In June, “The Purge” became the latest hit horror film from Blumhouse Productions, which has made its name producing box-office success stories on a small-budget scale with films such as the “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious.”
"The Purge" takes place in a near-future America where crime and poverty have been reduced to nominal levels. But the terrifying trade-off in this scenario is that for one night a year, citizens are allowed to commit any crime ― including murder ― without repercussion. The only people safe from the mayhem are government officials, that is, “level 10” citizens.
Producer Jason Blum has taken the movie’s concept and turned it into an interactive Halloween experience. Participants take on the role of government delegates who are attending the New Founding Fathers political convention, the group behind the annual Purge, in downtown Los Angeles.
And perhaps most interestingly, the Purge experience offers a deeply political angle on Halloween scares where participants are left to ponder who the real villains are. Are the bad guys the ones breaking into the compound or the government itself that has sanctioned the night of guilt-free murder?
“That’s for you to decide,” producer Jason Blum told Yahoo News in an interview at the opening of “The Purge: Fear The Night” on Thursday.
And it’s all the more timely in light of the ongoing federal government shutdown and political divisions happening in the real world. “This is the ultimate government shutdown,” Blum joked.
“We really wanted to do something that felt different than walking through a haunted house where a head rolls across the floor,” he added. “I was really intent on trying something where there wasn’t a single prop you could buy at a haunted house convention.”
In October 2012, Blum decided to take his company’s talents and apply them to a haunted house that visitors could walk through in person. The Blumhouse of Horrors was a major success but Blum told Yahoo News at the time that he wasn’t likely to recreate the same environment each year.
“We really wanted to do something that felt different than walking through a haunted house where a head rolls across the floor. I was really intent on trying something where there wasn’t a single prop you could buy at a haunted house convention.”
Just like in any good horror movie, things quickly go wrong when a group of protestors break into the compound on the night of the purge.
But that’s where the major similarities end. In most haunted houses, participants have an on-rails experience, like a roller-coaster when the experience is thrilling but locked into a set routine.
In the Purge, participants are forced to take part in the story, making decisions for themselves and their friends that will directly affect their experience, including which of their delegate characters survive the ordeal.
“You are participants. The actors will interact with you,” Blum said. “In certain scenes, there are props that drive the story forward. It’s not a typical audience-performer relationship.”
During a walk-through, participants in my group were forced to locate props that would open up the next scene in the experience.
“In certain scenes they can affect what happens,” Blum said. “Actors will react one way if you respond a certain way. The overall story is not going to radically change, but scenes will play out differently.”
For example, one member of our party even disappeared in the initial protestor assault and didn’t show up again until the end of the experience. Near the end of the walk-through, the participants were forced to choose which of their team would be offered up as a sacrifice to our kidnappers. And a second participant had to literally pull the lever on the execution.
Technically, there might be scarier haunted houses out there this year, full of traditional scares like a costumed monster jumping out from behind a wall. But “The Purge: Fear the Night” succeeds by offering fright fans a unique and often rewarding take on the Halloween experience. And rest assured, you will be scared many, many times along the way.