As a recent transplant to Oklahoma, one of the first events I attended this summer was Nightfall Haunted Territory's Horror Con in July-- the first of its kind in OK. It was there that I heard about this amazing small-scale haunt for the first time and I had been counting down the days to visit ever since. Now in their third season, owners Gambit & Rad have done a phenomenal job bringing their love of all things horror into the haunt production scene and making all of your childhood nightmares come true.
Atmosphere - 5
While Nightfall Haunted Territory was established in 2017, they have been forced to move locations each of the three years the attraction has been running. I am unsure about the exact reasoning behind not having a consistent property, but I will say that the owners have absolutely made the best of what they have. This year, the haunt was a pop-up maze structure in the field of a cannabis dispensary strip mall. The location was easy to find via GPS, but parking was very limited due to being in a small business district. Despite the less-than-ideal location, the owners have put in a lot of additional effort to build the overall atmosphere-- a food truck, popcorn stand, portable restrooms, and a massive movie projection on the side of the adjacent building. One of my favorite aspects of this event was that John Dugan (Grandpa Sawyer of Texas Chainsaw Massacre himself!) was there to give free autographs and a private photo-op to your group right before you stepped into the haunt. My classic-horror-loving heart about exploded when I heard about all of their guest appearances this season and definitely pushed me to want to come back multiple nights to see others. The biggest area for growth in terms of atmosphere would have been to add signage to ticketing, lines, and food stands in order to have an easier time navigating the field upon arrival. I can’t wait to see what this dynamic duo have up their sleeves for long-term placement of this haunt!
Special Effects - 8
Nightfall Haunted Territory had absolutely incredible special effects during my walkthrough despite being alerted that over $3,000 worth of animatronics, fog machines, and other equipment had been stolen the week before. There were no indications of missing or dead areas and the scenes looked straight out of the movies they intended to replicate. As a haunt focused specifically on all of the best horror classics, it was fairly effortless to recognize which movie we were stepping into after each twist and turn. Fog was used appropriately throughout and was never overbearing or detracting from the experience intended. Several scenes, although we were outside, felt like I was stepping into an entirely different dimension where I could no longer trust my perception. Incredible job on all of the effects!
Costuming/Makeup - 9
Typically, putting on a movie mask is a sure way to lose creativity points with Scurryface. It tends to send the message of last-minute costuming and a lack of planning. BUT with Nightfall this was not the case at all! Every bit of costuming with this team was accurate and on point with original horror branding. Each and every character were easily identifiable as horror icons and they even used identical duplicates within mazes to really increase your disorientation. Costumes were well-fitting and no actors were left wearing simple bloodied street clothes or shirtless-- total win!
Theme - 9.5
This experience had a flawless theme and had easily recognizable rooms throughout. Beginning with a Bates Motel check-in, the entire attraction took you through your own horror nightmare. Without spoiling, let’s just say that the theme was incredible and perfect for both movie buffs and amateurs alike. My wife, who accompanied me and wouldn’t be described as anything near a horror fiend, was still able to identify each and every room and character in the haunt. Additionally, we never heard nor saw a single other group during this attraction despite many folks in line. Spacing was great,and absolutely no trip hazards (except one intentional room) throughout. The only reason this category wasn’t at a perfect 10 is due to the open air ceiling that could not be avoided due to the location of this haunt. If there were a way to enclose the space, this would add to the overall theme and feeling of being trapped inside each movie.
Customer Service - 8
Rad and Gambit feel like true business men when talking with them, in a very good way. They are both very professional while also being sure to meet folks where they are on their haunt journey. I say this because, occasionally, folks in certain industries or geek cultures can be slightly demeaning to those first trying to access new cultures or forms of entertainment. Since my first meeting with these folks, they have been nothing but welcoming to any and all interest in horror, being especially intentional about partnerships and families. For example, Nightfall hosted an LGBTQ+ weekend (and in Oklahoma this is no easy task) in honor of National Coming Out Day as well as partnering with the cannabis dispensary to provide a smoke bus for those with medical cards. Minutes after I had expressed interest in attending this attraction, I was called directly and given every bit of information needed in order to attend the event just a few hours later. I cannot give enough credit to these two and their quest for exceptional customer service, but the score was dropped a couple of points due to ticketing, security, and other grounds guests upon arrival. It was slightly difficult to navigate when we arrived and my questions were met with some less-than-friendly responses. This could be a determining factor for anyone who has stumbled upon the roadside haunt, so it’s something to consider in the future.
Actors - 10
This category earned a perfect score in a way that I have never witnessed be done before. The actors here were absolutely incredible, and did I mention that the owners themselves were also scare actors? Placement of actors was impeccable and each actor wither followed us and/or moved to a new location after a scare. We never felt rushed and no actors ever left us before we left them. The actors were also effective in getting us to stay in room to maintain proper spacing without making it feel like we were being stalled. Multiple characters would come to mess with us, block us in, and vocally engage with us which is a huge thing for me especially when stare scares haven’t really ever done it for me. The actors didn’t touch, but they got close enough to really put off an eerie feeling. I also must say that character movement is a huge aspect than many scare actors don’t put enough thought into and it was clear that these actors had studied up enough on their horror icons that they knew how to successfully make this work. I witnessed a final scene Leatherface chase two young girls all the way into the parking lot into their cars in a full sprint without once breaking character, even after they had driven away. Having the actors be willing to go all-in with each and every attendee really changed the game for me and I was thoroughly impressed with these volunteers!
Is it Scurry? - 9
Nightfall was surprisingly terrifying! As a small-scale haunt, there is really something to be said about how scary these scenes were. At several points in the attraction, it was set up for you to admire the aesthetics and props when suddenly one of them would actually be actors popping out at you. I jumped and screamed so much that my head was physically hurting afterward for over two hours. I have visited many haunts in my time and only one other haunt has ever given me this kind of crash afterward. If you are a classic horror fan and have imagined what you would do in various circumstances, this is the perfect opportunity to realize that you would absolutely just scream and fall down with the best of them. They nailed all of the details (with Jason even taking off his mask in the Crystal Lake scene to uncover his deformed face at one point) and it really sets you up for terror. It was also surprisingly quiet throughout which added to an overall feeling of nervousness and uncertainty. Touch pass options would hypothetically make it scarier, but I honestly don’t know if I could’ve handled it.
Bang for your Buck - 8
For over 20 solid minutes of scares AND celebrity guest appearances for $15, this haunt was a solid deal. I’m also sure it would have been tempting to raise ticket prices after having so much equipment stolen, but these owners are in no way shady. They maintain consistency and participate in every show each night. Parking was free, food was affordable, and the line was less than 30 minutes. One major setback for me was that they did not offer online pre-show sales or accept credit cards at the gate. While I’m sure these owners are trying to be as honest as possible by not allowing folks to order online without giving refunds if they can’t attend, it does detract from who has the capacity to attend an event on credit. I personally don’t carry any cash whatsoever and not having an ATM on-site would be a reason that I would have to take my family home if I were attending as the general public. Otherwise, this was a steal and allowed me to get a free autograph from John Dugan on half sheets provided by Nightfall themselves.
Nightfall is an experience that continues to haunt my dreams. I felt fully-immersed in all of the scariest movies that tortured me as a child and it was done incredibly well. I really respect the owners and am so excited for the work they are bringing to Oklahoma-- they’ve already booked next summer’s Horror Con location! While this haunt is very old school, their actors go hardcore and will not allow anyone to leave without being scared at least a few times. Nightfall will continue to be near and dear to my heart and I can’t wait for more!