Nightmare Fairy Tale Haunted House – Beautiful Terror
It’s become a tradition every year for me and mine to attend the various haunted houses in the New York City area. It’s not just for the sake of getting the pants scared off of us – though that’s certainly a part of it! No, part of my interest in the various haunted attractions around Halloween time is the level of showmanship each venue puts into their costumes and sets. One of the premiere attractions in the city is Nightmare Haunted House, developed by Timothy Haskel and Jonathan Harlacher.
This was the fourth Nightmare haunted house I’ve attended. My favorite was first year’s Bad Dreams, which set the bar quite high for every subsequent year. The draw in all of the performance haunted houses that Nightmare puts together has always been the costumes and set design, and this year does not disappoint. Anyone can scare you, true, but does everyone bring together the savage beauty of old school fairy tales like Snow White and Rapunzel with the horror of the dark, confined spaces of a spook house? The costume design is very reminiscent of harlequin masquerade costuming with a decided eye towards old world European inspiration, very appropriate to the Grimm fairy tales. Also much appreciated is the homage to the original fairy tales and legends – this isn’t your typical disney! Here, old witches get tortured with hot shoes to their feet and huntsmen are in the woods out to get you… along with the wolves.
There’s a great deal less physically interactive parts to the experience than I remember from older Nightmare’s past, which was a little bit of a let down. There are some blindfolding parts, which is great, and I won’t give away any secrets but walking around in the dark is key. The cast does engage you while you’re in the house, though, and you are asked beforehand a little about what scares you, all to get played on later. Yet for all the interactivity, there is a lot less of the physical demands I missed from old nightmare’s past. Where in past experiences we had to sometimes climb and crawl over and through things, this had more of a traditional haunted house feel — you walk through the experience, things jump out. That was a strike against. Another was the quick nature of the trip. Maybe me and my crew were moving too fast, but the entire experience felt shorter than a few years ago, and that was another strike.
Yet for those strikes, the sets and costumes were fabulous. I sight the wolves as perhaps the best part, harrowing attendees through the woods as we went from story to story. A particularly beautiful wolf puppet really caught my eye near to a bridge — but then, I won’t give anything away. The masks give an otherworldly feeling to the cast that keeps you off guard from the very beginning, and the idea of Rapunzel, leading you into the dark by her ratty hair is fantastic. A special shout out goes to Rumplestilskin, whose presence and performance were both unnerving and intense. Having gotten face to face with him, I’ll say he was one of the highlights of the entire event.
When you’re out of the theater, there is an additional event attached to Nightmare that I seriously suggest. Upstairs is an additional little tidbit called ‘The Experiment’ which will push your level of comfort. Enjoy that one as an added bonus, it was well worth it. My night culminated with a free gift from the Nightmare folks, a copy of the new Guillermo del Toro book in The Strain series, which I had been waiting to read for ages! Nightmare’s give aways and special event nights are legendary, so check their calendar for what is going on. Or afterwards, hang out in the bar and play some pool. The CSV Center on 107 Suffolk is a great theater space in general, and Nightmare sure uses it to the fullest.
All in all, I recommend checking out Nightmare Fairy Tales for the costumes, the set, and the action. Will it chill and thrill? If you like a good scream and like to get scared, I think so. If you’re an old hat like me, I spent a lot more time staring at the great creations and marveling at the costumes than jumping, but that still works. Afterwards, stay for the drinks and the atmosphere as CSV Center is just a great place and the crowd’s cool. Just look out for the guy in the stocking mask, he’s out to make you scream.
Soon, I venture forth to check out their second NYC installment up in the Bronx, Nightmare Z-Day – that’s right, it’s zombie time. So stay tuned!