If you live in Los Angeles you may be familiar with the annual maze/attraction Blumhouse Productions, the production company behind Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Insidious and The Purge, holds in the 89-year-old Variety Arts Theater downtown. Last year the experience was more generalized in the fun, but perhaps too leisurely, “Blumhouse Of Horrors.” This year the attraction has morphed into the truly thrilling experience of “The Purge: Fear The Night“.
I went with some friends last night (October 12th), not really knowing what to expect. I knew that producer Jason Blum had brought in co-directors Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor (creators of the apparently awesome Blackout haunted house – which I need to visit at some point) to collaborate. And I also knew that the attraction had been revamped considerably since its debut last month. What was once a free-roaming experience had been tightened into an intensely guided, yet still highly interactive, evening.
What I didn’t know was just how much fun my guests and I would have. While I never saw the initial version of the attraction, this “new” version pretty much blew me away. I love all of the Halloween events and mazes around Los Angeles to varying degrees but, after a while, there’s a certain amount of familiarity that settles in and your fight or flight reactions begin to ossify somewhat. Successful formulas work and I can’t blame a lot of other places for implementing similar methods, but in 2013 alone I’ve been through at least 20 mazes that were beat-for-beat pretty much the same. That didn’t happen with “Purge.” I never knew what to expect and was kept on my toes throughout.
While some of the ephemera/iconography associated with the film might be confusing to people who haven’t seen it (my guests were unfamiliar), especially in the beginning moments, the specificity of the attraction doesn’t diminish the enjoyment factor at all. And if you’ve seen the movie but didn’t care for it, that shouldn’t affect your experience either. “The Purge: Fear The Night” is about everything that happens outside of Ethan Hawke’s house during those hours and there’s a great variety to the type of scares that are put to use.
My friends and I were separated and told to enter the maze alone – timed out from each other by about 30 seconds – and from those initial first steps into absolute darkness I could tell I was in for something different. Since the surprise factor is part of the fun, I’m not going to spoil the attraction by providing a beat-by-beat breakdown of the evening. What I will say is that the performances are great and you’re guided through the building with an incredible sense of urgency. You’re positioned as a delegate for the New Founding Fathers and are on the run from “Constitutionalists.” The pacing of this is great, it’s often breakneck but there are also plenty of chances for you to slow down a bit and become an active participant and problem solver in your environment. You might rejoin your group only to be pulled away from it in the middle of a hallway – you never know. And while gore is never the focus conceptually, there’s no shortage of that either.
Every room is different, from hospital environments to apartments to wide open fields (on a set, of course). You never know where you’re going next and you can’t predict just how you’ll be involved in the action. You might be asked to fish through water to find something, you may be asked to kill somebody (for the peanut gallery – please don’t take that literally). The experience runs just the right amount of time – so many “mazes” are frustratingly short, this one is long without ever overstaying its welcome. And, at the end, you’re allowed into the perfect environment to unwind from the intensity and gather your thoughts (and perhaps wait for your friends who were “abducted”).
If you’re looking for a great night out (and are over 18) you should definitely hit this up. Get tickets here and plan an evening around it. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area to help justify the cost of downtown parking… and you just might need that drink afterwards.
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