The Shallow Grave is an independent scare event in Winterhaven consisting of two individual haunts, ‘Vengeance – Blood Moon’ and ‘Pavor Nocturnus’. We bravely/stupidly headed here (a fifty minute drive from where we were staying) less than two hours after landing, our trip’s schedule meant that there wasn’t another opportunity to visit so we decided to forge ahead!
Vengeance – Blood Moon: If the name didn’t give it away, the theme here was werewolves. This had a terrific opening, where you start ‘outside’ before entering the house. The outside space was wide open and really well themed, the actors in this scene managed to hide themselves brilliantly despite the open nature of the area.
Once inside, we wound our way through several rooms before the werewolf theme started to creep in. The first signs were small, demonic dogs (animatronics) but this escalated quickly with human sized werewolves giving way to an absolutely gigantic puppeteered wolf head. This creature interacted with the room amazingly, coming all the way out of its hiding hole and pretty much covered the entire room. There were other oversized creations in the haunt beyond this which was definitely the main selling point, there was a real sense that things were escalating beyond a point that you could reasonably handle! The actors were lively here too; at one point one grabbing my leg, unseen. ****
Pavor Nocturnus: The name means night terrors and this is what we basically got here, a ten minute fever dream hallucination traversing caves, swamps, labs and an asylum throughout the walkthrough. That said, the sets were, again, immaculately detailed although it lacked the impressive effects of ‘Vengeance’.
There were some cool disorienting moments with a bit of strobing in the asylum section. Of the two mazes, we preferred ‘Vengeance’ because the story was a lot easier to follow, sticking in one main (albeit big) location and featured a linear plot progression. We appreciate what ‘Pavor Nocturnus’ was trying to achieve but it ultimately made for a slightly erratic experience, feeling less complete as a result. ***
The love and care put into this event is indisputable. There’s such an attention to detail present with scenes feeling much more like actual locations rather than temporary constructs. As mentioned, the opening scene in ‘Vengeance’ was where this was most noticeable.
The use of animatronics throughout both haunts meant that most rooms had something going on, especially those that were actor-less. And the larger than life creations in ‘Vengeance’!
The prolific application of animatronics may be a double edged sword. As above, it was a great way of keeping every scene interesting but did lend a bit of a funhouse vibe to proceedings at certain points. We’re definitely for the use of them but maybe just a touch more liberally, especially where the sets themselves can sell the atmosphere.
And being greedy – we would’ve liked to have seen another haunt or two!
We’d recommend this but it does only feature two houses that take roughly ten minutes each to get through so bear that in mind if travelling for future events, we’d suggest combining it with other activities nearby if you are coming from somewhere like International Drive like we did.
It’s worth visiting as it offers a much better and more personal experience than the bigger events can provide and it just feels a bit more ‘authentic’. If we make it back to Florida in future years, we’d definitely visit again!
Rating: **** (Out of 5) – Recommend
Ticket Price: $24.99
Address: 701 42nd NW Winter Haven, FL 33884