Cayo Industrial Horror Realm – Full Review

Cayo Industrial Horror Realm is a Haunted Attraction located in Rome, NY.

530 Harbor Way, Rome, NY 13440
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Haunt Type(s):

Haunted House


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Free Parking, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, You will NOT be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 15, 2022 by Team Skelegore.

Final Score: 8.53

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Another year, another eerily realistic premonition of the apocalypse by Cayo Industrial Horror Realm. Josh and his team are back at it in 2022 for their 20th season. Every time I come back to see this show, it gets a little bit better, a little more polished, and a whole lot creepier. Outside of haunt season on select nights, Cayo is home to Atrophy Escape Ward, an intense hour-long escape experience set in a 1960s style asylum. Both of these shows are at the top of their class, and are some of, if not the best post-apocalyptic themed experiences in the north-east US, if not the entire nation.

Cast Score: 8.65

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Cast Review:

Ok, let’s get right to the point; Cayo has one of the most talented casts in Central New York, and they are absolute masters of creating terrifying characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love when a mental patient character can be silly, or otherwise “crazy,” but that’s the image we get from fictional media. The actors at Cayo are able to take a mental patient and display the anguish and pain that somebody in that situation would really be feeling. The screams and cries for help sound genuine, and the movements are accurate to the injuries portrayed. Even characters that are based entirely in fiction are horrifyingly realistic. The hordes of zombies that slink around, and really make you feel like a piece of meat are the image of medical experiments gone wrong. The paramilitary soldiers in the opening scenes move with a purpose and encourage you to do the same. No longer being a soldier, I don’t hustle much faster than the speed of smell these days, and that really stuck in their craw. After being placed in a holding cell, one soldier came in to yell at me, and tried the classic drill sergeant line “I will break you!” “No you won’t,” I replied, and then he left. Despite my unenthusiastic reply, and unwillingness to be scared, he did give it a lot of effort. As a side note, drill sergeants in the US military strive to speak clearly at all volumes, so that they can be understood when giving instructions. While this actor did show me his war face, he seemed to be more focused on volume over clarity making the speech harder to understand with the loud noises happening all around.

The zombie bride in the church has always been one of my favorite characters. She slithers from out of nowhere, and really makes you think that you might lose a piece of your leg, all while crawling around in a full wedding gown. As I already mentioned, the hospital patients are spot on, showing real life symptoms of various conditions. The blood-thirsty creatures approaching the end are truly something out of a nightmare, feasting on bloody corpses, hungry to turn passersby into the next meal.

And yet, with all of these fantastic actors lurking in the shadows, I think there could be a few more sprinkled around. Some of the actors do move between scenes to help cover adjacent spaces which is very useful, but there are a few scenes that could benefit from an actor, such as the sewer area with the hanging bodies, or the finale which did feel a little light on actors.

Costuming Score: 9.18

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Costuming Review:

Costumes are definitely on on the same level as the actors, from the shouty soldier guys dressed in black, carrying M4 style rifles, to the undead student in the classroom, to the purge-esque jester near the end; every costume that I was able to see in detail was absolutely tailored to the scene and character. In a padded cell there’s a patient in a straightjacket, which looked to be quite loose, and the jury is still out on how deliberate that was. On one hand, it could be the idea that this maniac is fighting their way out of a straightjacket and is about to free themselves, which is a pretty good story to have. On the other hand, it could have been left loose for the actor’s comfort and safety. However, having been wrapped in a straightjacket for a scene in a haunt, the folks in wardrobe definitely get more entertainment out of wrapping you up like a burrito. There’s another really great costume which is more imposing than I would have initially thought. As you walk through the winding corridors, there is a paint booth sort of room, and the actor inside is spraying god-knows-what onto a pig corpse as well as a human corpse, while wearing a full body hazmat suit; hood and all. The actor is fairly tall, which helps with the intimidation factor, but something about the faceless, lifeless being turning their attention on you is actually pretty terrifying.

Makeup is also used to great effect, most makeup jobs are the usual blood and dirt, but in a few cases there were some very impressive zombie make-overs that totally transformed actors into screen ready creatures, ravenously hungry for the flesh of the living. Even small details can help to make a big difference, too. In the church scene, and I only caught it for less than a second, the bride has at least one contact lens that turns the eye a milky white, as if the pupil and iris had just decided they were no longer happy in that particular eyeball. Now that I think about it, it would probably be better if there was only one, as it creates an asymmetric visual that our brains generally don’t like.

Customer Service Score: 9.69

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The staff at Cayo are always friendly, and happy to help anyone that’s unsure of what to do or where to go. The ticket window experience is pretty seamless, but guests should be aware that it is cash only. There is an ATM right next to the ticket window, but stopping by your bank before heading out will help avoid ATM fees and keep things moving smoothly. The website has all of the basic information you’ll need before arriving, including ADA limitations, hours of operation, parking and directions, ticket prices, and other commonly asked questions. For anyone in a wheelchair, the website says to call ahead and notify the ticket window so that they can provide an escort. This is probably one of the only haunts in the CNY area that can accommodate wheelchairs, too.

The queue is easy enough to find, it’s the long line of people standing around. Parking is also straightforward, and after exiting your vehicle, just look for the lit up sign that reads Cayo Industrial Horror Realm. There are skip-line passes available once the wait starts to get longer. They are $30, and definitely worth the extra cost. The covered area of the queue takes about thirty minutes to clear when it’s completely full, and can easily get up to around two hours on busy nights. Anyone who buys a skip-line pass is told to locate a security guard, and they will escort you to the front of the line. This method works, but perhaps a dedicated queue area could be slightly more efficient. Besides a dedicated VIP queue, there’s not much that really needs any sort of real attention. Visitors should just be aware of their surroundings inside, as there are a few spots where you could bump your head, or one spot where the floor is uneven, and could cause a fall.

Immersion Score: 8.4

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Immersion Review:

On the old score sheet, there used to be a question of “does the location authenticate the haunt” or something to that effect. The problem with that is so many haunts are in shopping malls, or old retail storefronts, or other various vacant properties. This is not the case for Cayo. The abandoned warehouse absolutely authenticates the theme, and everything from the ticket window, to the entrance queue is stylized to the industrial horror motif. Inside, there’s not much of a linear story except for the very first opening scenes where soldiers barrage guests before shuffling them into holding cells. Once released into the wasteland, the idea of a narrative story falls away, and the patron is left wandering through ruins of war, famine, and despair. The scenes are all visually similar enough that it’s easy to consider them in the same theme, but diverse enough to represent a disintegrated world, and all of the things that are happening within it.

As I said, this haunt is inside an old warehouse, and just waiting in line gets the blood flowing. The industrial light bulb coverings are bruised and beaten from years of weathering the elements, the sounds and screams from inside bleeding into the queue area, and the fear of what you’ll find after wandering in. Just as a precaution, maybe take a visit to the porta-johns before queueing up; you might be waiting a while. After exiting, guests will walk parallel to the line, as they head back towards the ticket booth and parking lot. There isn’t much going on in this area, the ticket booth sells a few pieces of Cayo merchandise, and there was a food truck on site when I visited. A couple of large wooden spools for industrial copper cables are turned on end to serve as tables, which definitely helps to fit in the overall theme, but there’s just nothing really going on. I’ve mentioned in the past that fires in 55 gallon drums would be a nice touch, but I still acknowledge that city ordinances may not allow for that. Perhaps some selfie stations, or a mini escape room somewhere on the premises would help to drive extra ticket sales, and keep people on property for a little bit longer.

Special FX Score: 8.75

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Special FX Review:

Just as with everything else, Cayo is putting careful thought into their special effects, and scene design. The overarching apocalypse theme lends itself to some very disturbing imagery, which opens the door to some equally disturbing animatronics. One of which is the bed-bound glutton, whose stomach moves like it’s going to split open and reveal a smaller monster, all while the head turns from side to side as if it’s watching you cross the room, or the gigantic animatronic dog that barks very loudly and is quite threatening. I’m not even afraid of big dogs; in fact, I’ll usually make friends with them before I will humans, but this beast clearly is not interested in walkies and car rides to the park. On the other hand, there’s a chainsaw prop that’s very clearly a prop – the sound is considerably more quiet, and processed for it to be real. And while I appreciate not inhaling gas fumes, there just isn’t a good replacement for the real thing.

Set and sound design are just as over the top as the effects. The sewer scene with actual running water is very impressive, and really made me wonder if this was already a feature in the warehouse, or if it was built for the show. I’m leaning towards the latter because I did notice the plastic liner in the pool around the edges, but that could be covered up by fake bricks to really sell the illusion. The medical devices with the sci-fi displays were also interesting. The screens displayed a 1980s-esque grid projection of a human body, while all of the buttons and knobs were lit up, really giving the idea that these machines and monitors are currently in use, rather than the antique radio equipment that usually fills laboratory or hospital scenes in haunts. Ambient sounds fill the corridors and scenes, with noises that don’t really have any context, but are the perfect selection for the end of the world. It’s a strange thing, but there really isn’t any better choice of ambient noises and sound for the theme, and supporting scenes.

Scare Factor Score: 8.75

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Scare Factor Review:

So, is it scary? Hell yeah it’s scary! The flickering lights as you wander down the hallway in the hospital area really set the mood as zombies and maniacs come lunging out of the shadows, trying to bite your face off like Florida man on bath salts. The uncertainty of what lies in wait around the corner is the thing that puts Cayo above the rest in this department. There’s nothing out there that anybody can create that’s scarier and more nerve-wracking than what your own subconscious can conjure up. Sure, you might see a shadowy spot and figure there’s going to be an actor or something hidden in there, and you might be right. But it’s when you don’t see how a scare could possibly happen, that’s where they get you and that’s where Cayo rises to the top of their game.

This is another case where I’m not able to see how groups are interacted with, because I am still the lone wanderer, aimlessly shuffling through haunted houses, talking to myself like a psychopath. Groups are loaded into the show two at a time, and they are kept in separate holding cells until one of them is let out. This helps the line flow a little faster, it gets the blood pumping for the poor souls being kept in cages, and it keeps groups spread out to avoid conga lines. All great things, but with my whole group consisting of just me, of course I got all of the scares. I would have to think that the actors at Cayo are trained to scare towards the middle in general, and have the ability to switch things up as they see fit. Some scenes are a bit tight, and would necessitate scaring towards the middle to get as many people as possible, where others are more open and would allow for a whole group to see an effect or scare simultaneously. The finale scenes are great examples of wide open sections that could target a whole group at once. The actor with the chainsaw is highly energetic and moves around quite a lot, keeping guests on their toes. The chainsaw is pretty cliche for a finale, but I get it – it’s loud and scary and makes teenage girls scream like they’ve never seen a chainsaw before. I did enjoy the purge-esque jester character at the very end, though. He was posed in such a way that I thought it might be another mannequin or animatronic, but then he sprung to life and took me by surprise.

Entertainment & Value Score: 6.75

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E&V Review:

Cayo has an amazing show, and the general admission price of $20 is very reasonable for the level of production that is witnessed inside. For the price of admission, you’ll get a roughly 10 to 12 minute show and the nightmares that will surely follow after finding your way out of the harrowing wasteland. For anyone that’s been following my reviews this year, you’ll know that I have had the worst luck with my microphone setup for taking notes, and getting an accurate time for shows. In this case, not only did my mic unplug itself, my phone decided that I didn’t really want to record audio, and stopped the app after two minutes of being on. This makes it hard to get an exact time stamp. But, I have estimated just over 11 minutes for an average walk through, and that gives us about 0.55 boos per buck. I’m figuring this based on the fact that I arrived exactly at the top of the hour, spent about 5 minutes walking to the ticket window, and another 5 being escorted to the entrance and waiting to be let in. After exiting, and noticing the mishap, it was about 20 after the hour, so your mileage may vary based on how slowly you walk to really take it all in.

There isn’t much else going on outside of the main attraction, with the exception being a food truck when I visited, and a small selection of merchandise available at the ticket window. As I mentioned before, having fire pits may violate fire or building code, and a midway might not fit within the footprint of the actual property. I think that having short immersive experiences would help to keep people on site for longer, encouraging concession and merchandise sales. Overall, the ticket price is very reasonable for the show, and it is definitely worth a visit when in Rome.

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Past Awards

2020 Awards

Most Immersive Haunt (Given by: Team Skelegore)

Past Awards

2020 Awards

Most Immersive Haunt (Given by: Team Skelegore)

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