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Gyro's 3D Fear Factory, San Francisco
Pier 17, near Green St. and The Embarcadero, San Francisco
After a long dead spell, San Francisco finally has a professional haunted house. Gyro's, which already has haunted houses in Cupertino and Sacramento, this year opened its doors in the City by the Bay as well. And they couldn't have picked a better location - Pier 17. It's easy to get to via public transportation and by car with a good amount of free parking. The pier is an immense space that is dark, industrial, and seems very isolated at night, except for the pulsing music that is played over loud speakers. There is a definite mad-house feel to the whole area.
Gyro's is one huge room with a 3D haunt (Clown Alley) and a non-3D haunt (Pirate's Tomb). As we entered the main warehouse space, crazy clowns greeted us and dared us to enter further. The actors were very well costumed, with great make-up and clothing. They stayed in character perfectly and seemed quite demented.
We got our 3D glasses and entered Clown Alley, which is a very long and winding maze through different rooms of excellent 3D images painted on the walls. Here and there clowns jumped out waving various props, such as swards, hooks, and knives. Their timing was perfect and I was almost sure they were actually going to hit me (they didn't)! The acting in this haunt was both top notch and extremely disturbing. We must admit there is nothing like an evil clown to strike fear into your soul. They all had distinct personalities and roles, which was also very nice. Everything from poor little crying evil clowns to murderous clowns, to demented psychotic clowns, even clowns who were just befuddled and muttering to themselves.
It was interesting to see many props from previous Gyro haunts being recycled and repurposed in Clown Alley. We would never have thought that you could successfully combine toxic waste and clowns but Gyro's did it effectively.
While every scene in Clown Alley was particularly effective there seemed to be an excess of space between scenes. Some distance between scares in good, it gives the senses time to relax but here we would have liked to see either a little more detail in the halls or a shorter distance between rooms. Overall though we thoroughly enjoyed Clown Alley and the large size of the haunt impressed us.
Next we tackled Pirate's Tomb, which is similar to Clown Alley, in that it's supposed to be a winding maze through dark and different rooms of terror. Except there wasn't enough terror. A few of the rooms were very well-done and scary, but a lot just had a smattering of spooky props or were completely undecorated. Actual actors or props were few and far between. In this particular maze we encountered perhaps four actors all together. It may just be that it's hard to fill up so much space completely but greater efforts should be made to provide something spooky or memorable in each room. There were a few scares that were placed overhead, but were easily missed because they were poorly illuminated or appeared to be non-functional.
At one point in Pirate's Tomb you walk through a series of hallways with small semi-reflective mirrors. This got a little boring for us because the images in the mirror weren't very clear and the mirrors were really too small for great effect. While we did hear another group getting scared by an actor in the same area we were completely ignored. In other sections there appeared to be 3D effects on the walls but they were neither black lit nor did we have our 3D glasses after being asked to return them at the end of Clown Alley.
Another problem was the black, flowing curtains that separated many of the rooms. We liked that we couldn't see through to the next room, but some rooms had two curtains - one the right way, the other either was for staff use or to exit the haunt completely. They weren't clearly marked and there was a breeze blowing in from outside that kept opening (eerily, actually) the wrong curtain for us. Several times we passed through the curtains only to find that we were either outside the haunt or in the actor's area. The last time this happened we assumed it was the exit and left. However, we're still not too sure that it was really the end!
Gyro's is clearly based on throughput, and the way they have the haunts set up they can move people in and out quickly. The admission price of $17.95 is a bit high, but it's generally a pretty good value when you consider there are two long haunts. Not to mention it's in San Francisco!
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