Grim Trails Review 2014

The ancient Halloween magic conjured within the enchanted woods at Grim Trials should appeal to a much broader audience than just haunted house fans!

Greetings, haunt fans, it’s the Phantom of the Ville back with another chilling haunt review. The long shadows of October are just around the corner and this Friday brings with it the second big weekend of the haunting season. It’s also the second ghoulish season for Grim Trails Haunted Attraction at 12009 Rehl Road in Eastern Jefferson County, an outdoor haunted adventure that’s really bringing something different to the orange-and-black holiday here in the Ville.

Like watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” or eating Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses, Grim Trails is a dark fantasy themed attraction that is quickly becoming my favorite new annual Halloween tradition. Father and son owner/operators Andrew and Michael Coombs have taken their 30 year history as yard haunters, combined it with an appreciation of Imagineering at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks and added their skills as landscapers to create the most original haunted attraction in Louisville.

While still delivering the requisite number of scares that haunted house fans expect, the Coombs duo have also created something that should appeal to a much broader audience that never goes to haunted attractions because they don’t care for the gore, sexual suggestiveness and roaring chainsaws usually associated with such October spook shows. You won’t find any of that at Grim Trails; no chainsaws, no psycho clowns with blaring horns, no blood soaked maniacs or zombies, no Jason, no Freddy, no Leatherface or any other horror movie slashers.

What you will find is a little bit of that old world, burning pumpkin magic that Halloween was built on. Themed around the classic fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and the folk tales many of us were told as children that we later realized often had dark and twisted beating hearts, Grim Trails is a journey down a tea lit trail into an enchanted forest filled with creepy characters and fantastic creatures of the night. Its intent is to fire the imagination as much as to shock the nerves and quicken the heartbeat.

Your journey starts in the cabin of an eccentric mountain man who knows the way through a vortex that transports travelers to a strange, dreamlike world of dark fantasy and terrifying beasts. Once on the dimly lit trail, you’ll encounter various scenes and characters from “Hansel and Gretel,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “Little Miss Muffet” and many other childhood classics.

Don’t expect fairy tale endings in each scene, however, as many of them are much darker and more twisted than you may remember them. You’ll find Miss Muffet not in such good spirits when you encounter her deep inside a spider web maze, and the not-so-little pigs have an Axe to grind with the Big Bad Wolf at Grim Trails.

In their most ambitious new area this year, Grim Trails has built Maleficent’s Castle complete with 25 foot towers, a drawbridge and catacombs. One of the things I like a lot at Grim Trails is that you have to open the doors to all the houses, huts and dwellings along the trail yourself, including the huge wooden castle door here. It lends a true interactive and adventurous feel to the experience.

Inside the castle, you’ll meet Maleficent herself in what will likely become the most remembered and iconic scene at the haunt.

Now you shall deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of HELL,” she taunts as she disappears into a blast of magic smoke and transforms into a full size fire breathing dragon right before your eyes! That’s just something you don’t see every day.

Landscapers during the rest of the year, the Coombs have created many scenes that make use of the natural landscape along the trail. You’ll make your way through tunnels made of twisted branches, pass cascading waterfalls and brave dark hollows deep in the woods. You’ll only have tiny tea lights in jars to light your way through the woods, but you’ll discover each major set piece aglow in colored LED lights.

“It’s the landscaper in me,” says Andrew Coombs, “that makes me want to create an attraction that would look just as good in broad daylight as it would in the dark.”

This year Grim Trails has also installed a high tech sound system that creates strange noises throughout the black forest: Growls & owls, crickets & crows, whispers and what the hell was that? It’s a full sensory experience well worth checking out if you’re a fan of dark fantasy, Harry Potter or just spooky campfire tales.

However, if you’re a gore hound and chainsaw fanatic, Grim Trails may not be your idea of a scary haunted attraction. No worries, there are plenty of other haunts in town catering to your blood lust. If you’re looking for something different, still full of jump scares and things that go bump in the night, but themed more like a local version of a Universal Studios fantasy land, you should explore the woods at Grim Trails. You might find a new Halloween tradition for you, your friends and family.

Grim Trails gets my highest recommendation this year.

The Phantom of The Ville

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