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The Halloween season is a celebratory time, and one that just isn’t
limited to marathon film viewings. It’s a cause to venture out with your friends
and for many horror fans (like me), to distressingly experience the distinction
between that on your screen, and that which is in your face. For years now, New
York City has played witness to Nightmare, what’s become one of the most
notable haunted attractions, defined by its ever-changing themes and theatrical
sensibilities. This year’s edition (on now at New York City's Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center at 107 Suffolk St) sees its creators present a warped view of
the fairy tales we’ve all grown up with, and it’s entirely spooky and full of
nasty, nasty fun.
Taking inspiration primarily from the Brothers Grimm,
Nightmare abstains from the traditional conceit of taking a tour of a haunted
manor. Instead, through gorgeous and eerie design, presents a wicked, evil
forest to wander through, taking you to a host of familiar fabled destinations,
like the homes and settings of Snow White, Hansel and Gretel’s witch,
Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and Pinocchio (one of the very few non-Grimm
characters on hand). Of course, the forest itself constantly evokes “Little Red
Riding Hood”, as all shapes and sizes of wolf-like creatures serve to guide and
unnerve throughout your hike.
What’s most admirable about Nightmare and its creators Timothy Haskell and John Harlacher, is that the production
is seemingly much more concerned with unsettling its attendees than the
ever-startling, “boo”. Of course, the classic scenario of a pitch-black environment
and someone lurking around every corner is very present here, but each
destination also serves to provide skewed and pernicious re-tellings of classic
tales we’ve all found comfort in as children. For example: out of context, it’s wildly
devious and undoubtedly affecting to see Snow White force the hot iron shoes
onto her stepmother, or Hansel and Gretel to overzealously burn witches at their
pleasure, or the gross and silly revision to Rumpelstiltskin that’s been
A fabulously interactive and varied journey, Nightmare
forces visitors to don blindfolds, isolates members of groups for some quality alone
time and utilizes seriously cool puppetry in addition to the physical
performers. It’s also turned to eleven, so as usual, once a scare is
successfully pulled off, it all seems a bit silly; especially the second
attraction, dubbed “The Experiment”. “The Experiment” is more of a stage piece
than the main portion, with two lab technicians subjecting members of the audience
to some tests of fear. For the subjects, it looks incredibly harrowing. For the
audience, it’s absolutely hilarious and repulsive, which is a nice way to sum
up Nightmare in general; imaginative, and yes, hilarious and repulsive.
Nightmare runs until November 5. For tickets head to its official site.
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