Here is the official teaser video for Busch Gardens Tampa's "Howl-O-Scream" event. Looks pretty cool doesn't it? This video is far superior to the videos HHN Orlando has released the last couple of years (I have yet to see a video for this year's HHN event). However, after this article released (unofficially) the 6 houses for the haunt this year, it has raised two questions in my mind. Here are my thoughts:
1. With four returning houses, one of which is an upcharge house called "Alone", it appears that Howl-O-Scream will only have two new mazes to experience this year. That in and of itself is somewhat concerning, but when you consider that two of the three returning mazes are a couple that have been historically least effective (Deconstruction, which is terrible, and Death Row Vengeance, which is decent but not great), I can't help but be concerned about the overall quality of the haunt this year. Thankfully, "Nightshade Toy Factory" is the other returning house – one of my very favorites from any haunted attraction Rex and the Beast have attended. I must confess, the two new houses do sound totally awesome, one is themed around Edgar Alan Poe and the other is a zombie garden kind of thing, but they are going to have to pack quite a punch to overcome two mediocre houses out of three returning.
2. Is the absence of a central "Icon" something that will lessen the impact of the haunt? HHN and Howl-O-Scream have traditionally marketed each year's event around an "Icon" for that particular year. Sometimes these icons make re-appearances, for example, I think Jack the clown has been the icon at HHN about 42 times. Howl-O-Scream has apparently said "we don't need an icon" and are just marketing the haunt around the central theme of a zombie garden. For me, this is just fine. Sometimes the icons can be creepy and memorable, but when you see the same icon 106 times in the "icon" house, it sort of becomes silly. Plus, the rest of the haunt really has nothing to do with the "icon" other than seeing his picture on the promotional material, park maps, etc. I have yet to see a haunt seriously theme the entire attraction around one theme, which is probably a good thing. For example, the theme for HHN this year is a western/saloon thing – but one of the houses is "The Thing." So, typically the icon and theme is made obvious in one maze and that is pretty much it. Thus, I think Howl-O-Scream will be just fine without the icon this year.