BASEMENT OF THE DEAD
Growing up a lover of all things spooky October is my favorite time of year. There is nothing like a haunted house visit, and recently the opportunity to travel to haunted attractions outside my home state presented itself. Decisions had to be made about what locations I should visit in a limited time frame. I figured a trip to Aurora, Illinois was a good place to start, after all with a name like Basement of the Dead how could I go wrong….they did not disappoint.
When you hear the name Basement of the Dead you almost can’t help but picture a specific looking building in your head- maybe something rundown or decrepit in appearance. So, you may find yourself a bit surprised when you approach the actual location…in a courtyard behind an Irish Pub. Do not let this location fool you. Once you descend the steps you will come up to a ticket booth where $35 will get you general admission and $50 will get you VIP access to skip the line. Wanting access to the full experience I opted to go with a general pass.
You do not have to go far before you begin to experience what Basement has in store for you. Detailed static props and animatronics are on display ready for a good photo op, but don’t get too distracted because the line actors are ready and waiting for you. As you snake your way through the line multiple actors make their presence known and their high energy provided both entertainment and a fair share of good scares. To aid in the entertainment a live DJ is set up playing a variety of music that keeps the energy level up. If you find yourself in line at the right time you may even wind up with some free merchandise- from the upper-level line actors rain down shot glasses and for a lucky few some t-shirts. Time in line goes by very quickly and before you know it you are at the door.
EYE CANDY/ VISUALS
You do not have to go very far into the attraction before the visual impact hits you. It is clear a lot of time and effort is put into every aspect. The attention to detail does not limit itself to just the rooms, even transitional hallways have something to offer. Creative lighting, walls ranging from stone to a look like that of lava, textured and sloping floors, to vines and pipes and more overhead, these elements combine to immerse you completely into the environment. The actors
fit seamlessly into their scenes. Costuming and makeup were on point and were a compliment rather than a distraction.
The overall walkthrough took around 35 minutes, and had I not taken note of the time I would have thought it took longer. The attraction is split up into two different themes and with so much to see you easily lose track of time.
The Basement is the darker and more oppressing part of the attraction. This is where you will find yourself surrounded by evil dolls, demented doctors, the inside of sewers, and even a spot that makes you think that you have found your way into Hell. The environment consumes you from floors, to walls, to the ceilings. There were few dead spots, and the actors were high energy. You could not make it far without something or someone coming at you. I did manage to turn the wrong direction in one room, but the actor was quick to recover from this and it did not ruin the scare tactic. It was action packed and maintained enough attention to keep you on your toes.
This is the 3D section of the attraction. Once in Shattered’s domain you will find yourself surrounded by cotton candy, ice scream, and a puppet show that will give you the creeps. Even though it is the most well-lit section of the attraction, visually it was probably my favorite. The 3D paint work was so effectively done that I questioned the depth of both the walls and the floors. More than once I reached out to steady myself because it was tricking my brain. The visual effects and animatronics did steal the show a bit from the actors and there were a few more vacant areas. The energy level was a bit lower in this section and the actors did not engage with customers quite as much in comparison to The Basement. Other than that, the lighting allowed you to appreciate the detail and gave a positive experience.
With few exceptions, actors played their rolls extremely well. They engaged well with groups and used their scenes to their advantage. Even with it being a busy night the actors were successful keeping groups spaced out. Our group never got stacked with other groups in The Basement, a positive thing to take note of. We did merge with the group behind us in Shattered, though I must say that our
speed did have a part in that as we were moving a bit slowly taking in the details. Overall, the actors did a fantastic job in bringing us into the environment. Beautiful sets alone cannot do the job, and the actors were the key to this experience
Haunted attractions have been around for a long time. It challenges individual attractions to take sometimes common themes and tackle them in a way that they seem original and unique. Basement of the Dead accepted this challenge and ran with it making them feel fresh and new. The attention to detail in the visuals and the motivated actors set them apart. One room even left me spinning
Reviewers that have worked in the industry are often the most critical. They know the ins and outs, so they know what to look for. A strong focus is put on the intricate details and the conduct of the crew. A scare or startle will always be met with excitement, but it is the entire experience we look at. There were some small critiques that were addressed, but it was an unforgettable experience.
REP PERSONAL NOTES
When the opportunity to go to Basement of the Dead presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I knew it was early in the season, I knew it was supposed to rain, and I knew staffing issues are hitting many haunts. These things could potentially lead to “negative” reviews on an attraction. If any of these factors were having an effect it was not obvious. The best haunts take what is thrown at them and do the best they can with it. I do not feel that these issues would be exclusive for Basement of the Dead and will probably be the case for many this year. Staffing issues are affecting many businesses and I doubt haunted attractions will be an exception. Just something to keep in mind as we all go forward this season.