42 W. New York Street, Aurora, IL
NOTE: The pricing above covers both Basement of the Dead and its companion house, Shattered. The price for just Basement of the Dead is $18, and for Shattered it's $10. The combo saves you some cash.
Basement of the Dead was one of the highlights of the 2013 season, so we naturally were looking forward to seeing it in 2014. Did it live up to our expectations? Read on!
Located close to the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Basement of the Dead actually consists of to non connected haunts. Basement is the main one and then there is Shattered, which is a separate 3D experience. It's well worth it to visit both when you are there.
One of the things that makes Basement of the Dead stand out is the costuming. All of the actors (and there are a lot of them) have excellent costumes and masks. Each of the masks has a distinct design, from individuals wearing bandages on their faces fastened with large safety pins, to people whose faces seem to have been wiped clean, to giant pig-faced creatures, each of the actors is unique, and given that actors tend to follow you around, you get a lot of chances to look at them!
And speaking of actors, each of the actors in Basement of the Dead is top notch. All stay in character, and each has their own characterizations that they use when approaching visitors. Some shuffle along muttering to themselves; some screech and rush back and forth quickly, and others simply cock their heads and stare at those that pass by. It definitely seems as though the actors would act as they do whether visitors were there or not, and that is simply excellent.
Also, each actor manages to come out at visitors before they enter a scene, during the scene, and many times after the scene, either by following along behind for a little while or by sticking their heads out of the walls that separate rooms. It's a great technique that not only keeps visitors unnerved and wondering if the scene they just finished is actually over, but also serves to increase the virtual numbers of actors and utilize them to the fullest, rather than simply using them for one scare and then moving on.
The sets, too, were exceptionally well done. One thing that stood out overall was that there was no way to see the roof of the building. Thus, the "world" of Basement of the Dead surrounded visitors and became reality for the time they were inside. Many sets were highly detailed, from hospital operating rooms to meat lockers to underground tunnels.
All had things to see in them, some of which were cleverly set up to distract visitors so actors could surprise them. Standout rooms were numerous, as the set design and lighting really added to the overall creepiness factor. Several rooms were set up with figures along the walls (or even on the walls) along with some type of distraction that prevented visitors from getting a close look at the figures - it was q guessing game as to which of the figures was real. You knew one of them was, but which one was the question. We won't spoil the scenes themselves, but we will say that Basement of the Dead very skillfully confounded visitors in these scenes by defying visitors' expectations. You'll have to visit it for yourself to see what we mean!
While one favorite scene would be hard to pick, there were a few that spring to mind. First was an underground sewer pipe, complete with running water, than featured numerous giant spiders. While we have seen these types of scenes before, this one featured a couple of giant articulated spiders, one of which hung from the ceiling and came down towards visitors while moving and screeching. It was a nice spin on a "typical" scene. Another excellent room was one filled with mannequins and hooded ghost figures arranged in an "S" pattern that visitors had to walk through. There were over a dozen figures here, and any one of them could have been real. Having to walk through them upped the creepiness factor greatly.
Again, special mention must be given to the actors, who made creepy scenes even better with their acting, While many actors came right up to us, none of them was too "in your face" or over the top, preferring to grunt or whisper rather than to yell and scream, effectively accentuating the walkthrough. One area where actors really made the scene was a crypt segment followed by a Satanic church area. The lighting and design made this area unnerving to begin with, but the area was also populated by a tall, red-faced, horned figure and a creepy nun. The devil figure appeared in front of visitors, not in the shadows but out in the open, so visitors knew they had to walk by him to get out, while the creepy nun poked her head into the scene, then walked into the scene itself and followed behind. Each actor had their own act, with the devil figure being more whispery and sinister, and the nun mocking and laughing. Both followed visitors through the entire scene, and even a bit beyond.
Additionally, there was a segment at the end of the haunt where it was mostly a maze in darkness. Actors came at us from all sides, appearing in front of us and following behind us, to the sides of us, and even from one scene to another. This type of thing can easily be overwhelming, but Basement of the Dead's actors knew exactly how to creep people out without getting too loud or threatening and preventing both passage and enjoyment. It was all great stuff, and shows that a lot of effort was put into making the visitor experience a memorable one.
The second haunt, called Shattered, was also quite good. It was all in 3D, but rather than simply rely on the 3D aspect to dominate the haunt, this one was also populated with a large number of live actors. Shattered has a carnival theme, so naturally most of the actors were clowns of some type, but there were also some odd looking characters that followed us all through the maze, speaking gibberish and basically making their presence known in the shadows. The mix of black comedy and carnival funhouse atmosphere made for an enjoyable walkthrough, with the 3D adding another element. It would still be a good walkthrough even without the 3D effect.
Overall, we'd highly recommend Basement of the Dead and Shattered. At $25 for two haunts, it's on the lower end of the spectrum of price when it comes to the bigger professional haunts, and, although not very long, it offers some great scares, atmosphere, and general entertainment. There's even a DJ providing live danceable music and a number of live actors outside to both amuse and frighten patrons (or amuse some patrons by frightening others). It's all good fun, and it's worth a trip!