Arts & CultureCampus & City

Friday Night Frights: A frank first-person review of 2017’s Deadmonton

What: Deadmonton
Where: Paramount Theatre (10233 Jasper Avenue)
When: September 29 – November 5, 2017
Tickets: Purchasable online

Joshua Storie

You know the type of 20-year-old who still needs to give herself a pep-talk when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom? Well, that’s me. So, it was with great trepidation that I approached the Deadmonton Haunted House on opening night. Wandering through the dark alone? Frightful enough on its own. Wandering through the dark alone surrounded by monstrous beings and gore? I’d like to exit the ride now, please.

As a first-time haunted house-goer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I queued outside the theatre, actors donning monstrous masks sauntered through the crowds, producing squeals and screams and being generally gruesome. Their maniacal laughter seemed to always be within earshot. I found myself making an effort to appear stoic and intentionally avoiding eye contact so as not to single myself out as a potential scare-target. As the crowd waited for admission to the haunt, they never once broke character and interacted with each other in an eerily natural manner; mutant pigs pushed each other aside to eat out of the garbage and a cast of characters clad in straightjackets and prison garb skulked about menacingly.

The lobby of the Paramount Theatre contained a prelude to the attraction of the night, the story of Frankie, the deceased caretaker of the theater. Disgruntled by the presence of haunt-goers disrespecting the classic history of his establishment, he plotted to conduct a summoning of ancient evils to scare any guests away and resume his peaceful afterlife.

After the rules of the haunt were explained to us- no photography, no running, no touching the actors (thanks; wasn’t planning on it)  we were let inside and greeted by a ghastly doorman who informed us he’d “seen many people enter, but none leave.” And with that, the fun began.

The path before us quickly became a twisted maze of sharp corners and narrow hallways, lending a strong sense of disorientation. And of course, no time was wasted in beginning the scares. Some creatures screamed and reached out to us as we passed, others merely focused on their own devices. Still others spoke directly to us, some even with a friendly tone, but all managed to be exceedingly eerie in their own preternatural ways. The variety meant that scares were impossible to predict, heightening my suspense to unbearable levels. In the interests of self-preservation, I attempted to guess which motionless bodies would turn out to be alive and, much to my dismay, consistently guessed wrong. Before long I was treating every body, shadow, and lump on the ground as a potential threat and eyeing each one with suspicion as I passed.  

Beyond just the cast, the house itself was eerie at every turn. From cave walls covered in ivy to gory murder scenes, each room spared no attention to grisly detail; the horror was palpable. I hesitated for a while before pushing aside a curtain of bloody entrails to move into the next room. Green laser mist, like something out of the Alien movies, shot across another setting, a murky swamp. Strobing lights in a dark hallway created the perfect scene for apparitions to appear just out of sight. It felt like I was being directed through an endless labyrinth with no exit in sight, building up an atmosphere of discomfort; just how big was this maze?

When at last we emerged from the depths into the brightly lit gift-shop, I found myself doubting everything I saw. Did that mannequin in the corner just move? I kept my eyes trained on it as I exited back into the streets of downtown Edmonton, which was now a sight for sore eyes.

Was Deadmonton the best choice for baby’s first haunted house? Probably not, but I can attest that attendees this year will be sure to get their money’s worth. The haunt runs until November 5 this year, and there truly is a scare for everyone, so don’t delay.

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