Frightmare has long been a fixture in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has changed little from year to year. Basically, it is a carnival funhouse type structure that has been added to in front and in back in order to make for a longer haunt experience.
Those of you old enough to remember carnival funhouses will find Frightmare familiar, with its painted metal façade and castle-like outline.
The theme of Frightmare changes each year, although many of the props remain the same and are repainted or repurposed and placed in different rooms in order to fit the current haunt theme. Over the years themes have centered on fairy tales, the circus, classic movie monsters, a haunted hotel and more. This year's theme was a dollhouse, and many of the scenes inside the haunt reflected this.
Upon entry, visitors are read the rules by an actor dressed as a doll, then sent along their way. The walls of Frightmare are always brightly decorated with neon paint, and the paintings change every year, with many of them matching the current theme. The paint appears to glow in the dark and is also 3D, although Frightmare is not billed as a 3D haunt. However, if you happen to bring 3D glasses some items on the walls do pop out at you.
Many of the rooms feature old school animatronic props that either pop out at visitors or fly towards them. Most of the rooms are nondescript, with minimal props except for the ones that might pop out at you or static props on the walls. This year's rooms included a carnival setting and a room with living dolls having a tea party, for example.
Both the props and the actors tend to be of the jump scare variety (the kind that pop out and say 'Boo!' or something similar). As for the actors, they really do make or break Frightmare. As the layout is almost exactly the same form year to year, and the props are recycled over and over, there is only so much new that one can expect, so it is the quantity and quality of the actors that can make all of the difference, and one never really knows what one is going to get.
Fortunately, this year the haunt featured a larger quantity of actors who were actually into what they were doing, so the quality of the haunt was much better than last year. The actors also varied their performances as well, with some of them jumping out but others simply being silent and creepy. Of particular note was the actor dressed like a ringmaster. He was perched on top of the haunt so that visitors could see him greeting them as they arrived, and then he popped up inside when visitors went through the bottom portion of the haunt, and then again when they were walking through and outside portion heading to the second half. His performance was clever and creepy.
Most of the actors are younger and makeup is generally minimal, with simple masks or face makeup, along with simple costumes, so again, it all comes down to performance.
If you're looking for top drawer scares you won't find them at Frightmare, because that's not what Frightmare is. Think of it more along the lines of a Jaycees haunt or a local church haunt coupled with a carnival-like atmosphere and you'll get the idea.
It's enjoyable for the family and also for younger kids who might be too scared to go to a larger, more intense haunt. Although the scares are simple, that doesn't mean they are bad, and they sometimes do get you!
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