Nightmare Realm – Full Review

Nightmare Realm is a Haunted Attraction located in Mattawan, MI.

23492 Red Arrow Hwy, Mattawan, MI 49071
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Haunt Type(s):

Has Current Dates and Hours Available IconHaunted House


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Free Parking, Restrooms/Porta Potties On-Site, Handicap Accessible, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, Optional Games/Midway, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, Original Characters, Celebrity Appearances, Covered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction

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This attraction was reviewed on October 14, 2022 by Team White City Devils.

Final Score: 8.97

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We had the pleasure of returning to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to experience a great up-and-coming attraction for their second professional season. Nightmare Realm (NR) has taken steps in the right direction to assure an immersive experience as best as possible.

To say the least, we were easily surprised by the huge developments throughout the attraction that helped tell the story of Trista and the torment of her life (both old and new) in the small town of Cypress Hollow…

Cast Score: 8.98

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Cast Review:

The cast of NR is truly the heart of the production as a whole. It is easy to tell everyone involved believes in this project. The cast tends to immerse themselves in every character throughout the haunt. This particular factor is unique because everyone we encountered inside the attraction helped tell a very specific story by utilizing dialogue. It is actually pretty amazing, to say the least. It almost feels as though we were walking through a play/movie in a way where the lines given to actors are actually unique to them. There are a ton of great examples of this, including Trista’s Father constantly telling us she was a horrible daughter and got what she deserved as well as her mother who expresses the same feelings. Most of the town, in fact, happen to have these feelings toward Trista and show no issue in expressing this in many ways.

In our encounters with the townsfolk, we did happen to run into a select few who befriended Trista in her former life (before the accident). Her best friend in particular seems to almost have a “chosen” mentality as she continues to hear Trista in her head long after her death. It is an interesting conversation to be had as this character is sort of a minor one yet made a lasting impression with the way she carried herself in an almost uncomfortable fashion, denying any possibility that her friend is dead, even after we have informed her so.

Nightmare Realm utilizes a very good variety of characters as well! From members of Trista’s family such as her parents and grandparents to her classmates and the school faculty. As mentioned above, they all utilized dialogue well, with hardly any interactions with growlers or screechers. This made for a more distinctive outcome to the experience. What makes this section so fascinating is that NR has the right people performing in the right place at the right time. This haunt also has a great variety of all walks of life performing, and they all make sense to the characters portrayed. A good example of this would be the school teacher. The character was portrayed by an adult that did a great job doing so. Because an adult character was utilized for this role, it resulted in a more believable portrayal.

Overall, NR’s cast really put on a great show in a believable fashion. It is really refreshing to see character development depicted in such a way to progress a story and have nearly everyone on board.

Costuming Score: 8.88

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Costuming Review:

The costuming at NR fits in just as well as the characters do! As mentioned, we were introduced to a wide range of cast and all of which had unique appearances with a few similarities throughout. One of the bigger features that are in sync with all costuming/makeup would be the markings of spirals. Just about everyone who “coincidentally” had issues with Trista had this in some form utilized in their appearance.

The costumes were appropriate to the given character/scenes as well. For instance, the doctor was wearing a lab coat which you would find at any hospital. Same goes for the father when it comes to having a sort of relaxed collared shirt and vest combo, looking like any stereotypical suburban middle-aged man (with closet family issues). When paired with some proper gritty and darker makeup to give an appearance of almost a soulless-like person, it leads to some great-looking actors that really bring the look to life via acting.

We noticed a few masks and prosthetics as well, but they were mostly reserved for the queue actors. However, we did see a key actor inside the haunt as well, with one. The grandmother had a realistic mask that brought the character to life. She almost seemed “witch-like” in stature. However, she portrayed an elder woman with a cane and a hunchback.

Speaking on the queue actors’ costumes, we saw various costumes throughout. Most notably would have to be Sid, who is essentially the mascot for NR. Sid is a rather dapper chap skeleton in most simple terms. The Skeleton mask used does seem to have a moveable jaw as well, helping to determine the quality of it. Overall, costuming for NR definitely fits the approach they are taking and helps improve the quality of the haunt as well!

Customer Service Score: 9.5

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The NR website has some really fantastic information on it that speaks on the lore of events that happened to Cypress Hollow. It is a fun read that gives a good idea of what is to expect during the show. The website, of course, also has the schedule for the season as well as directions to parking which is off-site at the Paw Paw Highschool parking lot. This is also where you can purchase tickets or check in from online purchases and receive the proper ticket (general admission or VIP). There is plenty of parking at the high school lot and buses rotate every 15 minutes for guests to get to and from the lot and haunt (the buses have live actors on them to continue the entertainment).

The staff is friendly and regularly available for any and all questions and/or directions. The “pre-haunt” midway area is an area that has increased from the previous season. There are many new photo op areas, a great concession stand, and a movie screen playing highlights from plenty of great horror movie killers.

Immersion Score: 9.17

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Immersion Review:

The pre-haunt experience does a fair job of providing what to expect from the actual attraction. The queue actors did a good job of asking about our relationship with or if we had even heard of Trista. It works as a precursor for the storyline and shows that everyone in some shape or form has been affected by the events that transpired.

As mentioned before, everyone we crossed paths with throughout the haunt had dialogue over screams or growls (not to say they didn’t scream lines or add growls into their moments). This led to a consistent flow through the walkthrough and led to a creative story being told. We would highly recommend checking the NR website and reading “Extinction Event #16: retribution” for the full details, or our 2021 review also hits a crash course summary on the events of October 23, 1993.

Overall, with the constant flow of actors telling a story, it is easy to get lost in the story being told, and also exciting to see how things play out at the end.

Special FX Score: 8.81

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Special FX Review:

What gives NR a good deal of its charm is the builds and effects. The props feel realistic because they mostly are! The scenes are built from the ground up and use everyday items such as shelves, desks, and couches, and the list can go on and on. Some of the gorier details, of course, are props that have great realistic appearances.

Focusing on the inside portions of the haunt for the moment, we appreciated the improvements made to fully immerse scenes by using some trick lighting through a freshly built ceiling. One of our particular favorite effects would have to be inside the doll room. What makes this great is how in unison all of these dolls were upon entering the room, unwelcomed. As far as other props are concerned, they had some cleverly decorated 12-foot skeletons to reflect the monsters that have crossed over to Cypress Hollow. As mentioned previously, most of the scenes happen to be builds that clearly show many details throughout and help with convincing immersion. There are occasional rooms that could benefit from a bit more sound or ominous white noise, so long as it wouldn’t take away from the dialogue.

The outside areas also have some creative details throughout. One of the most fun features is the constant flesh-like tentacles throughout that are the link between Cypress Hollow and the Aedifex (definitely read the story on the website for this reference). Overall, NR is creative with the presentation of their attraction, and it really shows a ton of care and thought.

Scare Factor Score: 8.82

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Scare Factor Review:

Most of the scares throughout NR were actor-driven. We did come across an occasional scream after the appropriate dialogue was presented, which made these moments rather unpredictable; we expected everyone to talk, and then, without notice, that changed to a ringing in our ears from the abruptly loud sound!

There were some great environmental scares that can really mess with one’s senses and cause a moment of panic. One of the custodians locked away really put forth some good effort to be the distraction for a distressful surprise. On the wider spectrum, there is a limited feel for deep, gruesome scares. However, I feel that the direction the haunt wanted to take was more of an “in-your-face, pop scares around every corner” vibe; we would forgive this based on how well the story is presented. This is not to say we didn’t receive plenty of fantastic interactions and scares throughout our walkthrough, it was a bit more of a psychological type of scare rather than the typical “BOO!” kind we are used to seeing, which resulted in a unique experience.

The final room consisted of a very special piece of storytelling. Near the final room, there is a speaker playing some dialogue between Trista’s evolved state arguing with her mother. It is timed well enough to last until we hear the end of it as her mother gets violently killed. In the final scene, we witnessed the aftermath of Trista’s new form and her freshly killed her mother with her exploded organs across the room. It makes for a great climax to the story and ends on a very cool note.

Overall, NR does a great job on keeping guests on their toes and excited to see what the next chapter in the Cypress Hollow story will be.

Entertainment & Value Score: 8.9

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Our walk-through time was just over the 24-minute mark. With GA tickets being $25 a piece, this brings our Minutes per Dollar value to .96. With VIP tickets at $45, they include a donut from the concessions, a T-shirt, a limited-edition lanyard, and of course, a shorter line and is truly the way to go!

We were excited to return here to see the developments from the previous season and we were not disappointed with the attraction. It is exciting to have seen the vision for the Midway as well with new photo ops and the movie screen, which are steps in a great direction. Overall, I am excited to see the continuing progress of NR and the next chapter of ‘Retribution.’

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