After playing host to numerous haunted attractions during every Halloween season for the past couple of decades, the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois has been given a cinematic overhaul for 2014 as the new location of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare. After making it’s debut in California last year, 2014 finds the Great American Nightmare (GAN) taking on two cities, with Scottsdale, Arizona joining Chicagoland for the newly-annual celebration of macabre entertainment with a rock and roll flair. THE ROCK FATHER was invited to check out the opening night festivities – complete with a full-blown Rob Zombie concert at the Odeum, and a trip through all three haunted houses, each based on one of Zombie’s feature films: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, THE LORDS OF SALEM and THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO. Here’s some thoughts…
THE LORDS OF SALEM in Total Black Out
A classic “dark maze” to prey on the fears of claustrophobia and the unknown, visitors enter through a facade of the apartment building featured in the 2012 on which this attraction is based. Heidi Hawthorne (played in the film by Sheri Moon Zombie) greets visitors out front, while a demon priest rips bloodied pages from a Holy Bible before crumpling them and shoving them into the hands of those brave enough to enter. Inside, creeps lurk in the shadows to provide jump scares in total darkness after spending time in the body-laden hallways of the apartment building.
–Classic haunt action right here.
THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO 3D
With a 3D effect created using “Chromadepth” glasses, visitors enter the hyper-technicolor world of Zombie’s 2009 animated feature, following in the footsteps of El Superbeasto and Suzi-X all leading up to a confrontation with Satan himself. The motion sensations are fun, the characters delightfully bizarre, and at one point we encountered a yellow version of Chairy from PEE-WEE’s PLAYHOUSE (a show Zombie worked on many years ago).
–Not scary for this visitor, but highly entertaining. The 3D effects on the floor are particularly fantastic.
HAUNT OF 1000 CORPSES
The pinnacle of this incarnation of the Great American Nightmare, haunt-goers enter a replica of Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters & Madmen, ushered into the madness by Spaulding himself as the film’s “Murder Ride” takes on a living form. The production design in this haunt is stellar, each scene recreating the real-life horrors of famed serial killers such as Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy (particularly creepy given the close proximity of the GAN to where Gacy’s actual crimes were committed). All senses are used here, with particularly good effect on scent and motion. There are places where musty, death-y smells can be experienced, while a final confrontation with Dr. Satan after coming through a rumbling mobile home is surreal.
–I wanted to go through this part again but didn’t have time to do so.
ROB ZOMBIE in Concert (One Night Only):
My second Rob Zombie concert in just two months, and the latest in a string that solidifies Zombie’s place as the artist I’ve seen most live (see: “Chasing Zombie”), Zombie and the crew (Guitarist John 5, Bassist Piggy D and Drummer Ginger Fish) did not disappoint, cranking out a “Greatest Hits” set list (with some surprises) that satisfied the incredibly-packed crowd following a 30-minute opening set by “DJ Ginger Fish” spinning tunes from RAMMSTEIN, SLIPKNOT and others, with some of the mid-90s WHITE ZOMBIE techno remixes thrown in.
Opening with “Teenage Nosferatu Pu**y” from their latest album, VENOMOUS RAT REGENERATION VENDOR (complete with Nosferatu mic stands that they didn’t have with them at the July show), highlights from the entire Zombie catalog were present, while dropping in the expected White Zombie hits (“Thunderkiss ’65,”“More Human Than Human”), paying tribute to THE RAMONES (“Blitzkrieg Bop”), riffing on JAMES BROWN’s “Sex Machine” and breaking out their cover of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD’s “We’re An American Band,” an unlikely song to become a Zombie staple, but one that has – and has embodied the vibe of the band completely.
The non-conventional venue was challenging to an extent (smaller stage, interesting logistics), and the heat of the crowd brought to mind the infamous “Tattoo the Earth” show (Slayer, Slipknot, etc.) that took place in a Golf Dome in Bridgeview about 15 years ago – but thankfully never reached unbearable levels, despite being pretty sticky on the floor. As the concert was an opening-night affair, it’s not surprising that it was 100% sold out.
Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare will celebrate the Halloween season on the following dates between now and November 1:
October: 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31; November: 1
Hours for Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare will be 7:00 PM until midnight (Fridays and Saturdays) and 7:00 PM until 10:00 PM (Thursdays and Sundays). Tickets are available here.
Odeum Expo is located at 1033 North Villa Avenue in Villa Park, IL, just outside Chicago. It’s easily accessible from downtown Chicago by major highways, and from the Tri-State area by tollways.