Sunday, November 1, 2009
12 Simon Street, Nashua NH
Reviewed by Rick Trottier
For two years now, it has been the distinct pleasure and privilege of Saturday Fright Special to have had the chance to film more than 70% of our Scarewolf host links at Fright Kingdom, a 50,000 square foot haunted house just off the Everett Turnpike in Nashua, NH. When we have filmed those two sets of footage in March of 2008 and 2009, Fright Kingdom has been in its typical and essential off-season state of “beauty rest” consisting of rebuilding, restructuring and improving, so that what we have seen has always been impressive, but has never been in “full swing” shall we say. On Saturday night, October 31, Mark, Cricket and I took a drive over to Nashua and were the guests of Mr. Tim Dunne, the proprietor of Fright Kingdom. We were given the chance to experience “The Haunt” as they so affectionately call it in all of its full power glory, with all the lights and sounds turned up, the entire spectacular lineup of actors decked out in their costumes and makeup and all of the sets and props in their appropriate places. It was a journey and a visit that was worth the wait and one that everyone who likes a good scare should take advantage of, lest they miss their chance as the grains of life’s sands slip through their fingers. Fright Kingdom is one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities and we were all quite thrilled with how we spent our time this Halloween.
Fright Kingdom’s immense floor plan is divided up into three main sections; Bloodmare Manor, Psycho Circus and the newly constructed Vampire Castle. Bloodmare Manor is a quasi-Victorian haunted house that winds through a series of rooms that are a mix of old-style horror themes, modern gore fests and imagery straight from the annals of Edgar Allen Poe. It is a perfect way to start your trip into the Heart of Darkness, for while it is wonderfully creepy and unsettling, much of the iconography is very familiar and wonderfully evocative of old films and TV shows crammed to the gills with disturbing and scary scenery. Next up is the Psycho Circus, a garishly colored, 3-D maze made from the warped and demented dreams of sadistic clowns and other harlequins of madness. To each visitor, 3-D glasses are given and the resulting shift in perspective is enough to induce a profound sense of emotional vertigo once the depth of color, shape and form become so terrifyingly clear. However, it is the addition of lurking denizens of a carnival gone horribly wrong that make this next phase of Fright Kingdom a jewel of the troublingly gaudy hues and most disquieting shades. Last is the Vampire Castle, the final stage of the journey, and what a splendid addition to Fright Kingdom this is. Between the supremely impressive sets, the wonderfully garbed actors and the effective use of strobes and shadows, the atmospheric nature of the third section of “The Haunt” is so palpably impressive as to feel like you’ve somehow landed in one of the “Hammer Dracula” movies. It was a PERFECT way to end the travels of three scare-loving miscreants.
All of the twists, turns, corners and crevices benefit from superb attention to detail when it comes to set design, prop construction and utilization of mood lighting. The rich and disconcertingly beautiful illumination scheme looks as if it has been dreamed up by the master himself, Mario Bava. The cunningly hidden doors and trap windows allow for the actors to engage you on many levels. Sometimes it is a shocking entrée into the scenario, while at other times it is the sinister sneaking up on an unsuspecting victim that lends such an ominous and unshakably spooky sense of atmosphere. The actors themselves are clearly well-trained and while most are meant to be as menacing as possible, others have a delightful sense of humor. All are superbly clad in costume, and benefit from makeup artistry so beautiful that at times I forgot the horrific emotions I was suppose to be feeling and simply stared at the awesome loveliness of master craftsmanship on display.
In addition to their usually fearsome fare, Fright Kingdom also offers a toned-down version of their terrifying tour called “Hardly Haunted”, typically scheduled twice a month on Sunday afternoons during the matinee hour of 1-4PM. This set of spooky scenes and stories is far more appropriate for the much younger set whose tender sensibilities may not be up the force of Fright Kingdom unleashed. Fright Kingdom’s regular hours are 6:30-11PM Friday and Saturday nights from the last weekend in September until Halloween. Fright Kingdom is very easy to get to and simple directions can be found on their website.
Fright Kingdom may be closed for 2009 now that October is no more, but one of the most enjoyable qualities of any scare is the inexorable escalation of anticipation. Start prepping yourself for the visit you know you need to make. Get your costume together, read a few old stories by Ray Bradbury or H.P. Lovecraft, and for goodness sakes watch some classic horror films, preferably on Saturday Fright Special, where you can get an inkling as to what the environs of Fright Kingdom are like if you check out Seasons 3 and 4. After you’ve engaged in all that training, you might be ready for a visit to “The Haunt”, but I doubt it. Tim and his marvelous cronies have put even more time into getting ready for you and they won’t let you leave unless you’ve seen the darkest side of the macabre there is to offer. You won’t be disappointed. Get yourself to Fright Kingdom next year, or one of us will have to haunt you down!