PASSAIC, NJ -
Our third stop on the 2013 FrightTour brings us to Passaic, New Jersey to experience for the first time, Brighton Asylum! From our base location in Toms River it took us about an hour and a half to finally arrive. We found it in the middle of an abandoned industrial park/truck depot. With poor signage from the main road it was a hard find and it was obvious because we weren't the only people driving around aimlessly. As we pulled up to an attendant, we were told there was currently a two hour wait and we would have to wait to park. I said "hell with that" and we left the line. I remembered there being a shopping center parking lot right on the main road. So we parked there and walked over two blocks to the front entrance of Brighton. This was a much better idea because parking is VERY tight, crowded with 18 wheelers and looks a little sketch. By the way the Basic Foods parking lot is where we parked.
From the outside the building of the attraction for some reason intimidated me. I think it had to do with the way it was lit up but to be honest there was no special lighting. I all of a sudden became very nervous and a little creeped out… I began to psych myself up, "I am going to walk through an asylum and I am ready". This is a place where the clinically insane rampaged through hallways and paced in bedrooms. I don't know maybe it's just me… But the "asylum" theme is very unsettling to me. Others believe the theme has been played out and involves no creativity, which is true. BUT it is a very believable theme, these things once existed and actually still do. So in my opinion an asylum themed attraction if done correctly can be very effective. Monsters, zombies and aliens don't really do it for me. I think things that can actually happen are more effective. But before I begin dissecting Brighton lets remember what the word ASYLUM means:
a·sy·lum - noun
An institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill.
synonyms: psychiatric hospital, mental hospital, mental institution, mental asylum
Everything was fine at first as a patient led us from a holding area to the front door of the stunning facade of Brighton Asylum. She even gave us a little, "Welcome to Brighton…" in a sinister and creepy voice. It was the perfect touch and I was so excited to meet her asylum mates… However, once inside I immediately realized that this wasn't your typical asylum themed attraction. In fact there were only three areas throughout the entire maze that resembled an actual asylum facility. The rest of the hallways and rooms had no connection to "Brighton Asylum" whatsoever. I have never been to an operational asylum, but I know for sure there are no caves, clowns, random cabins, gigantic snakes or rooms decked out in neon paint. So the connection between the name and the actual maze was very confusing… I tried to conjure up some sort of theme but decided to wait until I got out…
Now onto the good stuff… The attraction was surprisingly very creepy. I think it is the creepiest attraction we have ever been through but don't hold me to that. Rich Gonci, the owner and creator of Brighton Asylum has mastered the use of silence and darkness. Two things when combined can be very effective! See I think now a days people expect haunted attractions to be bursting at the seams with live actors.Yes before you lose your lunch, I am guilty of demanding more actors in some of my reviews. However, sometimes darkness and silence can be one of the most effective scares in a haunted house. Lets face it you go to these attractions hoping to get what you paid for, you want to be scared. However, is anyone other than a young child truly scared when experiencing one? Yes there are people who have phobias of clowns, darkness and tight spaces but the majority of haunted house goers get startled not scared. So when Joe and I were walking through Brighton Asylum I can honestly say I was on the verge of actually being scared because it was so dark and quiet. In fact, Joe was pushing me to move at a more quicker pace cause he was thoroughly creeped out as well.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from silence & darkness… There were some really interactive and inventive scares that I have never seen before! Of course I am not going to give these scares away so if you would like to know please email me and I shall divulge. But getting back to it, Rich has really gone outside of the box here. These unique scares were the highlight of my night! There was one in particular that I have been dying to see happen in a haunted house. We codenamed it "Strobe Girl"… It has only been done in movies and I always thought it would work so well in a maze… Well it did! Again using darkness, it was the most effective scare of the night. It was genius! The timing, the darkness and then the surprise. I want to personally thank Rich Gonci for allowing me to experience a scene that has been done in so many movies. It was a masterpiece scare…
Overall Brighton Asylum was a solid, creepy, dark, inventive and unique haunt. However, with a few tweaks including; more actors, less dead space and a more connecting theme… I think it could be a top haunt in the area. There were times we walked for a while with nothing happening and that might have been ok. But I got the feeling the attraction was missing actors. Therefore, there were a bunch of dead zones. I also believe that there were lighting effects that were turned off because there was too much darkness. Rich had some really nice themed areas. What sets we could see were in detail and done very well. However, the darkness still worked...
Brighton is like your typical attraction with a bunch of haunted house concepts slammed into one. And maybe that is just fine, maybe it doesn't need to have an obvious theme. But then why add "asylum" to the name? Maybe it should be named, "Brighton"? Again I have never heard of a mental institution home to caves, clowns, neon walls and random cabins. Then I thought, "Maybe we are in the mind of a patient?" And if that were the case there should be some sort of dialogue before the attraction to make that apparent. I just couldn't put my finger on it… Believe it or not a strong theme can bring you into the experience enhancing that "real feeling". I even went ahead and asked some folks what they thought about the asylum. I got a mixture of responses including; "It was stupid!", "It was awesome!" and "This was no asylum, more like a mansion!" This comment made me feel a little better that I wasn't the only one struggling to understand the direction… But the general consensus of reviews were high. People really enjoyed it, as did we! So if you are in need of something to do on a Friday or Saturday night this month… Get yourself up to Brighton for a good scare! Definitely a must this Halloween! It definitely didn't disappoint!
We drove an hour and a half to experience it and we would do it again! In fact throughout the off season we will be heading back to Brighton to experience their monthly attractions listed on their enhanced website. So be on the look out for reviews of Santa's Slay, Rottentail Slaughterhouse and Friday the 13th. Until then, HAPPY FRIGHTING!