Into The Dark Terror Vault – Full Review

Into The Dark Terror Vault is a Haunted Attraction located in San Francisco, CA.

88 5th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
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Haunt Type(s):

Haunted HouseHaunted Laser Tag


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Paid Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Special Events, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, You may be touched, Original Characters, Indoor Waiting Line, All-Indoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 9, 2019 by Team In-Corpse-A-Rated.

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Final Score: 8.84

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Into The Dark has taken up residence once again in the Old Mint in San Francisco. An imposing granite Greek Revival building, the Old Mint once served the United States Department of the Treasury until 1937, having survived the 1906 earthquake. It is currently under the management of the California Historical Society. The residing haunted attractions of Into The Dark are a collaboration of well-known drag queen, performer, filmmaker, and event producer Peaches Christ, theater designer David Flowers, and venue management firm Non Plus Ultra. Terror Vault is the featured haunt of Into The Dark, which starts as a guided tour of the Old Mint where you’ll learn of its ‘secret history’ as a prison that housed some of the most dangerous sociopaths, and were kept under the watch of a sociopathic Warden. As guests venture through the attraction, the ghosts of each of the prisoners reveal their story, and the attraction culminates to the Warden’s final orders. The secondary attraction is the Apocalypse Zombie Survival Game, where guests must make their way through a labyrinth of hidden zombies and solve puzzles to get the vaccine to save humanity. This attraction has a more ‘escape room’ feel, but you’re not confined to a single room. The catch of Apocalypse is each guest must wear an armband with a digital meter that measures your radiation exposure. Too much exposure means you die and lose the game, so you must stay as far as you can from the zombies as you traverse this attraction.

Most of the attractions we attend aim towards a teens-plus demographic, which consists of about 16 years old to adults, but Into The Dark’s Terror Vault is an adult event presented as an immersive theater experience. Terror Vault only permits guests 21 years or older on Fridays and Saturdays, and 18 years or older on all other days. Last year, we commented that Terror Vault didn’t have to be an adult only attraction, because the content was suitable for minors. Let’s just say the producers fixed that. Terror Vault earned its ‘adults only’ credibility with some very mature scenes that I’d rather leave to your imagination. Similar to last year, Terror Vault gives guests the choice to ‘Opt-In’ by wearing a glowstick necklace, or ‘Opt-Out’ by declining the offer to wear it. Opting-In means that guests may be set apart from the group, touched, told to crawl, eat something, write on your face or other various experiences. Opting-Out would allow guests to have a more passive experience as a casual observer. Since we are haunt reviewers, of course we opted-in! Being pulled out from the group provides slightly different experiences, so you’ll never get the exact same show twice.
Besides the two attractions, there’s The Morbid Midway, which is the main hallway of the Old Mint. There you will find The Gold Bar speakeasy, featuring specialty cocktail drinks, Madam Zola’s Caf������ for some delicious snacks and a tarot card reading, a pinball arcade featuring appropriately Halloween-themed machines, and Creepshop selling merchandise.

Cast: 9.29

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We could tell that Into The Dark has some very well-trained actors, because this event is very dialogue heavy. All of the lead actors have a script to deliver, but they are able to improv in character according to the different guests’ reactions. Terror Vault has three main victim actors, and each were believable. The Tour Guide screamed in terror when she was kidnapped by the Doll Maker. The tortured John in the brothel conveyed fear as he hid us from the psychotic Madam. The Prisoner being electrocuted convulsed as if he couldn’t control his muscle spasms.
Terror Vault is the most interactive haunt we’ve seen. Each scene has actors having us move and respond to their actions. The Doll Maker took one of the guests away from our group, and she had a separate experience that we didn’t get, but she returned to our group as we moved to the next scene. For the rest of us, The Doll Maker told us to find a key in the room if we wanted to save the Tour Guide’s life.
At the brothel, the Madam separated myself and three other guests from the rest of the group to go upstairs. Debbie and the rest of the group remained in the main parlor, where a grotesque doggie crawled out of a doghouse, and the Madam told them to find the dog toy and play fetch. Debbie was shocked when she found what the Madam considered a ‘dog toy’. Now Debbie’s experience pales to mine, as my small group was startled by a tortured John with knife wounds. He tells us to hide in the closet before the Madam finds us and kills us. In all my years of attending haunts, this had to be the most hilarious scene I’ve ever seen. I’m still laughing as I write this.

The hillbilly cabin was another interactive moment as the granddaughter had a few guests taste some of her treats, but neither Debbie or I got to try it. The granddaughter and grandma had us sit around the dining room table and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Billy Bob, which culminated in a surprise ending.

The Witches scene was the least interactive moment, but the Warden’s finale sent us on a scavenger hunt where clowns would taunt us. In my personal experience, one clown locked me in a vault for 30 seconds and another wrote on my face before giving me the scavenger item.

Apocalypse featured military solders instructing to find 12 check-in points to recover a vaccine to save humanity from turning into zombies. Each check-in will restore your digital meter to full health. There was a military soldier in each room who would give us a clue to find the respective check-in point, therefore, each room served as a one puzzle mini-escape room. The different solders in each room presented their puzzle clues in different emotional states, such as one was in a panic, another was sarcastic, and another was unemotionally blunt. It was nice to see the military characters not be generically the same. Between each puzzle room were narrow zig-zagging corridors where zombies would growl at us, so that added a level of tension for us because we didn’t want to get radiation exposure and lose the game. When we finished, we only found 7 of the 10 check-in points. A soldier commented, ‘That’s ok. It was only the fate of humanity that you were trying to save, that’s all.’

Costuming: 8.84

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The costumes of Into The Dark were complete and finished. In Terror Vault, the hillbillies really stood out, especially with grandma’s bald cap wig with partial hair strands scattered across her scalp. The Madam had an appropriate Victorian evening dress that suited her profession. The granddaughter had realistic skin abrasions on her face, and the witches had traditional long crooked noses. The Warden had a good law enforcement costume, but her grey makeup with black eyeliner was crudely applied. Apocalypse had good military green camouflage uniforms for their soldiers and the zombies had good makeup with tattered clothes. There were a few masks in Terror Vault, such as the doggie costume in the brothel, a life size doll at the Doll Maker’s place, and the clowns in the prison vaults had alternate makeup or face paint. We found the costumes appropriate for the respective scenes and themes, but found the clowns in the prison vaults to be an odd pairing.

Customer Service: 8.88

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Into The Dark is fairly easy to find, as it sits on the corner of 5th Street and Mission Street in San Francisco. The Old Mint is an old fashion structure in a modern neighborhood, so it stands out among the buildings. Between the pillars of the Old Mint’s fa������ade are vertical banners with Into The Dark’s logo. There is no onsite parking, and street parking is very limited, but there is a paid parking garage diagonally across from the Old Mint. There is also public transportation available, because the Powel Street Station from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is two blocks away, and there is a bus stop across the street from the Old Mint on 5th Street for MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway). The attractions are very safe, as we saw nothing dangerous. The staff members were professional, helpful, friendly, and were easy to spot because they wore black formal wear. There were postcards handed out by the staff which featured a map of The Morbid Midway on one side, and the attraction’s sponsors on the other. The bar and caf������ also had the same postcards for public consumption. Into The Dark is handicap accessible, but it must be prearranged with the staff, because the main entrance into the building requires walking up a flight of stairs, and there is an alternate handicap access from the back of the building. Information for Into The Dark is easy to find because there is an official website and they have a presence on various social media.

Atmosphere: 8.4

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The vertical banners and theatrical up lighting at the Old Mint give the building a sense of a major event taking place. It’s not a creepy vibe, but a more sophisticate and elegant affair. Into The Dark distinguishes itself from the various teens-plus haunts that populate the haunted attraction landscape by not playing up the scary and creepy ambiance. There is an energy surrounding the location that is exciting and not boring. The formal wear of the staff, the presence of the bar and caf������, and the postcard map give a more adult and mature impression. Despite no line actors being present, the atmosphere does build anticipation for the haunts.

Special Effects: 8.95

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Terror Vault had some great and imaginative scenery, but the brothel and hillbilly cabin were the most detailed. The Victorian d������cor gave the brothel an authentic look, and the hillbilly cabin appeared to be straight out of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. In the dining room at the dining room table where we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’, there was a gutted-up body of a female, cut lengthwise down the torso, with a birthday cake placed where her missing head would belong. The Doll Maker’s place had unkept and dirty walls, and the Warden’s last scene used the existing building’s vaults brilliantly to fulfill the storyline. Video projection was used in two places, at the beginning with the Tour Guide’s presentation, and at the Witch’s scene, where a night sky was projected over our heads. There were a few animatronics, such as a mannequin who moved his head at the Doll Marker’s place, and an outhouse outside of the hillbilly cabin where the toilet lid moved up and down by itself. There was a transitional moment with a claustrophobia tunnel that lead to the Warden’s scene. Sound effects were for the most part, subtle, but the two main exceptions were the fart sound in the bedroom closet and the electrocution at the beginning of the Warden’s scene. The special effects do achieve and maintain the suspension of disbelief, and were effective at providing scares and entertainment.

Theme: 9.1

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Terror Vault’s theme is very similar to last year, because they use the same outline of placing the guests in the role of tourists visiting the Old Mint. The Tour Guide gives a film presentation of the Old Mint’s secret history of being a prison, and introduces each of the prisoners and the crimes they committed. There’s also a brief bio of the Warden and the rest of the attraction focuses on each prisoner’s story. The theme and storyline are very easy to follow, and are carried out throughout the haunt. The location does authenticate the haunt because the Old Mint is an essential part of the story. Apocalypse is the secondary attraction, and its theme is carried well throughout the event. The Old Mint location is not a necessary part of Apocalypse in the same way that it is for Terror Vault.

Scare Factor: 8.53

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Terror Vault’s best scares came from the Doll Maker’s place and the hillbilly’s cabin. There were some good drop door startles at the Doll Marker’s and the finale of the Hillbilly cabin was truly one of best startles we’ve ever experienced in a haunt. The brothel was more comedy relief than scary, but we found it entertaining and memorable. The Witches scene was the least impressionable, because all they did was walk around us while reciting incantations while we watched the video projection of the night sky with cloud movements and shooting stars. The final mission of the Warden’s scene was very similar to last year, but this time, the clowns in the vaults would taunts us as we went on our scavenger hunt. They would stare at us intimidatingly and interact with us. It wasn’t a scary ending, but it did help conclude the overall story.

Entertainment & Value: 8.8

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We were satisfied with the entertainment of Terror Vault, especially this year, because they did put on a better overall show. The cost of a ticket does give guests access to The Morbid Midway’s bar, caf������, pinball arcade and Creepshop, but you must pay extra to enjoy each place’s offerings. Terror Vault and Apocalypse have separate prices. Terror Vault is $62, which is higher than most haunts, but the level of entertainment is better this year, so we do feel we can justify that price. Apocalypse is more like an escape room, but $35 is more typical for a one-hour room, and this was less than 30 minutes, so we feel that price is a little high. Into The Dark does effectively use all of its available space, and there are no dead zones.

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Past Awards

2018 Awards

Best Scripted Dialogue (Given by: Team In-Corpse-A-Rated)

Most Interactive Cast (Given by: Team In-Corpse-A-Rated)

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