The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular–A Review Sunday, Nov 3 2019 

By Anthony Riley —

With spooky season officially at a close, I’m saying goodbye ’til next Halloween with an analysis of Louisville’s biggest lighted pumpkin exhibition. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular originated in Oxford, Massachusetts in 1988, and Louisville’s version has been running since 2012. The event runs every year October 8 – November 3 from dusk to 11 p.m.

The trail is a third of a mile long, located along one of the woodland paths in Iroquois Park. Of the 5,000 pumpkins on display along the trail, about 100 were given special attention and finely carved into some quite impressive works of art.

 

These pumpkins are an unexpected but excellent representation of America’s obsession with pop culture; nearly every popular franchise, celebrity, event or holiday you could expect showed up this year.

The event is managed by the Louisville Parks Foundation, and they have a company set up to design the pumpkins:

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“Passion for Pumpkins Inc. is a multimedia production company with over 27 years of experience in redefining fall by transforming any landscape into an illuminated organic gallery.”   –From the JOLS site.

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Sunday – Thursday: $14 Adults; $12 Seniors, 65+; $10 Children, 3-12 (younger than 3 are free)

Friday & Saturday: $18 Adults; $16 Seniors, 65+; $14 Children, 3-12 (younger than 3 are free)

For the money, it’s definitely a fun outing or family event you can attend with your relatives for the spooky season. Personally though, once you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all. Rating: 4/5 pumpkins.

Photos by Anthony Riley // The Louisville Cardinal

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Vibe Check: A solo journey through the Devil’s attic leaves me shaken Thursday, Oct 31 2019 

By Joseph Garcia —

This is the chilling finale to my trilogy of haunt reviews for Halloween 2019. Keep in mind, this review is 100 percent based on my experience, so yours may differ.

It’s pitch black outside and there’s a cool, fall breeze tossing leaves along the asphalt road. The scene reminds me of the start of a horror film.

I’m on my way to experience the Devil’s Attic, a haunt just down the street from where I live in Old Louisville. Unlike my previous two haunt experiences this month, I’m walking down this cold street at night entirely alone. When I enter this haunt, I will be going alone–no boyfriend to hold on to and calm myself with, no group of friends to lead me and share the scares with–just me stumbling around in the dark scared to death.

For U of L students, this haunt is appealing. In terms of prices, the Devil’s Attic has a GA pass for $22 and a fast pass for $28, which is cheaper than tickets at both Field of Screams and Fear Fair. This haunt is also much closer than the others–it’s a short walk from campus on Hill Street in Old Louisville. However, U of L’s Student Activities Board buys out the haunt for a night every year and allows students to attend the haunt for free. I wasn’t able to go to SAB’s night, but I did go my freshman year, so the Devil’s Attic was something that I’ve been through previously. But this knowledge didn’t ease my anxiety at all.

As I stood in line, I felt strangely confident. This entire month I would offer to lead the group but would immediately shy to the back in utter fear. Going into this alone felt like a redemption story. This was a chance to prove to myself that I could do it, that I wasn’t scared.

That heroic confidence lasted a whole five minutes.

Once I was shut in the building I was immediately met with a blood curdling scream from above me. I don’t know where the scream came from, but it caught me completely off guard. After that fright, you’re met face-to-face with the Devil himself. He tells you about this hellish playground he’s laid out just for you and your friends to feed his monsters and opens the door for you.

There’s something about doing a haunt alone that heightens the experience. Familiar rooms I was accustomed to from other haunts became unrecognizable which made them 10 times scarier.

For instance, a room you’ll likely encounter in other haunts is room full of fog with a green light shinning at about waist-level and vines hanging from above you. This was something my friends I went through at Fear Fair so I immediately knew an actor was going to rise up from the fog. Despite this knowledge, I was disorientated and lost. The fog was so thick I struggled to find an exit and in my desperate search for it, the actor saw the perfect opportunity to jump out and spook me.

And spook me he did.

The rest of the scenes were similar to Field of Screams. They were loosely related, but weren’t bound by any sort theme despite being the Devil’s hellish creation. This wasn’t something that I noticed or frankly cared about at the time, but I think the mashup of scenes worked better here than at FoS because it was in tight quarters and they were back-to-back.

Owner Jason Besemann told me after the haunt that the scenes stay up all year and most are the same.

“We change usually one or two scenes a year, but it’s up all year long. Building-wise, we start in March, this year we started in December to build the new Medusa scene. Training starts in the first week of September,” Besemann said.

Even though I knew the scenes, I was still very impressed. The acting was great and the timing of scares was just right to give me a chance to breathe and then make me lose said breath. Like Fear Fair too, the costuming and makeup of actors were believable.

Makeup manager Matt Goodlett told me that despite the haunt opening at 8 p.m., costuming starts hours earlier.

“It’s about two hours we spend doing makeup, we knock out an actor about every 15 minutes,” Goodlett said. “We use custom cotton latex builds, all the makeup itself is mainly air brushed.”

The most terrifying look that night was the actor who was dressed as Pinhead from the “Hellraiser” series. Now, normally, I’m not afraid of movie monsters in haunted houses because I know they aren’t real. Pinhead never scared me before because I never watched the movies. Well, this month I watched the movies and by complete coincidence I forgot this scene was part of the haunt.

I was cornered by Pinhead and one of his demons and I was so scared that I genuinely could not move my feet. My only reaction to being that scared was to back up and away.

Overall, for its price and location to U of L, the Devil’s attic is worth the price. It’s admittedly a bit short, but for a cheaper admission than the other two haunts, I couldn’t complain.

I only had two issues, one being the lack of variation. I feel like after two years I shouldn’t be able to recognize the scenes in the haunt. It defeats the point of returning every year. It would have also been interesting to go up into an attic like space to go with the name, but that was just a personal preference.

Another thing about going to haunted houses alone that I never really thought about it is–the actors don’t expect it! Actors in more scripted scenes constantly kept asking if I was alone or where my group was because they expect groups larger than one. It added to the scare factor, yes, but it felt a little awkward because this haunt wasn’t designed for that. I even caught a couple actors off guard too.

For those readers that use Androids, sorry, but Bloody Mary uses an iPhone.

Photo Courtesy / The Devil’s Attic

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Vibe Check: Indiana haunt allows guests to step through hellish nightmare Thursday, Oct 24 2019 

By Joseph Garcia — 

This is one of a mini-series where I review haunts for Halloween 2019. Keep in mind, this review is 100 percent based on my experience, so yours may differ.

Last weekend, my friends and I visited Field of Screams and left feeling like we had wasted $35. This week, we drove an hour deep to Seymour, Ind. for Fear Fair, or “Indiana’s Scariest Haunted House” as their website boasts. Going in, like FoS, I knew very little about this haunt. All I really knew for sure was that this was going to be extreme.

Extreme haunts are another type of haunted attraction where the actors are allowed to touch, grab, steal, curse at and be a little more rough in general to you.

We arrived to Fear Fair at about 1 a.m. and the line was incredibly long, longer than the line at FoS and with way more excitement. There was a stage with a live DJ along with lights, flames and smoke. After we bought our general admission tickets ($25), we got in line. A man passed us and jabbed my friend Seira in her rib, which obviously startled her.

This was just the start of what our night would entail.

While waiting, we decided to actually pay the difference to upgrade our passes to the Slasher Pass which was only $10 more than the GA tickets.

The haunt started off uniquely by having us stand in an elevator that rocks and rattles as it “rises.” It eventually “falls” to the sub-level and when the doors opened, we were met with a hooded figure with a demonic, inhumane face. Without saying a word, the creature pointed at my friend Chelsea and pulled her out of the elevator motioning for us to start walking behind her.

We were incredibly freaked out as the atmosphere of this place was cramped, dark and very real. One of the actors we passed grabbed me and held me back as my friends continued walking. My boyfriend stopped to wait for him to let me go, but the hooded figured yelled at him in a loud, deep and guttural tone to “Keep. Walking.” He then leaned in close to me and told me that I was going to wait and walk by myself and that if I didn’t he would find me. This was only a few minutes in and needless to say, I was pretty creeped out.

Blame it on not being held for too long or my quick, terrified steps, but I was able to catch up with my group rather quickly. They were being followed by another actor who took Seira and pressed her against a wall and pulled her head back. In the car ride home, she told us how she thought it was either me or my boyfriend and that when she tried to push us off, the person holding her tightened their grip.

“I knew it wasn’t you guys at that point and I was freaked out,” she told us.

After escaping the depths of Hell, we moved into a swamp environment with a large alligator, then to a church with a cemetery and a goat man and finally into a prison.

The prison was probably one of our favorites. This scene started with the warden throwing Chelsea’s boyfriend David into the next room and talking to us about how the prisoners had gone mad. He then pulled out a gun, sat down and shot himself. Even though I knew it was fake, I was still incredibly startled.

The prisoners did a fantastic job and were certifiably unnerving. They pet us and called the guys in our group pretty and rubbed our backs. One of the prisoners, named Peaches, had us in his room and was telling us how he hides his lipgloss from the guards during shakedowns. Spoiler alert: he hides it in a deep, dark place that lipgloss should never be inserted. He then told us the only way to leave his room (which had no visible exit) was for one of the guys to lay down in bed with him.

My boyfriend took one for the team and let me just say, watching your boyfriend lay in bed with a big sweaty prison guy who was caressing and singing him a creepy lullaby was extremely uncomfortable. Peaches reached over him and the bed moved to the side revealing a hidden door. In the final room we were met with chainsaw wielding crazies. I knew they were coming up because we walked by them on our way in, but one of them came from the shadows and I couldn’t see him until he was pressing his chainsaw into my back.

Needless to say, Fear Fair had everything we wanted from a haunt. We were all genuinely creeped out throughout the haunt. I noticed what scared me most and made the whole thing so convincing was the attention to detail. The sets were put together in ways that made you feel as if you were there. The swamp scene had narrow wooden paths that fell and shook. The cemetery was actually outside which added another layer of realism to the haunt. During the section where the goat man was running around, the actor made convincing goat noises and he rubbed his face next to me and the mask felt real. I told my boyfriend, “That felt like real goat hair, that felt really real.”

I also noticed how convincing the actors were. Their costumes were amazing and it felt like each person working had their own backstory and knew their character well enough to pull off an amazing performance.

As for the touching, it is optional, but I would recommend doing it as it made the haunt more fun. Some actors were a bit rougher, but they didn’t overstep their boundaries and knew when to let go. Getting separated from my group terrified me, but it was exciting.

If you want to spend $35 for a haunt this year, I would definitely recommend making the drive for this haunt as they are exactly what they advertise: Indiana’s scariest haunted house.

Photo by Joseph Garcia / The Louisville Cardinal

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Vibe Check: Infamous Field of Screams a let down this year Monday, Oct 14 2019 

By Joseph Garcia —

This is one of a mini-series where I review haunts around Kentucky for Halloween 2019. Keep in mind, this review is 100 percent based on my experience, so yours may differ.

My boyfriend and I had left the Kentucky Center after seeing “Dear Evan Hansen” at around 11 p.m. on Oct. 5. We were heading south towards Otter Creek Park for the infamous haunted attraction, Field of Screams. Growing up in eastern Kentucky, I always heard of this haunt, but never had the chance to experience it for myself — until now.

Every October I heard how good it was, how scared it made people feel, so going down the dark highway listening to a Halloween party playlist was making my already high exceptions grow.

When I got there, I was impressed. It was spooky at first; tall men dressed in terrifying costumes, classic horror music playing on speakers and in the distant corn field the sounds of loud bangs and screams. Expectations were being met. My friends and I purchased the $35 all access passes to experience everything FoS had to offer; the hay ride, the main corn field and the optional “Scream Tag.” There is another pass for $25 that features only the hay ride and main event.

Simply put, the hay ride was lackluster. A tractor pulled a trailer with hay bales through a course of different sets which you’ll later fully experience in the actual maze. But unlike the maze, there wasn’t much horror here. Actors hopped onto the trailer via a set of stairs on the back and “messed” with the people sitting, but they didn’t really scare anyone as their costumes weren’t as intricate as their corn field counterparts. They just got in your face and awkwardly stared you down.

Granted, there was still a lot of entertainment to be had, as they would interact and talk back to you if you said anything (one actor actually walked away with $100 from a drunk guy for doing what he said), but there wasn’t much else. The night I went two scenes weren’t up because of low staff, but we still trudged through them and it felt awkward and silent as we rode by.

After the disappointing hay ride, we walked over to the entrance of the field and were getting eager again–and then we saw the line. At this point, we didn’t mind the long line because it was to be expected on a Saturday night, so that wasn’t a problem. There was a man dressed in drag as a bearded lady who ran up and down the line keeping people dancing and laughing and a DJ played music. On the way to the front, we passed old freak show posters that looked really exciting. We believed the theme to be focused around this. And this is where the problem lays.

After waiting for an hour in the line we got to enter the corn field. We were not met by horrifying carnival freaks and a demented devil-worshipping ringleader, but instead a very plain haunted attraction just spaced out in a corn field.

The main attraction focused on different classic horror movies and creatures. Most of the time it felt like you were moving from one scene to another and there was no cohesiveness. You were just meant to walk forward. The scenes themselves weren’t frightening, a little creepy maybe, but I expected more from the hype.

Some of the actors were fun to joke with and talk to which is one of the redeeming factors of this haunt. At one point we walked into a church and a lady dressed as a demonic nun yelled at us to wipe our feet before walking inside the building. I, being so observant in dim-lighting told her, “You can’t be mad at us for not wiping our feet if you don’t have a door mat out front or inside.”

She said under her breath as we left, “Well, very true.”

It was moments like that that made the experience worthwhile (and seeing my boyfriend tense up at every sound of the many chainsaws throughout). The scares were few and far and when I did get scared, it was because of a loud noise that was directly in my face or in a small room — just mild jump scares.

By the time we finished the entire attraction it was already 3 a.m., we were too tired to try the “Scream Tag.” But we had also heard it wasn’t very fun either and at this point our options were food and sleep or something that may be good, but probably not. So we decided not to waste our time.

I wouldn’t recommend Field of Screams this year for anyone who wants to go to a true haunt. FoS is more family-friendly and we actually saw a bunch of families there. It’s still worth the experience if you’re with friends and know what you’re getting into. I would just recommend if you do choose to go, pay the $25 and skip the hay ride.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal

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“King Hedley II” connects problems from the past to the present Sunday, Sep 29 2019 

By Jordan Geisler —

“King Hedley II” kicked off the University of Louisville Theatre department’s new season, “A Season of Black Plays” on Sept. 19. The play, directed by Baron Kelly, centers around the quick-tempered King Hedley II, played by Xavier Mikal Harris, who is trying to make a better life for his wife Tonya, portrayed by Kala Ross.

The play is set in the mid-80s, but it’s clear that it’s applicable to today’s time.

Taking place during the aftermath of a relative’s passing, King and his wife can’t agree on starting a family. After finishing his seven year jail sentence for murder, King is left selling refrigerators with his friend Mister (Tyler Tate) in order to save up to open a video store and start a legacy for his family. Meanwhile, King’s mother Ruby (Marquita Howerton) is visited by an old flame, the smooth-talking gambler Elmore, portrayed by Charles A. Nasby. Throughout the play, the off-the-wall neighbor Stool Pigeon (Alphaeus Green, Jr.) offers bits of scripture and insight, claiming God’s making room for the end times.

The play covers many relevant themes like abortion and gun violence. Tonya’s shining moment of the play is during her monologue of why she’s considering an abortion. She says she sees so much death and so little life, and that she couldn’t bear the possibility of going down to the morgue to claim her own dead child. The characters also discuss the impact of gun violence on their town, that someone is getting shot every day. All the while, King and Elmore have their own guns to guarantee protection, which is the ultimate downfall of one of the characters.

King continually asks people if he has a halo on his head, a reference to a dream he had where he wore one. This plays on his sense of feeling innocent despite having killed a man for attacking him, and whether or not he’s a good man despite having recently robbed a jewelry store to save money. While the play carries a heavy tone, Stool Pigeon offers frequent comic relief.

The play, which runs until Sept. 29, is well worth seeing, and shows that even though America has changed considerably since the 80s, a lot has stayed the same.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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Lana Del Rey has resounding return with greatest album yet Tuesday, Sep 3 2019 

By Blake Wedding —

It has been a long, winding road for Lana Del Rey, but it seems that after five previous studio albums, the titular singer/songwriter has finally found a signature sound.

In the past, I’ve had issues with some of Del Rey’s albums, but I could never possibly argue over the massive influence she has cast over her contemporaries as well as her appeal in modern music. Songs like “Videogames” and “Ride” are also undeniably sweeping, beautiful singles that absolutely excel where some of her full studio albums have missed the mark.

But with Norman F****** Rockwell!, Del Rey has pulled off something quite remarkable. After 2017’s disappointing and critically panned Lust for Life, the artist must have gone back to the drawing board completely and reevaluated herself; her unique qualities and strengths as a singer, and possibly reflecting on what could be improved and on what so many people took issue with on albums like Ultraviolence and Lust for Life.

Yet no less than two years later, Del Rey has shown incredible strives to try something new yet again; not only that, but something bold, and more than anything, something impressively authentic and sincere.

Norman F****** Rockwell is the culmination of all these ideas coupled with an artist at the height of their talent, focus and dedication.

So many of the songs on this album are standouts in Del Rey’s discography. Moreover, Del Rey embraces instrumental experimentation and a yearning to incorporate new styles of music and new sounds in a genuine manner.

Take the song “Venice B****,” which might actually be Del Rey’s single greatest song yet. It’s a long, instrumentally complex, emotionally powered and dense performance; one that single-handedly demonstrates Del Rey’s vocal chops and her talents as a performer and musician better than nearly any of her more well-known singles at this point.

Themes of heartbreak, infatuation, sensuality, love and summertime are at the forefront of this song, themes that Del Rey is no stranger to whatsoever. However, it’s the way that they are pulled off and come together on “Venice B****,” or other standouts like “Mariners Apartment Complex,” that make for a far more memorable listening experience than past songs.

All in all, it’s best to sum up Norman F****** Rockwell! by saying that it is one of the most important albums of 2019. It’s without a doubt the best work Del Rey has ever made, and even more so, it is proof that when an artist accepts constructive criticism and reflects on their art candidly, that hard work pays off. Del Rey has cemented herself as one of the greatest pop voices in the world at the moment.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal

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