I ventured over to Fort Walton for my second haunt of the year, since I live on the Alabama line it was not too far at all and it was a pretty coastal view on the hour and a half drive. I had never been to the Wentz Brothers Festival of Fears before, so I did some reading beforehand and found out that it was started by three brothers, and they were originally doing the haunt for friends in their childhood home. I will not go into too many details, but if you, like me, enjoy a cool origin story I would encourage you to head to their website and check it out. Since I had never been, I was not entirely sure what I would be walking into. I knew it was in the mall, and I knew it was multiple haunts but I was very impressed upon entry. They had security outside and a very orderly line. I did not have to wait long to enter the building, and I was probably only in line for about 10 minutes. This was the first week of the haunt, so I am sure given how cool the experience was and how reasonably priced they are that the line will be longer deeper into the season.
Before I get into the haunts, I wanna talk about the building itself. You go into a mall but they have the haunt area sectioned off. So it almost gives the feeling of being in a building of haunts. It was a very nice layout, and they had a room with the football game on, some concessions and games. There were a lot of kids in here playing and hanging out, this was such an awesome feature and one you do not see in many haunts. They also had some haunting décor and carnival games set up in the area between all the haunts so if there were long lines or you were waiting for a friend there was plenty to do. The last feature I want to highlight is the photo area. They have this corner separated off with all these different photo scenes so you and your friends can take pictures. I personally loved the spider web room, and got a cool picture in there. I wish there would have also been some actors in this area, so it was a little more interactive but they did have life size figures in here that you could pose next too, and again this was a feature I had never experienced at a haunt before.
Now lets get into the good part, they had three different haunts to chose from, or you could get packages with all three. It was $20 to enter one haunt, $35 to enter two, and $45 to enter all three. They also had season passes which is a very nice option for local haunt lovers who will go more than once during the season, If I lived closer I would have bought it. They also have group ticket options on their website as well. I am not going to be overly detailed about specifics of any of these haunts because I do not want to ruin anyones experience but I will give some of their origin story
and my thoughts. Unlike most haunts, the haunt experiences at Wentz Brothers have 1 theme per haunt, and they do it very well. You are not going to go from room to room and see totally different scenes or characters, they are very fluid throughout and I really thought they did it incredibly well.
The first haunt I went into was Protocol Z, this one featured the most jump scares out of the three. I would not say this haunt was overly spooky, but I probably screamed the most here. It is very dark and they do a very good job of keeping with the theme. Think apocalyptic world post virus outbreak zombies, (Their website has an entire back story and setting for this haunt as well as the others if you want more details). Protocol Z had a lot of twists and turns and did a very good job of utilizing music and sound effects as well as actors. The actors were also interactive and spoke to you/yelled at you throughout. I really felt like I was in a war bunker. The scenes were so well done and I did not see many cords or sound machines, which in my opinion really take from the experience of a haunt. There was flashing lights, screaming, and world disaster style alarms. It was immersive and honestly just fun. I would say this would also be pretty kid friendly, since it was not super frightening or bloody.
I entered Freak Show next, I am typically not scared of clowns but this was actually the one that messed with me the most. It took me back to when I was a kid entering a circus or clown show for the first time, if the clowns were demented and insane. The scenery and rooms in this haunt were so good, and the actors were some of the best I have experienced in a haunt. There is a lot of creepy laughter and haunting beckoning throughout, it almost feels like you’re surrounded at times though you rarely see who is actually calling to you. This haunt had a few ground changes and a lot of sound affects. The special effects in this haunt were also very good and came an unexpected time. The crowning jewel of this haunt, (and maybe the entire attraction itself) was towards the end of my 15 minute journey through. I do not want to give it away, because it was hands down my favorite part… BUT I will say, be prepared to feel tricked, deceived and in awe by the actors in this haunt. They are witty, spooky, funny, and haunting all at once. I felt like I would never make it out, and though the banter was funny, it took me just to the point of actually getting freaked out. Brava to the actors. Standing ovation.
The third and final haunt of this attraction was Lazarus Toys, the basic story of this is haunted toy shop and possibly crazy missing Toy maker.
Initially I was curious about this one, because I was not sure how I was going to be scared by some toys but oh boy was I in for a treat. The scenes in this haunt were perfectly executed. There were many times where I thought something was just a doll, or even just a wall (I did not mean to rhyme there) but the it would promptly come to life and illicit a squeal from me. This haunt was totally immersive and I found myself stopping a lot throughout just because I wanted to take a second to look at everything, they went all out from the first scene in which you meet a seemingly nice toy shop employee, to scenes which had walls and walls of nothing but old toys, which I can assure you is creepier than it sounds.
The Wentz Brothers Festival of Fears has done some serious evolving from the pictures on their website from their first haunt. They had something for everyone, and though clowns and zombies are pretty normal to see in haunts, they put their own spin on those ideas and ran with them. I have been a haunt fanatic for years, and I can honestly say I have never been to a haunt whose entire theme was built around toys and dolls, so that was a new experience for me and one that I think they nailed. Whether or not Wentz Brothers is on my tour next year, I will gladly make the drive back. This is one you do not want to miss and will have you both laughing and fearful as you leave.