Let's breakdown how this Haunted Hayride of Hemlock Hill stole my money.
I should have known this wasn't going to be so great when there seemed to be chaos just signing waivers and buying our tickets. Could they be any more disorganized? After waiting in line for a bit, we came to this corral of sorts where we had to work our way to the waiver table and then make eye contact with one of the ticket sellers. Just poorly designed all around. Again, Markoff's was nice and orderly.
We walked across a lacrosse field to get to the hayride line, nevermind we were told the wrong direction to walk. FYI, telling us to walk toward the concessions area does not put us toward the hayride. We waited in line for about 15 minutes, during which only one hayride came by. I thought it was odd that only one hayride would be running, but chalked it up to being only 8 PM.
We began to board and take our seats, not on bales of hay as you would, you know, do on a hayride. Nope. We sat on wood benches whose lumbar support felt like a nun hitting me with a wide ruler, over and over again in the small of my back. Sure, I've never spoken to a nun, let alone been hit by a nun's ruler, but this night made up for that. The floor of the sitting area had hay on the floor about 4 needles deep. I was lucky to have any hay under my feet. I chalked this up to having a lot of kids at that hour pushing hay off the cart.
I grew up nowhere near a farm, but even I know a hayride equation requires 1 part John Deere tractor, 1 part cart, and many parts hay. We're not talking nuclear algorithms here yet Field of Screams got this wrong.
We finally get rolling and enter a dark trail with trees on either side making for a dark ride. Oh boy...time to get scared! Unfortunately, as you enter this trail you can already see the end 20 feet away. While we bounced through the "scary" scene a guy in camo fatigues was apparently getting attacked by someone or something. Bad character choice. My defenses were up for the rest of this ride.
Who the hell has a solider-like person getting attacked these days? What the F are these people thinking? That's not scary; it's stupid, messed up, and asinine. Scary events are meant to use people and semi-human stuff so there's zero connection to that zombie getting its head taken off or seeing Freddy Krueger lose his arm. Having a soldier get attacked is really poor taste.
Peeved by that decision, we exited the 40-foot, not-so scary trail and made our way along the baseball outfield fence. It's an odd choice for a hayride path, but I thought maybe something scary would come from the other side of the fence or maybe people would jump at us from the dumpsters on our right. Nope. All that happened was brighter and brighter lighting as we traveled toward the parking lot.
That's right, our hayride was interrupted with a parking lot crossing.
I couldn't believe we really were crossing the parking lot. Maybe we're being taken to a scarier part of the ride and that trail was a teaser? Sure, I'll chalk it up (again) to that, but whatever sense of scariness buzz we had going was squashed when we dealt with cars and people in full light. Why have us queue on the other side if the action happens on the other side of the property?
A REAL haunted hayride in Philly is where we needed to go.
We made our way around some old looking house that's dark. Here we go, time to get scared! Maybe someone was going to run out of the house and scare us. Maybe there'll be scenes in the windows. Nope. Nothing. We continued up a small incline and turned around trailers and a barn. On the way a 9-year-old girl saw someone hiding next to a tree and said, "You're not scaring us because we can see you." If you can't scare her, then get out of the haunting business.
Our hayride parked itself in front of the barn where some strobe lights showed someone cutting someone or something with a chainsaw. It was a decent effect. Not scary, but something interesting. The bar had been set so low I was looking for something to hang my hat on.
We kept looking around for people and saw characters approach from the field...in white shirts! Hello! The easiest color to see in the dark is white so why are they wearing them? I smiled and laughed instead of being scared. Other people came out of the trailers being chased while two people came aboard with chainsaws blaring. Nobody was about to wet their pants.
A scary hayride that's never completely in the dark? Epic failure. There are even videos telling you how to make a hayride.
Thankfully we moved on. It has to get better, it just does. I'm looking for one good moment where I'm scared. I get scared easily so it's not asking for the moon. We turned beyond the barn and headed back across the parking lot for the second scary buzzkill of the night. We went back along the baseball outfield and through the trail. Nothing scary to be seen, heard, or felt. What a letdown.
I kept thinking it was the end, but there was one more stop in the cornfield. Ok, maybe this is it. There might be people jumping from all over that we actually can't see beforehand. I'll finally get a jolt of excitement. Nope. We pull up to four or five people on crosses (offensive, no?). Some master animatronics thing pretends to tell us a story about them living again. The trouble was the system sounded like a Metro station announcement or the Muppets' teacher, take your pick.
Of course the people came off of the crosses and tried to spook us. Others did come from the cornfield, but because the hayride uses this to make U-turn and needed a lot of room, we saw them between the corn and the hayride. We left the cornfield and returned to the start. The line was now 5x as long as before and I felt bad knowing they'll be really disappointed.
I won't speak for the haunted house, haunted trail, and haunted corn maze, but if Field of Screams can make a scary hayride a complete waste and disaster, I see no reason to be confident of those other attractions. The hayride didn't follow a "tree line of haunted woods." It followed a blueprint for the worst hayride ever. Scary hayrides can be scary. This one wasn't so don't go.
Markoff's is MoCo's choice for scary times forever and for always.