I have mixed feelings about Fear
City. Many of the scenes were highly detailed and that is no surprise,
since the people who run the attraction are professional set designers.
Throughout the event, there were some nice haunted house elements; however,
there were several areas that were rather lackluster and others that seemed to
be completely pointless. Their attraction has improved since last year, but
there is still much work to be done, if they want to compete with top haunted
houses in the Chicagoland area.
Last season, there were very few
traditional haunted house elements at Fear city. This year, it was really
nice to hear reoccurring references to a zombie apocalypse, in various
scenes. Actors said lines like "Are you infected?" or "Have
you been infected?". The CTA area was set up nicely. The walls
were dingy, and dimly flashing fluorescent lights enhanced the atmosphere.
Patrons entered the train car, which had several body bags hanging inside. The
car shook and flashing lights simulated the movement of a train. Another
scene was the Midtown Medical Center. In the waiting room, a patient approached
my group, then threw up into a bed pan and shook her wet hands in our faces.
After exiting the waiting room, there was a zigzag path of hospital beds, with
bloody corpses on them. The two-story meat processing plant was also
visually appealing. Several sides of beef were hanging on hooks, suspended 15
feet above the scene. Patrons had to weave their way through intestine-covered
tables, while a butcher slammed a cleaver on a table, giving us a menacing glare
as we walked by. The 3-D sideshow was also done well. It featured glowing
artwork on the walls, floating glowing balls, and carnival music playing in the
background. As we walked through, a couple of clown characters stalked us
to the exit. The next area was a red/white vertical stripe clown maze,
with flashing lights and a couple of actors hiding in the corners. That
was fun to go through.
While many of the scenes were detailed
and pretty, there seemed to be an overall lack of scare factor throughout the
entire attraction. Don't get me wrong, they are phenomenal set designers,
but there is more to haunted houses than just eye-catching sets. This is
the second year for Fear City and their attraction has improved since last year
but, I still think they just don't "get it". Of course, the
"it" is knowing what a haunted house is supposed to be like.
There were several areas in Fear City that seemed to be confusing and pointless.
It was almost like the set designers said "let's faithfully reproduce this
list of locales, down to the most minute detail", without any forethought
of incorporating scares or surprises of any kind.
There were many missed scare
opportunities, starting with the opening scene, the Peep Show. After walking
under an bright Peep Show marquee, patrons moved into a small room with open
boxes of condoms scattered across the floor and a magazine rack stretching
across the back wall. A shirtless actor was rubbing his chest and encouraging
customers to look through a peep hole in the wall. No one in my group really
wanted to do it and the actor wasn't letting anyone advance, so in an effort to
help move things along, I looked through the peep hole. After that, the actor
let us all move on, to the next area. There was no scare or surprise. In fact,
there really was no point to it.
Another area appeared to be an antique
shop, which was jam-packed with antique furniture and countless knick-knacks on
the walls. As my group walked by, an elderly woman in an old dress said
"You look like some tasty morsels". I was really disappointed
when nothing else happened.
There was also a hoarder scene. An
overweight man in a dirty T-shirt was sitting in a chair, watching QVC on a
small television. On the coffee table, couch and on the floor, there were stacks
of assorted items that he had apparently purchased. As we walked in, he
stated "don't judge me", in an irritated tone. Again, I was
expecting more to happen, but it didn't.
Another one of the other areas we walked
through was the Fear City Airlines terminal. The terminal's waiting area
had several rows of empty seats facing a reception desk. A flight attendant at
the desk guided my group to the plane's entrance. Inside the
"plane", there were numerous oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling and
a nervous man was standing in the far corner, clutching a fake bomb. I
walked through the scene slowly, waiting for him to do something, but he never
did. In fact, nothing happened; we just strolled out of the scene unscathed,
into the next area.
While writing this review, it struck me
what was wrong with many of these rooms. It wasn't just that there was no scare
attempt, although that was very disappointing. Part of the problem was the
fact that a number of the scenes depicted things that you might see in everyday
life in Chicago: a transient in an alley, an airplane, a hoarder sitting on the
couch, an antique shop, etc. None of these things, in and of themselves, are
particularly frightening and the way that Fear City presented them didn't help
Another thing that contributed to the
low scare factor was actor performance. While walking through the scenes,
it seemed like no one was trying to scare you. The actors were so wrapped up in
re-creating their own specific character, that they forgot that there was an
audience walking by who wanted to be scared. Or perhaps scaring customers wasn't
their goal, in the first place. I really don't know. On a number of
occasions, I heard actors saying things like "Isn't she frightening?"
or "Isn't this scary?". My answer would have to be a resounding
"No". What was the point of them asking? Were they trying to talk
customers into being scared? Sorry, guys. If you have to ask, it isn't scary.
Hades was definitely different than Fear
City. It was much smaller than Fear City and most of the areas in Hades
were very dark. Patrons had to weave their way through zigzag paths of darkness,
with an occasional scene here and there. In some areas, burlap cloth was
attached to the walls and hanging low, so customers had to duck down underneath.
In many parts of the attraction, there were strange sound affects playing in the
background. In one alcove, there was a giant Mardi Gras Dragon puppet with
glowing eyes that chomped at customers, as they walked by. In another area, an
actress laid motionless in the jaws of a 10-foot-tall monster head that
resembled a giant Predator creature. One of the main scenes featured odd
creatures on stilts, who were doing a tribal dance on a circular stage.
Their performance was pretty
entertaining, but some of what they were doing was unsafe. The actors were
thrusting Styrofoam-tipped spears at patrons' heads, as they walked by. In fact,
one of the spears came within inches of hitting my face. That wasn't my
only safety concern, either. Throughout the attraction, there were a lot
of actors hiding in dark corners. Several of the them were thrusting their hands
upward and outward, toward the customers walking by. On one occasion, I
came around a corner and an actor came within a inches of hitting me in the
face. In another dark corridor, a short actress thrust her hands upward in a
similar motion and she ended up hitting me in the face, with her fingers going
up my nose. It's one thing to get in someone's space and try and scare
them, but it's yet another if patrons' safety is at risk.
Overall, Hades was interesting, but not
as enjoyable as the Fear City attraction.
If it seems like I'm being more critical
of this attraction than some others that have I reviewed, you are correct.
I think when a haunted attraction tries to charge $35 for admission (especially
when they were asking $25 last year, which was completely excessive to begin with), they should be held to a higher standard and be
subjected to much more scrutiny. I think they have to prove themselves by
providing a substantial amount of entertainment value, in order to justify such
a high admission price. In my personal opinion, Fear City falls short of
the mark. The show, while it was somewhat entertaining, just isn't worth the
over-inflated $35 ticket price.
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