Mr. Dunderbak's: Oktoberfest Year Round

Schnitzel and a pilsner, coming right up.

Dunderbak's, 2019
University Mall,was a very different place in the 70's. Disco was still raging (probably), bell bottoms were considered cool (I imagine), and Dunderbak's was a franchise store with over 30 locations, one of which was located in University Mall (fact). Of the original 30 stores, three remain. Lucky for us, one of those three stores is right here in Tampa. In 1997, the current owners bought the University location and turned it into a new type of restaurant. One that fuses traditional German foods with American favorites. The beer list grew, and in 2016, Dunderbrau opened (joining a growing list of craft breweries). In 2019, Dunderbak's now serves over 500 different beers by the bottle, 65 on their draft list, their menu is as diverse as one could hope for, and they host weekly homebrew meetings. As a matter of fact, they seemingly have something going on every day of the week! But that's not why you came here…

Howl-O-Scream: Halloween is Finally Here

This post is not for the faint of heart. Reader discretion is advised.

 Howl-O-Scream

I have always been a fan of Halloween. It's kind of a shock that I hadn't been to Howl-O-Scream prior to this. My dad had taken me to Halloween Horror Nights for the first time in 2003. Since then, I've always heard that Howl-O-Scream was second rate. It's not as good. And I, stupidly, believed it... Until I started Exploring Tampa and met Scott Swenson, the man who started Howl-O-Scream, at his new haunt, The Vault of Souls, and he told me I was missing out. The Vault of Souls is one of the best Halloween events I've ever been to, albeit not the scariest. I trust Scott. Stormy and I became platinum passholders to Busch Gardens a few months ago. With that pass, we got free entry to the first two nights. Since we spent nothing on tickets, we decided to splurge a bit on the Fright Feast. This post is going to discuss every aspect of Howl-O-Scream. It will probably be long, and it will definitely have pictures that might offend some readers. This is an adult oriented Halloween event. You have been warned.

Promo Girls, 2017

Lets start with what you all want to know... How do I rank the houses at Howl-O-Scream? Time for the top 7 list. In order, from worst to best.

#7 Undead Arena Live
 

One of the two new houses this year and it was such a cool concept. Go into a room and you're instantly separated from your group. Go down one of three hallways and eventually meet back up. Unfortunately, that gimmick couldn't carry the entire house. The walls were barren, the sets were nonexistent, the scareactors were just kind of there, and the dude at the beginning placing "bets" on "survivors" was the most unenthusiastic person I've ever seen. If you've gone to Halloween Horror Nights, this house is a DIRECT knockoff of Run with the added gimmick of separating you from the crowd. It was my least favorite, by far.

#6 Zombie Containment Unit 15


This is a returning favorite and the last house we had to get through to say we had done them all. The concept is another that is a cool concept, but it just falls flat. You're brought into a warehouse where a wealthy investor has purchased zombies and you're given a gun to hunt them down. Think zombie lazer tag. Problem is, this isn't a haunted house at all. There are no scares and the gun only works about half the time. Add to that, there are no scores at the end and you just feel like you wasted your time. Luckily we were able to catch it at a 30 minute wait. The wait is also ridiculous as this outside line is phase one of about four before you enter the house. There's another que beyond that wall, and another that leads you down a hallway and back up... All before being put into groups of six. 

#5 Unearthed


Unearthed wasn't a bad house by any stretch of the imagination. Where Unearthed falls flat is on hype alone. This house, for those who don't know, was designed by the producer of the 1999 cult hit "The Blair Witch Project." The story is that employees were digging underneath Gwazi when they discovered a centuries old house that may or may not be haunted. As you walk through, the house, literally, comes to life. While a very strong house, it doesn't live up to the level of hype it was given. And for that reason, added to me really enjoying the rest of the houses, it falls here on my list.

#4 The Black Spot


I know this will come as a shock to most of you, but I am a huge fan of pirates. What's better than a pirate house where the pirates are all cursed with a plague-like illness? The sets in this house was my second favorite, the scares were slightly lacking (according to Stormy), but those sets. The pirates themselves are awesome characters, the detail in the ship is on point, and the length of this house are just right. Viva la pirates!

#3 Death Water Bayou


This house was Stormy's favorite. I thought it was well put together and the scares were definitely there. Vodoo, New Orleans theming fit well. The actors in this house were all excited to be playing this role, and it showed. This house is also the one I remember the least about. Sorry about that. Lets move on to

#2 Demented Dimensions 


This is the second new house this year, and was my favorite until we went through my favorite house. You enter a house where all isn't what it seems. The walls split and suddenly, you're in a new dimension. You're no longer in your universe. The "splits" between universes was really cool, the scareactors know their roles, and the entire concept flows really well. The one thing that through me off, and the one thing that solidified its place at #2 is the fact that the theming started to fall apart towards the end. I don't understand how different dimensions suddenly puts us in Alice in Wonderland, but ok. Though, to be fair, the best room in the house, it didn't fit. It was so out of place that it took you out of the haunt entirely. And with that...

#1 Motel Hell


I have been doing haunted houses for many, many years, and I doubt that I'll find another that I enjoyed more than Motel Hell for quite some time. You walk into a motel to check in, and quickly realize that this motel isn't what it seems. The front desk agent has been murdered, or has he? Your laundry is waiting. Did you want to sleep on that bed? Despite it being my favorite, it, too, fell apart at the end. Why is there a cemetery at a motel? Especially if the people involved had just taken over? One glaring flaw to the house, though still not enough for me to fault it. The scares were creative, the rooms were well thought out, and the maze itself was a lot of fun. Make it a point to see this house at all costs.

Host, 2017

But alas, a Halloween events needs more than just haunted houses to survive. There has to be something for people who are walking to haunted houses, for people who finished haunted houses, for people who need a break from haunted houses, or for people who like their scares a little less linear. This is where the art of the scarezone comes in. A scarezone is a predefined area where scareactors can hide and interact with guests with more freedom than they could in a house. They have characters, but those characters aren't as strongly defined, allowed the actors to own their role. So, lets go over the scarezones, shall we?

#6 Unnamed Scarezone?

 Bus is Destroyed, 2017

I didn't even know this was supposed to be a scarezone until I looked up the scarezones online. The prop is awesome, and probably my favorite from the night, however, I don't remember seeing a single scareactor in this zone the entire time we were in it. The bus was a cool prop, though.

#5 Class Deceased


Decent scarezone, but WAY too close to the Playground and the roaming scarezone was directly on the other side of this one. It was also WAY too small for a scarezone. Add to that, there was a lot of metal structure set up in this scarezone for absolutely no reason. None. There were no lights coming from them, there was no fog coming from them, and they provided no hiding spots. They were just there. 

#4 Carnie Camp

  
The Circus is in town... Just not one you'll want to see. Clowns, sideshows, and other freaks trek down the path in a well themed scarezone in a quiet end at the back of the park. The theming is cool, the characters are cool, and the scares are there... I'm just tired of clowns. They're played out.

#3 Meat Market


The cannibals are back! Are you hungry? Doesn't matter, they need fresh meat anyways. It's a shame that such a cool scarezone was set up outside such a lackluster house. The characters here are perfect, the story is easy to follow, and there are many scares to be had. 
#2 Playground


Tell me, what's creepier than killer kids? That's what I thought. This playground is set up for the dead children to torment their new victims. There are ridiculous amounts of hidden scares, the characters are played to perfection, and the length is pretty decent. You see a lot of screaming grown men in this one.
#1: Wasteland


And this is what a scarezone is supposed to be. Incredibly detailed, well themed, and characters who look like they're going to physically hurt you. The streets have been overrun, there's some sort of mutation that has overtaken the streets. Can you survive?
*NOTE* I didn't include any of the roaming scarezones. They're good, but I can't find a name for them and I don't feel like being creative right now. If you'd like to name it, leave a comment down below.

Foggy People, 2017

We've gone over the houses and scare zones, but how are the shows? Lets go into some detail.

Joshua Seth, Mentalist


Let me start by saying, it's not my goal on this blog to crap all over someone's career. I take no joy in saying something negative about something else. However, this show... It was boring. Worse than boring if you've taken any level psychology course. As a psychology major, well... Yeah. Watch Joshua Seth pull people out of the audience and read their minds. Watch him do popular mentalist tricks that border on magic. If you purchase the Fright Feast, you'll also have to watch at least half of this before the event starts.
Fiends


And then you get Fiends. All I can really tell you about this show is that it was created for the sole purpose of having people dance around in slutty costumes to music that hasn't been relevant in a couple of years. Watch as Dr. Freakenstein throws a ball because of his 100 year house arrest. Attended by such favorites as Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, the Bride of Frankenstein, and, of course, Igor. I should also mention that they advertise pictures after the show. One would reasonably assume that that would mean the stage. Nope. They mean that you have to hunt them down after the show as you're leaving... Because it makes sense to take pictures by an exit that people are trying to leave from. 
Nurse, 2017

And finally: The Fright Feast


There were quite a few people asking us how the Fright Feast was going to work. Unfortunately, none of the staff is on the same page, so good luck getting information from them. Fortunately, we did it and figured it out so you don't have to. If you get into the park before it closes, go straight to guest services. They will give you a wristband allowing you to stay in the park as it closes. Not that there's anything to do, but you'll be able to do the next part. While at guest services, go ahead and get your fright feast pass as well. Now, walk to Dragon Fire Grill. Outside of Dragon Fire Grill there will be a table where you will then turn in your tickets for another wrist band. This wristband will get you into the buffet and also get you an hour and a half of fast pass access. 

Once inside the buffet, the plates are already made. You simply grab what you want and sit down. They had shrimp & grits, brisket, rotisserie chicken, and chicken alfredo pasta. Sides ranged from carrots to asparagus to mashed potatoes. Soft drinks are included in whatever size cup you'd like. Straws, on the other hand, are not. There are also desserts to chose from such as a pumpkin cheesecake and a peanut butter topped chocolate cupcake. It is all you care to eat. You can grab more than one meal at a time or you can go back up and get more. The food was decent (think typical theme park food), but I found the chicken alfredo to be the best. You do get a special viewing of Joshua Seth and you're allowed to leave and partake in the event after (I believe) 7:00 pm. With the price of the fright feast, you also get an hour and a half of "front of the line" access. With this access, Stormy and I were able to get into six of the seven houses. It is DEFINITELY worth the price.

   Pirate, 2017
I think that's all I have to say about this event. 

Joshua Seth, 2017

Know before you go:
- This event is geared for 13+. It gets gory and there are more adult themes.
- Their signature drinks are absolutely awful. There's almost no alcohol in them. Save your money.
- The Fright Feast is easily the best offer you will find at any theme park Halloween event.
- The houses and scarezones are some of the best I've been to.
- The shows are good for mindless entertainment, but I wouldn't expect much.
- You only have until October 28, 2017 to experience this event.

What were your favorite houses (in order)? Was I too harsh on Joshua Seth? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt (we have new designs!). Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. Thank you all and I will see you next time!

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