Rocker/filmmaker Rob Zombie goes for jugular in Villa Park haunted house
Anyone familiar with Rob Zombie's work knows that a haunted house with his name on it probably won't shy away from the nasty stuff.
Zombie, a rock musician, screenwriter and filmmaker, has made a career of exploring the darker corners of the horror genre. Among the movies he's directed are "House of 1,000 Corpses," "The Devil's Rejects" and a remake of the influential slasher flick "Halloween."
It's not a complete surprise, then, that his haunted house in Villa Park, called Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare, goes as far as it can to scare the daylights out of the poor souls who decide to walk through.
"I wanted to give the people of Chicago something they haven't seen before, something that lives up to the name, 'Great American Nightmare,'" Zombie said.
Some people believe Zombie may have gone too far. The haunted house, open through Nov. 1 at the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, features a segment in which visitors walk through rooms dedicated to real-life serial killers. One of them is John Wayne Gacy, who killed 33 young men and buried most of them in a crawl space inside his Norwood Park Township home in the 1970s.
The inclusion of Gacy has sparked controversy because Gacy's crimes took place less than 20 miles from the Odeum and remain a painful part of local history.
Zombie said the rooms devoted to Gacy and other killers are part of his effort to push the envelope and immerse customers in a "true horror experience."
His partner on Great American Nightmare, noted haunted-house producer Steve Kopelman, agreed, saying the point of the rooms is to shock the audience with something new.
"In 33 years of working in haunted houses, I've seen nothing quite like this," Kopelman said about the haunted house. "Our goal is that after you walk through, you'll feel like you need to take a shower."
Great American Nightmare consists of three distinct parts, each one inspired by a Zombie horror film.
"The Haunted World of El Superbeasto" is based on an animated move that Zombie made. It's the most purely humorous part of the show, relying more on colorful 3-D effects, cartoonish images and raunchy jokes than on real scares. (Visitors are handed 3-D glasses at the start.)
The next area, "The Lords of Salem in Total Black Out," revolves around sensory deprivation. Customers are shrouded in complete darkness and subjected to physical frights -- moving floors, walls that press in, sudden loud noises.
"If we've done our job, you won't even be able to see your hand right in front of your face," Kopelman said.
The third and final area is the serial-killer maze, which is based on a scene from "House of 1,000 Corpses." The rooms attempt to scare visitors with a combination of live actors and animatronic characters.
The detail is meticulous. The room dedicated to infamous killer Charles Manson, who ordered the murders of actress Sharon Tate and several of her companions in 1969, re-creates the crime scene with period furniture and decor, including a hi-fi stereo and an Engelbert Humperdinck album cover. The Gacy room also features period furniture, along with a console television and a couch that holds two dolls.
Among the other killers featured in this segment are David Berkowitz (the "Son of Sam"), Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer.
"We went all-out with the design," Kopelman said. "We even used some crime-scene photos for reference, though we took some license here and there."
Great American Nightmare is an expanded version of a haunt that debuted last year in California. This year, Zombie brought it to Villa Park and Scottsdale, Arizona. He said he would love to continue adding new locations in the future.
"Maybe one day, we could even go international," he said with a smile. "It would be pretty cool to be scaring people all over the world."
Here's a list of some of the bigger and better-known haunted houses open for business in the area through Halloween. Dates and hours may change, and some might not be suitable for children. So check before you go and have a frightful time!
• Macabre Haunt presents Asylum, 882 Anita St. Open 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 10-11, 16-19, 23-26, 29-31, Nov. 1. $18 at the door, $15 online. Go to antiochhaunt.com.
• Basement of the Dead/Shattered 3-D, 42 W. New York St. Opens at 7 p.m. Oct. 9-12, 16-19, 23, 26, 29-30; opens at 6 p.m. Oct. 24-25, 31 and Nov. 1. (Closes at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. other days.) Tickets $18 for Basement of the Dead only, $25 for Basement/Shattered combo. Call (630) 896-2466 or go to 42fear.com.
• Nightmare From North Street, 601 Dundee Ave. (in Santa's Village Azoosment Park). Open from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday through Oct. 31. Tickets $10 online. Go to nightmarefromnorthstreet.com.
• Evil Intentions, 900 Grace St. Open at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10-12, 16-19, 23-26, 28-31. (Closes at midnight on Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. other days.) Tickets cost $25. Go to evilintentionshauntedhouse.com.
• Psychosis, 300 Lake St. Open Oct. 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 29-31, Nov. 1. Times vary according to day. Every Thursday is Ladies' Night; kids matinees on Oct. 11-12 and 25-26. Regular tickets cost $18, matinee tickets $7. Go to psychosishauntedhouse.net.
• Six Flags Fright Fest, 1 Great America Parkway. Open Oct. 10-13, 17-19, 24-26, 30-31, and Nov. 1-2. Hours vary by day. Tickets start at $33.49 online, $66.99 at the park. Go to frightfest.sixflags.com.
• Lombard Haunted House, 20 Yorktown Shopping Center. Open 7-11 p.m. on Oct. 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, 29, 31, and Nov. 1-2. Kids matinee open noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 25. Tickets $10 adults, $5 children 9 and younger. Kids matinee free, but donations of nonperishable food items appreciated. Go to haunted-house.com.
• Fear City, 8240 N. Austin Ave. Opens at 7 p.m. Oct. 10-12, 16-19, 22-26, 29-31, and Nov. 1. (Closes at midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 p.m. other days.) $25. Go to fearcitychicago.com.
• Disturbia: Screams in the Park, 5501 Park Place (MB Financial Park). Open from 7 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 10-12, 16-19, 22-26, 28-31, and Nov. 1. Tickets cost $25. Go to disturbiascreams.com.
Round Lake Beach
• Realm of Terror Horror Experience, 421 W. Rollins Road. Open at 7 p.m. Oct. 10-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, and Nov. 1. (Closes at midnight Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. other days.) Tickets $20. Go to realmofterror.com.
• Dungeon of Doom, 600 29th St. Open at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10-12, 16-19, 23-26, 29-31, and Nov. 1. (Closes at 10 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, midnight on most Fridays and Saturdays.) $25. Go to dungeonofdoom.com.
Rob Zombie's Great American NightmareWhat: A three-part haunted house created by musician/filmmaker Rob Zombie (not recommended for children under 13)
Where: The Odeum Expo Center, 1033 N. Villa Ave., Villa Park
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, Oct 10-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31; Nov. 1
Tickets: $30 at the door. Go to greatamericannightmare.com.