House of Torment - Chicago, Illinois

A Review

by gurldurham

During the car ride on the way to House of Torment in Morton Grove my friend Alma and I chit chatted about all the usual stuff women chit chat about. Y’know. Food, clothes, our friend Kathy’s weird cuddle parties, and 2030 being the predicted end of civilization as we know it. 

When the economy finally collapses (Hey Federal Reserve, how exactly DO you pay off the national debt when money itself is created AS an interest bearing debt?) right alongside the final drawdown of nonrenewable resources resulting in power grids failing and widespread blackouts (that aren’t going to come back on you understand) it will leave us in something similar to the post-apocalyptic world we’ve only ever seen in movies and Some Third World Countries That We’d Never Go Visit Anyway.

I told Alma that I would form a roaming band of Amazons and at night we’d nestle in the abandoned architecture of Former Chicago and our weapons would be bows and arrows and tiny tomahawk axes. She told me I was a fool and that she hoped to be one of the first to die.

The Doomsday Clock ( puts us at 3 minutes to midnight, BTW, so while the end of civilization as we know it is a reality we will probably actually see in our lifetime, what better way to prepare for it than by heading out to a haunted house that simulates the real thing?

When we arrive there’s a thing called Nemesis waiting out front for us. He's a huge, lonely alien lord who has come to earth to, Morton Grove. Hee!

Nemesis has an interesting personality for an intergalactic despot. He rages and then he cries and I’m pretty sure he was flirting with me too. Or maybe I was flirting with him. Male tears are a usual part of my romantic trysts so I could have been reading into it.

Who knows! Emotions tend to run high after a CONTAGIUM VIRUS has wreaked havoc upon civilization, which is the theme of this year’s House of Torment.  

We stand in line in front of a familiar Red Line Trains sign which marks our entrance into some Hopefully Fucked Up Shit and I’m filled with anticipatory glee. Granted, the red line joke kind of writes itself but it’s still great. Who doesn’t feel just a little bit creepy late at night down in the tunnels of Chicago waiting on the spooky red line train carrying God Knows Who? Or What.

After our journey through Contagium and the second half of the attraction, The Abandoned, Alma and I discussed our favorite parts of House of Torment and whether or not Nemesis was single.

Alma has been to the Morton Grove haunted house for the past 5 years and exclaims that every year they make things just a little bit different but that this time -they really outdid themselves. She explains to me, as an avid Go-er of haunted houses, that when you have two haunted houses side by side the second part often seems like an afterthought of ideas they hastily glued together. With House of Torment this was not the case as she felt the sequel was just as good if not better than the original.

Here our opinions diverge but only slightly. While I enjoyed both houses equally, Alma was thrilled with The Abandoned’s use of disorienting techniques like fog machines, strobe lights, mirrors and a maze that we actually got lost in for a moment until a friendly Condemned Soul from Templeton helped us out. Admittedly, the disorientation does heighten that sense of abandonment, but I personally felt that I got a little too much of the same stuff found in Contagium to have a preference of one over the other.

Contagium is an adrenaline pumping fast-paced romp through the immaculately detailed sets of The Happening Itself, filled with diseased body parts and screaming half human-half-alien-zombie-things which pushed us forward so quickly that we actually ran into another group. Nothing kills the vibe faster than walking into a scene in which the alien-humans are already mid-scream or running back into place to jump out and uh, "scare" you. Awkward!

Despite these minor blips, Contagium was great and there was no time to stop and admire the scenery because we needed to Get The Hell Out of There. Because of this logical set up in the first house I was hoping for something a bit slower paced with more suspense building in The Abandoned that I didn’t really get.

I found myself covering my ears and bracing myself for the inevitable moment when someone would jump out and scream in my face. This wasn’t necessary as there were several parts, creepy frozen moments in time, that were in themselves quite haunting. There was a young Abandoned Soul wandering amongst the patrons waiting in line who had a real knack for appearing beside them with an expression of confused horror on her once-pretty face, effectively scaring the hell out of them without a sound. The Abandoned could have used more of that.

Part of what makes haunted houses attractive is the sense of familiarity one gets walking through the scenes. From a red line train car to your Grandmother’s house covered in lace to a bubble-TV tuned to static in the wee hours of the night, walking through House of Torment is like having your own memories temporarily washed over with a bloody paintbrush. This was a major highlight for both myself and Alma and it’s worth going to visit just to admire the care the producers took in creating your past.

And your future as 2030 is right around the corner.

We’ve concluded that Alma will most certainly be one of the first to die as evidenced by her nervously introducing herself to every actor in every scene because the giant scaredy cat apparently thought they were really going to eat her and I will probably just use Nemesis as my Amazon tribe’s token male bodyguard.

It can’t go any further than that, Nemesis, I’m sorry.

You’re riddled with disease.


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