Freakling Bros. "Trilogy of Terror"
"Purgatory!" flew from my mouth faster than I'd anticipated.
Waiting outside the Gates of Hell, we watched the crying women who'd reached their adrenaline limits and uttered the haunted house's safe word. Yes, the Gates has one of those. The last of the Freakling Bros. "Trilogy of Terror," a lineup of three haunted houses, the Gates of Hell touts itself as the only R-rated, "full contact" scare in the country.
After waiting for the house's "technical difficulties" to be cleared up (or cleaned up? we speculated), victims vanished through the black of the threshold, often exiting a side door shortly thereafter if they requested "purgatory." While waiting, we watched four patrons leave the house after less than five minutes.
Certainly, utilizing the safe word the Gates' minions gave you before entering involved more than a dash of shame and spectacle. We were warned that using the safe word meant you were a "pussy," and roadies announced your pussy status to the rest of the folks in line if you couldn't "hang."
Wisely, we'd saved the Gates of Hell for last. The other two haunts pale in comparison; if you don't visit all three, the Gates is easily the scariest. Castle Vampyre and Circus of Horrors thrilled and disappointed, respectively. All houses involved elements of sensory deprivation and disorientation in various forms, including strobe lights, total darkness, fog and labyrinthine mirrored hallways.
Integral to many of the best scares was an exploitation of an innate distrust of your environment -- the Freakling Bros. recognize your discomfort with your surroundings and force their visitors to investigate environs they inherently interpret as a threat.
Castle Vampyre was our first stop, and was arguably the least thematically-coherent of the houses. Despite this, it took only minutes inside the house to become panicky and afraid. Circus of Horrors left something to be desired, despite the leftover hyperawareness and nerves from the first house.
The Gates of Hell required a signed waiver. I felt the grip of nerves tighten reading the waiver's parameters -- how the monsters can touch you, how you'll be "psychologically abused." We'd entered the first two houses sans signatures; I couldn't decide if documentation assured good scares or impending doom. As we ascended the staircase that led to what was referred to as "our death," the prior group of four pushed their way back, scared off by the entryway.
Four minutes of traveling through the Gates of Hell and I spoke the safe word that meant I was a pussy and got us expelled. Ultimately, we made another attempt and finished the house; most assuredly, the Gates of Hell is not for the faint of heart. While waiting in enormous lines outside of the haunted house (given, it was a Saturday), my friends and I wondered what factors would lead to an R-rating.
In film, this implies graphic content, usually sexual or violent. Gore, we expected. Psychological torture? Sure. The Gates of Hell went beyond this, causing its visitors to feel the physicality of fear. Convincing actors and the blurred lines between perceived and actual threat create an incredibly disturbing experience.
Leaving the Gates of Hell's innovative terrorscape felt such the achievement, and I was proud I'd managed to make it without "purgatory" the second time around. We even bought photos of our terrified faces in the depths of Hell on the way out.
Freakling Bros. "Trilogy of Terror" runs through Oct. 31 at 2321 N. Rainbow Boulevard, Las Vegas. For tickets or information, visit http://www.freaklingbros.com.