Date of Visit: 9/30/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
Leaving the strange, cavernous tunnels behind, I've quickly found myself in the belly of what appears to be a factory. A maze of pipes and heavy machinery make up my surroundings, forcing me to hunker down and shift through openings in the walls to continue on the path. From somewhere deep within the facility, I can hear the hiss of steam, and the foreboding groans and clanks of its mechanical innards. It's hard to fully describe, but as I look around, I can almost sense a darkness that has taken hold over this place... something went terribly wrong here. As I continue to press on, dodging the occasional crazed worker who wants to attack or trap me in there, the mocking blessing I was offered earlier does little to comfort me from the madness I've unwittingly thrust myself into:
"May Willow bless your soul."
Starting with the attractions run by the incredible Zombie Army last year, I've quickly become acquainted with several of the amazing haunts to be found in the Chicagoland area. I was seven haunts in by the time I reached Midnight Terror Haunted House, which I was made aware of by a Facebook friend who does haunt photography. It looked awesome, and since I was already in the area handling some other haunt business, I seized on the opportunity to head over to Oak Lawn and check out their show.
The cost to tour this factory of frights will vary depending on the night you go. My memory is a little fuzzy at the time of writing, but I believe General Admission was around $28 the night I went, when it was still early in the season and therefore slower (now it's $30 - 32). Those seeking to reduce their wait time can upgrade to a Fast Pass, which starts at $50. The parking situation was... interesting. Plugging the address from their website into my GPS brought me to a dark, run down, and not at all dangerous lot that was certainly not where I was supposed to be. Fellow haunt tourists, just point your GPS towards the haunt and you'll see where the parking is (it's free, by the way).
Walking out of the ticket queue, I reached a tent with a DJ- costumed and in character!- pumping out pulse-pounding tunes to entertain customers. Here, I watched a clown and a creepy little girl terrorize a group of teens, then come over to greet me too. (This would become a trend while I waited. The monsters here were so friendly!) A short video goes over the rules of the attraction before you're ushered inside; this teases the storyline as well. When it's your turn to enter the main waiting room, each group is ushered to a numbered stall. Honestly, it made me feel like we were all pigs about to be thrown into the industrial meat grinder that was this haunted house. I interacted with a couple more characters in here - one with razor sharp jaws, long hair, and sporting a string of stuffed animals came over and commented, "You look lonely." They offered me a doll who'd seen far better days... I'm not a fan of dolls, but who am I to refuse a scary person's kindness? She had no name when I asked, so I named her Marietta and took a photo with her. (The actor seemed puzzled as to why I'd do that. Hey, at least I treated her nice - the other group was throwing her.) A bearded gentleman in overalls also stepped into my stall, offered me a smile, and said he hoped I'd make it out safely. You and me both, buddy.
The first half of Midnight Terror sends groups into the bowels of the former Black Oak Gear Factory. There's a heavy industrial atmosphere in this part, and it was perfectly designed - I could tell immediately it was supposed to be a factory. The set work in this whole haunt is unreal, and it starts from the moment you enter. Scenes are lengthy, and the environment is often engaging. You can hear the growls and groans of machinery deep within the facility and real water effects trickling, heightening the immersion. I'm not a large woman, but I got a decent little workout ducking under pipes and squeezing through openings. As soon as I was in the house, I was completely submerged in its story, and that's a big thing I look for in a good haunt.
Eventually, the path took me out of the factory - and I swear, it was like a freaking portal to Hell opened up. The scenes became increasingly random and unhinged once I escaped the factory's walls. I walked through what looked like a classroom, with papers strewn all over the place and chairs stacked crookedly. Proceeding into a bloody operating room, the tall, intimidating doctor within was not at all happy I interrupted his work! A dentist in an equally bloody office was more than happy to offer me a complimentary extraction... or take it by force. One of my favorite scenes was that of a diner or ice cream parlor operated by a pair of demented clown girls - that whole area was delightfully gross. (Needless to say, I declined their insistent offers to serve me "ice cream".) Passing through a restroom, I watched the janitors attempt to fix a broken sink and toilet, then become irate and blame me for them not working. The amount of detail every room contained was crazy, and this place was 100% an assault on the senses. Animatronics lurked here and there to provide extra startles, there were special effects (loved the glowing runes in a possessed girl's scene!), a soundtrack played throughout, and a variety of scents were used. This haunt's team knows immersion, and they pulled it off very well.
(Tip: read the haunt's story on their website before you go. I didn't and was confused at the transition from factory to "town", but when I went back and read the whole thing the next day, it all made perfect sense. I knew I was missing something.)
There was a good sized cast on hand to cover the whole house and I encountered little dead space. I will point out that I got to fly solo for this adventure, so it's possible actors were in those spots and just chose not to scare me. (I got ignored by clearly visible actors a few times. Them's the breaks when you go through a haunt by yourself.) Despite this, and the fact that many of the scares were brief, pop-out moments, most of their cast came at me with everything they had! Almost every scene had at least one actor in it, usually more... believe me, if I didn't see them at first, they'd quickly make their presence known! And this fear factory was rife with hidey holes and spots for its many demented workers and maniacal townspeople to strike from. Like I said, MT is such an assault on the senses that it's a lot to take in, and that makes it hard for me to name stand out characters. But I couldn't miss the impressive demon who swayed before me and bent down to eye level (Malum?), and this cast also works well together to enhance scares - the best one I got was when I was distracted by a female actor, then turned around and had a freaking stilt walker in my face! Never saw them coming!
(Funny bit: near the end, a gaggle of terrified girls caught up to me. I was enjoying myself, so I let them pass. They immediately got jumped by the lurking chainsaw maniac. Oops.)
Like a lot of haunts these days, the Midnight Terror experience concludes with some fun extras to prolong time spent on their property. There was a trailer selling concessions, along with tickets for axe throwing, escape rooms, and fortune telling. I was kind of sad to find they did not have t-shirts the night I was there; I live over five hours away and would have loved a memento of my visit. MT team, please try to have these available early in the season!
In closing, I was so glad I took a chance on Midnight Terror! The immersion found in exploring the cursed factory, then experiencing the nightmares unleashed upon its town by little Willow and the demon Malum, was highly enjoyable - and I even got some good scares along the way. If you live around Chicagoland or plan on being up there during the season, I definitely encourage you to swing by the Black Oak Gear Factory and take a little tour, but remember: enter at your own risk.
ENVIRONMENT: 9/10 - Immersion, immersion, immersion - that's what Midnight Terror is all about. Beautifully designed and sticks to its story from start to finish.
ACTING: 7/10 - Good, solid cast with minimal dead space.
SCARE FACTOR: 7/10 - Big emphasis on brief jump scares. The cast did team up well at times to deliver bigger scares (see my comment about the stilt actor up above!).
OVERALL: 8/10 - Such a cool haunted house! Midnight Terror is a must see!