It’s that time of the season where I get to venture into Chattanooga, Tennessee for Dread Hollow. Dread Hollow finished #1 through SF in 2020 and in 2014, our review and score was used by another website in 2016 that landed Dread Hollow in the #1 spot for them. They also finished #1 in our national fan vote in 2018. They are definitely no stranger when it comes to the elite bracket of the haunt industry.
Dread Hollow offers one of the most detailed backstories I’ve ever seen at a haunt. Not only do they have their own story, they truly bring it to life through the experience. It’s quite common for a haunt to give a story, but then only to fall short with telling it or even touching on it when it comes to your experience. Dread Hollow prides themselves on originality, they always strive to give guests an experience that they won't see anywhere else.
That definitely is true in most cases and it all begins on Main Street...
When you pull into the Dread Hollow parking lot, yes it’s an old grocery store building attached to a CVS. It’s mentioned in every single review, each and every season, including ours. Typically you’ll see others mention that they need to build stuff outside or things need to be added whether it’s “more actors” “Façade” “games” etc... Hey, it would be great. But I do enjoy seeing people's reactions when they pull up with a mindset of, “Grocery store? This is going to be interesting”. Then enter the doors and realize that they are in a completely different world! The outside offers just enough with a few actors and the extremely cool Dread Hollow Ambulance parked out front. This thing is seriously awesome, so awesome that it has won a few car shows! I was told by a young patron while at the event, “Dread Hollow is an emotional roller coaster.” This young man was not wrong. From the parking lot, to the inside Que-line to the actual show itself. It’s like experiencing a roller coaster when it comes to your emotions.
The inside is a 100% Que-line experience with a huge twist. It’s built around the backstory and town, “Dread Hollow”. It’s not just a Que-line, it’s an interactive Que-Line. If you see random props, like a red pay phone or a vending machine. It’s meant for you to make a call or get a drink. Don’t be afraid to get you a drink or make a call. It’s extremely interactive when it comes to the actors. You’ll be visited multiple times by the mayor and a few other townspeople. It’s filled with random scares, an immersive set and tons of fun. They also offer multiple escape rooms, "Eugene Todd” 30 minutes, “Paranormal II” 45 minutes and “The Lab” 45 minutes. They also offer a unique casket ride called “Buried Alive”. I personally did this one and if you’ve done similar attractions mostly known as “The Last Ride”. This is much more intense and immersive. Not only from the smells and “other things”. It ties into the story line and if you listen closely, you’ll hear familiar voices from Dread Hollow.
I mentioned to Tim and Todd, they could simply charge a small fee for people to come in and just experience the Que-line. It would be 100% worth it.
Eye Candy / Visuals
This attraction does a wonderful job with immersing you into their little town known as Dread Hollow. From the scene’s, sets, lighting, down to the props used throughout, it truly separates you from your everyday life to this evil little town. I’ve always enjoyed how unique and detailed Dread Hollow is and how they utilize the things that they do. Whether it be puppets, water and even sticks and plants. When you walk through, try to catch a breath in between scares and seriously take a look at each scene. It’s something to really appreciate their attention to detail. Especially the chainsaw experience. Not going to spoil it, but it’s one of a kind. The one thing that I was slightly a little disappointed in was the lack of fog use in some areas. In past experiences with the thick fog, it prevented me from seeing certain things that kept me fully immersed. This experience I walked through a few areas where there was a lack of fog, I noticed lights and fixtures and other things that I typically never would have noticed and also easily noticed the people working the puppets. I did talk with Tim and Todd about it and they had good reasons on why. But, there were certain scenes/areas where the thick fog simply just put the cherry on top.
The costuming fit perfectly with each scene. Not a single actor looked out of place and never had me scratching my head asking myself “That’s an awkward costume for this scene”. They looked the part according to the roles they were playing. Great job on the costuming and makeup. Overall, Dead Hollow delivers an excellent experience for patrons who love what this category is about.
Our walk through time was roughly around 24 minutes. It definitely felt longer and I was a little surprised at the 24 minute experience time. During that 24 minutes, you encounter many different scenes and themes.
You get 3 experiences in one, it’s all connected but it very easily could be 3 different haunts.
Chronicles of Raven's Gate - The Haunting
This is where you get to enter the prison and go hunting for the trapped souls of inmates and many others who didn’t survive the massacre of 2020.
I truly enjoyed this experience, every turn and corner there was an actor ready to pounce. You’ll encounter the birdman asking for feathers, inmates behind bars, prison guards, and an onsite dentist. Did not encounter any dead spots in this area and was pretty action packed throughout.
This is where you begin to meet members of the Harker family from the story line. The detailed scenes begin to really amp up as you encounter some high quality scares and great acting. This is where we began to see some vacant areas where Dead Hollow typically has a full house. I do want to give a huge shout out to the actress dressed in all black. We walked through her scene and she did a great job with her timing on her scare. Her scene has a perfect setup to distract patrons, she utilizes it to perfection and takes full advantage of it. Other than the few vacant areas, this section is top notch when it comes to set designs, detail and just the little things that they pay attention to that puts a smile on my face.
Hyde Island Research Facility
Another section that has amazing sets, scenes and details. To me, this is where most of the visuals shine and the experience ramps up. It did however seem to have a few areas that lacked actors. But when you do encounter them, your question of “Is it scary?” gets answered very quickly.
As you’re transitioning through all 3 themes. The flow is extremely smooth and it completely makes sense. That is something Dread Hollow does extremely well and that is also something I truly appreciate and love from haunts who are able to do this.
At $25 a person, Dread Hollow is easily worth it when it comes to bang for your buck, even with the slight critiques above.
Every single actor we encountered played their roles to perfection. They were fully engaged with the group, worked the entire scene, never stopped until we were out of sight. This also includes the actors on Main Street out in the Que-Line. They are relentless when it comes to popping out, interacting with patrons. Going from pop scare to entertaining to holding a conversation with guests. This crew did a fantastic job with bringing this immersive, detailed storyline to life. How do you bring a story to life? Have actors from Dread Hollow play the characters!
In a recently released review, I mentioned there were two haunts that forced Scurryface to add this category. Dread Hollow is the other one. The originality and creativity that this haunt brings to the table is so unique and mind blowing. From the town setting in the Que-line to the details throughout the 3 themes. You definitely get to see and experience things that you wouldn't see anywhere else.
Do you like Easter eggs? Not talking about the Easter bunny. I’m talking about the details within the details. Listen and look closely at things, look around scenes and in the Que-line, READ THE STORY! Even in the smaller attractions like the escape rooms and buried alive. It all ties together.
When it comes to the story, the story tie ins and hidden Easter eggs.
Dread Hollow is like the MCU of the haunt industry.
Yes, we did make our official visit on opening night and we know a lot of haunts frown on that when it comes to reviews. We understand full well how opening weekends typically could go considering the majority of us have worked in the industry as actors, production, GM’s and owners. But our motto is this, if a haunt promotes they are opening and they are charging full price. They are fair game to get an honest review.
That being said, even with the vacant areas that we encountered during this experience and the other small critiques. Dread Hollow still flexes and flexes big time!
They finished #1 in 2020 and they have the opportunity to potentially repeat. But at this point, who cares about rankings. It’s not about the rankings.
It’s about being a top quality haunted attraction for paying customers, and Dread Hollow is exactly that!
Reps Personal Thoughts
I did feel opening night was mainly the cause of the vacant areas that we encountered. All the years I’ve visited Dread Hollow, I’ve honestly never seen it this short of actors in certain spots. This is really not a knock on Dread Hollow, they only can do the best with what they have and they truly did. My experience as an Actor Coordinator and GM, you have to make due and hope your actors are prepared and ready to rock n roll. My personal opinion on a lot of the issues is the lack of dedication and commitment from actors nowadays. You don’t show up to act, you leave your team handcuffed and it hurts the haunt. This isn’t specifically aimed at Dread Hollow, I don’t know the reasons. But, this is a trend that I’ve noticed big time in the early 2021 season for many haunts. This section has no true bearing on the official review above, but this is my section to speak my opinion and get on my soapbox. My opinion is the actors who do show up and give it their all deserve all the respect in the world. They bring the haunt to life and give it a heartbeat. With that being said and in closing:
Much love and respect to the actors and crew at Dread Hollow and everywhere else who show up and are dedicated to making the show and experience the very best it can be. You are one of the many reasons this haunt industry is amazing!