nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
October 12, 2010
We've all done it. One of our friends gets it in their head that "we should all go to a Haunted House this year! I hear there's a good one!" We make a night of it. Maybe it's at an old school, church, or even corn field, depending on what part of the world you're in. When we finally go through, everyone holding hands, huddled together, giggling, squirming, and screaming. Some people keep their eyes shut the entire time. By the time you come out everyone is in a good mood, some more shaken than others. You've kept each other safe and now you can go have drinks!
That's the Haunted House experience, right? Wrong. Not if you're attending the Vortex Theatre's New York Haunted House this year. That's simply not how they roll. They make it very clear that this isn't that kind of experience. There will be no huddling, no giggling, no closing your eyes. You will go through alone or not at all and you will be touched but you must not touch or speak to the aggressors. Scream all you like. And be prepared to sign a waiver, because they will not be held responsible for what happens inside.
Now I don't fancy myself easily shaken. I can watch the scariest of movies without it ruining my evening, in general, and the huddling haunted houses don't strike fear into my heart, but what Vortex does is strip that safety away leaving you with only yourself. They let your own mind create the horrors that could potentially lie within the pitch black darkness as you wait...and wait...and something...was that a tongue?...grazes your neck...prods you...and something else...breath, fingers, instruments...size you up in the darkness. And that's just the beginning. The only thing you can rely on is your senses and frequently those things are taken away from you.
Somehow the description of what I was about to undergo was appealing to six of my friends who bought tickets as well. Unfortunately only five of us went through because one of us was unaware that she would not be admitted inside due to a medical condition. Even with a signed waiver if you have a condition such as epilepsy that could potentially set off a seizure due to strobe lighting effects you will not be allowed in. That was not entirely clear on the website so I think it's important to give you all a heads up so you don't hype yourself up and then not get in.
Afterward, while comparing notes, we discovered that all our experiences were slightly different so if you hear someone spoil it for you, which I refuse to do here, don't be so sure that it isn't worth going. If crawling around in the darkness, disorienting elements, and borderline fetishist situations appeal to you, then this is your spot. Vortex has tapped into a sort of immersive theatre that's horrifically appealing to a specific type of personality. It is fascinating to see how far they'll go. If you like to feel your heart pound, your spine tingle, your legs give out, drop on by this year's location. I don't think you'll be disappointed. And a shot of whiskey afterward might just be in order.