WARNING: This review contains detailed spoilers, as they are necessary to explain the uniqueness of the haunt.
Nightmare at the Terrace is a small community haunt that has been running since about 2009. It has a different setup every year, with almost all of the rooms being redesigned. Thus, you will usually have at least a somewhat new experience each time you go.
The haunt is held in a park district building, and has a lot of space to work with, which it uses effectively. Hallways and rooms are dimly lit and there are good fog effects throughout. The haunt has a variety of scenes, from indoor scenes like bedrooms and funeral parlors, to outdoor scenes like cornfields, swamps, and even an abandoned shack in the woods. Most scenes have some decent props in them, especially the shack scene, which had a rather detailed shack façade in part of it.
Actors are mostly younger, ranging in age from 10-16 or so at a guess. Thus, the scares will not necessarily be high. The actors tend to know this, so they vary their performances and play “creepy” quite often instead of jumping out and screaming at people. They do a bit of that, too, but not all of the time, and certainly not enough to get boring and monotonous. Makeup usually consists of face paint and the occasional scarring, and costumes vary from scene to scene, usually blending in with the theme of a given room. Actors also use masks, but no elaborate prosthetics or costuming. Still, what is there is good, and the performances help sell the scares.
Some clever scenes included the first room, which was dark and filled with fog. Actors emerged from the fog wearing burlap sacks on their heads and long robes. When the first actor appeared, he or she simply clapped his/her hands twice, and suddenly another actor appeared out of the fog. This actor then joined the first in clapping their hands twice in unison as they followed us out. It was a nice, creepy and effective scene that could have been ruined if the acting was simply shouting for us to leave.
Another excellent room is the room of mirrors. Last year this was in a circle, and actors in black bodysuits appeared all around visitors. This time the room was in the shape of an “S” and had strobes flashing, so when the bodysuited actors appeared it was hard to tell if they were in front of you or simply a reflection. This room led to a dark area which, unlike many dark areas in haunts, featured an actor who led you with his voice, taunting you and telling you to try and follow him. Periodically he would flash a light and jump out at visitors. It was a nice twist on the standard dark maze and made getting lost as least somewhat enjoyable.
Other good actors included a creepy clown in a room of three clowns. Two of them were loud, screaming at visitors, while the third one simply started following visitors from behind, walking slowly and saying nothing. He followed visitors all the way into the following room and down a corridor, peering around the corner to leer at them as they moved on. It was a nice, understated performance, which contrasted with the creepy black figure who jumped down from high above and began crawling on the ground. He was wearing a costume that made his body seem like an insect body, and his creepy movements across the floor were very well done.
The final scene was one that was quite original and one that you usually do not see in a haunt. Normally, there is a chainsaw guy at the end of Nightmare at the Terrace. This time, visitors were greeted by an actor, not in costume, who congratulated them on making it through and thanked them for coming. He explained that the chainsaw guy was on a break, and pointed people to the exit. As visitors walked to the exit, they passed by a chair behind a hidden door with a chainsaw next to it, which was where the chainsaw guy was supposed to come out of.
However, the big surprise was that the chainsaw guy was hiding in the dark right before the exit, and as visitors walked towards the doors, he simply quietly said “run” and started up the chainsaw. It was a very simple, yet very clever twist on something that you see is many, many haunts, and the actor who said the chainsaw guy wasn’t there really sold visitors on that fact. We didn’t suspect him at all of lying, as sometimes actors do take breaks, especially in the smaller haunts, so it seemed like a completely logical story.
Nightmare at the Terrace is a nice little haunt that offers clever scares and some fun stuff for only $8. There is never a big line, and they open early (6pm) on some nights, so it’s easy to get in and get out. IT’s also fun for the entire family as it’s not intense. A good haunt!
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