At the end of October for three years, the Smith family and friends have repurposed Phoenix NY's Sweet Memorial Municipal building as a haven of pro-grade horror with their non-profit group. The building and Main St. are really pretty inviting and don't set the stage at all for the horrors before you. What really gets you are the ominous doors to the attraction.
Lobby - 6
The Lobby is somewhat spooked up but otherwise, it's just an ornate public building foyer. The stanchions they've built are tied together with purple and black plastic garland and there are some cobwebs. It's all very minimalist. The Lobby doesn't represent the quality of the house inside at all.
Actors – 8
The actors verge on the cliché but, pull back just in time for a unique line. One example is the clown in the padded room who went on about voices in his head and he was just barely different enough to elicit uneasiness. There is the one instance of great actor coordination that sticks out above all else in the grand Library. At other times, actors have electric effects and use them to great shock and awe. All miscellaneous actors between major scenes were inconsequential scare wise but, it sure is a big cast of volunteers compared to the size of the show. It seems other groups on the same night had a more spooked time than my group did. If this is a fact, this probably means we are a minority and the actors will scare you more than they scared me.
Eye Candy – 8
When you're inside Grimsley's Gorge haunted house, you can be forgiven for thinking you're in a mid-tier pro-haunt when it comes to visuals. They have a great dungeon, kitchen, crypt and asylum area among others. The Library is easily the most detailed for the presence of many real books including the Witch's Tome, cobwebs sprayed absolutely everywhere and a beautiful lamp on the desk. Coming back to the Crypt, it almost looks like a small scale barrow from Skyrim. This is another scene with a lot of cobwebs. A major note on cobwebs is the reality that prime purveyor of the haunt, Meg(h)an Smith spent a good part of three days getting all the cobwebbing done and boy does it effectively age the house.
Walkthrough Experience – 10
Despite less than perfect acting and eye candy score, the overall experience even at just somewhere between ten and eleven minutes still shines above the rest of the immediate Syracuse market from my experience. This comes from seeing what they can do over the course of two seasons but all the same, they have a way of switching up major scenes that doesn't feel like much of a tradeoff. Two great things they had last year that had me saying wow that they didn't have this year were the overhead track for an actor to come shooting over your head and animatronics in the Crypt that reminded me of the old House of Horrors and Haunted Catacombs Gen 1. These were swapped out for an extreme full-room attack in the Library where the witch Librarian is the distraction for a wall of three drop panels on the other side of the narrow room and a new Asylum scene with fog effects, hanging pool noodles in lieu of a Claustrophobia and the padded room mentioned earlier. The biggest scene of the bunch: their Hellevator, is one of the best around. Not only does it take you on a wild, bumpy ride back and forth as you plummet down, down, down into the Crypt but, the lights flash with periods of complete darkness. Not to mention the fact that the Hellevator is activated by you. They have an option of First, Second or Basement Floors.
Originality/Creativity – 10
This really starts with the fact that they make everything themselves including their epic Hellevator. There aren't many non-profit haunts who do full room scares or animations. Who knew the lowly pool noodle could be so disorienting? Harkening back to the overhead track from last year, how many other teams do anything like that? Points must also be lent to the labor of detailing with cobwebs. It's something that many haunts overlook or avoid because of clean up risk.
This score may seem low but, Grimsley's does pull off a Walkthrough Experience better than many pro haunts. I might not be back next year unfortunately and I do wish them great success. The best night of haunts in the Syracuse market I can conceive of does include this one, Depths of the Dark Forest at Demon Acres and the House at Trail of Terror. To everyone who reads this. You can only gain by making a trip to see this show this weekend. It's free, lasts about 11 minutes and will be unforgettable.