Monday, December 18, 2017
Travel

New Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream house is bloody relentless

TAMPA

When it comes to scaring the ever-lovin' (bleep) out of people, it's tough for Busch Gardens to compete financially and, considering the Hollywood resources, creatively with Universal Orlando.

For instance, this year the creators of The Walking Dead are setting up shop in O-Town. Busch Gardens just doesn't have those terror tent poles.

Thus, in the raging seasonal debate of BG's Howl-O-Scream versus Halloween Horror Nights, the hometown haunters routinely finish a spooky second.

But therein lies a ghoulish secret. That chip on the Gardens' shoulder can often be used to wicked effect, and it has a twisted asset in fiendishly fun idea man Scott Swenson. Case in point: the new Blood Asylum, a haunted house that seriously freaked out a bunch of grizzled journalists recently at a midnight press tour.

Each of us had to go through the thing alone. Some of the more visibly shaken in attendance (cough, Bay News 9's Virginia Johnson, cough) felt that this sucker is one of the theme park's scariest haunts in Howl-O-Scream's 13 years.

I'll tell you this much: Blood Asylum is flat-out relentless.

The backstory is streamlined and smart: Over the decades, the family-run Oglethorpe Asylum has gone from a kinder-gentler approach to maximum-security brutishness, like horror movies growing from black and white to color. There's a looming sense of unease in the joint now, compounded by the fact that Stu Loomis — nicknamed "the Creature" due to his penchant for filleting victims' faces — is a patient there.

Let's hope he doesn't escape.

Oh, wait …

The facade of the haunt, which sits by the park's Crown Colony House restaurant, looks fantastic, all glowing red, with flickering electricity and the Gothic crash of thunder and lightning setting the mood.

After you weave through the queue, you're greeted by a far-too-chirpy nurse:

Your cell is ready.

Again, Busch Gardens doesn't have the special effects budget, but it does have the bodies (and, um, bodies) and it has tireless verve. As you weave through the asylum, the borderline catatonic patients set you up for the far more dangerous ones.

For the press tour, I only had to survive half the haunt, but it was building to a ferocious finish, with the actors screaming, "He's right behind you!" Ah yes, the Creature is coming. Once you see the warning — "FLASHING LIGHT INDICATES ESCAPED RESIDENT" — the chase is on.

It gets incongruously gory in parts, but hey, who doesn't love a good obstacle corpse?

In trying to compete for your Halloween dollar, Busch Gardens has been known to overthink its scares. (See Sylvie, the murderous Taylor Swift, from 2010.) But Blood Asylum, one of seven houses this year, is a brutally fun old-school type of haunt.

And remember what I said:

Re-lent-less.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments
Exploring the incredible color, cuisine, culture of India

Exploring the incredible color, cuisine, culture of India

DELHIAs I slid my shoes off and handed the man a five-rupee note before entering the Jama Masjid mosque, I could feel the heat from the red stone against my heels. I could also feel the intense stares of the Delhi locals. I don’t know which made me s...
Published: 12/14/17
In Sitka, Alaska, food doesn’t get more natural than this, or cheaper

In Sitka, Alaska, food doesn’t get more natural than this, or cheaper

SITKA, AlaskaA hefty brass bell hangs from a rafter in the middle of the Pioneer Bar. The P Bar, as everyone calls this down-home dive on Baranof Island about 90 miles southwest of Juneau, is a smokey haven for locals and fishermen. And it could be w...
Published: 12/07/17
Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage with the adventure, expense of a cruise

JUNEAU, AlaskaNaturalist John Muir didn’t have Patagonia waterproof Yulex gloves Amazon Primed to him. He did not have Gore-Tex or special wicking fabrics. His socks were probably wet the whole time.These were my thoughts as I looked up from a cabin ...
Published: 12/07/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17
The challenges of being a chef on a remote Alaska cruise ship

The challenges of being a chef on a remote Alaska cruise ship

James George, 49, executive chef aboard the Safari Endeavour, has the kind of resume that makes you double-take. A graduate of Johnson & Wales in Miami, he went the hotel and country club route, spending eight years at the fabled Breakers in Palm Bea...
Published: 12/07/17
Tampa Bay's most unique Airbnb rentals include the RV parked behind Ferg's

Tampa Bay's most unique Airbnb rentals include the RV parked behind Ferg's

These are some of the most unusual vacation rentals available on Airbnb in Tampa Bay.
Published: 12/05/17
Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

MIAMI — Stiltsville, a stubborn relic of Miami’s less-glitzy past as a sun-soaked outpost, has survived Hurricane Irma’s brutal winds and waves, much to the surprise of the landmark’s caretakers and fans. Perched at the edge of sea grass flats where ...
Updated one month ago
Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

NEW YORKAs travel changed, so did luggage. That’s the story told by an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, the luxury luggage and fashion brand. The exhibition, free to visit and on display in Lower Manhattan through Jan. 7, is called "Volez, V...
Updated one month ago
Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday isn’t just for stores. Many theme parks and attractions in Florida are also offering up deals that could make a nice gift or family splurge. The smaller the park, the bigger the deal, so Legoland, Gatorland and SeaWorld are toutin...
Updated one month ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated one month ago