Mournful Manor is a home haunt that I have had the distinct pleasure of reviewing and watching its growth the past few years and it has been quite enjoyable. I’ve truly been delighted as I bore witness to the changes and evolution of the haunt. Scenes have come and gone, characters have as well, but the one constant here is the dedication to the build, the passion to create a haunt that is rich with details and authenticity. The commitment shows in every room and detail.
After hearing instructions on what was and was not allowed inside the haunt, I was cut loose to explore the Manor and the secrets it harbors. I started off in a hallway that was detailed well; it really catches the eye and does a good job of keeping it focused on the main haunt elements and not straying. ‘The theme stayed fairly cohesive as I moved from room to room and it really felt as though I was prowling around in an old manor.
Scares here were good. They were well timed and executed and one scare in particular from an actor was downright sneaky and really got me good. Not only were there good startle scares, but this haunt did an excellent job of keeping my nerves jangled and my senses on high alert. There’s something about continuously feeling nervous that seems to create a different type of scare experience for me, one that settles deep within the core of my being, then festers until it’s so inflamed I feel like my head will burst from the tension I feel. Mournful Manor understands this and does an excellent job of creating that intense feeling of anxiety and I love every second of it.
Acting throughout was done well with some actors really standing out. There is a woman in a veil that became very angry with me for disturbing her supper. She uses one line, but her tone and the most ferocious evil eye I’ve seen in a long time tell me she’s not kidding. She’s really angry and I better get the hell out of her space before I wind up being her dinner. Big Baby and the Butcher have been favorites of mine since day one. Both actors really bring it and their extremely powerful performances stay with you long after you leave the haunt, banging around in your head, filing your night with screams rather than snores. I really love the fact that this haunt recognizes the value of keeping an actor in their same role year after year. Not only does the actor have the opportunity to fully embrace and truly become the character they play, but they are also able to use the maturity of the character to really bring the scene they’re in to life which lends to the authenticity level for me.
The actor in the mask room is the one that really got me. This actor was masterful at moving stealthily through the dark room in a way that kept me wondering where exactly they were at, constantly looking around and over my shoulder in an attempt to avoid getting hammered. My efforts failed and before I could escape, I found myself face to face with the actor and their psychotic ramblings.
Grandma, in the living room with her tv set blaring was not only very good, she interacted very well with us, having an actual conversation, not breaking character once. When I questioned her about Big Baby after we had chatted a minute, she gave me a response that still has me on edge. She said not one word, she just looked up at me from the corner of her eye with absolute contempt, shook her head in disgust and sat back down in her chair. I’m still unnerved from that.
The actors in the clown rooms, while very skilled at hiding in plain sight, allowing them to get great startle scares, lacked the dialogue I would have liked to see. Their weird giggles were eerie, but a couple of great lines from them would have taken their scares to new heights.
Set design this year was well done and while some things didn’t change, others changed quite a bit. The overall length was increased which was nice to see and scenes within were resized, moved or overhauled. New scenes like the trophy room were so well done, they looked as though they had been there all along, blending seamlessly with the scenes that were on either side of them. Although there were a couple of sparse areas in halls and transition points, somehow they didn’t break the flow and gave me a minute to regain my composure. I’m especially fond of going through the closet, which I believe is the largest closet in history. I won’t spoil it by telling you why I’m so fond of it other than to say that it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. It’s very dark and while it was easy to make out the clothes hanging up, there were other things, laying on the ground that I couldn’t quite see because of the lighting; this really bothered me because while I could tell something was there, I was never sure exactly what was in there, in the dark with me and that was extremely unsettling. A grumpy dog, growling because his slumber in the depths of the closet had been disturbed would have made me scream out loud at the top of my lungs.
Great scares, acting, sets and increased length combined to make for a great experience that really should be seen. It’s very hard to believe, with the level of detail and creativity here that I’m going through some ones garage and yard. Don’t miss this one; it’s an up and coming contender in the big leagues!
Pros: Acting, new scenes, increased length
Cons: Some actors need dialogue, a couple of sparse areas
I’ve never been to Mournful Manor before – indeed never to a home haunt of any kind. But I have (almost) nothing but good things to say about the experience! The funny thing is, there are several aspects of this haunt that are much better than any of the things the big boys are doing. But really, this makes a lot of sense. There’s absolutely no reason a person would put up a haunted house in their garage and back yard and then let people through for free, only asking for donations, if they didn’t absolutely love the idea of doing it. In a lot of ways it’s the absence of a lot of factors that contribute to the greatness of the experience. If you’re not out to make a shitzillion dollars by funneling thousands of people through your doors at almost $30 a head all month, then the freedom of not being in it for the money lets you push the envelope a little more. Couple that with the natural creativity that stems from having to actually make use of your resources and not just buy more stuff to cram into rooms and you’re looking at a genuine recipe for success.
There are incredible sights to see once you get inside, and even though the rooms are built out a converted garage, there’s a level of completeness to them that just makes them feel finished in a way that few others manage. And although there’s so much detail here that you really need to take it slowly and keep your eyes peeled to see all of it, here’s a fun game to play as you go through the haunt – try to figure out where you are in relation to the house. We asked where a couple of the scenes took place after the fact and the answers were a huge surprise to me, just going further to reinforce the idea that these haunters know how to use what’s available to them in order to make incredible experiences out of thin air. I also appreciate the unique use of wall materials – there’s one particularly unsettling room with a strobe light that’s good and disorienting, but I won’t say which in the interest of keeping the surprise intact.
The actors were spot on as they interacted with us on our way through, but a couple of them weren’t timed right, going for the startle scare as we were leaving the room. The idea makes sense, try to get us to turn around scared of something that seems to have materialized in thin air behind us, but by the time we got to that point we were already fully invested in the next room so we didn’t really see what happened behind us.
I don’t want to spoil much of what you’ll find inside – the haunt is quite short compared to some of the commercial pros who have entire abandoned shopping centers to work with, but considering you can get in free there’s not a value : money ratio to speak of. However, I will make mention of the creepiest psycho butcher in a grind house I’ve seen all season, a fellow who will forever haunt my nightmares as long as I live. If you’re reading this… no, I do not want a bite!
PROS – Great sets, a couple outstanding actors, new ideas.
CONS – It’s a bit short but I really can’t complain about that in a free haunt. The only reason I bring it up is because I never wanted the thing to end. Timing was a little off for a few actors.
Mournful Manor is a home haunt up in Arvada. What that means is that it isn’t a commercial haunt. There are no investors giving them money. They aren’t charging anyone money to go through the haunt. It’s an experience built with passion and donations, and it is awesome.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that you seem to be entering through the garage. You are, however, that’s no good indication of how long it will take you to get through this haunt. I’m sure there’s some dark magic involved with cramming that much stuff into that amount of space. Mind you, they did give up their entire garage and backyard to do it. The sets are very impressive. With a few exceptions, they built complete scenes. The hallways, trophy room, and dining room were really well built. They feel like part of a house. Then there’s the asylum, which might have been my favorite part of the whole thing if there weren’t so many strong contenders. They used digital screens really well to depict the inmates. Each door had a screen, giving it a very cohesive and complete feel. They even manage to have an outdoor section with corn that is growing in their backyard. That’s dedication. The butcher’s room was another great scene. On top of the usual body parts there were a bunch of scraps of skin hanging from hooks. I don’t see that very often and it was a really nice touch. There were a few weak points for me. The clown rooms, which I’m never that big on anyways, needed some more paint. It wasn’t lacking in design, but the texture of the particle board was still quite visible. I’m really torn about the long section where we had to stoop. It was a good touch, making a space where our escape was hindered if something came out of us. It was also very long and I was hurting a bit by the end and I got caught on the hangers of clothes. If there’s a way they could hang them without hangers, then we would have to push past them without that problem.
The acting was good where it was. The actors were spaced out quite a bit. They made up for it in some areas with animatronics and some really cool sound effects. One area had this really cool disembodied voice. I never really caught what it was saying, as there seemed to be no sanity or reason to it. The snatches I caught were chilling, to say the least, and I never figured out where it was coming from. It followed us through a dark hallway until we moved on to the next room. Another great actor was the Big Baby. He was so mad and he made sure that we knew it. The noises he made were really good creepy inhuman sounds that were still reminiscent of a baby. The butcher was the other star of the show. He was so very crazy! His dialogue was well developed and he had no issue interacting with us as we walked through his room. There was an actress in that room as well, but I won’t spoil it for you. I do think she should start screaming a lot sooner. She waited until the last person of our group was walking out the door, so none of us got to appreciate her performance.
I didn’t really think I would be able to write this much about a home haunt. To my surprise, I could probably ramble on even more; there was so much I liked. A lot of hard work went into this haunt, and it’s one you should take the time to experience this year for sure.
Review coming soon!
Review coming soon!
I had no idea what to expect from my first home haunt, but I did end up enjoying it quite a bit. I was rather impressed at how well they utilized their space, it feels decently long and you quickly forget that you entered through someone’s garage. The sets and props are on par with many of the commercial haunts, and overall, it was a really fun experience.
So, sets. You start by going through different rooms of the manor, which makes sense. Then the theme wanders around, but I found that I didn’t really mind since I was enjoying the rooms. Yes, there are clowns because apparently there have to be clowns, but this is a place with clowns well done. They were really creepy, and excellent at blending in with the props. There was some plain black board walls, but I actually found that I didn’t mind that either, because there was a creepy, mostly unintelligible voice speaking from the other side of it, and I was too busy trying to figure out what it was saying to be terribly concerned about the walls. Loved that sound effect, found that it had a lot more impact than screaming or any of the usual things you’d expect to hear at a haunt. The only part I really didn’t like was the crouching section. I liked the idea of it, to be sure, but it went on for a good bit and had a concrete floor, so you couldn’t really crawl on it. Ceiling was high enough to kind of crouch walk forward, and my neck and back were complaining loudly by the end of it. Put down some padding so that people can crawl and that would fix that right up though.
There were a couple really cool actors. The butcher was nice and crazy, with good dialogue. The girl in the room with him had poor timing though. She didn’t start her bit until the last person in our group was leaving the room, so the first two missed it entirely. Definitely needs to do her bit a little earlier for more impact. There wasn’t a ton of dialogue overall, mostly startle scares. Grandma was probably the most terrifying actor in any haunt I’ve ever seen though – she proposed that we stay and watch Days of Our Lives with her – forever! The horror!
The haunt wasn’t as long as some others, but I rate length based on price, and it was decently long with a pay what you like system. Mournful Manor is entirely donation based, so definitely worth going through then giving them what you think it was worth. If you don’t like it, all you’re out is the cost of getting there, but I’m pretty sure most will enjoy it. We did, enough to go through twice, because we could.
|6099 W. 84th Place
Arvada, CO. 80003
|October 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26, 31, and November 1st all from 7-10 P.M.|
Mournful Manor is a free adult-themed haunted house designed to tap into the most primal fears of the human psyche. Opened on October 29th, 2010, Mournful Manor takes a new twist on the old Haunted House by focusing on detail and carefully constructing scenes of horror that immerse our patrons in a world of darkness.