Nightmare Forest – Full Review

Nightmare Forest is a Haunted Attraction located in Brandenburg, KY.

850 Otter Creek Park Road, Brandenburg, KY 40108
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Haunt Type(s):

Multiple HauntsHaunted HouseHaunted Trail


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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, You will NOT be touched, Movie Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on September 29, 2023 by Team Zombillies.

Final Score: 8.58

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As we cruised through the eerie timbered rows and bathed in the ethereal glow of the harvest moon, an unsettling feeling tightened its grip. We’d made it: Welcome to Nightmare Forest. Waiting for us inside were three twisted realms: Demented Hills, Trail of Terror, and the OG, Nightmare Forest.

Get ready for a spine-tingling thrill where each year brings fresh horrors to life, and this season is no exception! Amidst a lively and chilling cast, you’ll see nightmares materialize right before your eyes. Venture deeper, and you’ll stumble upon the ghastly Garnettsville Ghost Town, the apocalyptic world of The Last of Us, the pernicious Pennywise from It 2, the unholy horrors of Evil Dead, and an array of other sadistic encounters lurking throughout the forest’s shadowy depths.

We had a blast dodging the clutches of doom in this year’s production. If venturing through a moonlit forest teeming with horror movie monstrosities and vicious villains stimulates your scare-seeking appetite, then keep reading; you’re in for a hair-raising adventure!

Cast Score: 8.17

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The tree-lined paths and structures were teeming with blood-thirsty beasts ready to pounce. While some areas seemed ripe for even more nightmarish creatures, we could count on at least one bloodthirsty being lurking in every scene, making our journey a relentless dance with the darkness.

After countless visits to Nightmare Forest over the years, we can’t help but marvel at the exceptional talent of the characters this season. Their performances have reached a new pinnacle, convincing us that this year’s show boasts their most captivating acts yet! If asked to pick a favorite, we’d be here all day!

The creatures demonstrated their exceptional interaction skills, not only with our group but also amongst themselves. From elusive stalkers and starers to blood-curdling shriekers and sudden scarers, each corner promised a different horrifying encounter.

As we ventured deeper into the twisted world, we encountered an unfortunate soul besieged by an extraterrestrial creature. We also narrowly escaped the clutches of a giant scissor-wielding hatter, were taken on a surreal tour of a demented asylum patient’s whacky floor, and were repeatedly charged at by menacing characters.

Mr. Doug Graves stood out like a menacing beacon among these haunting personas. His performance was nothing short of immersive and convincing. He skillfully oscillated between instilling fear, sending shivers down our spines, and eliciting morbid laughter – an unsettling and deadly combination. Pennywise and Georgie were both disturbing, and Leatherface and Jason loomed large, their movement reminiscent of their movie counterparts.

We did not come across anyone that was out of character. While a few could have gotten into their roles a bit more, we feel that our nightmarish encounters were very well done. We’d also like to note that on the night of our visit, we were filming for our YouTube channel and given a ghoulish guide throughout the evening. Although she added an extra dimension to the scenes, we don’t believe you’ll typically encounter her as often as we did.

Costuming Score: 8.75

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We were very impressed with the costuming department for a primarily outdoor haunted trail attraction. Many assailants featured hauntingly lifelike details that brought the characters to life. A mixture of masks and makeup was noted, which accented the characters fittingly well. The looks also matched the scenery we found them in.

Facial appliances and airbrush designs added layers of detail. Makeup oozed realism in areas consisting of darkened facial features, wounds, blood, and a neon design in the Alice area. We found ourselves staring at the makeup, serving as a distraction. An alien-infected madman had claws protruding from his skin, a lady’s face was half-scolded, and a nun was the direct twin to what appeared to be a painting. While the makeup on Reagan and Bagul wasn’t as exquisite as the rest, we could still tell who they were portraying. A stand-out ghastly creation was the exposed skull on a zombie’s face. We couldn’t tell if it was makeup, and that’s a good thing!

The characters were not merely adorned; they were transformed. The gravedigger cut a sinister figure with a costume that included a hat and a glazed, vacant eye. Colored contacts added an otherworldly allure to some, while tattered clothing on the zombies gave them an authentic, decaying appearance. A few pieces appeared to be untouched street clothing, but these were few and far between.

Some of these masks were pure nightmare fuel! Well-fitting silicone varieties clung to the actors’ faces, matching their movements. The Last of Us Zombies appeared to be pulled straight from the silver screen along with Jason, Freddy, and the Silent Hill nurse – all of whom had appropriate statures and movements. Jackyl’s grotesque cage-encased head created an unforgettable impression as he charged at us.

There were many different looks here, becoming integral elements of an immersive experience, etching the night’s terrors into our memory of Nightmare Forest. Bravo for a job well done. These creatures also looked great even late into the night!

Customer Service Score: 9.1

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The large sign at the entrance served as a beacon, guiding us towards and into the darkness. Although finding the parking lot was easy, and flaggers helped us to find a spot in their large, free, and grassy lot, it was dark. If you’ve never been here before, after parking, follow the lights that you see towards the end of the lot.

The lighted path guided us to their marked ticket shack. From there, we followed the circus-style string lights to an open midway. The entrances to the trail lines were also marked. Aside from the darker parking lot, everything was easy to navigate. Adding additional signage on the trail signifying the beginning of each of the three attractions would be a welcomed addition, especially where another line queue may form before Nightmare Forest.

The staff we encountered were helpful and answered any questions we had. The ladies serving up food items were accommodating. We also saw at least one security guard out in the forest.

For an outdoor trail that winds through various buildings and structures, the path was easy to distinguish, and we didn’t notice any significant trip hazards or anything of that nature. There are some step ups and downs and a shaky set of rope bridges, so just be mindful of your footing and wear appropriate footwear for trudging along the woods, possibly in mud if it has recently rained.

Before we headed out to the forest, we checked out their website to get all the deets for this year’s show. Tickets, dates & hours, and directions were all easy to find. We did notice some sporadic outdated information regarding what could be found inside the attractions.

Immersion Score: 9.11

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The journey to Nightmare Forest is like stepping into your own horror film. As we navigated through the dim, tree-shrouded road into Otter Creek Park, an unsettling ambiance surrounded us, which only intensified when we were the lone travelers on the route. We couldn’t help but keep a watchful eye on our rearview mirror, half-expecting a ferocious truck to appear behind us or a bloodied figure to materialize ahead.

The midway is home to a most unusual show, Hawthorne’s Circus Bizarre. The area was a spectacle of sideshow banners, circus-inspired string lights, whimsical mirrors distorting reality, and a curious collection of bizarre curiosities. There were also some Halloween props mixed in. A large bonfire, Bobo the Clown, and a projection of horror movies sold a fun yet creepy fall vibe.

As we waited in line, Hawthorne himself entertained the crowd on the stage, leaving the audience in shock and awe. When he wasn’t on the stage, upbeat tunes filled the air. Returning to the entrance, a local DJ was also set up spinning tunes there. There was always something to listen to or watch in the midway.

While there didn’t seem to be an overarching storyline to immerse customers into, you can read up on what to inspect inside each area on their website. In Demented Hills (formerly Nightmare Asylum), the patients have gone awry, leading to the Trail of Terror. Along these paths, you will enter a world of the dead in various forms. Last but certainly not least, The Nightmare Forest will dump you straight into the movie scenes of your favorite scary movies!

As we ventured through each distinct realm, a captivating blend of scenery, audioscapes, and fantastical creatures wove together to craft a subversive universe far removed from the circus fare. While occasional distractions like exposed speakers briefly disrupted our immersion, the overall experience enveloped us in its otherworldly tapestry.

As we fled the frightful forest, we were dumped back into the midway, conveniently near the food and gift setup.

Special FX Score: 8.65

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Special FX Review:

Nightmare Forest utilized a horrific and disorienting array of special effects. At times, the fog was so thick it hindered our sight, concealed monsters, and left us wondering whether it was real or pumped into the air by machines.

Nightmare Forest has worked hard to make their scenes feel life-like, and it’s becoming more and more evident with each visit we make. A curated, atmospheric glow bathed the surroundings, casting an eerie radiance upon the imposing structures (along with the full moon). Before stepping inside, we had fun guessing where we were or what lurked beyond the entrances.

We could go on for days talking about the facades for each scene, but we will spare you and only note a few. The newest additions are to die for! They did a remarkable job building the house from It 2, and we truly felt like we’d entered an apocalyptic world as we came upon an abandoned area in The Last of Us. The Ghost Town immersed us into its full bar, and Evil Dead left us tip-toeing along the wooden structure. The alien ship remains a favorite, and we felt our hearts skip a beat as we nudged closer to the Sawyer Family’s residence.

Inside the structures, ambient sounds filled the air in many areas. Sometimes, the sounds emitting from large creatures were downright spine-chilling! In the movie scenes, appropriate soundtracks accompanied each. As soon as we heard the music, we often knew who to look out for!

In the asylum, it appeared unkept for quite some time – don’t tell them we said that. Authentic sounds breathed life into the rooms, along with a dead nurse’s torso, a squishy floor and space, and a not-quite-dead prop attempting to flee the morgue.

We came across many sights, sounds, and surprises in the Trail of Terror. We found a staked vampire in a casket, we walked into a rocky cave (with a giant dweller waiting for us in there), we held on for our lives across swinging bridges through a well-decorated voodoo shack, and got down with the clowns in their funhouse of games and twisted treats.

Nightmare Forest kept the effects, decor, and realistic scenery flowing. The It house featured a tall structure, a series of appropriately labeled doors, and a towering sewer system that distracted us from the villains within. A hallway illuminated only by candlelight had us going, “Nope!” We reacted the same way upon finding a Silent Hill town complete with a warning siren. The scenes for Freddy, Jason, and Halloween had nods to the movies and decorated entrances. The Sinister scene had blood down the walls and a movie playing. In the 13 Ghosts house, the walls were transparent, allowing us to see the gears inside.

There was much more to see and experience; visit them to see it all in action! We’d also like to note that Nightmare Forest experienced a lot of storm damage during the off-season, particularly from many trees falling. Despite this, they were able to fully rebuild anything that was damaged, hiding any signs that it happened at all. Bravo!

Scare Factor Score: 8.14

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Scares lurked plentifully amid the winding paths and wooden structures, frequently surprising us and eliciting screams numerous times. These frights were effectively dispersed among all members of our group.

For individuals who may experience discomfort in elevated environments, exhibit aversions to clowns, or possess anxiety surrounding chainsaws, there may be moments of intense trepidation. Even if one does not typically harbor common phobias, the numerous eerie entities lurking in the shadows are bound to evoke startled reactions. Menacing personas were prevalent throughout the experience, and several colossal entities remained inconspicuous until their sudden, startling advances. Notably, a towering clown, a formidable cave-dwelling creature, and an extraterrestrial assailant attacked our group, prompting swift retreats from their menacing presence.

As we walked across a swinging rope bridge, a hillbilly delightfully threatened to cut the rope as he whacked at the bridge with a silver blade! He continued commenting about how “you’re all going to fall and die” – pointing to a tree with a lifeless body hanging from it. We said hell with that and got out of dodge only to find ourselves in another eerie predicament. There were also double taps, effective hiding spots, horrendous sounds, distractions, and well-blended costumes that kept us on edge. They also have a double-c lurking around (clown with a chainsaw).

If this isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, we’re sure the realistic horror movie villains will. We played chicken with the crazed chainsaw assailant in the Evil Dead scene. Let’s just go ahead and say that he won. We also watched Freddy and Jason in a brutal match, we dodged a crazed Jackyl, and the nun sent us screaming out of the church! We didn’t see many of these scares coming, which built a lot of suspense, which is harder to do on haunted trails since the scares are limited to the structures themselves and little frights in between. Although this was the case here, the scenes are large and winding, which creates plenty of room for the villains to hide.

Leatherface didn’t take too kindly to us entering his house, chasing us with a chainsaw out the exit.

Entertainment & Value Score: 8.82

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General admission tickets to experience all three themed areas are priced at $30, and Speed Passes are $45. For those in a super hurry, VIP tickets to skip the line can be purchased on-site only for $65 and are limited.

We expelled our bravery in the darkened forest for about 31.5 minutes. This brings their MPD (minutes of entertainment received per dollar spent) to 1.05, a tick above the average of 1 we would like to see. Their ticket prices are very fair when factoring this in with the quality of the nightmares they provided.

To go along with the haunts themselves, guests can sit around a bonfire, watch a movie projected above the waiting line, interact with roaming characters, or watch the unusual show of Hawthorne’s Circus Bizarre, all included with the admission price! A nightmarish assortment of freaky findings was also on display!

During our visit, Hawthorne successfully transmitted shocking electricity while sticking one finger and a light socket and the other to the end of a bulb to light it, and it worked! It worked, and one of our group members was holding the power strip to turn it all on! Audience participation in this show is required. Also, a live DJ was stationed at the entrance on the night of our visit.

The grounds also offer a food stand, gift shop, hatchet throwing, and multiple stationed photo ops where you can get your group photos taken for additional fees. There were several picnic tables beneath a tent to sit down and enjoy a bite. We can tell you the Angus burgers, walking tacos, popcorn, and lemon shake-ups were good! After running from all those monsters and burning calories, we mustered up quite the appetite!

Nightmare Forest brought an unnerving and spooky night to our haunt season, and we enjoyed every minute! If you find yourself in the Brandenburg, Kentucky, area, be sure to visit them. They’ll all be waiting for you!

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Past Awards

2019 Awards

Best Pyro Scare (Given by: Team Zombillies)

Past Awards

2019 Awards

Best Pyro Scare (Given by: Team Zombillies)

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