As the name implies, the Catacombs is a haunt held in a basement. In this case it's the basement of St. Pascal's school on Chicago's north side. The entire basement gets transformed into a series of winding corridors and rooms of various types, including a zombie containment area, a large mirrored section with hidden sliding doorways, a butcher shop, a boiler room, an electrocution room, and even a fog-enshrouded area in the beginning which uses some real boilers, fake flames and the Nightmare on Elm Street music to set the creepy tone. The only thing missing is Freddy Krueger!
For a smaller haunt, the Catacombs has some effective set design. Walls, even in areas where there are no actors or scenes, are fully covered in some type of set dressing, be it fake bricks or wooden slats, and the real concrete basement walls are also used to good effect, with lighting and fog creating shadowy and misty areas throughout the haunt.
Some of the best scenes included the opening scene where visitors had to walk through the actual boiler room area and through some foggy passages before entering the haunt itself, the mirrored room which had some creepy female characters moving in and out of the winding passages and some very nice red lighting effects reflecting off of the mirrored surfaces, and a zombie area where zombies were behind a fenced off area but were able to slip out of their containment and surprise visitors. Nicely done.
Actors were mostly younger (high school age or less), and costuming was mostly some minimal makeup and street clothing or masks and some robes. Where the haunt shines, however, is in the enthusiasm of the actors. They don't try too hard to intimidate, as this might be a bit difficult given their ages and heights, but they try to be creepy, comical, and even stealthy in their approaches to visitors passing through their areas, which makes for an entertaining experience.
Overall, visitors of all ages should enjoy The Catacombs. It's an old-fashioned family friendly haunted house. No intense scares here, just a lot of fun. The only complaint is that it's simply not long enough, and visitors are at the end before they know it. Still, though, there's a lot to see, including some nicely done sets and good lighting and fog. Get there early, though, or buy the VIP pass for Scream Scene, the Catacombs and Hair Razor, as lines get really long very quickly. We arrived at 7:15 and there already was at least an hour wait time.
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