I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal called Haunted Houses Get More Extreme and thought I would ask the question. The article discusses how the Haunted House industry has become more and more extreme. Everyone seems to be pushing the limits of what people are mentally and physically willing to endure, and pay for at the same time. It is event termed “immersive theatre”.
Do you really have a desire to experience a haunted attraction that is so intense that you lose control of your bodily functions and wet yourself? Do you want to be in a house that has you become blindfolded, thus depriving you of one of your most important senses – vision? Do you want to be in a haunted experience where you can and will be in full contact with the actors? In the past, there is a golden rule most houses live by – “We don’t touch you, so please don’t touch us”.
Would you want to visit these attractions?
BLACKOUT HAUNTED HOUSE
At “Blackout Haunted House” in Manhattan, visitors pay up to $60 to be subjected to a litany of psychological and physical abuse, including extreme disorientation in a room filled with fog where your face is masked, your hands are strapped to a table and ear-piercing death metal music is blaring through headphones while a screaming actor bashes a mallet around your fingers. Visitors start their journey by being dragged backward through a door into a pitch-black hallway before being aggressively frisked by an anonymous person whispering their names. Moving through a series of rooms, visitors are embraced by a naked male dancer and have their face licked and bitten through a bag placed over their head.
“The Nest” in Chandler, Arizona charges $25 and mines Facebook for personal details of visitors to its serial-killer-themed house. Visitors hear their names echoing through rooms while images of their friends and family appear zombified and blood-spattered.
Would you be willing to visit a hotel themed after the horror movies Hostel and Cabin Fever? What about Paranormal Activity? Eli Roth thinks you would. He just spent $10 million to open a new themed attraction in Las Vegas called “Goreatorium”. The year-round haunted attraction incorporates the latest technology with good old-fashioned scares. The multi-level maze of frights submerges visitors into the tale of the city’s most deadly mythical hotel, The Delmont. A self-guided horror experience begins in the lobby and unveils gruesome and ghastly sights of past hotel guests/victims and the serial-killing family behind the mayhem.
This house is based on real-life serial killers, including John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and the Zodiac killer. It is a series of chambers in a gothic-style building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, each featuring a mass murderer in a meticulously designed set. Audience members who elect to have a cross marked on their forehead in fake blood get to play victims and accomplices.
This year, the Travel Channel ran some “Scariest Haunted House” specials. Of them, some were houses built in real, but abandoned asylums and penetentaries, some were boats that went out into the bay/ocean so you could not leave. Some were hayrides through woods where there were dragons spewing flames.
These extreme houses draw on a pool of more talented actors, rather than the “boo” performers of the past. They require ones who can more convincingly deliver chilling monologues or make patrons believe they’re about to have their fingers chopped off. Also in the mix: masters of Hollywood makeup, props and traditional effects who have found themselves with less movie work amid the rise of digital effects.
Why has this level of experience become more popular? Is it because we have moved from the visceral experiences these horror movies used to create when the special effects and creatures were “real” to the more digital effects? Thus, our horror movie experience has become more passive. Do we, as human beings, need something more personalized? Do we need to immerse ourselves in a creative, horrific world that has no edges and blurs reality because we have become desensitized to these expriences because of our oversaturation of news and other media? Do we crave the primal emotional reactions of fight or flight because they have become increasingly remote in contemporary society? Most of our lives do not have high levels of what most would consider to be “high intensity” moments.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I have been a part of the team that brings A Petrified Forest to Altamonte Springs every Halloween and the owners of this event have stayed away from the extreme haunted house style of event. We have seen plenty of people get scared with our event, starteled by the scareactors, and some as far as wetting themselves. We also see a lot of people that laugh at each other and enjoy the entertainment of people being scared and people trying to scare them. We like a little bit of shock and even to provide you with a room or two that sticks out and stays with you. We have even been known to chase a few people out the gates of the attraction with a fake chainsaw. So, we do scary, but we also do fun.
In regards to the animatronic characters, monsters, effects, and such, we tend to stay away from those because they are repetitive and predicable. They are cool, but if you spend $10,000 or more on an animatronic prop, unfortunately it does not change the next year and everyone sees the same effect multiple years in a row. It can’t call your name or respond to something you say. Honestly, there is something to be said for consistancey, however. We repeatedly go back to the Haunted Mansion and other attractions at Disney World and completely enjoy it every time – even though it is the same every time you go. Those ghosts don’t get tired either and they provide the same consistant show every time you visit.
Is this extreme horror the kind of entertainment you crave? Would you be willing to pay $30-$50 for an extreme event here in Orlando? Do you want actors to physically interact with you? Are you curious what it would be like to actually have a serial killer hunt you down and target you as a victim? Do you like the animatronic creatures some of the larger houses have?
As we start planning our event for next year, it would be interesting to see what kinds of horror entertainment you find interesting and what you would be willing to pay for. This year (2012), our price was $15 per visitor. At what point does a haunted attraction deserse a $25-$30 price tag? What do you expect to find in that kind of event? If you have visited us and we land right where you want us to be, let us know that also.