits until I invite him to my place before telling me he’s a werewolf.”
I wonder what the specials are here? A hot roast beef sammich sounds good.
Ugh! Is this one of those truck stop/faux diner things?
Yep--definitely. You can probably buy trucker hats with dirty slogans on them, too. Be sure to look at the wall menus in this scene.
Jack is back, and he’s brought disco and ABBA with him!
Dance! Dance or die!
Pompeii may be a Dystopia, but it has cool lighting.
You can party with evil clowns in Festa Italia.
“Giant skull swallows park guest. Film at 11.”
So, what’s shakin’ at the Festhaus?
Uh oh! The guy with the scythe is sort of rapping.
Time to head out . . . while I still have a head.
I had to survive giant spiders . . .
. . . and Ripper Row.
“G’night, dearie! Pleasant dreams.” Thanks for reading.