Judge 1: R.L. Stine
The children’s novelist has sold more than 300 million books and started a spin-off series, “HorrorLand,” which will have the next generation of youthful readers forgetting their potty training.
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Judge 2: Peter Gilmore
The anointed High Priest has led the Churchof Satan (in, of course, Hell’s Kitchen) for seven years, and has been a hell-bent member since reading The Satanic Bible at age 13.
Judge 3: Anthony Giordano
The gore specialist has created props for Spider-Man 2 and the makeup for public-service announcements about domestic abuse. He’s trying to find funding to create a haunted house of his own.
Nightmare: Bad Dreams Come True
CSV Cultural & Educational Center, 107 Suffolk St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (212-929-2963, hauntedhousenyc.com). $30, VIP (no wait) $60.
Stine on its narrative elements: “They could’ve done a better job setting the mood with the guys at the door and sold the story line more; once you get involved, it’s easier to get scared. Overall, I thought Nightmare did a pretty good job. But I may be too conservative: Whenever I ask kids, ‘Was that book too scary for you,’ they always tell me that it wasn’t scary enough.”
Gilmore on its fear factor: “It actually ended up being better than I expected. The introductory stuff was a little cheesy-looking. In my philosophy, it’s something we call a ‘total environment.’ If you’re sucked into the fantasy of it, you suddenly buy it. Here I would’ve started by convincing people that they are in a nightmare world, and somehow time and space have shattered.”
Giordano on its effects: “The set design was good at a few points, and I noticed that they played around with different textures on the floor. But the costumes and props could have used some work. Their chain saw was pretty hokey and the clown masks looked like they were bought at CVS. I wish they put more attention to detail and put more light in the place to show what they did.”
542 W 27th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-290-2825, bloodmanor.com). $30, advance $25.
Stine: “It had a great sense of humor to it and was very imaginative, which makes all the difference. I’ve been around a while, and the little kids with chain saws in that last room aren’t even my readership anymore. Children like my books because they can have these scary adventures, and then they’re in their bedroom safe. The real world is a very scary place and this house shows it.”
Gilmore: “The people here were good at inhabiting their roles. For the satanist, this is what Halloween is all about! The rest of you will enjoy it as well, as you deal with archetypes that give you the shivers. As for that ‘Hell’ portion of the house—that was just a tourist’s version. This was more like a friendly little corner of Hell.”
Giordano: “In my opinion, you can clearly see a difference. They went above and beyond on their costumes and makeup. You can tell that they have artists. I saw silicone masks that are $600 a piece, stilts and wigs. They have spent more time and effort—the pig lady is worth the price of admission alone. The space was limited, but they do a lot with it. The sets were well-done and the animatronics were great. I was here three years ago, and they’re a hundred times better. I’m definitely going again.”
THE WINNER: BLOOD MANOR
PLUS! Check out our exclusive Q&A with Tobin Bell, the Queens native who plays Jigsaw in all of those Saw movies.