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HauntedIllinois.com's
2005 Rockford Screamfest Haunted House Review
Ravens Grin


Rockford Screamfest
Machesney Park Mall

8750 N. 2nd St.
Machesney Park, IL 61115

Visited: 10/21/05

Visibility/Location: This event could be hard to find, if you aren't familiar with the area.  There were no signs along the road, to lead you to the attraction.  Since this event is located on the back side of the Machesney Park Mall, it isn't visible from the street; however, you should have no problems finding it if you follow the directions listed on their website.  Once you get to the back of the mall, you can't miss it, because the 15 foot tall animated monsters in the parking lot and the brightly illuminated banner above the entrance really made this place stand out.  
Wait Entertainment: Their wait entertainment is unmatched and that is mainly due to their unique ticketing/queue line system. Once patrons bought their tickets, they could walk around the midway area and play games, eat at the Monster Cafe, check out the Reptile Emporium (where you could handle & purchase reptiles and reptile accessories), take advantage of their photo op scenes or just sit and relax until their number came up. Throughout the midway area, there were several actors interacting with the crowd.  They also had a great magic show for only $2, that lasted nearly an hour.  What a bargain!  Once the number on the monitor was greater than or equal to the number on your ticket, you were able to wait in a short line in their queue room (30 minutes or less), then enter the house.  I thought this system was a great alternative to standing in a single line for hours on end. 
Admission Price: $13.00
Length:

Total for all attractions:  22 Minutes *  
*
= Since people move through haunted attractions at different rates, your time will vary.

Scare Factor: Medium-High.    
Crowd Control: They did a pretty good job in this category.  There was a time or two when I caught up to the group in front of me, but overall traffic flow was smooth throughout all the attractions.   

Summary:

This Haunted House is huge!  Rockford Screamfest features over 70,000 square feet of scares under one roof. The event was was structured as several consecutive, uniquely themed areas.  As you exit one attraction, you immediately enter the next, without waiting.  It was nice not to have to wait in separate lines for each one.   

Willowdale Farm:

In order to get to Willowdale Farm, you had to navigate a fog-filled, dimly lit forest of white birch trees and dark netting.  This area had strobe lights, plus great sound effects of thunder, crickets and various animals.  It really made you think you were in a forest.   On your way through, there were a couple of actors who would jump out or reach through the netting to surprise you.  As you might gather from the name, Willowdale Farm had a country farm theme.  While walking through this attraction, there were a number of actors taunting you with phrases such as "Hey there, city boy" and "What're you doin' on my land?".  All the actors knew their roles, performed well and never broke character.  One of my favorite elements of this attraction was the 15 foot tall detailed barn with weathered boards, cobwebs and various farm tools hanging on the walls.  The winding path, which was bordered with picket fences, led you to the barn, a country graveyard, haunted tool shed and an old farmhouse with a tin roof.  The farmhouse, which was a new addition this year, consisted of a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room.  In this area you could hear banjo music playing and there were more 'kin' than you could shake a stick at.   The actors in the farmhouse were very energetic, with an in-your-face style.  The Screamfest crew really made some nice additions to this attraction since last year.  

The Realm of Darkness:

The Realm of Darkness was set up as a haunted manor, with a very detailed, distressed facade.   Inside, it was one of the most detailed attractions at Screamfest.   In one of the rooms, there were strange glowing symbols painted on the walls, which at first seemed a little out-of-place in that type of setting, although it's possible that these designs were there to symbolize a demonic possession of some sort, inside the house.   In your travels, you weaved your way through a study, kitchen, attic, bedroom and more.  To keep you guessing, a number of these rooms had hidden exits. To make it through, I had to walk through a freezer door, bookcase, and duck down through a fireplace.  Instead of traditional pop-out scares, most of the actors in this house gave theatrical performances. They knew their lines and in general, did a good job. Most performed smoothly and never broke character.  There were various sound effects and spooky music throughout this attraction.  Toward the end there was a series of dark hallways.  This would really freak out someone who is afraid of the dark. Unfortunately there was only one actor hiding in this area.  An additional actor or two would have greatly enhanced this section of the house.   While most of dark hallways were pitch black, some of them were more brightly lit, due to the reflection off the white ceiling tiles of the mall.  This was somewhat distracting.  Covering the top of this area, to make it completely dark, would have made it a little spookier.      

The Riverview Cemetery:

As you entered through the tall, ornately styled gate, it was quite obvious you were entering a cemetery .  This area was filled with some realistic props like pine trees, tombstones and a bridge with water underneath it, to make you feel as if you were outdoors in a real cemetery.   There was also a large mausoleum with marble markers affixed to the wall, engraved with the names of the deceased.  This year, they added a nice open casket scene, with a stained glass window and a surprise as you exited. To add to the realism of the attraction, there were some really great sound effects of the wind blowing, crow cawing and crickets chirping.  Eerie colored lighting was also used in various areas, to enhance the spooky feel of the attraction.    Compared to other attractions at Screamfest, there weren't as many actors, which seemed to decrease the overall impact of this attraction.  Since many of the scenes were enclosed by wrought iron fences, it seemed like there weren't a lot of places for actors to hide.  But keep in mind it was no walk in the park, as there were a few good scares along the way.

The Institute For The Criminally Insane:

As the name implies, this attraction was an insane asylum.  Various rooms such as the reception area, doctor's office, solitary confinement and the morgue, were set up in a logical progression.  While some of the rooms in this attraction were fairly well detailed, there were others (especially in the very beginning of the house) that were sparsely populated and had wide walking paths, giving them somewhat of an empty feel. A few more props or perhaps a non-linear walking path would have made these areas more interesting to go through.  As for the actors, they were all great.  They were off-the-wall, both literally and figuratively, especially in solitary confinement and padded cell areas.  It was hard to tell what they were going to do next.  Their performances were very energetic and realistic.       

Nightmare in 3D:

As you enter this attraction, you were immediately off-balance.  The first thing you walked through was the vortex tunnel, which made you feel like the whole room was spinning.  From there you continued on to hallways with glowing snakes, circus sideshow characters, glowing handprints and other 3D patterns painted on the walls.  Wearing the 3D glasses was a bit disorienting, especially when all of this artwork seemed to pop off the walls at you.  There were a couple of areas where actors were like chameleons in their surroundings and when you approached, the walls seemed to come alive.  That was great.  I can't forget to mention the clown room, with its own custom music soundtrack, clown artwork on the walls and of course, real clowns.  The actors played their part well and never broke character.      


Overall, it was a strong performance by the Rockford Screamfest group.  They did a great job.  The actors were energetic and right on cue throughout most of the attractions.  They also made a lot of changes since last year, enhancing certain scenes and replacing others.  As stated before, their wait entertainment was outstanding!  If you want to go to one of the largest indoor attractions out there, where you can have an entire evening of fun at a decent price, be sure to check out Rockford Screamfest. Great job guys!  Keep up the good work. 

Click here to find out more about this event.

 

 

 

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