The Nightmare Realm experience begins unlike any haunt we've ever visited. Your haunt tour actually starts off-site… about 10-15 minutes away! They have limited parking, so they've partnered with the local high school to have their patrons park there and be bused over to the haunt. This fully immersive bus ride is where you become a part of the Nightmare Realm story. You are on the bus with some local real estate agents who are trying to sell you property in the town of Cypress Hollow. Anyone else getting Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) vibes here?
When we arrived, the entry/midway area of Nightmare Realm set a beautiful yet eerie tone - corn stalks, string lights, and some large hand-crafted props created the perfect space to pull up a seat at one of the many benches and enjoy some pizza, donuts, cider, or hot chocolate. We were super happy to see the Haunters Against Hate banner proudly displayed on their fencing! There was also an outdoor screen where a classic horror movie played and some super fun photo ops.
We enjoyed some very fun banter with several characters stalking the midway while attempting to avoid one in particular with a cattle prod… she was pretty generous with doling out those shocks!
But now it was time to enter Cypress Hollow… we had heard the tragic story of Trista. She knew she was different. She had heard the voices all her life. The people of Cypress Hollow thought she was crazy, but when a portal to another realm… a nightmare realm… opens in the town, the residents soon realized they were very wrong.
We beared witness to the destruction of the village and its people as the story continued to unfold during our trek through Cypress Hollow. Even though Nightmare Realm presents Retribution did not have the same budget as some of the other Michigan haunts we visited, every scene was purposefully crafted and intricately detailed. One of our favorites sets was their library… it was so elegantly damaged. The spiral (portal) pattern was repeated over and over again in very creative, Junji Ito-esque fashion.
This haunt is fueled by its nightmarish creatures and tragically transformed Cypress Hollow inhabitants, and they were EVERYWHERE! They were roaming the high school parking lot, the midway area of Nightmare Realm, and of course, throughout the haunt. Costuming and makeup were EXTREMELY detailed! Masks, prosthetics, and elaborate makeup were all masterfully executed! We appreciated how the story was so thoughtfully presented through character design, development, and dialogue.
Because Retribution centers around its story, scare actors were responsible for much more than just surprise jump scares. They provided connection and additional pieces of the story that kept us engaged in the horrific goings-on in Cypress Hollow. We met members of Trista’s family, her friend, classmates, and townspeople who knew her and clearly regretted what they had done. The believable characters coupled with the organic sets kept us fully immersed in Trista’s story!
There was an intense creepiness and palpable ebb and flow to the whole experience that all culminated in an epically gruesome final scene! We came face-to-face with the infamous Trista and got to experience her retribution with her. Trista’s poor mother…
The 2022 haunt season was only Nightmare Realm’s second year as a pro haunt, and we were impressed to say the least. They aren’t new to the game though; Nightmare Realm had been operating as a home haunt for several years before making the switch to pro, and the owner has been haunting since his high school days. What a dope backstory and what a dope haunt!
The Nightmare Realm team is also trying their hand at a Christmas show this year with Project Jingle Hell, for ONE NIGHT ONLY! As if the residents of Cypress Hollow didn’t have it bad enough at Halloween, Santa decided they were very naughty this year and is bringing Krampus and his HELLves to visit. We can only imagine the terror that will ensue.
We talk about vision a lot, you either have it or you don’t… and this crew has it! We can’t wait to see what this passionate cast and crew come up with next! Do NOT miss this one, folks!