REVIEW: The Chamber Haunt 2012

The Chamber is an all-new haunted attraction experience at Primm, Nevada, giving Vegas-bound Halloween fans all the more reason to make a pit stop at state line as they race across the desert toward Sin City!

In all actuality, while The Chamber is new to Primm, it’s actually a professional haunt that is now in its 11th year (started as a home haunt that went pro 9 years ago) and comes from Bakersfield with a massive following of loyal fans and fearsome monsters. Like the rest of us, The Chamber’s business has taken some rough punches due to the state of the economy over the past few years, and so haunt owner began scouting for a new home for the successful haunt. Opting for locations in SoCal and Nevada, Enloe decided to roll the dice and head across the Mojave to Nevada, where he and his team have partnered with the folks at Primm Valley Resort & Casino.

Theme Park Adventure paid a visit to The Chamber on its opening night and fell in love with the haunt on many levels. The team that runs this haunted attraction absolutely knows what they’re doing. We’ve been aware of The Chamber for several years, but did not visit their Bakersfield location simply due to time and distance. When we decided that out out-of-California haunt jaunt would take us to Las Vegas this year, it was a very pleasant realization that The Chamber in its new digs would lie directly in our path!

The Chamber consists of two mazes – its namesake house, and a secondary brand-new experience called The Reactor, which features a nuke goop theme; more on that in a moment.

Generally, when we visit haunts, they fall into two categories: those with generic facades (or none at all) and those with custom-built, heart-felt ones. The latter usually always means something special lies beyond the front threshold, which is exactly what we found at The Chamber. This haunt even kicks off each evening with a staged production featuring its ear-bleeding-but-impressive sound system out front and a parade of horrifying creatures that taunt and beckon you to follow them into the darkness; it’s pure badass. Once inside, guests will find narrow walkways and a variety of frightening rooms filled with blood-splattered goodness and terrifying monsters lurking in the shadows! The experience is long, leaving guests feeing that they absolutely got their money’s worth, and the production value of The Chamber is unique/high enough that its definitely not amateur in any way. From the sound design to make-up, we are very impressed with all aspects of this haunted attraction.

New for The Chamber’s Primm site this year is The Reactor, which is a really cool maze that is much different than the main haunt. The Reactor is a nuclear waste/toxic nightmare scenario; it’s not a new concept, but a very well-executed one. One of the things that we really don’t like when it comes to haunts are themed environments completely ruined by loud metal or industrial music. Hate, hate, hate it. The Reactor uses a very loud industrial music soundtrack – but due to the way this maze has been designed and the absurd intensity with which the seasoned vets inside absolutely work it, this is an extremely rare situation in that it actually works for them and isn’t a distraction! The maze is comprised mostly of chain-linked fencing, making it easy to see almost all the way through from one vantage point to another. Toxic waste barrels are piled up around the maze, which make for excellent (and terribly loud) climbing/hiding/hitting structures that the monsters utilize perfectly. Very intense strobe lights throughout this maze create a disorienting effect and are so bright that you really do lose any visual reference that is more than three or so feet in front of you. In the moments that you can glimpse across the way and see what’s going on, you’re likely going to see monsters staring right back at you – giving the experience a whole new level of dread!

The Chamber Haunt in Primm Valley Resort & CasinoWhich then begs the question of available talent. Primm is a good 35-45 minute drive one way from the Las Vegas valley; other communities are closer, but let’s face it – there’s not a whole lot of pickings in the middle of a desert. And that has been an issue for Dave and the entire Chamber crew. A handful of extremely dedicated folks did follow The Chamber from its Bakersfield home to Primm – that speaks volumes about this haunt family and Dave’s leadership. We did encounter some first-time haunt monsters, and yes, it was very obvious to us that they were shy/unsure of what to do. The vets on the other hand, were absolutely rocking it, and the difference was of course, night and day. This is something that Dave was aware of opening night and we have no reason to think that he didn’t work with these new folks immediately and start shaping them into kick-ass talent. Dave is a haunt ringmaster; he knows his stuff, and is more than capable.

The problem that just may haunt The Chamber is what I call the “Calico Effect”. I’m 42, have been going to Vegas since I was a little boy, and have never once stopped to visit the ghost town of Calico, just outside of Yermo, despite its direct ties with Knott’s Berry Farm and my involvement in this industry. Why? Because it’s between SoCal and Vegas! And that is a serious problem/challenge. Most people blowing through state line at 7pm on a Friday or Saturday evening aren’t thinking, “Oh! A haunted house! Let’s delay getting to Vegas for another hour and stop to have a look!” That’s just not going to happen. The next line of thinking would be that the target audience would be families and couples staying at the Primm resorts; they are pretty much a captive audience. However – and this is a huge “however” – how many families do you know that actually plan to stay at Primm? If you’ve ever stopped and wandered through the Primm casinos (Whiskey Pete’s, Buffalo Bill’s and Primm Valley), you’ve seen the demographic – a handful of locals (the ones that don’t actually work there), truck drivers stopping for the night, or casual travelers on their way to points way farther than Vegas or Los Angeles that have stopped for a bite to eat, to use the restroom and to try their luck on some machines before continuing on. Locals from Vegas certainly aren’t going out of their way to travel to state line to hang out. And those players that are in the casinos – they’re doing just what they intend to do: gamble. Period. End of story. Fin.

So, the big question is, if you build it, will they come? The answer is a complicated one, and we don’t know at this point. It is too hard to tell – and we certainly couldn’t after only seeing them a few hours into their opening night. I can say that all of the pieces are in place – The Chamber is a professional, solid, well-made haunt with kick-ass talent and wonderful design elements in place. Primm is a solid host, too – they are very enthusiastic about having The Chamber there and are doing a lot to promote it to their guests. Only time will tell if this is a good location for this seasoned haunted attraction or not.

I will add that while in Vegas, we attended two other haunts – Goretorium, which is located on the Strip, and Freakling Bros., which is located in Northwest Vegas about 15 minutes from the Strip in a local strip mall. Of the two attractions, Freakling Bros. was packed and Goretorium was not. Stepping back and making a gut call, I am initially thinking that the secret to cracking the Vegas haunt code is setting up shop for the locals, not the tourists. Set up a haunt in a high-traffic strip mall (that’s mostly all there is in Las Vegas) and the locals will come flocking. It’s quite possible that both Goretorium and The Chamber may ultimately share the same fate – being bumps in the road to folks speeding to their next slot machine, club, restaurant or bar, and nothing more.

The Chamber is a haunt that fans should stop and support on their way to or even coming home from Las Vegas. We were expecting good things, and were not at all let down. The staff is great and they’re pros. They have the full support of Theme Park Adventure. A huge shout out of love and kudos to the gang there, as this is a new and in ways, unknown venture for them. We wish them all the luck in the world as far as traffic goes – because they’ve already got everything else down to a bitchen science and are a hell of a group of haunters!

– Rick West

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