Oh, Realm of Terror, how you confuse me so.
Why is it that I come to you in the middle of the night with these visions of a beautiful relationship between a haunt and critic in the making. But, then, I sneak away under a cover of darkness after you take me into your walls, use me, leave me unsure of myself, treated like crap, disgusted, and in need of a shower.
Seriously, the Realm of Terror is truly a disgusting haunt that is widely known – and proud of – being the most intense haunted house in Illinois. They take fear to the extreme, and slap you HARD in the face with disgusting props, retched make-up, and brutally filthy costumes everywhere you turn.
You want gore? You want intensity? You want to be smacked upside the face of the most retched vision you can conjure up, then multiply it by 10? Then this is the haunt for you.
Inside Realm of Terror is just a giant cesspool of gross… with mangled props hanging everywhere, walls that look like they are held together by bile and snot, a million things strewn about that make you repulsed to the touch, and people in your face that LOVE to be vile.
But, buried deep inside the filth and repulsion of the Realm of Terror lurks true artistry. It takes a serious artist who knows gore to really know where to put things in order to illicit a reaction at the mere sight of it. Seriously, I’m not kidding around when I tell you that it’s as if they cracked open the blackest of souls like an egg, dumped it in a room, and walked away.
The haunt starts out with a video about a security guard or someone in charge of an insane asylum, and he goes over the rules for walking through. Then to end the video, his head is cracked open repeatedly on the desk by two “bad guys” who just crawled out of their hell of a cell and took over the asylum.
The video was the same one used last year, but it’s still so good because it’ll never get old. See, this is the type of prop I love because it directly interacts with the people inside, and helps you lose yourself in the illusion of the haunted house.
For example, when the actor turns on a light switch inside the video, a light switch turns on in the room…thus breaking down that “fourth wall” between me and the maniacs. It’s one of those concepts used in major theme parks designed to suck you into a scene… and it works in this haunt very well.
The idea of one haunt having one overwhelming theme is what really has always made Realm of Terror stand apart. From start to finish, you are in an insane asylum, thus every room is destroyed, every corpse is disgusting, and every actor is an inmate.
Now, in that same token, some people may call that boring because you spend 15 to 20 minutes in one house looking at the same thing, but to really understand why ROT is so good lies WITHIN that premise. It isn’t just rows and rows of cages open and insane people filing into the hallways. No, it’s a surgery room destroyed and the patients wandering out still bleeding. See, it’s also a dental area that seems to have been chewed apart, its circuits from the servers of the now destroyed mental hospital used to keep tabs on inmates that are smashed through walls and people, and there is an area where a girl is having a baby (yes, that still remains… so be warned) screaming for help while the doctor eats the newborn.
There’s a morgue, a pill station and other areas within that make you FEEL like you really are inside a demented insane asylum that goes awry. And, best of all, as you wander through deeper into the insane asylum, you keep interacting and seeing OTHER groups far ahead STILL wandering through with fear in their eyes. The hallways intersect and interact with each other, thus giving you a feeling of dread that you may never get out.
And, of course, there are the inmates around, but the actors at the Realm of Terror have always – ALWAYS – been the most intense on the planet. They are in your face and refuse to break character for any reason. They talk in gibberish like you would expect a mental patient would, then they’ll scream for no reason, get on the floor and crawl at you, only to stop and laugh. It’s demented and makes no sense, but it’s not supposed too: It’s an insane asylum, and you are their “guest.”
Bottom line, the best part of the Realm of Terror is always and has always been the acting, and this year is no different.
Now, yes, I gave them high praise above, but before you go away disgruntled, I do have some semi-major complaints about the Realm of Terror:
I know this is going to sound strange, but the one area of the Realm that I have always had a problem with is the one thing I specifically said is how they stand out from their competitors. Because the Realm follows one central theme unlike other Illinois haunts, it makes it NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to figure out what changes from year to year.
This year, specifically, ROT added an entire moving room with bodies hanging from the ceiling, two long angled hallways that pushes people into and out of the rocking room, a claustrophobia, more colored lights used throughout the haunt to make props stand out, then, instead of making you walk through their batting cages to get to a maze, they moved it and attached it to the haunt. And, if that weren’t enough, rather than just the stroke-inducing, white-walled maze with a single, slow strobe flash that makes you insane, they added a dark maze that is nearly impossible to get out.
On paper, it actually sounds like they did a lot of changes from last year, but because the theme of Realm of Terror is the same throughout, one scene just blends into another, thus creating the backward illusion that very little was done. They did do a lot from 2010 to 2011, there’s no question when you write it all down, but it never really feels like it’s anything different and you just wandered through the same exact haunt as you did last year.
The second complaint is the mazes themselves, though, again some people may see this area as something cool. The mazes are tricky and it’s easy to get lost inside the mazes at the Realm of Terror. However, the actors inside actually control the number of people inside the maze, and at times when certain groups are lost, it can get VERY crowded. At one point, it became SO CROWDED on the night I went that it became actually impossible for me to take a step (in the dark) without kicking or tripping on someone. So, I got sick of it, parked myself in a corner, and didn’t move until the actors let some of the herd out. Then, when it was clear to walk again, I rushed to find the exit before the next herd was inside.
But, with that being said, once again, the Realm of Terror is definitely on the list of “must see haunts” in Illinois. For those of you with a stomach that can handle the gore and putrid things they cram in your face, it will be one of your favorites.
But, honestly, don’t be shocked if you feel like you need a shower – and even a Zanax - after you leave. I know I did.
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