BY SEAN EGAN | Before entering Blood Manor haunted house proper, visitors are ushered into a small hallway and greeted by a large man, decked out in a garish suit and top hat combo, wearing bold, fluorescent face paint that glows in the black lights that illuminate the corridor. The man, standing tall, proceeds to warn of the horrors that lie within the manor, and bellows boilerplate safety precautions at the top of his lungs, ratcheting up tension by invading personal space and increasing in volume — that is until he pulls back, and requests, in a squeaky, tinier voice “Have fun. Have a lot of fun.” It’s an unexpected moment of comedic relief that produces laughs instead of screams, and offers a taste of what’s to come if you dare enter the attraction after his warning. Provided your tastes lean slightly to the macabre, you are almost guaranteed to have the aforementioned fun (and some laughs), as well as a sense of uneasy buildup and unexpected shocks.
Blood Manor is currently entering its 10th season, making it one of New York City’s longest running haunted attractions — and its easy to see why it’s lasted so long. Blood Manor is nothing if not a solidly constructed, classic haunted house, delivering just about everything one could expect from an attraction of its kind. That might not sound like much, but hey, if it works as well as it does here, there’s no need to tweak a winning formula. Blood Manor is also not sadistically intense like some other haunted houses, instead focusing on good old-fashioned gore and creatures of the night, giving it a kind of broader appeal that serves it well. Indeed, Blood Manor allows for teens as young as 14 to pass through its doors unaccompanied, a policy taken advantage of by a line of high schoolers stretched around the block on a school field trip the night I came, and whose energy was infectious.
One of Blood Manor’s biggest strengths is the variety of scares it offers. Passing through its many rooms, one is treated to a murderer’s row of horror archetypes including mental patients, evil clowns, and, well, literal murderers (sometimes of the chainsaw wielding variety). The restless shifting of focus ensures that one will never get bored, and never really be able to expect what’s going to be around the next corner. Does the bloody torture dungeon not quite do it for you? Well, then maybe the werwolf hiding out a couple of rooms down will be more your speed. There’s something here for everyone, and there’s a kind of giddy excitement waiting to see what exactly will happen next.
While it’s true certain rooms seem to be ticking off standard issue horror tropes, more often than not, Blood Manor shows a spark of personality in its rooms. Some rooms are genuinely disturbing and unsettling, chief among them a room where one is forced to push through realistic corpses hung from the ceiling and avoid a stoic human butcher, and a total blackout hallway where eerie noises alone put one on edge. Others show off Blood Manor’s wonky sense of humor — from a pair of fourth-wall-breaking demonic strippers who berated an adult in my group for bringing a younger teen, to what could only be described as a kitschy horror version of 50s teen movies that featured gore victims, hot rods, and a comically huge machine gun.
The production design is the impressive glue that holds things together. The Manor lives up to the first part of its name via some shockingly icky prop design and makeup effects throughout — walking into a vivisection in medias res provides some particularly stomach-turning viscera.
Though the whole is not exactly cohesive, the design does an admirable job of establishing each room as a unique space that totally fits the attraction inside — making the Manor’s rapid changes in tone and content more effectively sold, and all the scarier. Because of this, unfortunately, Blood Manor never captures the sense of dread that the best, more thematically unified haunted houses can. And, for the most part, things are fairly well-illuminated (likely helping its broad appeal), and thus relies a little heavily on jump scares — but it’s a minor quibble, seeing as how effective and creatively deployed they often are.
Towards the end, for instance, killer clowns lead you into a neon nightmare of a carnival maze (providing you with 3D-style glasses for extra disorientation). Passing through the corridors, a seemingly never-ending stream of shrieking and running freaks jump out at you, transforming the house briefly into a demented version of a rake gag, leaving patrons all surprised shrieks and entertained giggles at the terror and absurdity of it all.
By the time you exit the attraction, and enter the gift shop, you probably didn’t “Piss [Your] Pants at Blood Manor,” as the popular T-shirt on the wall reads, but you needn’t to enjoy the ride. Blood Manor is a little campy, a little gory, and frequently freaky — a highly satisfying combination if ever there was one.
HAUNTED HOUSE | BLOOD MANOR
Through Saturday, November 8
At 163 Varick St.
(btw. Charlton & Vandam Sts.)
Hours vary daily
Tickets: $30 in advance, $35 at the door
RIP (VIP) Tickets: $50 in advance, $60 at the door
Visit bloodmanor.com or call 212-290-2825