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Junior Review Crew Member

Paige (PaigeBerrier)

Photo of Paige

Previous Reviews: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016

2016 Reviews

Please note: this review is for the 2016 season rather than the current season.

Scare USA 2019

by PaigeBerrier (Junior Review Crew Member) after attending on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at about 9:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: High

Review

I visited Scare USA in a group of 4 on a Saturday night at 9:30. They had very visible signs and a lot of open parking with someone directing traffic. This haunt is cash only, but is located right next to a bar with an ATM. This was also the first haunt where I was asked to remove my bag (a bag I use specially for haunts or festivals, as it hugs very close to the body). However, once I was inside, I immediately understood why, at this was one of the most narrow haunts I have been to!

Although it definitely added to feelings of anxiety (and therefore, it’s scariness) I would not advise Scare USA for anyone with extreme claustrophobia or those who are a bit heavier – I myself am a plus-sized woman and I was squeezing through some areas. For those who don’t mind, though, the tight corridors and corners will only add to the feeling of apprehension that Scare USA created. With great timing and a willingness to be close, their actors also gave it their all, and even those just standing in the way had to be edged around, sometimes covering or guiding us to hidden exits and doors. They definitely took advantage of all of their space, using the halls and lights to truly disorientate. They also covered all the senses with their scares – there were a lot of vivid, gross smells and elements that almost “fell” onto us.

It was also a fairly long haunt; about 30 minutes or so. We had almost no wait on a Saturday night and it was very reasonably priced. We also enjoyed visiting the bar/restaurant located next door to the haunt afterwards!

Signage / Visibility / Location


Very easy to find, with guided parking. Also located next to a friendly bar/restaurant.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


Not a lot of entertainment but it was a very short wait, with not many people on a Saturday evening. They had a clean bathroom as well!

Actors' Performance


I appreciated that these actors really got in your face with their scary masks and makeup, and they had great timing on all the jump scares. They built a lot of anticipation up with darkness, coming in at the right moment to really startle you. I also appreciated edging around them in the tight space – it was really uncomfortable and you wondered if they would, at any moment, move.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


As I said before, the hallways were very narrow, taking advantage of a lot of space and adding to a feeling of claustrophobia. Some areas were open so we could glimpse actors we had seen, or would see. They also used elements like spraying water and very distinct smells to create a multi-sensory experience. This haunt didn’t need a lot of props with its maze-like structure and smart use of lighting.

Length


Fairly long, especially for the size of the building; 30 minutes or so

Crowd Control


No need, but they had staff waiting and directing people

Most Memorable Moment


Animal masks; strobe lights; extremely skinny hallways and turns so tight you could not go in straight!

Summary

A surprisingly long but very narrow haunt that uses tight spaces, smart lights, great acting and strange smells to scare and surprise the attendee.

View all Scare USA 2019 reviews

Comments: (0)

Please note: this review is for the 2016 season rather than the current season.

Dominion of Terror

by PaigeBerrier (Junior Review Crew Member) after attending on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at about 7:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: High Fear Factor: Very High

Review

I visited the Dominion of Terror around 7:30 on a Saturday night during their “throwback” (only $10!) weekend. We had no trouble finding it – they have lots of signs visible from the roads and the haunt itself has a very distinct, three-story façade. After parking in a lot next door, we bought our tickets (using a card) and only had to wait about 15 minutes or so before entering. During our very short wait we were entertained by monsters and were given an opportunity to buy some fun trinkets from their store, including glow-in-the-dark beads and flashing pendants. My boyfriend and I grouped up with some new friends in line and entered the haunt in a group of four.

This was a long (30 – 40 minute) haunt that encompassed 3 different floors, climbing up and down stairs as we went. We began our journey on the first floor funeral home, and ended up traveling through scares including an autopsy scene, several scary churches, creepy kids’ rooms, and a maze-like greenhouse. Without giving away too many specific areas, I can say they were several rooms that made me very uneasy, from both their setting and the amazing acting. In addition to climbing and descending stairs, we had to crawl several times and find our way out of rooms. The actors were fantastic and fully committed to their performances. They used their voices, their close proximity, and at times, their silence to really create anticipation and fear. Jump scares came often and were well-timed, and I felt like they varied who in the line they were scaring. There were so many amazing elements to this haunt – the intricate, varied rooms, the twisting path they set around each scene, the strange smells, and the use of a lot of different types of lighting (including strobe lights and sometimes none at all).

Additionally, I can honestly stay there was a moment in this haunt that frightened me more than any other I’ve been to! The ideas and concepts are very creative and also very scary, and the acting just set it over the edge. It was a great experience – very inexpensive (a steal, honestly), very long, and with a very short wait! Awesome haunt!

Signage / Visibility / Location


DOT had lots of signs leading up to the haunt (billboard-like) as well as very visible red sign. The building is also very distinct; it has three stories and incorporated flashing lights. There was no one to guide parking but it didn’t seem to be an issue –a large field full of parked cars sits right beside the haunt and we had no trouble.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


Their lines between general and fast pass were very clearly marked and monitored, with plenty of entertainment provided by the actors. We only waited about 15 minutes on a Saturday night. I also thought they were clever to have their store amidst the wait line, and I saw many people taking the opportunity to purchase inexpensive, fun accessories like glowing beads and flashing pendants. Although they were happy to take my card, cash might be advisable for a quick transaction. Our wait was also outdoors, but they seemed to have an area for an inside wait as well, but the night was clear and nice to be outside.

Actors' Performance


There were some amazing actors in this haunt. Not only was their timing impeccable for a ton of great jump scares; they used silence and restraint to add apprehension in their scenes. I also thought they did a particularly good job of varying who they “got” in the group; it was not always the first person. There were also a lot of variety of characters, including a lot of creepy kid scenes, and they were not afraid to get close to us to the point of it being uncomfortable, sometimes breathing or yelling in my face (love it!). Every actor was very professional and in character at all times.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


There were a ton of great scenes throughout the haunt. I loved that it spanned over 3 stories, and some areas involved crawling, or squeezing through. Some rooms as we got higher seemed to be also constructed differently, some with slatted wood ceilings. There was a lot of variety in the types of scenes, and we particularly enjoyed some in a church like setting, and a padded tunnel. There was also one scene in particular that scared me worse than any before! Some doors were hidden as well, which I always love. Another very interesting and cool feature were some strange and bad smells!

Length


Long; about 30 – 40 minutes with a very short wait. I never felt rushed and we never encountered another group.

Crowd Control


They were very organized and everything was clearly marked; also every single person we interacted with was very nice and helpful. All in all, it was a very professional setup.

Most Memorable Moment


My scary moment (don’t want to give it away!); several areas where you couldn’t tell who was real, who was fake, or who was about to move; and one scene that involved a “victim”, someone who seemed like they could have been “really taken”.

Summary

Very large, long haunt that encompasses several stories and involves finding a way out of rooms, crawling, scary smells and crazy lights. Very scary acting and creative, varied sets – one of the best haunts I’ve been to, super spooky, and a bargain of a price!

View all Dominion of Terror reviews

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Please note: this review is for the 2016 season rather than the current season.

Twisted Realms Haunted House (CLOSED)

by PaigeBerrier (Junior Review Crew Member) after attending on Sunday, October 2, 2016 at about 7:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: Very High Fear Factor: High

Review

Let me start by saying that I was blown away by this haunt. This is a great experience for those looking for something more interactive, but there were some truly scary moments as well.

I went to Twisted Realms on a Sunday night, right as they were opening. Although a little hard to find initially, the Elkhorn Flea Market grounds offers a lot of area to work with and clean, working bathrooms (yes!). The waiting area for this haunt is a separate room with bleachers, so no waiting in line! They also have scary carnival games available to play ($1) for prizes and a photoshoot area with a creepy throne, as well as actors to entertain. Each group is called in using a ticket number.

Within the haunt, we were first told the rules gathered around a fire, being "read tales" from a creepy witch. I thought this was not only unique but it made sure people understood what they could and could not do. After that, our haunt began! As we made our way through the haunt, we encountered some tight areas, but mostly it is larger rooms, giving everyone a chance to see and, in this case, touch! You have to find your way through the haunt looking for hidden doors, crawling through areas, and pulling on elements to reveal passages. We were offered (not at all obvious) advice by actors when needed. There were several truly scary concepts for these rooms, and all of the actors gave an amazing performance - they never broke character, screams were LOUD, and all of their warnings and musing told a cohesive story of a cult gone way, way bad.

This is a must visit. As their story continues year to year, I can only imagine this haunt will continue to improve! I was EXTREMELY impressed with every element - handling the crowds, the creative themes of the room, all of the ways we had to exit different areas, the costumes and acting of the performers, and the length and visuals. Amazing!

Signage / Visibility / Location


Unfortunately, this was the one area lacking in this haunt. It is at the Elkhorn flea market grounds, which is a large and somewhat unmarked space (but a great area!), so they definitely could use some signs by the main road. However, once in the right area things were clearly marked. I also called after being confused about their location and the staff was very friendly. One thing I really appreciated about this haunt is their full, well-lit, clean bathrooms!

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


I cannot say enough good things about this portion of the haunt. The wait area is in a separate building which is circular in shape and has bleachers along the walls, giving people waiting a (huge) space to sit in their groups. They do entrance by ticket numbers, so there is no waiting in line. They also featured four carnival games for $1 each! Three games were based on skill (throwing) and one on chance. They offered prizes of (weird! creepy!) stuffed animals to those who won! Not sure if this is standard (we arrived literally when they opened on a Sunday night) but they offered to exchange 15 prizes for a t-shirt as well. They ALSO had an area with a throne and mist for photoshoots, which the staff was more than happy to pose with.

Actors' Performance


I was very impressed with the actors in this haunt. Several of the actors had amazing, shrill screams and they did not hold back! There was also a range of ages participating, so there was a lot of variety in characters. There were lots of jump scares at key moment, and the actors had a great grasp on timing. One actor even managed to separate our group (of four) at a crucial moment for a few minutes, which really added to the experience!

The actors never broke character even while our group was attempting (and failing) to exit a room. They were helpful without being obvious, and the time spent figuring out the escape route allowed each character to have their own individual "performance" that we could appreciate.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


This unique haunt is centered around solving puzzles and finding doors and secret entrances to get into the next section, and I was absolutely blown away with the creativity (and creepiness!) of some of the scenarios. Our group had to work together to get into the next section. We also liked how each area was a room rather than a hallway, so everyone could see and touch around. We were encouraged to touch and move things.

They were also very consistent in their storyline (The Cult) and the haunt reflected that. We went through several different themed sections, including one that briefly went outdoors.

Length


We spent over an hour and a half throughout the waiting area (intentionally, we were playing games!) and the haunt. They were happy to let us take our time walking through did we were never rushed, only given (not obvious) hints when it was needed.

Crowd Control


We didn't experience a crowd on this night, but it was obvious they were prepared, and had an amazing system in place to handle a large crowd. I loved their waiting area!

Most Memorable Moment


There were so many memorable moments at this haunt, but I wouldn't want to give away any of the secret exits! Suffice to say we were SHOCKED with some of the reveals!

Summary

An extremely creative, interactive haunt with an amazing wait area and staff! Truly an expected gem!

View all Twisted Realms Haunted House (CLOSED) reviews

Comments: (0)

Please note: this review is for the 2016 season rather than the current season.

Hill Has Eyes

by PaigeBerrier (Junior Review Crew Member) after attending on Sunday, October 2, 2016 at about 9:30 p.m.

Fun Factor: Medium Fear Factor: Medium

Review

We went to the Hill Has Eyes on a Sunday night around 9:30. Timing was a bit of a question within our visit: according to their website, their box office closes at 10pm, but when looking at their Facebook, they had 11pm listed. Their official closing time is stated, with their website stating they close approximately one hour after the box office closes. This is just something to be aware of when planning your trip – get there early to avoid both crowds and the box office closing times. We bought our tickets online ahead of time, which allowed us to bypass the box office.

Although this haunt is very long with a lot of different areas, they didn’t seem like they had their full staff that evening, probably due to the fact that it was a Sunday night. Fewer actors meant a lot of moments for scares were missed and we spent a lot of time walking alone. As a primarily outdoor haunt, there is a less of a sense of anticipation for what's to come (as you can see it in front of you), and less control of lighting, sound, etc. I also felt they utilized props in areas that actors could have performed better. There were also missing some key elements that could have really improved our experience. For example it had rained the day before, and the ground was still extremely muddy and slippery – some hay on the trail could have helped improve safety. Another thing to note would be the restrooms, which even on a slow night, didn’t seem to be receiving a lot of attention from the staff, so make sure you bring hand sanitizer along with you.

CONTAINMENT: A HOODED EXPERIENCE
This was shorter than I remembered from my last visit in 2014; a brief walk through some halls with a dark hood. In previous years, they had a string or a handrail to hold on but there didn’t seem to be one this year – just a feature I would approach with caution. Nothing popped out on while we were hooded, and soon we were removing the hoods. From this point on we walked through semi-indoor halls with a few medical scares until entering into the first waiting area. Unfortunately I felt this was the first example of a continuing theme – presenting areas with a lot of anticipation that didn’t meet expectations.

FAILED ESCAPE
This area has some great moments, including scary makeup and amazing animal masks. The story was a bit muddy, but we enjoyed walking through the salvage yard (particularly the bus) and the actors we encountered along the way. This area and the next one were a little blurry in their themes, although they had a stop in between of them.

HUNGER HOLLOW
I found this area to be the most confusing. I enjoyed the "mutant" makeup, but there were several moments of religious-type scares that didn't really make sense to the story. This area definitely seemed the most "random" in terms of the people and sets they had to scare people. In either this section or the one before it (hard to remember because these two did blend together), we received an electric shock. I remember this situation from 2 years ago when I last attended, but I was shocked (literally!) at how strong the feeling was! This is definitely something to be prepared for when coming into this haunt; as we were feeling it still several minutes later.

SCARE LIFT
I found this area to be the biggest disappointment. It is an amazing feature of this Complex, a real ski lift that is really long and goes over an amazing creepy hill. However, on our night, the laser tag that goes on underneath it didn't seem to be going on at all (whether from lack of interest or not operating, I don't know), so it was simply a ski lift ride. I definitely think adding some actors or props to the ski lift itself, as well as the event below would add significantly to this element. This element is especially frustrating to me because it is so unique and has so much potential for scare.

CARNIVORE
Some great actors in this area, but once again, a lot of opportunities missed, particularly in the maze portion of the haunt. We experienced 1 or 2 jump scares when going through the entire house, but it does include a spinning room. We realized after that we were the last people coming through the haunt for the night (of the maybe 15 other people we saw), and I felt like the actors were a bit checked out. Right after we exited (this is the last area) they started coming out and going down the hill to go home, which I felt was a bit unprofessional. Some of them kept acting and taking photos and things with us, but most of them were taking off elements of their costume and walking to their cars.

Signage / Visibility / Location


This haunt is at a large Sports Complex, however, I still felt they could have used more signs. Once you started into the Complex they did have people directing parking and a large sign. There are people around to ask if you need guidance.

Wait Area / Line Entertainment


Very large wait area, covered, with a DJ and a bar. We saw no actors before the haunt, other than those guiding us in. They also have a fire going before the entrance to the first section. Throughout the haunt as well there are regular stops with bathrooms (portable). On the night we went, (a Sunday), none of the stops throughout had entertainment or a bar, although when I went years prior on a busier night, both of these things were there.

Actors' Performance


There were several awesome masks and makeup jobs, and some actors were really great, staying in character and going all out. However, I felt the acting was confusing in content. Some the things they were yelling seemed sort of random; they didn’t seem to be adding up to a story. There were a lot of moments for jump scares missed.

Sets Scenes / Props / FX


This haunt is primarily outdoors, so it was muddy and slippery, as it had rained the day before. Use caution when walking through and make sure you are dressed appropriately in boots or sneakers you don’t mind getting dirty.

There are five separate areas of this haunt, which does provide a variety of scenarios. However, I felt they didn't utilize some of their sets to the best of their ability (no jump scares, a lot of build up with nothing happening, etc.) With it being primarily outdoors, I felt the sets suffered from a lack of intentional lighting or sound.

I also did not care for the shocks and felt they were a bit too intense for the average attendant. They are hard to avoid as well.

Length


Very long; took us about an hour and a half to get all the way through, with some stops.

Crowd Control


There was no crowd on this night, but they did have staff waiting.

Most Memorable Moment


Getting shocked; creepy animal masks.

Summary

This is a very long, mostly outdoor haunt with 5 different areas, including a hooded portion and a ski lift. Although they have a high production value and a great space, the haunt is potentially dangerous to navigate, and, in general, they didn't follow through with their scares.

View all Hill Has Eyes reviews

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View my 2019 Reviews




October 20th, 2019 5:55 a.m. CDT 1.27