Monday, October 20, 2014

Howl-O-Scream At Busch Gardens Tampa : 2014 Complete Event Review

After months of tedious waiting, the time has come to share our official 2014 Howl-O-Scream review! Twice over the course of October, The BGT Buzz staff fell under the curse and paid a visit to Tampa Bay's premier haunted attraction. Our first visit on opening weekend was cut short due to inclement weather & torrential downpours! However, our latest visit this past weekend turned out to be a great success bringing in low crowds & pleasant weather in the upper 60's! To find out more about our visits to Busch Gardens Tampa's Howl-O-Scream, check out our complete event review in the area below!

Haunted Houses

Death Water Bayou - A returning favorite house for many Howl-O-Scream fans, Death Water Bayou made its highly anticipated return to this years event. In my opinion, Death Water Bayou was the best house of the entire night! The level of detail in this house is extraordinary! Down to the single label on a jar, Death Water Bayou contained the best theming & set design of all the houses we went through. The scareactors working this house definitely knew what they were doing as many of them were so well hidden, you couldn't see them coming! Overall, I give Death Water Bayou a big "Thumbs Up" and hope to see it make a return in next years event!

Circus Of Superstition 3-D - The Show Must Go On ~ Making a return from last years event but now in a different location and with a twist on it's name, "Circus Of Superstition 3D ~ The Show Must Go On" has now taken the place of the once "Ultimate Gamble : Reversal Of Fortune" house located inside Gwazi Field's concession stand. Disappointingly, the house has remained virtually the same including the 13 superstitions that lie hidden within. The scareactors in the house didn't scare us at all, but the 3-D element of the house was very effective. I was definitely expecting more from this house with it's new location and name change, but it failed to provide. Overall, I think Circus Of Superstition's luck has run out and it's time to say goodbye after this Howl-O-Scream season ends.        
The Basement - Back by popular demand, "The Basement" has returned to the area behind the Xcursions gift shop near the entrance to Gwazi Park. This wildly popular house reaches wait times upwards of 90 minutes on peak nights, so be sure to pay your visit to Momma & The Butcher early on in the night! As usual, this house was flawless! The scareactors were on point, the theming inside was awesome, and the entire storyline of the house was one of the best all night. I can honestly say this house was the only one that actually scared me and had me running for the exit! Overall, I hope to see "The Basement" make a return at next year's event!
Blood Asylum - Back for another year, "Blood Asylum" makes it's return at this years Howl-O-Scream event. Taking place in the Oglethorpe Asylum, "Blood Asylum" revolves around an escaped convict rightfully nicknamed "The Creature", who basically wants to steal your face! The house has remained the same since its conception in the 2012 event with the same props and storyline. The house seemed understaffed the night we attended with scareactors not popping up in their usual hiding spots. This is one of the lengthier houses at the event and usually takes about 6 minutes to complete. Overall, as much as this house provides a nice & gore filled scare, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the final year for "Blood Asylum".
Zombie Mortuary - Making a return from the "Dark Side Of The Gardens" era, fan favorite house "Zombie Mortuary" has made its return to the area next to the Pantopia Theater. Taking place in the Russo Romero Mortuary, "Zombie Mortuary" gives guests a firsthand look at the transformation from human to the living dead. This house was great as usual due to its detailed set design as well as unpredictable hiding locations of scareactors working the house. Although this house did contain the fewest scareactors of the night, it definitely made a comeback in rich set design & props. Overall, as a big fan of zombies in general, I hope "Zombie Mortuary" makes a return in next years event! 
Dead Fall - A newcomer to this years Howl-O-Scream event, "Dead Fall" has now taken the place of the former "Nevermore" house located next to the Tanganyika Tidal Wave ride in the Stanleyville area of the park. "Dead Fall" takes place in the surrounding areas of a Victorian Era mansion by the name of Hemlock Hall. "Dead Fall" ends up taking you on journey throughout the estate's greenhouse & boathouse, just to name a few locations. I absolutely loved this house! The majority of the house is kept very dark, so you basically loose orientation of where you are several times throughout the house. Also, the sheer quietness of the house adds to the creepiness as the house uses minimal background music, but better yet refers to creepy children's' voices echoing throughout the house! Overall, I must say this was probably my second favorite house of the night behind "Death Water Bayou". Overall, I truly hope to see "Dead Fall" rise from the darkness and make a comeback at next years event!     

Zombie Containment Unit 15 - Another newcomer to this years Howl-O-Scream event, "Zombie Containment Unit 15", or "ZCU 15", made its debut as the first interactive laser tag haunted house experience of its kind. Upon entering the house in one of three briefing rooms, you'll be handed a "Zombie Eradication Device", or "ZED", to partially stun the zombies for 5 seconds giving you "Ample" time to make a getaway. The deal with this house is, you love it or you hate it. And in our unfortunate case, we give "ZCU 15" two big thumbs down. In general, the whole hype for this house is very deceiving. The "Zombie Eradication Devices" handed to us were virtually useless as they light up every sensor we passed by even without aiming or firing the gun in the target's general direction. You could also find the targets "Strategically Placed" on top of each scareactors' clothing completely ruining the theming of the house. It's very disappointing that the targets couldn't be better hidden and incorporated onto the scareactors clothing. The biggest reason not to do this house is purely the wait time itself! On peak nights, "Zombie Containment Unit 15" reaches wait times that exceed 100 minutes! Overall, I would skip "ZCU 15" in a heartbeat and repeat some of my favorite houses a few more times. I think this house was a total & utter letdown and it should be replaced with a traditional style walkthrough house in next years Howl-O-Scream event.  

Themed Areas

While this years Howl-O-Scream event brought no official scare zones, three themed areas could be found throughout the park.
  • "Cursed" Front Gate Experience - Located in the Moroccan Village at the parks main entrance, you'll find the "Cursed" Front Gate Experience. Here you can find a detailed prop filled with radios, TV's, and much more spreading the curse to all who dare to enter the park. Also, the "Cursed" figures make nightly presentations, so be sure to catch one of their brief performances.

  •  Nairobi Area Walkway - Starting near the East Entrance of the Myombe Reserve and ending near the former Otter Habitat, a themed area containing props from the former "Nightshade Toys" house could be found. Occasionally, a roaming horde of skate punk scareactors could be found occupying the themed area.    

  • Sesame Street Safari Of Fun Walkway - Over by the walkway connecting Stanleyville to The Sesame Street Safari Of Fun, a themed area containing cages, severed limbs, and a few dismembered bodies could be found. Occasionally, a roaming horde of older witches/sorceresses could be found occupying the area cursing passers by.

Roaming Hordes

As mentioned previously, with the removal of designated scare zones from this years Howl-O-Scream event, the park has now relied on hundreds of roaming scareactors & hordes that can pop up anywhere around the park. We encountered several hordes throughout the night and have listed them below. One of my personal favorite groups have made their return from last years event and now stalk the area near "Club Cursed". Yes, they're the stilt walker alien creatures!

Hordes We Encountered 
  • "Cursed" Figures - Park Entrance
  • Alien Stilt Walkers - In Front Of "Club Cursed" (Marrakesh Theater)
  • Clowns - Gwazi Park Walkway Leading To "Circus Of Superstition" House
  • Vampires - Egypt, Between "Blood Asylum" & "The Experiment" Houses
  • Skate Punk - Varies Between Nairobi Train Station & Near Elephant Habitat
  • Zombies - Next To Bumper Cars
  • Old Witches/Sorceresses - Sesame Street Walkway Themed Area
 Remember, The BGT Buzz has covered Howl-O-Scream 2014 since the beginning, and we've been keeping you updated all the way until the end. As the majority of our reporting for Howl-O-Scream 2014 comes to an end, we invite you to join us in 2015 as we cover another amazing season of Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa!
FTC Required Disclosure: The BGT Buzz was provided with complimentary admission on opening weekend. All opinions are our own.

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