NIGHTMARE MANOR, Rochester NY
Disclaimer: While I could have done this one much differently and likely had a better experience, I chose to experience it the way of any normal audience and had a pretty rough time. This is in spite of the house actually being pretty good from an aesthetic and effects standpoint.
Sitting in the largest storefront of a major Henrietta NY shopping plaza is the largest single haunted house in the market: Nightmare Manor. The approach is a little strange if you're from out-of-town like me and my sister but, the presence is obvious once you come out into the main parking lot.
Lobby - 4
The Lobby is thoroughly disappointing. Walking through the door and to the left, sends you to a lifeless thousand foot long hallway between the house and building. They put red and green laser projectors all up and down this passageway but, it doesn't do that much to change the mood and tone. Once you've made it all the way down to the house queue, there is only the facade to look at. Don't get me wrong, it's cool that the interface between the line and the show is a giant vault-like door. Other than that, there's a video of silhouettes behind a window on loop.
Acting - 5
The acting is slightly better than what we have here in the Buffalo Market and still not many acts stood out as being too technically advanced. While they did have the right thing going with a lack of cliches, the extent of imaginative dialogue was maybe a line at most. They don't seem to have worked with props too much except for the oversized hammers that are all the rage now.
Eye Candy/Visuals - 8
This haunt has no shortage of big, bold set pieces. The facade and entry room is probably the biggest, walking through a giant door into a 1 ½ story foyer with a staircase in the middle and a walkthrough fireplace. Other very large pieces are a full sized barn facade, a city hall facade and multiple full sheds. In a number of themed areas, they use well carved foam for walls and props most notably in The Crypt. The aesthetic adherence to a theme is mostly pretty great as you can tell clearly when they move you from Dr. Limon's Manor into The Crypt and Undead Zone to Hillbilly Hell for example. It is only questionable when they say The Hive is a theme but, don't describe what that is on the website. The lighting and sound isn't very mind blowing except when it's a component of the many Poison Props animatronics staged throughout the house. They also use a few Gore Galore puppets to make larger-than-life scares a reality. One effect you never really see in haunts anymore that Nightmare Manor has a few of is the bottomless pit mirror illusion.
Walkthrough Experience - 6
On the website, Nightmare Manor lists themes as The Hive, Undead Zone, Hillbilly Hell, Dr. Limon's Manor, The Crypt and Sinister Sewer. As in Eye Candy, the only questionable theme is The Hive. You walk directly into Dr. Limon's Manor from the Facade and are greeted by a completely unsurprising haunted mansion theme. The next phase of your adventure is into The Crypt, a beautifully carved series of hallways and a cemetery with a particular tomb that is colonized by a werewolf who has a number of ways to get to you. There are a few good animatronics here, too. A witch, perhaps. Out of The Crypt is Undead Zone in which they built most of a downtown area as a ghoulish playground for zombies. The Town Hall and Jail are pretty impressive. Hillbilly Hell is the most eventful of the themes with large constructions, pigs and farmers attacking the senses from all angles. Sinister Sewer is the most creative of the themes considering it's one of only two concerted sewer themes I've ever see. The use of rats in various forms: costume, puppet and projection made it extra cool.
Originality/Creativity - 6
Nightmare Manor is a haunt that does a few very common themes well enough without much inventive flair. It isn't enough to have big set pieces to set yourself apart in uniqueness. I do applaud things like the Lycan coming out of the tombstone and having an entire sewer but, nothing stuck out to me as being a must-see aspect.
Nightmare Manor in Henrietta NY looks very cool but, that's the limit of any accolades I can give it. In terms of recommendation, I can't see it being any more than a local Halloween Hotspot. There are better haunts in the same market that I would take a trip from Buffalo or Syracuse to see. I wish I could have seen Dark Matter Screamworks that same night but, the ticketing flaws at this haunt made such an experience impossible.
What should have been a relatively quick in and out stop at this haunt on account of having timed tickets turned out to be an absolute disappointment. Because of the complication of General Admission being available at the door, the line was probably interspersed with dozens of people who had unrelated agenda/itineraries from mine where I should have entered sometime around 9:30. Instead, my group had to wait for close to two hours in line. I don't think this attraction should do timed ticketing if the show is developed for longer wait times. I was grossly disappointed and probably won't be returning for a few years.