Delusion: His Crimson Queen
It’s Halloween season, when companies come out of the woodwork to claim that they can entertain (read: scare) you better than anyone else in town. There is a huge range, from family-friendly front yard haunted houses, to 2-hour extravagant psychological assaults. The kind you prefer is personal preference, but if you’re an adult who’s ready for the next level of spooky, immersive entertainment, then you might try to check out Delusion.
Delusion is billed as “The Original Interactive Horror Theatre Company,” which tells you just about everything you’d want to know. It’s real theater, with actors, a plot, dialogue…but at the same time, they cannot perform for a passive audience. Participation is mandatory for Delusion. A note to the more hesitant patrons–you do not have to do anything yourself, but you’ll be with a group, and someone in the group has to be involved, usually several someones. So you’re mostly watching, but also DOING, which is vastly more entertaining. And unlike escape rooms (which I love), your participation here is largely guided, so you don’t feel too lost or confused. It is, for me, the best Halloween entertainment offering that I’ve found. It has aspects of many other types of scary activities, but by combining them, you really do feel more personally invested.
This is the fifth season of Delusion. The plot changes every year. This year, the title is His Crimson Queen. The basic setup is that you have received a letter from your father, which seems to contain news about your mother, who has been gone for years. He asks that you meet him at an old mansion where he will reveal more to you. I do not want to reveal more of the plot because discovering it as it happens, and as you live through it, is much of the fun. The location of Delusion is actually a real mansion, gutted and repurposed to suit the needs of the plot. Going from room to room aids immeasurably when compared to the bland corridors of attractions built inside warehouses. The attention to detail is usually top-notch across the board. The actors are largely wonderful, the makeup and costumes are convincing, and the sets…wow. The sets they have built into every room are marvels of form and function. Going up to an attic crawlspace and down to a basement crypt, the full house is utilized.
Letting yourself get swept into the story is crucial. You can hang back as an observer, or adopt a jaded “impress me” attitude, but you’re only robbing yourself. Go with it. Be scared. Talk to the actors. HURRY when they tell you to. Yes, everyone knows that nothing bad will happen if you don’t get to the next scene immediately. But it feels more real if you play along. It gets your heart pumping, and really, isn’t that what you’re here for?
I am thrilled that there is now an entirely new genre of interactive entertainment. Haunted houses where people jump out at you are fine, but they never really grabbed me the way that productions like Delusion have. I applaud creator Jon Braver for changing the plot and location each year, which keeps returning attendees on their toes. What’s more, I think Delusion strikes the perfect tone as far as intensity goes. There’s blood but not gore. It’s scary but not terrifying. Best of all, it doesn’t mistake being “extreme” for being high-quality. It would be easy to make this “R-rated,” but they don’t, and it’s a smart choice. It’s definitely still for mature audiences, but doesn’t rely on cheap thrills. It has enough confidence in its story to let that be the real allure.
Not everything is perfect. The theme/plot (again, no spoilers) is not as interesting to me as it was last time I went. This could be personal preference, but I felt that this year relied a bit too heavily on a particular horror genre that I’ve never been a huge fan of. Also, this year marks the implementation of more unguided exploration, where there is no guide with you. The concept is wonderful, and there’s a real jolt when you realize you’re alone. Unfortunately, moving on from that section did not go as smoothly as hoped (although there are backup plans in case your group can’t figure out what to do). Some of the delay was due to technical difficulties. Which I really can’t hold against them, since I appreciate the fact that they are trying to step up their game with these interactive elements. I think I just got lucky by attending their 4th season as my first experience, which is largely regarded as their best so far.
I am so glad that Halloween entertainment is evolving and becoming more story-driven and interactive. I don’t think traditional haunted houses are going away, nor do I want them to, but I do think this trend will continue with more experiences every year. With all the work that goes into them, the trick will be finding the ones that are worth the cost, since these are usually more expensive than what has come before. While I haven’t been to some of the other new horror experiences in town (yet), I can vouch for Delusion as a high-quality experience that is worth the price. Alas, many others agree with me, so their entire initial run is sold out! There may be an extension of dates, as in years past. If that happens, it will be announced on their website here. Good luck getting tickets! And if not, keep your eyes out for this new breed of Halloween fun–it’s here to stay.