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Read Other 2011 Haunt Reviews

HauntedIllinois.com's
2011 Fear City Haunted House Review


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Fear City: A Haunted Attraction
Industrial Complex
8240 N. Austin Ave.
Morton Grove, IL 60053

Visited: 10/08/11  

Reviewed By: Minion     
Visibility/Location: The event was located on a side street just off Dempster in Morton Grove. Though Dempster is a main street, some sort of signage could make it easier to find for those who didn’t have GPS. We were lucky to have it because I don’t think we would have found it without. On the side street, though, there were small signs leading to the building, followed by guys with flashlights directing the way to the parking area.      
Wait Entertainment: A lot more security people than actual actors, which felt very strange because the entire haunt was empty, minus one group in front of me. There was one person wandering through the line interacting with guest – carrying a rat and a mouse – but it was nothing extraordinary after the shock of the live animals wore off. “The Mayor” was also wandering around, who later introduced himself to be the owner and or general manager of the building. 
Admission Price: $25
Parking: FREE
Length:

21 to 25 Minutes * 
*
= Since people move through haunted attractions at different rates, your time will vary. Note: The time shown here represents the actual time spent moving forward through the attraction. Time spent waiting in queue lines, staging areas, intro scenes, rules rooms and when traffic jams cause patrons to come to a halt, has been subtracted.  

LPR: 2.100
LPR stands for Length/Price Ratio. It represents perceived value of an event, by comparing length vs price of admission. Higher numbers represent more value per dollar. Actual quality and/or entertainment value of an event are not factors in this calculation. Click Here to see how this event compares to others visited this year by the staff of HauntedIllinois.com.
Scare Factor: Low
Crowd Control: We never ran into another group, but there wasn’t anyone else in the haunted house. I could see how, in future weeks, though, this could be a real problem.       

Summary:

It seems like an ingenious plan – one that many haunt or future haunt owners have potentially dreamed up at least once in their head. Take a professional set designer with a background in professional film and video, take a high end theater troupe and pay them a decent wage to spend 20 + nights working in a haunted house, then get a professional public relations agency to put your name out there – including having you named by USA Today as one of the top 10 haunts in Illinois (despite being only open for two days when the online article was released).

However, as it turns out, this a recipe for disaster. Fear City, billed in a professional publication as one of the best in Illinois, is so bad that I would truly bill it as a Jaycee haunted house on set designer steroids.

Because it would be quicker, let’s list the few redeeming qualities of the haunt before we delve into the bad. There were a few entertaining things inside the haunt: an extremely large woman dressed in a little girls costume stood on top of a stage, had awesome make up and kind of gave me the creeps when she told me that the tall men are usually the ones that “get if first.” Also, there was the red line train prop that actually felt like I was taking the CTA to Chicago. And, finally as a Cubs fan, the curse of the goat made me laugh. But the other 24 minutes and 30 seconds I spent in the haunt had me cursing at the high ticket price I just paid.

One of the most horrendous things I have ever seen in a haunt was their idea of the “peep show” that comes to VIP members only – ironically, I didn’t pay for the VIP Peep Show, but unfortunately I was “treated” to it anyway. The curator of the Peep Show that was nothing more than a bad rip off from “A Clockwork Orange” with subpar make up came out, and mumbled some lines to me. I would tell you what he said, but I seriously couldn’t understand what he said. I even said “What” to him so he would repeat it, but he mumbled something else, of which I also couldn’t understand. Then two “hookers” came out and led us into a room with three “peep holes” were located about waist high. I was told to stick my face in front of them and peer through the hole, but I long ago agreed that I would never get near a “glory hole.” So, I tried to refuse, but the one of the whores said she would “cut off my head” while thrusting her cheap, Spirit Store purchased plastic machete in my face. Instead of arguing the possibility of said ability, I relented and looked inside, only to see a semi-gory scene involving a stripper’s death. The second hole was roughly the same thing, but the third hole, well; I bent over and peered inside, when the second “whore” - who must have snuck off and went behind the wall - screamed at me for looking in. Then, she hit the wall, causing the wall to flex, which nailed me right in the eye. I told the first whore that she hit me, but I was told to – ugh – “get out of my house.”

In case you’re wondering, the term “get out of my house” is a particular pet peeve of mine. Bottom line, it should never, ever be said. Seriously, if you didn’t want me in “your house,” then why the hell did you open the front door of the place and charge me $25 to get in?

The knock to the head, though, turned out to be ironic because I spent the rest of my tour through Fear City hitting myself in the head wondering why I just plunked down $25.

From there, I stood in another line before I was treated to scripted lines from a trained actor telling me the rules in front of the Red Line train platform. Followed by the afore mentioned train ride, then into the haunted house.

The scene detail was exceptional…for a movie set. It looked like a clean CTA station, a clean streetscape, a clean house that was cleanly designed to be dirty, followed by a clean auto garage, a clean butcher with the racks of pig or beef so high up that it could never contaminate – anyone. And, therein lies my first official problem with Fear City… it was exceptionally clean. Even the dirtiest parts of the house like the butcher shop and the auto garage were just clean. It took away from the feel of a haunted house when you are supposed to be in someplace scary…and the entire place is exceptionally clean. Sure, a professional set designer TRIED to make it look and feel dirty – painted dirty – but I never got the feeling that anything was dirty. I never once said “eeeww” like I do in other haunts.

But, again, the sets were “cool.” Not cool in a haunted house sense, but cool in a movie sense. For example, the 747 while walking through O’Hare was exceptionally cool, and the stewardess that screamed at me with her tight leather skirt made me smile, but at no time was I truly near being scared. I was amused, slightly entertained, but far from feeling like I’m in “Fear City.”

Which brings me to my next complaint: the acting was just downright awful. I led a group of five people throughout the haunt, and numerous times, the actor was exceptionally late with his scare. In fact, in one location, I turned the corner and unintentionally scared the actor waiting to pop out and scare me. I saw him, he jumped, and I politely informed him he was “late.” In fact, I said the word “late” to a dozen actors each of which I saw before they saw me – or tried to scare me. In front of one drop picture window, it was so late that it dropped four steps after my group had passed it.

When the actors weren’t doing pop out scares, they over emphatically read their scripted lines dutifully with over acted emotions. On a very rare occasion, I got the feeling that they weren’t reading from a script – which gives me slight hope in the future for Fear City – but at least 80 percent of the time, I got the feeling they were over acting their way through their scripted lines.

This is why it should be noted that theater actors do not make decent haunt actors. I’m not sure if the owners of Fear City went to any of the haunt shows, but they really need to see Midwest Haunters Convention next summer. They’ll see a haunt actor is a very rare breed, and not just anyone can put on a costume and say a few lines.

The third major issue is space. While advertising has indicated they have 40,000 square feet in the warehouse, they are only truly using about 25,000 of it. The remaining 15,000 is wasted space that no one ever enters. For example, they have between 4-foot and 6-foot hallways through most of it, thus creating the exact opposite of a claustrophobic feeling people want in a haunted house. In one room in particular, a carnival barker was saying something through a bullhorn to get my attention. However, he felt like he started barking when I was 25-feet away, and it took me at least 10 steps to get to the stage he was standing on. All of this dead space – while, yes, it’s technically part of the haunted house, I consider it wasted space throughout the haunt. Another example was a streetscape scene that was so wide that a bag lady with a shopping cart could turn her cart sideways and never hit me, or stop me from walking around her.

Then, there’s the cost and advertising of Fear City that really irks me. Now, I understand the need to market yourself high to attract crowds, but making false statements to attract people in their first year is definitely not something that I recommend. The fact that Fear City SOMEHOW managed to be named one of the best haunts in Illinois in a USA Today article is just… unacceptable. Granted, the PR agency did their job and should be rewarded for getting them on such a list, but all it did was put a few more bucks in your pocket on a venture that is absolutely subpar.

Then, charging patrons $25 for the first year of any haunt should be outlawed, especially when the haunt has no track record to fall back on. Yes, in a haunt this size, and with the manpower standing around, there is definitely a high over head to account for. And, yes, the owners are trying to bring something special to the area – something they believe no one has ever seen before - but gouging the consumer out of one of the highest ticket prices in Illinois just because they have massive over head costs is a great way to destroy the haunted house industry.

I started this review off saying it all sounds good on paper: Emmy award winning set designers, professional actors, and a high priced marketing agency to get people in the doors. But, in the end, the plan they drew up on paper turned out to be one of the worst haunted houses I have ever been through. There is a hope the owners of Fear City are learning on the fly and changing things up for later this year or even next year, however, the real fear at Fear City is that there won’t be a next year. Now, I’m no math genius, but I’m quite sure no one can shell out the kind of money Fear City did and not feel the money pinch when the customers just don’t show.

Sometimes, the best laid plans turn out to be the worst idea ever. Fear City definitely falls into that category.      

To find out more about this event, visit:

http://www.fearcitychicago.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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