Crybaby – 17th Door Shocks Again
I first checked out 17th Door two years ago, and since then it has been at the top of my Halloween must-see list. Despite its extremely twisted scenes and occasionally painful surprises, I love it. Each year’s installment is different, dealing with a new stage in the brutal life of central character Paula. This year’s Crybaby remains set in Perpetuum Penitentiary, but with a new plot and experience that refocuses onto Paula’s traumatic narrative.
The Vixi Ward Experience
For an additional cost of $13, guests can get a 15-minute virtual reality experience. Unruly inmates of Perpetuum are subjected to an experimental treatment by Vixi Labs that interfaces directly with the human brain. We have been brought in to test the equipment to make sure it’s safe after it had previously been shut down due to “excessive casualties.” Taking the basic premise and several notable scenes from last year’s VR, the Vixi Ward Experience adds a tongue-in-cheek meta-plot and some mischievous tricks to make guests question reality. Like many questionable “treatments,” this one may have some painful side effects, so proceed with caution. Once the “treatment” ends, guests are hidden among the Penitentiary’s gen-pop and begin their Crybaby experience.
Crybaby does a fantastic job of continuing Paula’s story, which I felt was pushed to the side at last year’s haunt. As Paula begins therapy inside the prison, she is given a puppet named Lincoln (after her dead son) in the hopes she will have a breakthrough and accept her crimes of infanticide. Rather than helping, though, it makes things much, much worse.
As we traverse through the Hell that is Perpetuum, constantly on edge for what the next door holds for us, we watch in horror as Paula descends into madness and rage. The other inmates – including last year’s stand-out Mad Dog – are affected as well, and we are not safe here.
Paula grapples with her tormented past through art therapy, which provided some of the more disturbing imagery in the prison’s walls. Can she really find peace and atone for her actions? Or will the demon inside her win out and trap her forever in the madness of Perpetuum?
Heed the Warnings!
I am always amazed at 17th Door’s ability to make such a large haunt feel so isolated; we are essentially alone in groups of 4-8 (8 felt slightly cramped, so I’d suggest no more than 6). Groups briefly wait for the red light above the door to switch to green, meaning it is time to endure whatever the next room has in store, each room lasting around a minute. Given the tight timing of the scenes, there was one larger room that we had to speed through and consequently missed some potential scares. Follow the directions of the scare actors to get the full experience. We also got a little backed up at the end due to the completion photo op.
With projectiles, electricity, insects, R-rated language and the use of hydraulics, pay careful attention to the waiver and warnings outside the haunt. Crybaby is intense; certain rooms/scenes may be painful. It is extreme, but for those who want to bow out of certain events, there is a “mercy” glow stick, which can be used to skip a room if needed.
There are also possible trigger warnings in Crybaby. The demented scenes include haunted prison hallways, the gas chamber, an electrocution, a firing range and more. A dark narrative, Crybaby also may include graphic scenes depicting rape, child abuse, PTSD or murder. Enter at your own discretion.
Worth the Pain
The enthusiastic scare actors, the detailed sets, the quick pacing, the dark themes, and use of some amazing technology make 17th Door’s Crybaby not-to-be-missed. For fans of more intense fare than the tamer Fright Fest and HorrorWorld, or for those who don’t want to wait in the lines at Dark Harbor, Crybaby more than rises to the challenge of providing a lasting creepy impression. It may be slightly far being in Fullerton, but several turnabouts and interactions within the rooms provided some of the most exhilarating “aha!” moments that I’ve ever had in a haunt. Enjoy your stay at Perpetuum, and don’t be a Crybaby.