The Dark Carnival Review
Updated: Jul 17, 2018
BAYVILLE, NEW JERSEY - During our month long tour we are driving anywhere from two to even six hours to experience new attractions. It's not every day Joe and myself have to drive five minutes up the street for our next haunt. Well on Friday October 16, 2015 we did just that. Situated just minutes from where we call home sweet home we find our seventh haunt of the season, The Dark Carnival. This carnival/clown thriller was once located thirty minutes from us in Freehold, New Jersey. However, just last year the venue was relocated literally five minutes from us to Bayville. Therefore, considering its proximity we had to add it to this years tour!
Located at Blackbeard’s Cave, The Dark Carnival boasts two attractions. However, upon arriving to the event, you would never know or think that the family fun park is home to the Dark Carnival haunt. At the front of the small entertainment complex you find batting cages, a golf course, bumper boats, go karts and a full blown kiddie park. There was absolutely no signage to let us know where it was. If there was, it either wasn’t in a good visible location or lit up. So don’t worry, it’s there! After picking up our tickets at the mini golf office we made our way past the batting cages, past the bumper boats and then past the go karts to the far back end of the property. There we were greeted by the host who introduced us to the first house of the night…
Not sure if it had a name, there wasn’t a sign providing us with one so we had no idea what we were about to experience. Now on the facade of the entrance there was a very large clown head seen in the picture to the left. Therefore, you would assume what we were about to experience would be tied in with a carnival, circus and of course clowns. Now, the first room of the attraction looked like the inside of a shed. The name of this attraction is The Dark Carnival and right off the bat we could tell there might be some branding issues. All of the walls had been painted black and in the center a white mannequin bust stood. Within seconds of our entry the face of the bust came to life and began talking. Unfortunately we are having a hard time remembering what the face had mentioned because we were so focused on how and what this first room could have been, our minds were running. Like anything theatrical the beginning, middle and ending are the main points to a good haunted house. The fact we were about to enter The Dark Carnival but found ourselves standing in a room void of red and white striped walls, circus lights, clowns or anything from the genre it was a little disappointing. This is the first room of your attraction, don’t you want to start it off with a bang?
After the white bust finished its spiel we moved through the garage style door into the attraction. Now this first walk was a dark one… there were points where we were having a hard time navigating the tight spaces. But to us that made it creepy and that’s what we came there for. However, the “creepy” level would have been amplified by ten thousand if complete silence had come along with it, at some point. In fact throughout the ENTIRE attraction there was always some sort of banging, screaming or taunting. The actors inside were turned up past decimal ten and it got a little on the annoying side. Don’t get us wrong there are times and places where the constant pitter patter of actors works. But this was just out of control. Actors that we had just encountered were popping up over walls and attempting to scare us while actors in front of us were executing their attack. There was too much coming from to many places and there was one piece of then metal on a fence there was five. Stepping away from the actors... there were some nice scares throughout including the pitch black tunnel and this obscene clown room. We had to literally snake and slip past the outstretched hands of maybe six clowns which formed the maze through. We did this while hoping and praying the one we were face to face with wasn’t the real one. But of course Joe doesn’t get it, I do! The way this scare was executed was the best we have ever seen. This was the highlight of this house. Overall it wasn’t the worst or the best… it was smack dab in the middle. It needs a bit of fine tuning regarding actors, theming and execution.
Exiting the first attraction, we made a b-line to the second which like the first was nameless. And like the first one we found ourselves in another shed watching a chainsaw wielding maniac slice and dice through a metal door to us. It was definitely a cool feature but would have been awesome if the guy who busted through the door to the right actually had a real chainsaw. I don’t know if he was having technical difficulties or if it really was made of plastic. But having that scare at the beginning of the attraction while everyone is focusing on the video would have been sick! Unfortunately this house compared to the first was on the opposite side of the spectrum. The actors inside were on the intense side again with an excessive amount of banging. It’s not every day plastic props are thrown at you because the butcher is smacking them with his club. We sort of chuckled at this and kept moving but the level of intensity overall just needs a bit of toning down. However, there was an immense amount of disorientation used in this attraction and boy was it effective. Strobes, fog, complete darkness you name it and there it was! These sections of the attraction were the best parts, we loved them, especially the white claustrophobia walls. This was something we had never seen before, it was pretty trippy! But compared to the first it was lacking in the scare and length department. This house relied solely on the rooms of disorientation to do the job. We hit the exit wanting more.
Now because of the price we were thinking there was something more. But to our surprise there were only these two attractions. Although we were comped for the night which we appreciate, It was kind of shocking the two cost a total of $25. To us the price for the experience is a bit steep, it was a Friday night and not busy at all. At first we thought it was from the lack of signs for the attraction on the main road. But after experiencing the attractions we came to the conclusion it is a mixture of both. Location is key and while the location is a well known spot in town, there is nothing from the road that says Dark Carnival is there. Again if there were signs, they weren’t visible or lit up… We had no idea the haunts were all the way in the back. Then tie in the price for one person to experience the attractions… and it painted a picture. What people know about the haunt are turned off by the price. If we weren’t running FrightTour and were just normal customers paying the $25 per head, we would have been disappointed. Like any business, word of mouth is powerful. New Jersey has a large amount of attractions and there are haunts just forty-five minutes from us that cost $10 for an additional four attractions. But then again I am not a haunt owner or business man. So I have no idea what costs are involved.
Once in the car on our way home we were finally able to conjure up our thoughts of this place and honestly it wasn’t that bad. Is it the scariest attraction we have ever experienced? Sadly no, but it has an immense amount of potential to be a top notch haunt. You can’t go there thinking you’re going to run into Hollywood style sets, gigantic animatronics or highly detailed scenery. It’s s low key event but the actors weren’t talking between groups, on their phones or disengaged. Which we have seen at some big time haunts where actors are constantly breaking character while customers are paying big bucks. The attractions rely solely on the actors to deliver the scares which is refreshing because most places now use animatronics as fillers for those areas of dead space. So I applaud the creators and hope that in the years to come this is continued. Unfortunately while it wasn’t the scariest venue we have been to, it still managed to deliver some good jolts. Again there is major potential here and with some better signage near the street, lower pricing, attraction and actor development we think it could be something to watch for in the next few years. Which means we will be back in the future, to see what has changed!