*UPDATE: They did in fact respond to my email and issued my group and I refunds. They invited us to come back for free after hey revamped the show so at least the acknowledge that the show was a total bomb. Here’s a more interesting re-enactment of how that email went…
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Normally I wouldn’t review something semi-Off Topic like this, but Blumhouse’s The Purge: Fear the Night was such an awful experience that I don’t want anyone else to suffer through let alone waste their hard earned dollars on this piece of garbage. It was especially disappointing after how much enjoyed last year’s Blumhouse of Horrors experience. It was a very detailed, well designed, walk-thru style haunted house with a really cool story that tied in really well to the venue (the abandoned Variety Arts Theater). This yeah it was mainly a house of lies and false advertising.
First off, if you’re looking for a traditional haunted house, this is NOT that. They were clearly going for a Sleep No More styled immersive theatrical experience and missed the mark by a mile. But the description on the website does not in any way, shape, or form, describe the experience you’ll have. Stating that you got together with the guy’s from Blackout to design this experience says a lot, but it offered nothing to that extent. Blumhouse should be ashamed to have it’s name on this thing. It does not live up to the quality of their name and actually tarnishes their brand, which makes me question my future decisions about seeing their films.
They boast that each guest will be “embarking on their own discovery of 6 floors and 70,000 square feet of immersive horror-theater.” But even if those are the specs of the entire building, the actual “experience” only consists of 4 floors, one of which is merely the bar. All in all, it really only felt like a 3 floor experience, but cannot actually return to the first floor and explore. So for 90 minutes you roam the top two increasingly overcrowded floors (the later time groups entered after us, increasing the crowd size) where you follow the show’s characters at your own accord. But these however often consisted of walking back and forth between areas where nothing horrific took place. Even in the Liberty Park area where they had characters roaming in Purge masks, they never did more than stare at you as you walked by (SIDE NOTE: they gave out Purge masks for the visitors to wear which were so poorly made, I didn’t meet one person who’s reaction wasn’t “This thing is gouging out my eyeballs!”).
Eyeball gouging mask
Also of note, even though it’s described as an “immersive experience” you’re not allowed to touch what little props they had in the rooms. One visitor actually got yelled at when he tried to interact by opening a viewing window between two rooms, and yet another was forbidden to go into the hospital set even though the doors were not blocked off like they were in other sections of the theater (this is a prime example of what’s not working, this is the complete opposite of the Sleep No More experience where you’re very much encouraged to dig through the details of the sets). Not only was every one of the visitors we met underwhelmed and confused, one person in our group talked to an employee and asked, “Really? This is it?” and they replied with an apologetic “Sorry” look and shrug.
I truly felt bad for the performers. It was clear that the show was underwritten and lacked direction. Unlike Sleep No More, it was never established whether or not the visitors were supposed to be “actually there” and seen by the actors or not. In some parts you engage and talk the performers (the First Lady, the pregnant girl), but then in others they act like you’re not there (the creepy old man apartment, the President having sex with his mistress), without any rhyme or reason to any of it. It simply failed to keep our attention. There was even a part where our friend was taken and placed on a kitchen table for “interrogation” but it was so boring we actually left him there to see if we could find something interesting… which we did not. But suffices to say, if you get bored when the experience actually involves someone you know, then it’s a clear sign that something isn’t working.
Now don’t get me wrong, it took at least 30mins before we realized this thing sucked. It did start off promising when they gave us each Security Badges (my friend that went the previous night said they all received personalized badges with their names on them, ours simply said “Delegate”). We noticed it had instructions to text a code to a phone number to check in with security. We weren’t sure if this was something that could possibly effect our experience, or simply get us on an annoying mailing list. We did it anyway and it only came into play once during the whole night, so what could potentially have been a really cool interactive element was completely underused.
Immersive interactive experience!
Upon entering the theater, they made each of us go alone (some people, none in our group, got special badges with their names on them, but the only function was they made that person in their group enter first). It started like a traditional haunted house where you’re walking in dark hallways and people pop out and scare and even though it was under-desgined, it had a scary element to it because you were completely alone (a problem that plagues most haunted houses is the line is so contiguous that you hear where all the scares in front of you are before you get there). Eventually you get tot he theater and there’s a political Purge type event going on, but noting happens during this part. With the Purge theme we were expecting at least some theatrics of the person at the podium being assassinated, especially when we were backstage.
Now, I’m not going to post a complete walk-thru of this experience, as I’ve already wasted my time on it once, but the first floor was actually kind of interesting. A rebel group takes the visitors captive and you and your friends are lead through a creepy hostage experience (one of our friends was even pulled from our group and lost until everyone regrouped at the bar). Tho this part was gain under designed and relied heavily on bare hallways, darkness and smoke. It was still kind of exciting. But then they take you to the bar and the experience falls flat on it’s face.
To the bartender’s credit, they pour their drinks REALLY strong, which was nice (and you’ll need it because the rest of the 90min-2hour experience is so boring, you’ll need to be drunk to get through it). They leave you to explore the rest of the place (two small cramped floors) on your own and here’s where it fails miserably. The layout was just wrong. Rooms dead ended which lead to a bottlenecking effect where you’d enter a space get tot he end and see nothing was going on and have to double back through the approaching crowd behind you and swim upstream just to get out.
It was a truly horrifying experience because it of the lack of effort put forth on their part to deliver any kind of horror theater as promised on their website. I was almost offended at how unorganized it was and embarrassed that I talked up last year’s Blumhouse to my friend who I convinced to come with me. And even at our half price ticket (normally $65) we had all felt that we were straight up scammed out of our money. Money that I would’ve easily put towards a much better haunted house experience. I emailed them to request a refund, but doubt they’ll respond (although they have been apologizing to people on the Yelp reviews). I understand that this is a complicated feat to pull off, but as Sleep No More proves, it’s entirely possible. It just requires the proper planning and execution. And if you’re going to attempt such a thing, have it worked out BEFORE you open to the public, please don’t make me pay for your R&D to work out any kinks.
If you only pay for one haunted house or theater experience this Halloween season, DO NOT make it this one!
-0 out of 5 spooks