Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm an Artist Goddamnit!

We just opened Fairy Tales on Friday. We have had better than expected crowds, and the thing is happening. We usually use this first weekend to work out the kinks and figure out the ideal flow of the event, but because we have been unusually inundated with crowds this first weekend, we haven't really had that opportunity. The result has been some serious line flow problems that has caused delays with people getting in at the time they bought tickets for. Each day we have gotten a little better, and hope to have it working perfectly after tonight. But it will never be perfect. we do the best we can. I apologize to those who have had to wait.

On another note, i want to use this opportunity to be completely blunt about what Nightmare is, and what people want it to be. Last year with Superstitions we got the closest we ever have to making "both" of our audiences happy. What do i mean by this? well, Nightmare has a large theatergoing audience. Lots of artistic types who appreciate the artistry of what we do. The fact that we have stories, recurring characters, a consistent theme, and a ton of theatricality. They come because they appreciate that kind of thing AND because they want that kind of thing to be scary. Especially this time of year. The other audience are those that just want it to be as terrifying as possible, and if it is anything short of heart attack inducing than there is no middle ground. That is why they are there. And it's tough to completely placate those people without stepping over an ethical line. Especially not this year. I don't have tons of monsters jumping out at you. I am not even sequestering people and isolating them, then terrifying them. Not this year. This year is very theatrical. Is it scary? Yes, definitely, but you have to understand what you are getting into.

Nightmare Fairy Tales is moody, creepy, eerie and ambient. It certainly has its share of startle scares (you know when something unsuspecting jumps out at you and surprises you), but it is very theatrical and interactive. the sets by Paul Smithyman are beautiful. the art direction by Justin Haskell and David Hinkle is inventive and innovative, the costumes by Candice Thompson are the best we have ever done by a million miles, the lighting design by Garin Marshall and David Roy is creative, creepy, twisted and distorted. We invested a ton into production this year. I saw one on line review that said "the sets are cheap, made out of cardboard and they have cheap fake fire". idiot. They truly did not get what we were trying to do.

Firstly, nothing is made out of cardboard for the record, but even if it was it would have been thematically supported. I was trying to create a two-dimensional pop-up book look. please understand that real artist with real ideas conceptualize things here. We make things that have design purpose behind it, not just "let's make this butcher shop look like a butcher shop to the letter." not in the least. We are abstract artist who deconstruct and distort things, if i make a river, i am going to do it theatrically and abstractly because it fits in with what we are doing. It is not hard to build a literal basin with water flowing in it, recycling the water to keep it moving. It's not even that expensive to do that. And it certainly isn't creative, it's obvious. That is how this year's house is made. that is how someone can make a forest indoors.

Someone asked me yesterday if this other haunted house that physically assaults you is scary i answered "yes. in fact it is likely scarier than mine. But it is almost literally asking me if putting a gun in your face is scarier than putting a hand in your face. Of course putting a gun in someone's face is scary. so is beating someone up and gagging them and putting fluids on them." No real revelation there. doing something that is actually scary in the real world to someone is always going to be scarier than something simulated. It also doesn't even take a great deal of imagination. You just do the thing. Instead of making one feel as if they just got tortured (with creativity and innovative thinking) let's just literally torture them instead. And I am not trying to even be that critical. I have done this and i do find it adrenaline rushing and fun. So if you are looking for this kind of aggressive, intense very direct and literal experience, there is a haunted house for you. It is not Nightmare.

You like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers chasing you? I know that is scary. especially if they pop out of the dark. I don't need to take a class on this. I know having a monster pop out of holes is scary. i could create a whole haunted house called "Nightmare: Pop Scare" and it would probably make a trillion dollars. I would just create a maze where every time you turned a corner a monster would lunge at you. I'm a genius. Nightmare is not this at all. I don't judge this, although it may seem like i am. I know people love to be startled and chased. and there is a house in this city that does this very, very well. One of the best actually and i go to it every year and enjoy it myself, but this isn't Nightmare, either. (well, it is actually Nightmare Z-Day in the Bronx. all zombies all the time chasing and lunging at you. scream fest)

Nightmare Fairy Tales is not going to startle the shit out of you. It is not going to make you feel violated or unsafe. It might not terrify you at all in fact, but what it will do is make you go "that was friggin' cool" and "that was one twisted, dark and unique performance i just took part in" and you should say (because i say it every time i walk through and look at the amazing art the people who worked on this created) "that was one amazing, beautiful and inventive house." Nightmare will creep you out, will unnerve you, and there are even a few very solid pop scares that have gotten every single person that has walked through so far. Three sure fire ones that have not NOT worked on a single group, but 3 more that have nailed it pretty much every time as well. As an artist i have created the house that i wanted to create. i am very proud of it. if you want to be a part of a spooky and super cool immersive theatrical experience that will get your heart racing, then you do want to go to Nightmare. If you are looking for something else, please go somewhere else.

But you will leave having done something perfect for the holiday season and disturbed at the same time. And buy our new t-shirt for this year, they are my favorite ever :-)


WriterME said...

Are there any pictures available of the tshirt designs? I can't make it myself, but might have to ask a friend to get me one! :)

- Madelon

anthony0358 said...

The concept that makes Nightmare Unique is that each season the creative team brings forth a new concept. Its interactive, it probes the mind and its complex.
That is is what makes Nightmare a joy in my life!
Good luck to the whole team on Season 8!
Its not your average Haunted House, (plus those are fun too!)

Carlos said...

Where is the love button on this? It's one of the most unique Halloween experiences anyone will have. I look forward to this every year because we never know what we're going to get. Some of the surprises come from the sheer collective creativity from all of the people who have put this together. It's one of the few works of art that constantly draws a following and creates almost cult-like status for fans such as ourselves. We understand the drive behind these houses and that's why we come every year and why we'll be back next year.

RAR/Baritone said...

How your brand is presented on your website and advertising should reflect your artistic statement on this blog post and it doesn't. This is the main reason people are disappointed with this year's haunted house. It's not because Nightmare NYC: Fairy Tales isn't amazing. The sets are beautiful, the acting is at a professional level, and the concept is fabulous. And... your artistic vision is nothing to sneeze at. But it says on your web site that, "The whole purpose is to scare you." From this blog post, it seems like you have a lot more wonderful things in mind for your guests and I wish that would be reflected in how you present Nightmare NYC to people through your web site and advertising. That's all.

timothy haskell said...

RAR - great comment. i totally agree. thank you for your cogent thoughts. although i'd like to say that a great deal of people who have gone through are not disappointed at all and are happy that the house is exactly the way it is. but maybe we will tinker with the adjectives we use this year. but dont get me wrong, it was and still is my intention to scare people, so its not like i am using that approach just to lure people in. we have been doing this to great success for 8 years. as a theatre director, the last couple i have decided to creep in this direction to be more artistically satisfying to me. becoming a haunter in the first place was completely accidental. i love it, but my heart is in the theatre so i feel if i could create the perfect fusion between art and classic scares i will have myself a sublime experience. who knows, maybe that synchronicity will happen this year. we keep working at it every day, improving the fright quotient. it may just get there yet.

Laura Casner said...

Hi. I'm a photographer in NYC and I'm looking for haunted houses to work with on a personal project. Seems impossible to get in touch with anyone. This is more for NIGHTMARE: Z-DAY. You can contact me through my website. Hope to hear from you, Thanks!

spiffomatic64 said...

So I just went to this tonight, and I found your blog looking for... answers? I guess?

While I didnt hate nightmare, I definitely was disappointed, not because I felt my money was wasted, but because there was so much more that could be done...

I LOVED the disconnect between the first and second "act". Its a real shame the whole experience is ruined by the sound bleeding from the group in front of you (we did not go on a very busy night... our group size was about 10-15 people?) Im not sure if you could take suggestions... but I would say putting a "stooge" in the audience each group could give some REALLY interesting results.... not just for the second part, but even the first (Having an actor physically manipulate a stooge in a way you cannot legally do to a normal customer.

I did feel that some of the props pulled me out of the experience... Mainly the triangular spit... I was a bit embarrassed... at that one specifically...

I LOVED the walk in blindfold part, that was very inventive and probably my favorite part of the entire piece.

Im trying to walk through this again in my mind and its tough (some of the rooms are completely forgettable/Im not sure I "got" the point of)

The room after the "spit" I didnt really understand, the shadow puppet play was pretty cool... but felt anti-climactic

strobes are great, always and awesome choice, rumpelstiltskin felt... out of place... I cant put my finger on it...

The whole first area ended rather abruptly... A security dude had to tell us to turn around and go out some "security doors" because we kept walking past them...

I think I suffered from the same fate as many yelpers in that I was expecting a very high-production theatrical haunt... it seems like this was an average production (compared to the haunted houses we saw last year in PA/NJ) very theatrical spooky art piece. I hesitate to call it a "play" or installation because while it had an overall theme, there was nothing tying the individual stories together. It felt like walking through a card-board pop-up book.

If thats what you were going for (nothing against that) it was achieved very well... But I would STRONGLY advertise this on your website.

This was the first nightmare we went to, and based on previous reviews and previous years... and the website... we had no other choice but to be mislead.

Im ALL for going with the dramatic/theatrical route. I dont scare. (I filled out the card that I REALLY hoped you would use... but noone ever took the card, asking to not only be touched but to be shoved as violently as they liked lol) I was very disappointed that nothing was ever done with these cards btw.

But since I dont scare easily, the MAIN reason I like haunted houses is that its basically the only form of interactive theatre (aside from sleep no more which I just recently found out about) I have come across...

If there was an actual story to follow/I wasnt pulled out of the experience with bodies painted on triangular wooden box's I think I could have enjoyed this artistic piece you are talking about above...

I just wanted to give some calmer feedback than the scathing reviews without any background or reasoning on yelp.

spiffomatic64 said...

I just watched a bunch of the testimonial videos... and I think we missed a large chunk of the piece? I dont remember the spinning room, or many of the actors in this video

I wish I could tell you when we left area 1 for area 2... but I forget alot of the scenes due to everything kind of mushing together... The last scene I remember was the strobe hallway... I think we made a left after that area, and a security dude directed us to the exit doors (which let us out to where everyone seemed to be coming from)

Did we miss something? or were some of those reviews from past years?

Timothy Haskell said...

@spiffomatic64 i appreciate your comments. You seemed to exit the right way, but you should have seen the spinning wall and a number of other things, so i dont know how you missed them. I will consider many of your suggestions for next year, but as for the 'triangular box' you took exception with, it serves as a flip book. if you actually watched it as they turned it the mouth of the witch opens and closes like she is screaming. This is why i wanted to do that. I regret that this did not work for you, but this was not a "cheap" solution. in fact, it was actually an expensive piece. to make something heavy like that spin for eight hours a night requires a pretty robust solution. and the idea of it fit in with the aesthetic of the whole house which was a two dimensional pop up book. the "flip book" idea was along the lines of trying to accomplish things within a style choice and make it cool and creative. sorry you didn't dig it. as for the second room, that was snow white. the way the story actually goes is the queen is executed by having hot iron shoes put on her feet and made to dance until she collapsed. The scene we played was snow white putting said shoes on the Queen.

@RAR/ Baritone. thanks for your comments as well. I will be sure to market it differently next year when it will be completely a theatrical piece.

spiffomatic64 said...

for the triangular box, I did not notice the mouth animation, but it looked like the actors were rotating the box and not some animatronic system. Either way, that did pull me out of the experience a bit.

For the second room, this makes much more sense now, Maybe had the "queen" been made to dance around... It would have not only been a bit more visceral but also hammered home the story a bit.

I wonder if the whole experience would benifit from either a single actor following you the entire time to narrate, or just using que's and speakers to narrate... While most people know alot of these stories, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I known all of them.

It wasnt an issue of "not digging it" I could easily have gotten into the peice had there been a bit more to tie everything together, maybe something to resemble "turning pages", or more narration. I forgot to mention I LOVED the wolf, that was a PERFECT execution of pop-up story telling and horror. It was made of maybe plywood or something but thin enough to look like a larger version of cardboard in a pop-up book. Had there been more of that stylistically I think the piece would have worked alot better. Maybe even life-size pop-up armeratures, or actors in costumes made to look like pop-up style figures.

After thinking about the piece more I am enjoying it a bit more, I think my main issue was the disconnect between advertisement/past years reviews (which you can do nothing about I understand, but if you are going to take the piece in a different direction you should try to notify fans)

All in all, it was enjoyable, Thank you