After walking out of
Asylum Xperiment in Villa Park, the only words that came out of
my mouth was: "Wow, thats a damn good haunt."
And, now, after going through the notes of my walk through at
Asylum, it's clear they have definitely thrown their hat in the
ring to be named the best haunt of 2011.
Let’s start the review by saying the design of the haunt is
absolutely gorgeous. The entire house starts with a four minute
dark maze that, while short in thrills, is what it is. Its four
minutes of walking through the dark while people bang on the
walls around you.
I only had two minor complaints throughout the entire haunt, and
the first is in this section. It was not as “dark” as one would
expect from a dark maze. Forgetting about the state required
lights near the emergency exits and the semi-cool lasers
interspaced throughout, this dark maze was never really pitch
black as expected. The simple solution would have been for
someone to tarp the top of the maze because, if you look at the
ceiling, you can actually traverse your way through it without
touching a wall. But, they didn't, and I walked through without
any difficulty at all.
But, with that being said (and despite my complaint about being
able to see,) I did experience my first “jump” of the year in
that same maze. I was looking at a half-wall with a laser system
shining out – more specifically, I was looking at a high-priced
fog machine that probably should be hidden better - when a guy
banged the wall right in front of me and jumped over the half
wall. While I didn’t “yelp” and fling my self back into a fetal
position on the floor crying or anything, I definitely jumped
back and said “that was pretty cool.” Though, despite getting a
quick shrill at my expense, the "evil critic" in me says that
fog machine should have been hidden better.
After the dark maze, you open up into what truly sets Asylum
Xperiment apart from other haunts in the state of Illinois. From
a design standpoint, this is easily one of the coolest looking
haunts I have ever seen.
The props and decorations in each room and the way they used
different ingenious ways of getting people from room to room is
what truly separates this haunt from any other in Illinois. The
rooms inside Asylum are truly just amazing to look at. They used
a ton of props in each room to make you feel you a part of any
story they were trying to conjure up, and they were ingeniously
put out for maximum effect.
For example, in the opening study, you walk down a long hallway
with lightning and blowing white curtains into a room that is
the same exact study you would find in any horror movie. There’s
books on the walls and pictures perfectly placed, chairs with
cobwebs… hell, you’ll even find a telephone and red velvet walls
and a fire place creating the feeling of being inside of an old
This haunt is TRULY amazing to look at.
Then, in the red neck back yard, you find a picnic table with a
family of “yee-haws” sitting around eating body parts, while an
actual full-sized camper is flashing its hazard lights at me as
I walk through. You have to walk through clothes hang from
clothesline throughout, while some killbilly is screaming at me
to become her pet..
Then, again, in the kitchen…bugs are crawling in and out of
rotten food, garbage and crap is everywhere… the table is
littered with tons of old, stale food, making the room just
DISGUSTING to look at.
Add in some highly detailed pneumatic props, placed in locations
that you not only wouldn't expect but also in spots to add to a
maximum effect...and it’s clear how much thought has gone into
this place to create a haunt far superior than most out there.
Then, the second most dynamic thing about Asylum is their
ability to use ingenuity to get patrons from room to room. They
just didn't use black curtains to show people the exits, instead
they used pneumatic and hydraulic devices open doors throughout
the haunt to get people from point A and point B. For example
and to release a bit of a spoiler, a wall slides up and the
fireplace is pushed aside in the study to grant patrons access
to the haunt behind. In the toy room, you have to cross through
a closet (with another surprise awaiting guests) and a
claustrophobia to get into a creepy toy room with actors popping
out from everywhere.
I mean, moving patrons from one theme to another is something
haunts rarely think about. Yet, the designers of Asylum spent a
lot of time making sure it was done with ingenuity.
Other scenes I really liked was a doors room that had a couple
of strange and unexpected surprises, a Frankenstein room that
brought the mythical creature “to life,” a room of televisions
that you would never expect to work as well as they did, a clown
room that erroneously made you think you reached the end of the
haunt and the aforementioned kitchen and all its disgusting
Each room is highly detailed right down to where a pair of legs
should go hanging out of a dog house, to a mosquito-netted baby
bassinet inside of a child’s room. And, for a guy like me who
lives inside of haunted houses for a month at a time… the look
of this place is the crème de la crème of haunts.
The biggest problem - and the one thing that makes the race for
best of the year so competitive - was definitely in the acting
department. On a scale of 1 to 10, the acting was definitely a
solid 7. That may seem harsh, but what made me come to that
average was that, throughout the haunt, someone would give a
solid performance worthy of an award, but then you'd bump into
someone who would turn a performance of only a five and it
caused the average to plummet. Seriously, throughout the haunt,
it seemed like for every two good actors that were trying their
best, there was an actor that was just confused on how to handle
For example, in the doors room, the twin girls inside displayed
high energy and changed demeanor quickly with the flick of a
light, going from helpless to mean in response to the lights in
the room. However, in a nearby scene, I actually had someone say
“rawr” at me… and because he wasn’t scary at all, it allowed me
to see him push the buttons that controlled the room.
Now, if it was just once, I wouldn’t mention it because the
haunt is absolutely outstanding and one performance can be
ignored. But, this sort of thing happened throughout the haunt:
there would be two or three outstanding performances to help the
patron lose themselves in this world the owners and designers
created, then one performance would bring you back to reality
and show patrons that this whole thing was just an illusion
around you. For every girl in a kitchen that was smearing some
sort of disgusting pudding on her legs while eerily mumbling
something, there was one actor leaning against a wall not really
sure of what to do. For every actor in the study that did an
absolutely tremendous job of selling the story of the haunt (to
a point where I actually got goosebumps), there was a person who
just stared at me as I walked by, not really sure what to say.
Now, I heard the directors of Asylum really went out of their
way to improve the acting in 2011, and if thats the case, they
took a large step in the right direction. The overall show at
Asylum was outstanding, but this small problem could be the one
thing that keeps Asylum from winning it all in 2011.
Bottom line: I really, REALLY liked what Asylum Xperiment did in
2011. The detail in the house is ingenious, their design was
outstanding, and the acting was definitely above average despite
a handful of actors that seemed lost inside. You really couldn't
expect much more out of one place than this.
Kudos to the entire group.
To find out more about this