To find the the very best haunted houses in New York, you sometimes have to venture away from the city. I've been stuck within the city limits, but with the help of The Raven and Black Cat and Survivor Bailey Squared we all jam-packed into a car and road tripped to the various haunts of Long Island a few weeks back. Our second stop was Nyctophobia, an interactive experience I've been dying to try for the last few years. It changes year after year and what people experienced in 2011 is long gone. So with some excitement, I headed to my first Nyctophobia haunt.
Nyctophobia is not a haunted house.
That's the tagline this year though in years past, Nyctophobia brought the interactive horror like experience to eastern Long Island. But creator Eric Striffler has changed it up and this "not a haunted house" resembles more of an audience participation in an real life movie. Part scavenger hunt, part ARG, the experience itself was absolutely entertaining though the story and timing could use more work.
I immediately tweeted this right after it was over.
@NyctophobiaLI was an interactive mystery that is a cross between the last of us and j-horror without the j. Inventive and creative
— the jaded viewer (@jadedviewer) October 12, 2013
Nyctophobia had elements of the PS3 game The Last of Us which cinematically were outstanding. Slight moaning and sounds through the woods will have you jumping on a broken twig in the dead of night. The J-horror I compared the haunt to is in reference to Japanese horror, which tend to use flashbacks to unveil the horror stalking those cell phone obsessed Japanese teenagers. Blended together, they were very different and somehow got muddled as the story developed. It's the hunt that got me giddy.
With "S" and "C" from The Raven and Black Cat, myself and fellow Survivor Bailey Squared, our valiant group of four ventured to the far reaches of LI. Arriving late, we sat in our car, then were approached with a waiver and clipboard and we emphatically all signed on the dotted line.
And it was a go. I won't go into details until after their run is over. Expect a walkthrough soon.
But if you ever wanted to act as 4 "teenagers" in a mystery, Nyctophobia 2013 makes it happen. We all participated and each had our own "scenes" by sharing the experience together. I got to interact in one scene with an actor and eventually we all "escaped" from the potential dangers set up for us. We drove from one scene to another piecing together clues that would lead us to our next destination. in In one scene, darkness and a wooded path was a mesmerizing cinematic touch and the ending led to an uber jump scare that had one of us stepping back.
The story for 2013's Nyctophobia was hard to comprehend. The clues were there but not easily digestible as you were going through it. We all listened intently but still couldn't understand who was who and what we needed to do to progress the story. I'm sure it's been fixed but I think it could have evolved into a full on IRL theatrical experience that had you improving lines to progress the story. Like a real life Star Trek holodeck. It's not until after did we get it and realized who and what it was all about.
Nyctophobia is definitely not a haunted house. It probably falls into that Sleep No More and Then She Fell category but instead of immersive theatre, it's immersive cinema. The Gen Y Millennials are short attention spanned and need the quick cut Michael Bay explosions. They also need the horror movies that have less build up and more kill scenes. They want the torture porn and instead got slow burn Ti West cinema. This generation can't appreciate the methodical plotting of good indie horror. It's kind of sad. But if you want to enjoy Nyctophobia, you'll need to take it slow, enjoy the build up and make your own conversations between you and your friends entertaining. Somebody has to be comic relief right?
I will say that it did end abruptly. It seemed like it could have lasted more than an hour but we completed it in less than that. I would suggest it head into the more digital realm, maybe use more text messages, tweets and social media to lead a team to their next destination. As much as the horror myth of having no cell signal is ever evident in movies, it's not the case IRL.
Nyctophobia is going to evolve the interactive immersive cinema experience into a must go event. Striffler will make sure of that. This wave of interactive theater is clearly only beginning and talented artists are redefining the conventions of our entertainment. I'm excited to see what's next and believe when your partaking in a world constructed for you and your friends, we've only seen a glimpse of what's to come.
And I'll be excited if Nyctophobia is leading the way.