Unless you were a complete shut-in as a child and hated life, I’m sure everyone has indulged in at least one trip through one of those wonderfully cheesy haunted houses as a kid. You know what I’m talking about: they were usually at state fairs or amusement parks, complete with smoke machines, flickering lights, canned audio of screams and evil laughter filtered through the sound systems at random, painfully unrealistic fake skeletons and spiderwebs adorning the walls, and, of course, the climactic “vampire” bursting out of a coffin via a box-spring.
Were they scary? It depended on one’s tolerance of such material at such an age, but looking back, those old spook-houses probably inspired memories of laughter rather than memories of sheer terror. But if the kid-oriented haunted houses of yesteryear managed to freak out (at least some) kids, just imagine a modern-day haunted house aimed at ADULTS.
From October 5 to October 31, you can experience a grown-up brand of horror-house hijinks at the Soap Factory‘s freaktacular Haunted Basement attraction in Northeast Minneapolis. Currently in its sixth year, the Haunted Basement is a volunteer-based collaboration of local production designers, make-up folks, SFX specialists, and actors. The basement of the venerable Soap Factory is transformed into a nightmarish, interactive labyrinth that seems to have literally jumped out of the creepiest and most depraved horror-based film or video game.
Directed by local theater director Noah Bremer, the production is a twisted freakshow of a horror flick where you, the visitor, are the main character. The Soap Factory was kind enough to let me attend a preview the evening before opening night. In fact, I was a member of the first lucky group of guinea pigs to traverse the dark, dank maze below. The guides at the top of stairs made sure to warn us to not only stick together as a group, but even provided us with a safe-word in case the goings-on got TOO frightening and disorienting. With my girlfriend clutching my arm as we blindly wandered through the first pitch-black hallway, we knew that we were in for a fun time.
I’m gonna try my best not to reveal any spoilers for obvious reasons, but I will say that anyone willing to brave the depths should expect a wide variety of grotesque delights that assault all five of the senses. Every room, tunnel, and crevice is its own transgressive art exhibit, possessing its own unique character and gimmick (not to mention smell), painstakingly detailed by the talented artists and containing chillingly committed performances by the volunteer actors. Expect to get plenty of jolts, not to mention invisible hands grabbing at you in the dark, as well as carnivalesque set dressing, gore, and costuming straight out of the most messed-up Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie music videos.
And, of course, there are clowns. Fucking clowns.
I was extremely impressed with what I saw, and I highly suggest that you take a tour yourself. However, tickets are selling like hot cakes (some nights are already sold out entirely), so I’d suggest that you move your ass and make a reservation online. For those of you that are far more squeamish, there are “Fraidy Cat” tours on the mornings of the 21st and 28th that are lighted and a lot less scary. But if you want to support your local art scene and get a good scare at the same time, say your prayers and face your perverse fears in the basement.
Photos courtesy of the Soap Factory.