The Freakling Brothers Re-Launch The Victim Experience: March of Death
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
There’s been a trend in recent years of horror and Halloween attractions becoming more experiential and intense. From participatory zombie fighting experiences to haunted houses that require you sign a health waiver, this approach is rapidly becoming the norm for adult gore lovers. One particular subset of experiences is catering to people that want to push their boundaries to the limit. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to star in a horror movie, this could be for you. Enter the Freakling Brothers. As a warning to readers, some of what follows is graphic, so use your judgment about reading on.
The Freakling Brothers Horror Shows is the company behind three of Las Vegas’ most notorious Halloween haunt attractions. Freakling has been serving up haunted houses to the Las Vegas area for over two decades. Their work is routinely listed as some of the scariest attractions in the world by horror reviewers and they operate the only R-rated, “full contact” horror attraction in Nevada. As a result, the company’s designers have been invited to participate in conventions and discussions as “extreme haunt” experts.
But their latest production may be raising the art of scaring people to a whole new art form. The Victim Experience: March of Death builds on their intense, full contact horror attraction expertise geared toward thrill-seekers that wanted a more immersive and realistic experience. Originally launched last Halloween, The Victim Experience is back for an encore performance after the first round sold out in just two weeks.
If you’re wondering what you’re in for, the event rules give a good idea of what guests can expect. You have to be 18 and over, in good shape, and ready for anything. The list of requirements includes: “Must be prepared to experience various forms of psychological, emotional, and sensory torture with ZERO retaliation; Must be prepared for intense physical contact and choreographed grappling with zero retaliation; Must be prepared for simulated criminal sexual behavior and harassment; and Must be prepared to experience verbal abuse, humiliation, and extreme language.”
You can’t bring weapons and you can’t get a refund. But you can escape by shouting a safe word “Purgatory.” Your ability to go through the attraction and maintain control during multiple scenarios of simulated danger is critical, for safety purposes – your own and the actors’. The goal is to get your adrenaline pumping, but actually keep you entirely safe throughout. Interviews with participants in last year’s Victim Experience mention being shocked with electrical currents, having your shirt ripped off and sex toys put in your mouth, your head dunked in cold water, and more. It’s as extreme as the waiver promises, and probably more intense than many participants initially envisioned.
According to Freakling’s stats on their website, the attraction is a hit with their audience. 20% of visitors during the Halloween season were repeat visitors, many came from out of state, and 99% of participants felt that the attraction “delivered.” What they’re delivering is highly niche, but it sounds like it connects deeply with their audience.
What does the success of Freakling’s offerings, along with other extreme haunts around the country, mean for entertainment designers? We often think of pushing the envelope in terms of offering more sophisticated technology or a deeper immersion into story. But the The Victim Experience and similar attractions speak to an opportunity for designers to ask the question, “are we creating true immersion experiences that trigger primal emotional responses?” The Freakling productions are too far up on the intensity scale to be compared directly with the vast majority of attractions, but it does offer an interesting lens to examine our understanding of “immersion,” “safety,” and “terror.”
Image sources: themeparkuniversity.com, freaklingbros.com