Back when I was a kid, before the established MPAA ratings code came into being, ads for horror films would play on TV, mostly during the hours after school when kids would be watching. They made their bread and butter off your precious weekly allowance, which might have been earned getting together several bags of lawn clippings, so you wanted to pick and choose your creepers carefully. Invariably, the victor would be the film that promised the most shocks, or the ones that promised something extra. The old side show trick of ballyhoo and showmanship won more often than not. WIlliam Castle was a master at this, and he knew that magic ghost viewers and wired theater seats that would give your ass a buzz would give you something more than just an afternoon at the movies.
In what has become as a very sophisticated version of the old publicity stunt, 20th Century Fox presented an interactive “Haunt” from Friday Oct 13th through Sunday the 15th between the hours of 8:00 PM and Midnight in the historic downtown district. Judging from the success of the It experience a few weeks ago, this could be a welcome trend offering anything from free burials or glowing skull rings. This particular experience wasn’t dedicated to just one horror film, but a monstrous bounty of nineteen classic films from the Fox company — Poltergeist, Joy Ride, Jeepers Creepers, Chids Play and Killer Klowns From Outer Space — to name a few, all of which have just come to Blu Ray at a special price with special new artwork by digital wizard Orlando Arocena.
To build the hype and provide a special thrill for those lucky enough to get a free and highly prized preview via reservation, entrepreneurs The Great Company and immersive theater team The Delusion put the audience right in the middle of 360 degrees of horror based on four of FX’s best spine chillers — Carrie, 28 Days Later, The Hills Have Eyes, and a nice bit of ceiling crawling representing The Fly.
The building we had to make our way through is a hundred years old, and the back story is that a mad artist has created new paintings based on the terrifying film foursome, which he has somehow made flesh in various rooms of the former warehouse. The first encounter was with Carrie in all her blood-soaked glory. She even asked me to go to the prom with her, but she became confused and thought I was laughing at her. Mother tried to intervene, but the lights began to flicker and she was thrown against the wall.
We made our way to the next room and surmised from its hellish state that we were in the virus-infected future of 28 Days Later. While finding and administering first aid to a woman near the brink of death, we were beset upon by a horde of rage-motivated zombies. As I looked behind one last time at the zombiegeddon, I notice a little kid frothing at the mouth. I wondered if he had to sign the same waiver we did. In the next room, we had to find a way out while a panicked father tried to find his kidnapped daughter. Inbred cannibals fought to the death from the Hills Have Eyes scenario. After a pick axe is planted in a mutant’s cranium, we escape with the dad into a real working elevator, which is very old. It stops abruptly in between floors, and we are treated to a spectacular bungee jump from the top of the elevator shaft. I wasn’t quite sure what this was all about as we escaped to the real world, and then it hit me — “Oh yeah,The Fly.” The stunt work throughout was top notch.
I’m pretty sure a few more of these ornate freebies are going to pop up, so keep yours eyes peeled on your favorite horror and movie sites to be Johnny-on-the-spot for these cool ways of drumming up people’s interest for that new chiller coming down the block. In the end, I had to wonder how they would handle audience and actor interactions at an experience for, let’s say, the 50 Shades Of Grey franchise.
Photo still from video shot by Inside the Magic