|31 out of 38 people thought this review was helpful.|
|Event Reviewed: Raven's Grin Inn (Mount Carroll, Illinois)|
Reviewed by: ThatGuy   (Event Visited: Before Oct. 1st @ 8:45 pm)
Review Posted: 09/29/10
| Overall Score:|
|Scare Factor: Medium | Atmosphere: Good|
Visibility/Location: Far into what I might call the middle of nowhere; It was a nicely haunted location, but also quite easy to find.
Wait Entertainment: Didn't wait very long. The drawbridge was cool though!
Length of Event: About an hour and a half... to 2 hours.
Actor Performance: Great. It was the owner Jim Warfield, and he's clearly a dedicated veteran performer.
Patron Flow Inside Attraction: Very good, we had a ton of time inside the house and a lot of personalized attention given to us.
Appropriate Ages: I couldn't tell you how Mr. Warfiled would tailor the tour to different crowds, but I'd imagine he could cater it to most audiences.
Props / Special FX: All created by Jim himself, so you won't see this stuff elsewhere. There were some really funny things in there too.
Costumes / Make-up: Not applicable here
Summary: I'd probably rate the tour on an overall fun and "uniqueness" factor, instead of atmosphere and scare factor. Sure, it would be scary to some audiences, perhaps many audiences. But that wasn't what hit me. Jim Warfield has something truly one-of-a-kind going here (and in his head), and those who like the odd and unique will very likely enjoy a visit to the Inn, at least once. It's not something I'd recommend to a car full of thrill seekers looking for a labyrinth of pure Halloween terror, or those looking for theme park special FX. It's more a "night of unique, somewhat personalized haunted entertainment in a unique setting, like nothing you've ever seen." And you can experience it any time of year, which is a huge bonus.
In conclusion, I drove several hours to visit Raven's Grin, and in the end I felt quite good about making the trip. Jim definitely goes out of his way to entertain. The slides are great, the atmosphere is cool, the cellar was wild, the dog (border collie?) was cute, and the entire trip had a good feel about it.
|Scare Factor: Medium | Atmosphere: Very Good|
Visibility/Location: I visit Dream Reapers every year, so I know what to look for. As always, it was very easy to find.
The area seems to have a lot more in the way of visible surrounding businesses popping up, which is good for visibility… but maybe not so great for scare factor. There’s clearly nothing they can do about that, but it is worth noting.
Wait Entertainment: The night I attended was early in the season, but there was the classic waiting room, with the notorious inappropriate priest giving coffin rides for an additional fee. But no doubt, the highlight was when my personal choice for the number one haunted house actor in the country showed up... The artist formerly known as Andy the Corpse… looking and sounding absolutely insane. Freaking brilliant, and great to see him in a high-visibility area.
Length of Event: Probably just shy of 15 minutes. One of these days I’ll remember to time it.
Actor Performance: Last year I gave very high marks to the actors, and this year the veterans were on, as always. Most of the actors were really good.
I personally think the “fetish” type stuff is kinda dumb, but the actors in there were fantastic, with a guy screaming about putting out cigarettes on my eyelids for pleasure, and his highly animated gimp friend trying to lure us in. It was weird and surreal enough that it worked.
The actor in the elevator was a pleasant surprise, he was easy to understand, charismatic, physically large enough for the role, and played to our group well. The bums in the street were also noteworthy in a good way.
With that said, this year there were a few actors who clearly stood out as not as good. A couple of the younger ones looked like they were ready to start giggling, and yet a couple more looked overwhelmed and intimidated in the scenes they were placed in. There were multiple spots where the actor was not a commanding enough presence to do the scene justice. Without being rude, the butcher shop, which usually houses one of Dream Reapers’ best actors, comes to mind. This time it was run by a less commanding actor, and the area seemed largely forgettable.
My personal theory, and this might not have any merit, is that with Dream Reapers apparently running 2 separate haunted houses this year, they may have been spread thin… A couple of these actors were simply not ready for the places they were in. I’d like to say it didn’t hurt the show, but it did.
Also, an unfortunate rut that Dream Reapers sometimes falls into surfaced again this year. Last year I noted they had seemingly overcome their issue of having an actor every few feet. This year, I brought friends who’d never been to D.R. before. Although they enjoyed the show, their largest complaint was that, by a third of the way through the house, they knew there’d be an actor every few feet.
I’d tend to agree that’s the biggest issue at Dream Reapers. At first it seems like mayhem, but after a while, although highly entertaining, it’s not scary; it becomes predictable. Even for nervous rookie haunt-goers.
I’ve brought many people to Dream Reapers over the years, and this is the most common complaint I hear, though I will repeat… overall the reviews are generally very positive otherwise.
Patron Flow Inside Attraction: Perfect. My group this year was lead by a very hesitant (and thus very slow) young lady. When I say slow, I mean the actors and staff were probably groaning behind the scenes at the potential logjam from our sleepy turtle pace. There was a reasonable crowd of customers there that night… Yet still, somehow, no one caught our group.
I also want to point out the kind fellow running the line and splitting up the groups. He was funny, and even with a decent-sized early October crowd, he sent our group of 5 to go into the house by ourselves. We were given our own personal show, and that means a lot.
Appropriate Ages: Last year, Dream Reapers amped up the gore and adult themes a bit. If this year is any indication, it seems like that direction is going to stick for a while. I probably wouldn’t bring a kid under 12 or 13 for that reason alone.
I felt that parts of the show had more of an “extreme” feel to it this year (last year as well, but more this year.) This will be good for some, but not for me. I personally think shock value is best in small doses.
Tons of poo in the sewer, a gimp, sexual innuendos, carved up animals, (and then a fun blinking cartoon alien?) I’m not offended, I just think they are consciously choosing to follow a slightly more umm.. we'll say "hardcore" vision, and I’m not sure this direction is totally up my alley. That’s from a guy who’s been excitedly visiting Dream Reapers and bringing them lots of customers for 8 years.
Then again, people like Rob Zombie as a director, and I think he's terrible, and I was never into the Hillbillies and everyone else seemed to love them.
Props / Special FX: Dream Reapers is known for their details, and last year the house looked and felt so great… they had clearly outdone themselves. So the great news is, if you missed Dream Reapers last year, there's a ton to see.
The not-so great news? If you saw the show last year, there’s not much reason to visit this season. I’d go so far as to say it was better last year.
Could this be because they are running two houses in separate locations? Because after last year’s amazing transformation, updates to Dream Reapers almost felt like an afterthought this year. As if the Melrose Park location is the forgotten love-child of 2010.
With the exception of a small new ending featuring a little more punch and detail (which was nice to see), I really can’t remember any memorable scenes that looked new this year. If there were new scenes, they were largely extensions of old areas, or the rooms didn’t stand out, and they became lost amongst the old scenes that clearly outshined them.
Also, the new intro skeleton would look very cool in one of the interior scenes. For the intro room, however, I liked the big-screen television better.
Costumes / Make-up: Some of the makeup was just insanely cool, and some of the costumes at Dream Reapers are among the best in the entire industry. A few of the major characters I saw this year were as good as it gets.
With that said, I have to again bring up my theory about the crew being spread thin. On another visitor review I saw here, someone said that some of the makeup was “standard whited out faces.” Well, I had a very hard time believing that. But it turns out they weren’t really that far off.
On the night I attended, there were a handful of makeup jobs that were far below the Dream Reapers standard. There were at least a couple guys in there this year who looked like they did their own makeup with a mascara stick in the rearview mirror while driving. Suffice it to say, there was nothing even close to that last year, when I attended on Travel Channel night.
Summary: Let me start by saying: I love Dream Reapers. The show they gave us this year really was good, and worth the money.
The expectations were raised last year because I visited the night the television cameras would be there. On that night, I saw what Dream Reapers is capable of. Amazing.
When I went back for seconds last year, it didn’t quite match the first trip, but it was pretty close.
What I saw this past weekend, however, was not as impressive. So although the drop off is understandable, a few performers were better than ever, and the place still looks great, I’m kinda left to assume their top priority this year is multi-tasking to produce Chronicles of the Cursed: The Sinkhole, instead of rocking Dream Reapers Haunted House to the next level. Or even keeping it running at last year’s level.
If you’re number one, and you’re going to stay number one, I believe you kinda need to match your previous standard, the bar you’ve set from the previous season. And as fun of a time as my group had, and as good as the show was, it wasn’t as good as either visit last year.
My group visited 2 houses on Friday. Out of four others besides me, 2 preferred Dream Reapers, and 2 preferred the other house we visited.
I review Dream Reapers every year, and you’ll find I’m always fair and as accurate as possible. I stand by my score of 8, mostly because of the veteran actors and the overall strength of last year’s house. Though I’ll gladly admit that if it were my first ever visit, I would’ve surely gone with a 9.
It just feels like a down year to be a regular Dream Reapers customer, at least at this location, compared to some of the bigger years in the past. They have most of the year to work in this building, yet the environmental changes were barely noticeable, the makeup slid a bit, the acting slid a bit, and even the gift shop reverted back to it’s *still nice* but less impressive form.
If you’ve never been, you really should finally check out Dream Reapers. Heck, if you just didn’t go last year, you should see it. It’s a top-level show, with incredible sights, sounds and smells. But, if you visited last year, you’ve basically seen it, and I’d say maybe spend your haunting dollars elsewhere till next season.
I wish the owners of Dream Reapers only the best, and hope the Sinkhole goes well. But the selfish, haunt fanatic side of me that loves Dream Reapers’ house hopes that the Sinkhole kinda sinks, so Dreamreapers will get back on the tear they were on last year at this time. I personally want to see a GREAT haunted house, and I’m wary about spending cash on a show in a tent in Chicago… when what I really want to see is more growth of the big show in the permanent location in Melrose Park.
Last year number one was a slam dunk for Dream Reapers. This year I think it’s an open game, with the Reapers still as favorites, but by no means heavy favorites. I can think of at least 3-4 others in last year’s top ten and one semi-newcomer that seem far hungrier than Dream Reapers Melrose Park this year.
All the best guys, it was still very good, and I’m sorry I couldn’t do you a better service than this.