A Haunted House That Aspires to Be Intelligent, Truly Interactive Theater
Courtesy of Haunted Play A denizen of Delusion: Masque of Mortality
At Silver Lake's old Bethany Presbyterian Church on a recent Thursday night, a gathering of well turned out Angelinos murmur with nervous anticipation.
A sudden hush falls over the room as a hooded woman with a ghastly pallor appears and loudly calls out, "Will the Death group please gather here by the bar?"
People immediately examine wristbands labeled with words like "Pestilence" and "Famine" until ten audience members meekly gather as directed and are promptly led away like proverbial lambs to the slaughter.
"It still boggles my mind that people pay to get scared," says Jon Braver, the creator, writer and director of this audience-interactive Halloween horror hit, Delusion: Masque of Mortality, a 45-minute dramatic thrill ride of post-apocalyptic survival.
Masque of Mortality is the third incarnation of Braver's Delusion series, which debuted in 2011 to instant acclaim among fright aficionados for its fully scripted scenarios, professional actors, vividly atmospheric production designs and dazzling stunt work.
Courtesy of Haunted Play
But what mostly distinguishes Delusion from the scores of immersive tours that sprout each October like unseasonal crab grass is the dizzying and labyrinthine level of audience interactivity that Braver engineers into each new show.
Masque of Mortality is no exception. From the moment they are led into the first chamber, audience members find themselves trapped in a nightmarish hospital in a pandemic-ravaged city that has reduced the populace into slavering zombies. And the hospital's menacing staff of "Plague Doctors" is looking for new subjects for their grisly experiments.
To escape that fate, the audience is guided by a resistance group that proceeds to hector, push and prompt them from room to room, through secret passages, past wards of predatory, pustule-pocked patients, down corridors of gruesomely infected ghouls and into dark sub-cellars patrolled by ax-wielding lab assistants.
Braver has been fascinated by horror since his student days in Chicago, where he studied music and eventually graduated with a degree in guitar. "I had a crazy, ridiculous passion for Halloween and theater and old films like The Shining and The Omen and stuff like that," he says, "so I always thought that one day I should create some kind of a play, like a moving play that would have [audiences] perform the characters in a moving horror story."
Instead of pursuing music, an interest in gymnastics somehow led Braver to Los Angeles and a ten-year career as a successful Hollywood stunt man. In 2011, he hung up his stunt spurs and founded the company Haunted Play to realize his dream of producing interactive horror.