Monday, December 12, 2011

Nightmare: The Experiment (Review)

Fear is defined as "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid." Some people are afraid of different things while other fears are universal.

So it's clearly an emotion that haunted houses like to tap in every October. But haunted houses usually only utilize a few of these. In Tim Haskell and John Harlacher's Nightmare: The Experiment, we get a variety of different fears put to test by willing and consentful participants (namely the audience). The Experiment is a presentation of corporate sponsored science run amok; where fear is tested in a variety of ways that will make you squirm, gag and shiver either by having you participating in the experiments or watching them close up. It's brilliantly funny as it is cleverly clever.

If you went to Nightmare: Fairy Tales (see full review here), you also attended The Experiment, the 2nd half of the haunt. I called this portion: "It's truly a revolution of the haunted house, one that is tailored to the fears you've overcome and with the fears that still linger in you." Now having fully expanded this concept, this 50 minute show has clearly evolved into a nicely conceptualized, very funny and tour de hysterical look as how others feel when engulfed in 100% pure fear. I have to say it's the most fun I've had laughing at people put in Fear Factor like stunts while I sat safely in my chair. But I knew I had to volunteer myself to get the full experience and I was indeed embarrassed in front of a large audience (but we'll get to that in sec)

Tim Haskell described a bit of his thoughts about The Experiment on his blog I Scare You. But the basic overview is this. Two scientists who work for a foundation have been tasked to study human fear. A brief presentation is given, so is a disclaimer and everybody recites in unison their consent. If you become picked and cannot complete the experiment, one must sit in a ridiculous sponsored corner. There are 10 experiments total in this new theater of fear and they include repulsion, paranoia, heartbreak and underachievement to name a few. As the night began, members of the audience participated and had their fears tested. Clothing was let go, vermin were let loose and sizzling hot stimuli tested one man's loyalty.

I decided to participate in the experiment called "Underachievement". Asked to answer some questions while my blood pressure was taken, I did my best to show my super smartness. Question after question I got wrong and I was inexplicably shocked as I KNEW my answers were right. It seems I wasn't smart at all and the scientists had outsmarted me with a WTF at the end. I also participated in the Repulsion experiment as I battled others to gobble up some questionable food items. Sadly, I was not quick on the draw and my competitor ate some pre-chewed gum before me. Hmm, maybe it's good I was a little slow this time.

Other experiments were conducted with cruelty and dread being favorites. Many of these made the audience shout out in delight (OK that was me) and others squirm and empathize with a desperate man choosing pain for profit. The joy of watching all of these is seeing the faces of the people next to me. Many people didn't want to be picked, sitting quietly hoping they wouldn't have to participate. Others eagerly raised their hand (yup like me) hoping to face their fears head on. A special VIP ticket that you can purchase (a band aid will be placed on your cheek) will make sure you get selected to be part of the experiments.

The Experiment is a show unlike any other you will see this year. The holidays are a time of giving and John Harlacher and Tim Haskell give us a gift of prepackaged fear that is unpredictable and hilariously funny. You're definitely going to laugh at how ridiculous we as humans can be when put in preposterous situations. But will you be able to laugh at yourself when you're in one yourself?

Head over to The Experiment and see.

From the official site, here's the info about this new holiday haunt.

Psycho Clan, producers of NIGHTMARE, New York’s most horrifying haunted house and AOL CityGuide’s No. 1 rated haunted attraction in NYC have announced that they will expand the sensory assaulting theatre experience THE EXPERIMENT into an off–Broadway run on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A special holiday version of NIGHTMARE (BEFORE CHRISTMAS): THE EXPERIMENT will run December 9 through December 23, 2011 at Los Kabayitos Laboratorio at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street between Rivington and Delancey.

Studies have shown that the anxiety of the holiday season, coupled with seasonal depression, heightens the neurotransmitters associated with feelings of fear. The Psycho Clan experimental division plans on exploiting those levels of fear for an adrenaline rushing 50 minutes of twisted holiday pleasure, with NIGHTMARE (BEFORE CHRISTMAS): THE EXPERIMENT. The event was originally part of this year’s haunted house as a second attraction, but due to its popularity, has been expanded and will return for a horrifying Christmas spectacular that’s able to amplify what it did in its previous installment and experiment on the whole audience in a terrifying (and entertaining) examination into the limits of fear.

“Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time. For too many, it just isn’t. If you don’t always feel joy during the holidays, a good scare will trigger those senses,” says Co-Director Timothy Haskell. “The same endorphins that are released during moments of joy and pleasure are the same ones coursing through your nervous system during times of great fright. So let fear ignite your holiday spirit!”

The Experiment runs from Dec 9th to Dec 23rd. Tickets are $20 and showtimes run at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. The haunt lasts about 50 minutes or so.

You can purchase tickets here.

Check out the trailer!

Bookmark and Share


  1. how many people were in the audience?

  2. When I went there were 35 or so. It's a great show!

  3. Hey check out (and like) an awesome take on the theater experience "NIGHTMARE (BEFORE CHRISTMAS): THE EXPERIMENT" by one of the contributors of Culture Catch Mr.Thom at:

  4. When I went there were around 20 or 30 of us in the audience. Good size crowd with a few friends grouped together including an older couple who had to go through the "heartbreak" experiment. I cracked a few jokes during the cruelty portion and met a few noobs. I liked my fellow guneau pigs...we all had fun.

    Great review Mr. Thorn.

  5. how embarrasing does it get for the subject?

  6. When I went, one guy had to strip naked to his boxers and have the audience judge him. Pretty embarassing. Overall everybody will get a taste of it.

  7. When I went, two guys had to get completely naked at the beginning of the show and then they took there clothes so they had to remain naked for the entire show.

  8. there is no way that is true ?!!?!?!?!?

  9. Any chance of a spoiler review now it's over?

  10. Is the show coming back in in December 2013? Do they really take away the clothes of the people who volunteer for the humiliation experiment?

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.