Nightmare Forest Haunt Park Review 2014

Prepare to purge your fears this Halloween within the dark woods of Otter Creek Park!

It begins as soon as you turn your car onto the long, winding road into Otter Creek Park. The darkness is impenetrable. The trees close in on both sides. Your heart begins to beat faster. Sweat begins to pool up on your brow even though there’s a chill in the air. There’s something up ahead; two red points of light piercing the blackness. Are they traffic lights directing you to the Nightmare Forest parking lot or are they something else?

It has been said that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination, and I believe that can be true for haunted attractions as much as anything else. Abandoning the bright lights of Louisville for the dark woods surrounding the Brandenburg area sets the mood for primal terror. It will take your eyes several minutes to adjust to the pitch black darkness as you slowly make your way to the ticket cabin. You’re already scared and you haven’t even begun the hike into the nightmare world that owner/operators Jason Weber and Jeff Howlett have constructed deep in the woods.

“Last year we only had two weeks to set up,” says Weber, “so this year it felt like a luxury because the park gave us six weeks to build the haunt.” If you visited Nightmare Forest last year, you’ll certainly be able to tell the difference this year. The added prep time has given Weber and Howlett more time to create a longer and more elaborate haunt. Last year was also complicated by the fact that these two Spook Masters also attempted to launch the Dead End Hotel in Shepherdsville, which divided their time and focus.

That haunt had heart, but lacked the time and resources necessary to fulfill Weber and Howlett’s creative vision for it.

The good news is that all of the best scenes and sets built for the Dead End Hotel are now being used as the first act of the Nightmare Forest trail, so you get to tour a complete mini indoor haunt before you even head out into the woods. The Dead End Hotel is a place lost in time, haunted by terrible things that happened there long ago. You’ll encounter undead desk clerks, bell boys and house maids as you make your way through blood soaked room after room.

When you leave the hotel, you’ll be on your way into the black forest where you will come upon an above ground, fog bound cemetery. This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire haunt. Huge crypts and mausoleums create a creepy maze to navigate as moans of the living dead come from somewhere in the fog.

This part of the trail focuses on classic horror and original characters. There’s a fantastic Mummy’s Tomb scene that gave me the best jump scare of the entire night. Each structure you encounter along the trail presents a different challenge from wobbly bridges and uneven surfaces to dark, twisting corridors. Soon you’ll stumble upon an abandoned amusement park where you’ll find Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine has apparently broken down. It’s just like Disneyland, except you may want to skip the meet and greet with the fairy tale princesses. Within the kiddie park you’ll also find a Western themed town full of undead cowpokes.

At the halfway point, you’ll have to wait in a brief line before heading out on the Trail of Terror, which consists of mostly movie based scenes. You’ll have to visit the “Sinister” house and face the demonic, Bagul. You’ll travel through the post-apocalyptic land of “The Hills Have Eyes,” the cursed Camp Crystal Lake, Freddy’s boiler room and the giant Lament Configuration where Pinhead tears souls apart.

All of these scenes are fine, and most of them are Nightmare Forest mainstays, but there are several new or completely reworked scenes worth special mention. One new scene is “The Conjuring,” which was my favorite horror movie last year, so it really pleases me to see someone present it in a haunt. You’re forced to investigate the haunted dresser cabinet from the film and to bear witness to the climatic exorcism.

There is a jaunt into Haddonfield and a confrontation with Michael Myers, which isn’t exactly new or unexpected, but Trail of Terror depicts scenes from John Carpenter’s classic you don’t usually see in haunts, including Judith Myers’ stolen tombstone and the Shape wearing the ghost sheet and glasses.

There is also a creative spin on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” After you make you make your way past sides of beef in the slaughterhouse, you’ll be confronted by Leatherface, but Weber and Howlett have chosen the best scene from the latest chainsaw reboot, “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” to recreate. I have to give them credit for attempting to actually stage the scene where Leatherface THROWS his chainsaw at the camera (in 3D!). It doesn’t quite work, and they’re still trying to perfect the effect, but I give them bonus points for creativity.

Last, but certainly not least, they’ve saved “The Purge” for the big finale. I don’t want to spoil anything that happens in that scene, but let’s just say that the New Founding Fathers allow these actors to do anything they want to you during Purge Night!

Nightmare Forest has a no touching policy, but that doesn’t mean the actors won’t get in your face. The cast is well trained, everyone knows their character and stays in character throughout.

For no additional charge, you can also experience Hawthorne’s Circus Bizarre. Hawthorne has appeared at Nightmare Forest before, but his show has never been this elaborate. He has brought an entire mini carnival with him. There are gaming booths, various illusions, fire eating and feats of dangerous skill. There are also freaks of nature and curiosities on display, including the mysterious and unspeakable, “IT.”

Nightmare Forest is open on Friday and Saturday nights through November 1st from dusk until 2 AM. Tickets are $19 online on their website at http://www.yournightmarebegins.com/ or $20 at the gate. VIP Speed Passes are available for $26 online or $30 at the gate.

The Phantom of The Ville

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