Howl-O-Scream frightfully unoriginal

The only difference between going to Busch Gardens and going to Howl-O-Scream is that Howl-O-Scream is at night and has a few haunted houses. The biggest peak is the thrill of riding the roller coasters in the dark along with virtually no lines. On the other hand, the haunted houses may remind one of the frustrations of long lines at Disney.

If people attending Howl-O-Scream scare easily, then the haunted houses may be a little frightening, but don’t expect to have nightmares later.

Howl-O-Scream offers three new haunted houses along with three returning from last year. We toured several areas of the park and left most feeling disappointed.

‘Til Death Do Us Part is a wedding day gone awry, complete with fake blood and an unconvincing mannequin for a bride. The house and its characters leave much to be desired. This is one wedding we wish we never attended.

Corporate Nightmare is more like a corporate bore. A phony office setup with plastic computers, phones and an unrealistic staff makes this house a yawn. Black suits for costumes and pantyhose for masks leave us wondering if this is a robbery or a sad excuse for a possessed agency.

Though we thought it couldn’t get any worse, Chaos! proved us wrong. This “3-D gallery” is more like an elementary-school kid’s finger painting. The neon paint splattered on cardboard is anything but 3-D. The night came combined with black walls and camouflaged actors waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims.

Escape from Insanity finally satisfied our craving for the scare we were promised. Demented clowns, inmates and evil doctors were waiting around every corner and in every bush. The house seemed to go on forever, ending with a spinning tunnel sure to throw many guests off balance.

Another element of the Howl-O-Scream experience is the four “scare zones,” located anywhere between the haunted houses and the roller coasters, designed to catch you off guard.

Garden of the Cursed is surprisingly scary. Realistic statues come to life and reach out for visitors. Innocent shrubbery transforms into eerie monsters. The thrills are short lived, because visitors are left wanting more.

Sliderz! is a flashback to Halloween Horror Nights. No points here for originality. Men come out of nowhere with metal shin guards and slide inches away from you, creating sparks and screeching along the way.

A deserted train station is the scene for Agony Express. Actors dressed as members of a chain gang get up close and personal in an attempt to send you into a panic. Unless the characters catch you by surprise, just expect a leisurely walk.

If we walked through the fourth scare zone, Beware, it wasn’t intimidating because it wasn’t memorable.

Here’s a tip: Don’t waste your time by going to the shows. We attempted DepRAVEd Reality but left after the corny introduction and plot line. Overly dramatic characters and tired pop-culture references tainted the show. How many times is “chicken of the sea” funny? Based on stale reality television series and a tired “Scream” villain for a host, viewers are left laughing at the stupidity instead of the jokes. After this disappointment, we didn’t even bother with the other shows.

The roller coasters were the best part of the night. Minimal lines along with the added thrill of nightfall are worth your money.

At the end of the night, we attempted The Mortuary, the last haunted house, but decided it wasn’t worth the wait. This was the only time during the night we encountered a theme park-sized line.

Altogether, the Howl-O-Scream event was worth going to if you can manage the discounted price, but students shouldn’t waste their money on full-cost tickets.