One might think Oct. 31 marks the end of tricks, treats and haunted events in Los Angeles. Not so. PR rep Catherine Mendez told Riverside Horror on Thursday that one very original and chilling interactive experience has extended its run almost to Thanksgiving, so if you’re looking for something a little more unique than the usual chainsaw-wielding psychopath haunted maze, then “Delusion: Masque of Mortality” may be right up your alley.
This live-action, first-person horror experience is in the midst of its third year in production with each season bringing an all-new story from the mind of Producer, Writer and Director Jon Braver. In fact, on the night Riverside Horror was invited to attend, he was also an actor.
Since 2012, “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris has also been on board to help elevate this psychologically-disturbing experience. If you’re wondering if you will see Harris at the show, the websites teases “one never knows when he’ll show up!”
This year, the event also has a new location. Held at what is a frightening locale in and of itself, the production takes place in the huge, abandoned Bethany Presbyterian Church in downtown Los Angeles. Each of the multiple rooms groups are led through have been painstakingly and creepily staged and lit to produce the perfect amount of skin-crawling discomfort.
If you’re expecting knife-wielding maniacs jumping from behind doors while you and 5000 of your not-so-closest friends make your way through in a single-file line for less than five minutes, well let’s just say; this isn’t your father’s haunted house.
Patrons are taken through in small groups of six or seven, and with the show lasting well over 45 minutes, the event can only accommodate around 210 guests per night. This, along with the unique and highly-interactive nature of “Delusion,” is one of the reasons October sells out almost immediately and usually requires an extended run, as they are doing this year well into November.
What does “highly interactive” mean? Your group will be led through a series of rooms, often being asked to participate, as various actors tell the chilling story of a rag-tag group of survivors of a plague, constantly hiding for their lives inside this dwelling from the disappearances and murders that have befallen their fellow survivors, purportedly at the hands of a chilling group known as The Doctors. It also means, at some point, you may be led away from the safety of the group you entered with, meaning no two person’s experiences within the group will likely be the same.
Patrons are asked to perform various tasks as you move from place to place, but, as happened to this journalist, you might also end up a victim of The Doctors, held in the stockade of a guillotine for what felt like an eternity before eventually being saved. Your job might also be as simple as carrying a backpack, and you’ll later find there are items inside that will help you on your journey. Along the way, you will be asked to duck, hide, run, sometimes up and down stairs, so be prepared. You suddenly find yourself lost in the story and in the dark confines of the looming Bethany Church that feels as though it houses hundreds of rooms.
As with any production where people are basically asked to perform in a play where they’ve never read the script, bumps in the road are to be expected and worked out, especially given we were there on just the second weekend of production.
During our experience, myself and fellow patron Christian (he asked only his first name be used) were taken away to a disturbingly-decorated nursery. A scary young girl (think the twins from “The Shining”) poked her distorted face through a small opening and asked that we choose and open one of two boxes on the nursery floor. Being a journalist and never thinking the most obvious answer is the right one, we chose the smaller of the two which contained a piece of paper asking us to solve a riddle. After a few moments of being unable to figure it out, we were heavily prompted to open the larger box. Inside was an item we had been told earlier was something of importance the group was seeking. Therefore, when one of the frightening, masked doctors came into the room and demanded the item, my new friend Christian decided that wasn’t going to happen, stuffing the item under his shirt and claiming he didn’t have it. After several minutes, and the poor actor playing The Doctor now almost completely out of character with frustration, Christian finally lamented and handed the item over.
We were eventually, and seamlessly, reunited with our original group, which was also an amazing feat, and after a terrifying ending that led us through a pitch black room, we were finally thrust into a hall and told we should try and get away. We all stood silently, staring at one another and wondering what we should do next. A security guard in the area finally came over to tell us we were finished and to head back to the lobby.
Later in the holding and concession area, Christian admitted he was disappointed he was forced to go against his instincts in giving up the prized item during the show. “I was told our group needed that item, and then I was told I didn’t have any choice but to give it away. That was frustrating.” One could say, however, that frustrating the audience is definitely an emotion, and isn’t emotion one of the things a good story tries to evoke?
Two other patrons, Mark and Laura Brentman, expressed while they had a great time, found the story intriguing and the staging of the rooms incredibly frightening, they were confused by the abrupt ending. “I kind of wish there had been more closure, but I can’t say it isn’t something I’d do again, especially since I know what happens to me could change each time.”
Riverside Horror spoke to Jon Braver three weeks later about the abrupt ending and the slight misstep during our time in the nursery. Braver admitted in this kind of interactive and constantly-moving scenario, changes are inevitable. He also shared that what we experienced on our night is already slightly different for those attending current and future shows, making it an even more unique experience.
“One of the beautiful things about this theater concept is that I can constantly make adjustments, sometimes to the chagrin of my actors! But they understand the bigger picture,” said Braver. “The finale has gone through some of those changes but retains some ambiguity, which I don’t mind. The abruptness is not as severe, and I am at the present time making changes to resolve it a bit better.”
Braver then smiled, and said, “But, I like leaving certain things up to interpretation. Some endings lead to future beginnings so perhaps we’ll see more on this story one day.”
The show is sold out for Halloween night through November 6, but tickets are available for “Delusion: Masque of Mortality” on select nights beginning Nov. 7 through Nov. 24. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased through their official website. No one under age 17 is permitted, even with a guardian, so definitely leave the kiddies at home for this one. For other questions about the show, check out the FAQ page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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