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Fright Fest at Elitch Gardens inspires more camp than horror

It's shortly after sundown, and the growing crowd is getting impatient. I'm standing with a friend at the head of the VIP line for "Bloodlust," one of the two haunted houses that debuted over the weekend at Elitch Gardens as part of the park's annual "Fright Fest." We've been waiting for about 10 minutes when a park supervisor approaches and quickly apologizes for the delay. A patron in a wheelchair just knocked over one of the haunted house's temporary walls, he explains. They're fixing the damage as quckly as they can.

Before he can wrap up his spiel, a squat man decked in a blood-spattered butcher's apron and a grotesque rubber mask comes over. I'm half expecting him to brandish a phony plastic axe or, at the very least, offer some menacing growls to scare us as we wait for access. Instead, he asks his boss about the holdup and how long he'll have to wait until his next break. When he learns about the fallen wall in the haunted house, he responds in a decidedly unfrightening way.

"Shit," he mutters through his rubber mask.

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A.H. Goldstein