Always in my top three, this year Dominion of Terror is my favorite haunt in Wisconsin. This non-profit event never repeats rooms and always has expert set design/construction. What surprised me this year was the scare factor. This is easily the most difficult aspect of a haunt to review because there are so many variables that can change an already subjective experience.
I was forced to go first and got the initial glance at each room. Several times I groaned and sincerely dreaded uncovering what horror lay within. In the worst rooms, (or best depending on how you look at it), we would all get an initial scare, then become disoriented, then frantically look for an exit which was never obvious. It may sound strange, but this required team work by a group of strangers and there was a sense of relief every time we made it out together.
There is a difference between being scared and being fearful. Big noises, surprises, and shocking gore may scare you, but being terrified requires a human element that monsters and props can’t deliver. Dominion of Terror was terrifying to me because the actors got in my head and clouded the part of my brain that says, “This isn’t real, just have fun.” Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that anyone else will have the same experience as me, but in my case it worked.
Wait Area / Line Entertainment
Day or night, rain or shine, Halloween or not, this hundred year old
warehouse is creepy and the outdoor waiting area sets up the terror to
come perfectly. From the hearse to the lights flashing through
boarded up windows, the whole scene is appropriately ominous and heavy
metal music does nothing to cover up the roar of a chainsaw that awaits
your group. Two mental patients roved the snaking line and
relentlessly scared a group of young girls. Their fake screams turned
very real when they accompanied my buddy and I through the haunt.
The sheer number of actors made all the scares more successful. This allowed these ghouls to come at intruders in waves and keep anybody from getting complacent. They employed startling, screaming, running, dialogue, moaning, misdirection, chainsaws, you name it. At one point my friend got separated from our group and the morbid janitor whispered to him, “It’s just you and me now.” The gate-keeper that greeted us at the entrance to the graveyard unsettled our entire group and set the tone for the rest of the haunt.
Sets Scenes / Props / FX
Dominion of Terror has a unique way of continuing themes for three or four rooms before transitioning to the next idea. The school setting was great, but the torture rooms are truly haunting. We felt sympathy for all the victims and the image of one particular girl with a leg injury will remain burned in my brain.
The attention to detail is fantastic in every room. This is also true for all actors. I did not see a single store-bought mask and the gory makeup is almost nauseating, in a good way.
Time stretches depending on how scared you are. It took us 25 minutes, but seemed to go on forever and a tiny part of me was relieved to be finished. No comedic or “pop culture” rooms broke up the action and the feeling of being in a horror movie persisted from beginning to end.
Very good pacing. We bolted through several rooms trying to get out as quick as possible and still did not run into the group ahead of us until halfway finished. Some nifty misdirection by an actor allowed us to pass them and we never saw the poor souls again.
Most Memorable Moment
Of all the great actors, my favorite was the zombie in the graveyard. He nailed his performance and should try out for the next George Romero: ___-of the Dead movie.
I can’t guarantee you will be as scared as I was, but the $12 admission goes to a good cause. The length is above average, the setting is above average, the scenes are above average, and in my opinion the actors are above average. Might as well go find out for yourself, no?