Last year we walked through Psycho Clan’s Nightmare: Vampires and realized the difference between a haunted house attraction and a haunted house experience. If Timothy Haskell, director of Psycho Clan, has his name attached to a production then expect it to be at least very damn good. After bumping into walls last year, being screamed at by the most warped looking vampires I had yet to imagine, I knew that his work, and the work of those involved, was special. It wasn’t always like that. There have been some misses in the past but this year’s Nightmare edition is a new masterpiece in the thread work of horror experiences — at least the ones you pay for and survive.
So what’s the story, you ask? You enter an insane asylum in which the patients have more control than the spin doctors who are charged with the facility. The narrow rooms and black walls provide a foreboding feeling of danger.
Here are some qualities you can expect from one of Psycho Clan’s productions:
Shock, in the relative safety inside of a building in NoHo, is thrilling. It’s fun. You are never lulled into a sense of safety in this house but you will be unsure of what to expect next. Some of the rooms include dioramas of violence and lunacy that hadn’t yet been done in New York City. The creators went the distance with this one by engaging the audience and allowing them to interact with their hosts in a sort of game. You are told to stare into the mirror of the “Bloody Mary” room and repeat her name until…well, you know how that is supposed to go.
The scares are not all screams, which was a complaint we had last year. This year’s rendition has been enhanced to psychologically screw with the visitor’s heads. Before being turned loose into the darkest part of …Superstitions’ heart, a nurse will ask your name; she’ll write it down, give you a story, and then prods you on to the next room where a caged psychotic will curse someone for the remainder of the trip. The cursed, in this case, me, will be marked and have to endure some special attention. Maybe my only complaint is here…the idea of a cursed guest is excellent, however I think the cast should terrorize this marked person more.
3. Quality Production
Keep it simple, silly. Psycho Clan did not rely on expensive budgets but instead were directed by their talents in craft and creativity. Anyone can replicate a scene from a horror movie but how many create a new horror experience? Consider the scariest films you’ve ever seen. I mean, really, fucked up scary. Just look at the productions of The Exorcist, which mostly took place in a bedroom. Psycho was set in a minimally decorated house. Last House On The Left (the original) realized its psychologically and violent story in the woods. Nightmare: Superstitions utilizes space, trickery, and clever set productions to bolster its fear generator.
4. Brilliant Performances
In Haskell’s latest email, he mentioned that this year’s cast of actors was better than last year’s. As a fan, it is difficult for me to agree because of how convincing both casts have been. I may relent, however in an admission of a point — the challenge to frighten an audience night after night through acting instead of screams and cheap surprises is admirable. The actors do not rely on screams, instead using them as an accent for the chilling portrayals of their characters – they really are acting. They are not just wearing masks, running around, putting on creepy faces to scare you. These people are trained and they are using their training against your bravery. They will most likely win.
Nightmare is pruned and cared for every year to exact a more terrifying experience each time. The creators opened themselves to suggestions and comments. It shows. One of the complaints regarding endlessly screaming monsters has been addressed. Like last year, there is a story; a theme throughout the entire experience that is simple and satisfying. You really do feel like you’re walking through the residence of a hundred deranged patients under the spell of superstition.
Ever feel that your hard earned money was wasted at an overpriced Halloween attraction? A ten minute walkabout in which you find yourself giggling more than shrieking? Me too. The length of Nightmare: Superstitions is appropriate at approximately 35-45 minutes, leaving you very satisfied with the experience.
If you want a true Halloween horror experience, this is about as close as it gets without any bloody messes on your hands.
Continues now through November 6th, NoHo Event Center, 623 Broadway (enter at Mercer Street), New York, NY, hauntedhousenyc.com, $35 at door, $30 online, Students $10 prior to one hour before show