Halloween Horror Nights 23 has been an interesting year so far. Normally I start out with clear favorites among the haunted houses, and that list stays pretty consistent for the whole season. This year the houses are strong, and things keep reshuffling by the week, and even by the day. Here's my latest rankings as of this weekend for week three. They're not in actual numerical order, since so many are neck in neck:
An American Werewolf in London started off as an early favorite for me. You can help but be impressed with the amazingly lifelike wolves. However, by week two I was worried it would end up being a one-trick pony. Yes, the special effects are a "wow," but could that really keep it ranking high for the whole event?
I had "meh" walk-throughs on week two, but this weekend that house blew me away again and rocketed back up in my top three. The scareactors are rocking it, and the wolves are just frosting on the cake. I don't like special effects when they're at the expense of old-school scares, but that's not happening here.
Evil Dead continues to grow on me. It was solid from the start, but it's really finding its stride now, and it's rare I don't stagger out after a string of scares. It overtook my early favorite, Cabin in the the Woods; Cabin's still good, but my run-throughs have been more sporadic, whereas Evil Dead is consistent in its terror.
Walking Dead is another house that could be a one-trick pony, but it's not. The Walker aggression makes it a delight to navigate. Along with Werewolf and Evil Dead, it's rounding out my top three.
La Llorona is still a feast for the eyes with its set design, and it's still a decent house, but it's slipping down in my rankings due to some lukewarm walk-throughs. A lot of that is timing and also dependent on who you're around. If you're behind a cringing train of teens, they're going to draw all the scares. I did have one of my best scares in this house during the first week, so it could very well make a comeback among my faves.
Meanwhile, Afterlife has gone up for me despite the non-ending (vortex out onto a ramp with no scareactors). It's a short house, but the scareactors are really giving it their all, and their efforts are paying off for me. I don't think this one can ever crack my top three, but it's working its way higher than I ever imagined.
I'm still enjoying Havoc, which is getting more high energy each week. It's a simple house concept-wise, and not exactly a place for traditional scares from monsters and supernatural creatures, but I still find it a fun romp through a gauntlet of crazy soldiers.
I'm listing Resident Evil last not because it's a bad house, but because it doesn't have any special draw for me that boosts it above any of the others. In terms of scares, it's not great. It's not bad. It's fun and consistent, even though it hasn't delivered any of my top scares of the season. I'm sure I'd love the detail more if I knew more about the game. As it is, I still appreciate the sets.
So there you have it, a week three rating. As always, this is subject to change, so look for a new list in week four.