Frazer Brown writes for Bleeding Cool.
Have you ever been balls to the walls, shit-scared? Like, terrified out of your freaking mind scared?
I have. About a week ago. At Eli Roth's Goretorium.
The Infamous Mr Roth – director, actor, screenwriter, haunter of my dreams – has now added another string to his bow. He's now a carney.
Okay, more politely, he's a "Fright Engineer" with the launch of his Goretorium on the Las Vegas Strip. I had the pleasure of getting a VIP tour.
Admittedly I've never been a fan of Roth's films,* but I went with an open mind. The house, or maze as they are known in the US, cost a not-too-shabby $10 million to create, so I felt it was the least I could do.
It's true that there have been a glut of haunted houses this year, and with lots of people getting into the fear business some great new venues have appeared, as well as a deluge of mediocre ones. There are the existing masters of course: Notsberry Farm's attraction for families is nicknamed Not Scary Farm; Universal Studios' have their Horror Nights; and there's the Fright Dome in Vegas which this year had a George Romero sanctioned Living Dead exhibit.
Eli Roth's Goretorium however, claims to outscare all of these. And it did.
The fear I felt transcended cheap thrills and left a tangible air of psychological terror, something that hit me at my deepest, most primal level and genuinely ignited my fight or flight reflex on more than one occasion.
The official blurb reads:
Eli Roth's Goretorium is opening September 27, 2012 and is Las Vegas' first year-round haunt. Goretorium will provide horror fans and tourists with the ultimate live-terror experience. True to Las Vegas showmanship and pizzazz, Goretorium combines the latest technology with old-fashioned scares to create the world's most intense haunt.
Goretorium is a self-guided multi-level fright maze that submerges guests into the tale of Sin City's most deadly and mythical hotel and casino, The Delmont, run by a serial-killer family. A team of experienced and specially trained actors lurk around every corner ready to terrorize anyone who dares walk through. Goretorium includes a one-of-a-kind horror retail shop, a to-go bar and premiere events venue called Bloody Mary's that specializes in gruesomely themed cocktails and a 1960's inspired Baby Doll Lounge that features caged zombie dancers with live "feedings"
- Patrons ready to tie the knot can get hitched inside GORETORIUM at the zombie chapel where "you may now slit the bride's throat"
- GORETORIUM.com includes a webcam feature where online viewers can watch guests navigate their way through the haunt and witness the horror from afar
The following are my rough notes on a walkthrough of the whole experience, complete with spoilers. I recommend that you only read it if you definitely can't make it to the Goretorium in person.
We arrived around 9pm, stumbling off the Vegas strip after a few too many Mojito's. Cassie, my fiancée, has concerns already – I recently dragged her to the Universal Horror Nights which she found frightening. We are welcomed and asked to have our photo taken by some lobby luggage at the front of the "Hotel".
The Hotel setting is what piqued my interest in the first place, I've always had a fascination with hotels and their history, as well as their rich potential to create foreboding atmospheres and inspiration for great fiction. It's why I love The Shining, Four Rooms, 1408 (should they be in the same sentence?); it's also why I created the on-going writers project Room 110.
We are treated to a back-story regarding the history of the Hotel:
"According to murky legend, The Delmont Hotel and Casino opened in the 1960's and was condemned in the 1980's due to an outbreak of murderous events – legal disputes over property rights delayed its demolition. Authorities say the proprietors of the Delmont would target hotel guests to satisfy their twisted cannibalistic fantasies, secretly drugging their guests, filleting them while still alive and feeding the human meat to unsuspecting guests."
Right, all good. With that out of the way our hooded host guides us through the dark doorway, dropping an atmosphere spoiling "VIPs coming through" in to his Walkie Talkie.
The Foyer: The first thing that strikes me is the attention to detail, the foyer set, looks, smells and has the atmosphere of an old smelly hotel, down to the large cantankerous old lady sitting in the corner shouting abuse. This is the key success of the experience, you instantly believe in the room you are standing in, like you have literally materialised in a dream and everything is in place. I can't explain it, it just feels real. And I'm a producer; I know a lot of tricks so its deceptions are doubly impressive.
The second thing I notice is; we are the only guests. This unnerves Cassie even more.
The "bellhop" explains the back story of the hotel and how we are only going to visit the 'safe' areas of the hotel not the basement! Dun duh duh! A second "guest" arrives but I can smell his SAG membership and assume he's a plant, He's texting constantly and is told to stop by the annoyed bellhop.
The Lift: We enter a large old hotel lift; the texting man is told one more time to stop. He ignores this request and is promptly beheaded by the bellhop who drags him out of the lift. My guess was correct; he was indeed a plant – or, if not Eli Roth has one hell of a lawsuit on his hands.
A creepy looking lift attendant stands at the controls. The lift starts to go up to the "safe level" and then…
Blackout! The lift plummets to the basement. Through 20 seconds of darkness, the lift attendant lights up his face with a torch and screams "Your Floor." We exit the lift slowly, buttocks clenched.
The Corridor: Here's where the fear began for me. This is also the point that Cassie had her meltdown.
It truly felt like we were dreaming. I'm sure people with more machismo will call me a coward or other such things, but with no apologies, I'll tell you it was creepy as hell. We were in the long corridor of a very real hotel with décor that just said Silent Hill, and in the darkness we spied a shuffling, shadowy figure walking towards us.
At this point cassie freaked out. And I mean freaked out.
I asked the lift attendant "Which way is the exit? My guest wants to leave" but he's saying nothing.
"Seriously, I know you're supposed to stay in character, but she wants to go. I'm staying. Where's the exit?"
"Look, break character and show me the way out."
So he opened a side panel and I took Cassie to the foyer. After an assurance that she's ok, I headed back in. Alone.
The Foyer: The bellhop looked a little freaked out that I was back, like I'm some sort of 'de ja vourist.'
The Lift: Yeah, rinse and repeat. Guy gets head chopped off. Again.
The Corridor: I was back. And this time I was alone. So very, very alone.
The dark figure turned out to be a deformed janitor with a mop. He ran at me, banging his mop hard against the floor. He snarled into my face, just inches away and so I quickly moved through the only doorway.
Body Room: A pile of very realistic bodies. I knew something was going to jump out. I'm trained in this, but then so is Eli Roth – who has quickly become my nemesis. But nothing happened.
I second-guessed that surely something will happen, but here is another key to the Goretoriums success: you can't second guess it. Nope, it was just fake bodies.
Until one fricking grabbed me.
Fire Stoker: A long corridor, and at the end was fiery hearth and the largest coal worker. He must have been seven feet tall. He saw me, and ran full pelt at me, stopping just inches away.
One difference between this and the other houses I've visited is the belief that the actors could not only touch you, but actually beat the living crap out of you.
The "Whores": I moved quickly through a bedroom where scantily clad girls are electrocuting another girl tied to a metal bed frame. She asked for my help, but apologised like someone had tried to sell me the Big Issue and scuttled on.
The Dressing Room: A typical showbiz dressing room, A decapitated lady was having her makeup applied by an overly aggressive assistant. The "dummy" in the corner banged his hands on an old piano and I started to move even faster.
Chapel: An actual mini chapel. It was very impressive and you can get married here, but everyone in the pews seemed to be dead. How many actors are actually in the place? I have no idea, but it's a lot. At the Altar a couple were getting married, ut as the groom put the ring on her finger he accidentally tore her arm off, spraying me in blood.
Wedding Reception: A dining room with around 20 live zombies all tearing in to the guests and eating their flesh, all very realistic looking and something that will probably stay with me for a long time. At the end of the room a man and woman seemed to be engaging in a touch of the naughties… but, no he was just eating her intestines.
Kitchen: Another incredibly realistic looking set. A large chef was throwing plates at a cocktail waitress, berating her for bad service. She whimpered on the floor but as I picked my way through the debris she was hoist up and pushed face first on to the grill. She turned to me screaming with her face burnt off.
Laundry Room: A typical dry cleaners, apart from the fact that there were bodies, played by live actors, being washed in the machines, and filled body bags moving around the room on and automated clothes rail. Another large and impressive set. In the middle, a man was being slowly put through the industrial mangle, with all the gore that entails. He begged me to press the stop button, andmy instinct kicks in so I did – only to be screamed at by a previously unseen, laundry worker. "Stay away from that button!"
Casino Bar: This was the oddest room, a cobwebbed casino floor with a lone bar man offering 'menstrual cocktails'. These were sick and a bit unnecessary. In fact the whole place had a very sado-mysoginistic leaning that I wasn't that comfortable with. A drunk fell out of a doorway but that was about it for scares.
Gambler: The door you need to find to move on next was difficult to see. I worked it out eventually and moved in to a black room, only about three feet by three. A zombie gambler appeared through the wall in an impressive ghost illusion, said something unintelligible to me and then walked off. All that was left to do is walk squeeze through a tiny crack for about twelve feet to exit the maze. There was just enough time for a couple of air blasts and last minute grabs to unnerve me further, but then I was out.
The Bar: I exited the Goretorium to find Cassie; she was sitting in the foyer looking stunned. I was concerned for a moment that I'd need to seek medical attention.
And starting that night, I've been having some very freaky dreams, so thanks a lot, Mr. Roth.
Here's the trailer for the attraction, directed by Roth himself.
Tickets and more information are available at the official Goreotrium wesbite.
*I certainly have – Brendon.