haunted house horror

Things To Do: Disturbia Screams in the Park

Monday, October 06, 2014 Rob Samuelson

Haunted houses should not be judged on the lingering effects. As a matter of necessity, they rely on jump scares and usually unpaid actors whose sense timing might not be up there with, say, Wes Craven.



So how do we determine a good or bad haunted house?

I posit that the best haunted houses achieve three things. Through lighting and design, they disorient you into moments of confusion about where to go next. They blend practical special effects and human actors into a halfway believable setting. And the jump scares actually get you occasionally – you don't see them coming.

Disturbia: Screams in the Park, located at the MB Financial Park at Rosemont (5501 Park Place) in the lower level of the parking lot. If you've been there, you know that parking structure is already a deathtrap. Disturbia, run by brothers Joseph and Mike Pantano, formerly of the award winning Disturbia Torment of Fears in Addison, understands its setting and puts it to use.



You enter the house via elevator. The lights are neon purple, black on the walls. You wait in a dank, cobwebbed room adorned with black tables and chair as TVs play loops of the most terrible deaths in horror classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A man in a mask not unlike that film's villain, Leatherface, lurks around the crowd, grunting and smashing his fists on things. 



Once you enter the tour proper, it gets inventive. Without giving away the surprises, they find ways around the “no touching the customers” rule that remains noninvasive, still a little scary, and a lot of fun. The boisterous laughter of the nice journalistic elder statesman beside me infected me – we had a great time wandering the maze.


There's one section midway through that is physically difficult to move through. It is pitch black, you lose sight of any traveling companions. It is cramped and claustrophobic. And it goes on for a long time. Uncomfortably long. And you hear tortured screams the whole time. That design thing I mentioned earlier? You can put a big check next to it.

As for the actors, they're into it. There are some world class screechers, improvisationally talented chainsaw wielders, and I jumped a few times. Once was my own fault, as I understood a piece of glass to be an opening to the next section and did my best excited-dog-into-the-storm-door impression. Another was an unfortunate bit of the actors getting their timing down – which, now a few days into operation, they should have completely smoothed out, so for once my procrastination serves a purpose for the readers – as one Jason-esque member of the ensemble opened a door right into me. It didn't hurt, but it sure was startling.

In all, Disturbia passes the three-pronged “Great Haunted House” test. It runs through November 1 from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. Get some candy, scream a little, and enjoy some fear-induced exercise. Happy Halloween.

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