Would you be useless during a life or death situation or would you be a hero?
NYC’s Psycho Clan, the group responsible for Nightmare Haunted House, has created a new form of horror entertainment called This Is Real. They’ve taken the horrific and blood-pumping aspects of a haunted house and combined it with an Escape The Room twist. It’s an immersive horror theater experience. Without giving away the story, it’s like living through a Saw movie—you’re trapped in a horrifying scenario and have to use contextual clues to escape.
BTRtoday decided to put themselves to the test.
This Is Real kidnapped two of our writers, bound their hands together, blindfolded them, threw them in a dirty cage and forced them to watch a maniac torture and kill an innocent person with the prospects of them being next. Did they survive?
I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone, so I won’t give away any big plot points, but it’s definitely a test of wits and courage. My adrenaline was in overdrive. I was bouncing around the room shouting directions to everyone. Because of that I was declared the “ringleader” and removed from the group to be put to the test all on my own. That got my heart pumping. We all somehow survived in the end, but let me tell ya, I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life. I mean, my underboob sweat alone could’ve filled a small reservoir.
I was also surprised by immersive theater’s following. Everyone in our group of six, except for me and my co-worker, had prior experience with immersive theater projects. They dropped names of different theater companies and interactive shows they’ve attended. It’s not just haunted house/horror themes; one participant described a show she had been to recently where, depending on which actors you chatted with, you ended up fighting for a revolution.
As an outsider, I don’t think I would actually have understood this craze, but after experiencing it with This Is Real, I kind of get it. Immersive theater is a handy way to test different parts of your character. In Psycho Clan’s crazy serial killer experience I was able to, by some degree, test out my reaction in a situation that otherwise (hopefully …) would never happen to me in real life. I mean, I knew they couldn’t actually hurt me the entire time, but the pressure to fight for your life is still very much there.
What I discovered from this experience (well, I already knew, but this solidified it) is that I’m a badass.
Some people are adrenaline junkies, happy to scare themselves by parachuting out of planes, exploring haunted houses or sitting down for horror movie marathons. These folks throw their physical safety and emotional well-being into the wind seeking the thrill of the moment.
I am not one of those people. This Is Real left me shook.
The website does a great job of explaining that you’re never going to be in physical danger, that the actors, while convincing, won’t touch or hurt you. But once that jumpsuit and was on and I watched the actors set the scene, my intestines shuttered. I could hear my mind racing to keep up with my heart rate, silently telling myself over and over again “you’re okay, this isn’t real.”
By the time the game started, I was a blubbering idiot. The two people in the room with me (as I’d find out later) were immersive theater junkies, and had actually been listening to the dialogue and watching for clues instead of sitting in stunned horror. I fumbled around the room, checking spots they already had and looking for things that weren’t there. I was equal parts worried about getting “killed” and how useless I’d be in an actual life-or-death scenario.
After the initial wave of nerves washed away, I made a pretty key discovery to help us escape. At some point, Elena was pulled into another room, and was yelling my name to get my attention and give us directions. Elena is a kind and trustworthy person, but she also has an eerily perfect horror movie voice that in the moment convinced me she was in on it. Eventually we started listening and figuring our way out.
The whole group managed to escape, except for Stanley, who cut his finger on something and was standing there sucking on it when we were scrambling to get out. I may have slammed a door on him after yelling that it was time to go. I blame him.
Scary as it was, the experience was a blast. Immersive theater is something I never knew or understood the demand for, but it makes sense that This Is Real’s 2017 run is nearly sold out. According to the people we went in with, it was very different than other immersive theater experiences they’d done. Even though I have zero context, I can see why. It combines the fear of a haunted house and the ingenuity of an escape room with the naked terror of horror movie sets and psycho-killer kidnappers. My mental and moral (sorry not sorry, Stanley) limits were pushed. I also sweated a lot. I hope they washed my jumpsuit immediately.
You should probably stay away if you have heart problems, a general fear of the unknown or if your coworker sounds like she should be a horror movie star. Otherwise, go for it.