Before heading out to Rosemont, I heard
the complaints from last year’s Screams in the Park, so I was prepared for a
Those complaints were high-end
animatronics, coupled with no actors, made people feel like they were wandering
through the Dark Zone at Transworld.
So, color me pleasantly surprised as I
walked through Screams this year because, while those high-end animatronics and
props remained, none of the complaints about actors were justified.
Instead, what was there was a worthy
haunt this year. It’s like the owners actually LISTENED to what was said about
them last year, and fixed what was broken.
First, the bad: specifically the
horrible was that we couldn’t find the damned haunted house to save our lives.
Our GPS led me to a parking garage on the other side of I-294 from where the
event was actually located. We figured out that we were in the long location (I
didn’t think it was in a garage for a blood bank) and shortly got on the right
way. However, as we traversed closer to the downtown area of Rosemont, no signs
plus a lack of a GPS made it tough to find. I even had to ask a security guard
where we should go and he told us where to park, then where to walk, but we
wound up going in a complete circle.
Turns out the haunted house is located
on the bottom floor of the parking garage that houses the Muvico Theater, Zanies
comedy club and Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” tavern. However, a sign of
any kind pointing people in the right location would have been exceptionally
helpful (By the way, the sticker on one of the two elevators that goes to the
basement isn’t considered a sign.)
Also, another bad thing the owners are
doing – he isn’t promoting the fact that the haunted house validates
parking. That means, instead of paying $13 to park, you can bring your parking
stub to the front door of the haunt and they will happily stamp it so you
don’t have to pay $13. This would have been nice to know as I know of one
person who did pay $13 to park/ We, on the other hand, heard that the haunt
validates, had to run back to our car to get our parking pass, then run all the
way back to the haunted house a second time to have the parking stub validated.
It’s little things like this that are
the difference between a good haunt and great haunt, especially when the inside
of the haunt is as good as Screams was.
And, yes, you read that right: Screams
in the Park really is THAT GOOD on the inside.
First some back story: Apparently, in
1985 Chicago Police unearthed horrific
evidence of torture and multiple murders at the sprawling castle of H.H. Holmes.
Masquerading under the guise of caring doctor and loving husband, Dr. Holmes was
America’s first serial killer--who designed his home solely for the torture
and disposal of human bodies.
And, now, we were walking through it.
Awesome back story and something that the owners really played off of well.
The detail inside the haunt was high-end
all the way. And, yes, before you say it… it was mostly store bought. But,
lets be honest, there’s really nothing wrong with a store bought haunt as long
as you mix it with the right homemade props to make everything look good.
And, that’s exactly what Screams in
the Park did this year with the design. They took their purchased set pieces and
mixed them with hand made props and turned out highly detailed scenes that were
a pleasure to walk through. For example, there was a wooded area where a store
bought, large animatronic hand was trying to grab people… however, the owners
of the haunt put thick turf on the ground, hand made trees, and cobwebs overhead
to make you feel like you were actually walking through a swamp, and it was
delightful from an artistic standpoint.
In addition, the designers created
scenes throughout that really helped immerse the customer within the scene. I
wasn’t just walking through the concrete of the parking garage as I wandered
through the scene. Instead, I was walking on dirt, or sod, or whatever to
enhance the experience of the scene I was in. I was also ducking out of the way
of a lot of burlap and other things from overhead that added to the feeling of
walking through a haunt. While the
walls were well coordinated with whatever was taking place inside.
Seriously, from a design stand point,
Screams in the Park did a decent job of making a great haunt.
And, to top it all off - and in stark
contrast to what was said last year – Screams in the Park had PLENTY OF ACTORS
to scare patrons. (Cue applause button now.)
And, they weren’t just bodies taking
up space. They were people who worked hard within their scenes to make the
entire experience come a live. They worked hard, had lines that were spoken
well, and hit their marks when necessary.
Now, granted, some of the actors were
over the top: for example, the guy who took the tickets was a bit over the top,
or a crying woman and funeral director in a funeral parlor scene were pretty
campy… or the weird scientist where an electrical chair was going off was a
bit goofy, but the actors didn’t hurt the scenes at all and, most of the time,
just made me smile as I walked out.
The only REAL issue I had with the
acting was that, as we entered “Screams in the Park,” a mother asked my
group if her 12-year-old son could walk with us. Seems the woman didn’t want
to go in, and the kid – who really wanted to see the attraction – didn’t
want to walk through by himself. So, we agreed and “junior” became a
20-minute ward of Haunted Illinois.
The actors tended to spend A LOT of time
trying to scare him, as opposed to doing things for the entire group. For
example, I would lead us into a room – lets say it’s one of the highly
detailed longer corridors that were situated throughout the haunt. I would lead
us down the hallway, followed by another adult, then the kid, and another adult
taking up the rear. As we crossed the actor, the actor would look at me and do a
low growl, then he’d look at the second adult and do another low growl, then
he’d see the kid and the actor would basically jump out of his skin to scare
him. He’d get in the kids face and say “I’m gonna kill you” or
whatever… basically pushing the adults out to the way to get to him.
To me, that’s the easy way out and the
actor should do something to entertain the entire group. This happened in a lot
of rooms along the 21-minute journey through the haunted house, to a point where
I started to tell the spooks that there are “other people in the group” and
we deserve a scare too.
Worse, I also assume that these same
actors would have done the same if a 15-year-old girl replaced the 12-year-old
kid. Its safe to assume they’d go after the easy scare and ignore the adults,
when they should, really, focus on the entire group.
The only other gripe I had about Screams
was the last two or three rooms seemed unfinished when we walked through. I’m
not sure if the owner ran out of time, or props, but when we walked through, we
walked through a room that had nothing on the walls, then into a room that had
props leaned up against the walls with someone hiding inside, to another room
that seemed like the exit. I seriously thought the haunt ended when we got into
the first unfinished room, so I was like “What the hell” when someone jumped
out of the room with the props leaning against the wall.
But other than those extremely minor
things, Screams in the Park really was enjoyable for me. The cost of it was only
$20, which was on the lower end of the cost spectrum, and it took more than 20
minutes for me to walk through.
However, some signage would do wonders
to help the owners get customers in the door, and letting people know that
parking is free would help fill up his queue lines even more.
overall, Screams in the Park can easily be considered one of the most improved
haunts of the year. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good time.
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