includes plenty of scares on any given day: the horrors of a plethora of seemingly unattended shirtless children, the uneasiness of speculating whether a Sun Bear would be able to jump over the disconcertingly small railing separating you from it, and of course, the terror of realizing that you've been tricked once again into thinking Dippin' Dots would be a pleasurable snack.
It's fitting, therefore, that the Zoo would want to get in the spirit of the Halloween season and throw their beige safari hat into Miami's seemingly ever-expanding haunted house market. (Read our review of House of Horror.) Their entry, Dr. Wilde's Creepy House, attempts to scare park patrons through unique scenarios and characters, providing answers to the question "Is there anything creepier than a lady and her cats?"
Upon entering the attraction, you're immediately greeted with a sign documenting the many health conditions -- heart conditions, strokes, seizures, pregnancies, etc.-- where sufferers are advised to skip the haunted house. Such severe warnings are paramount for successful haunted houses. Sure, they provide much needed deniable plausibility in case someone drops dead as a result of an over zealous Dracula. But more importantly, the health and safety warning provides patrons with their first scare.
Even if you don't suffer from the dozen-odd conditions the haunted house lists, you start to get a little queasy waiting in line, as though going through this haunted house may kill you. You make a mental checklist of any hereditary illness that may crop up.
If we were running a haunted house we would make a ridiculously long waiver for people to sign before they enter, including asking whether they want to be kept on life support. They would also sign away permission to use their likeness in future advertising and promotion if they were grievously injured at our haunted house ("You can check out our haunted house, if you want to risk ending up like Brian over here. Hope you don't get a brain hemorrhage too!") Our haunted house would be awesome.
The most adequate point of comparison for Dr. Wilde's Creepy House is a well-planned haunted house that a junior high might put together. This is not meant derisively. Some of the best memories, and best scares, had at a haunted house were at those makeshift houses. Our elementary school made it so that the haunted house got progressively scarier as the day went on. Go at noon, moderate scares. Go at sundown, hope your fourth grade ears were ready for some chainsaws!
Dr. Wilde's Creepy House is well constructed and thought out, performed by people who clearly get a kick out of trying to scare you. Set pieces like a Cuban cafe trying to serve you disgusting treats or an old cat lady's apartment are novel and an interesting twist on an attraction that too often sticks to well-worn cliches.
That said, when looked at objectively at how much the haunted house scared us, we'd have to admit to finding Dr. Wilde's Creepy House lacking. Maybe it's because it's an afternoon attraction and quite frankly it's hard to get immersed in spooky theatrics when you can see daylight trickle in. Also, it is a relatively new attraction and the performers might just be getting their traction. However, too often you feel like a spectator watching as opposed to someone who's trying to be spooked.
There are one or two well-placed surprises, but overall, very little shocks you. Also, if too many patrons are admitted in at once, as was the case, the haunted house gets clogged up, and you stand around until the guy in front of you moves along. This can be easily alleviated by staggering people's entrance every few minutes.
Overall, the best advice we can give to Dr. Wilde's Creepy House is to be more aggressive. Have random characters grab at you, have chainsaws whirl. Don't miss out on an opportunity to scare your captive audience.
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Though the zoo warns against bringing overly squeamish kids into the haunted house, we believe they are in fact the Creepy House's ideal audience. Kids 8 to 13 will likely be adequately scared by the attraction, a theory supported by the House's background noise being accompanied by a chorus of girlish shriek usually reserved for Justin Beiber shirtless pics.
For youngins, Dr. Wilde's Creepy House makes a great, safe introductory haunted house.
We would advise against trekking out there if you are only interested in scares. For the price of park admission and entrance into the haunted house you can go to other haunted house better suited to feed your adrenaline wants. If you have kids, though, making a day out the zoo itself, checking out the haunted house and sticking around for the park's other Halloween activities later in the month wouldn't be a terrible plan. Just stay away from the Dippin' Dots. There's something sinister about them.