My interest in Blackout began with a party conversation. At an event earlier this month, a dear friend and I were chatting it up with Oren Peli about haunted attractions. It’s that time of year, after all, and Los Angeles tends to be inundated with Halloween-themed hayrides, mazes and similarly-themed events. During that discussion, the Blackout Haunted House was brought up and, with it, tales of experiences – from those who visited the New York City location – that made me and my guest both incredibly nervous and fascinated.
Cut to a few weeks later and I’m holding tickets for the Los Angeles chapter of Blackout, a walk-through fright maze that is some “next level” stuff as far as the haunted attraction experience is concerned.
Blackout eschews the traditional ghosts ‘n goblins that populate the likes of the Halloween Horror Nights or Knott’s Scary Farm theme parks. The threat here is very much human. The dangers are intense and aggressive. And if one needed to compare Blackout to any cinematic horrors, Hostel or The Game would be go-to titles to dial up.
This is a maze with big, nasty teeth and it’s one that’s not for the easily offended.
That said, let me recount a bit of the experience. Blackout L.A. is located downtown on the second floor of an unassuming building across the street from ample parking (for those who like to keep that stuff in mind). There is no box office and you’re asked to wait outside on the sidewalk ten minutes before your designated time. A rep from Blackout will come out and confirm you have your I.D. and ticket.
(Side note: While hanging outside, we spied two cops wearing a lot of body armor walking very purposefully through the entrance. This got the crowd wondering if they were actors or the real deal. I opted for the former belief. We never did see them again, but their timing was impeccable).
Once inside the building, you’re directed to the second floor and to a check-in table where you’ll have to sign a waiver. When you’ve completed this process, a rep marks your wrist with three black dots in black marker and instructs you on the “safety word” should you want to use it at any point during the maze. Lovely, right?
The thing about the check-in process is that your senses are already being assaulted. The entire floor is buzzing with the sound of white noise.
And so, one by one you line up at the entrance. Blackout Haunted House is a solo experience. There’s no “group mentality.” No arm of a friend to cling safely to. You go through by yourself…in the dark and wearing a face surgical mask – which they provide you. At the start, you’re separated from the waiting room, isolated and asked a series of questions by a very intense man shining a flashlight in your face.
“Are you epileptic?”
“Do you suffer from asthma?”
The list of questions goes on and on, all the while, this guy is staring you directly in the eyes, trying to rattle you. When he feels you are fit to proceed, you’re asked to stand on an “X” marked with tape. Then… BOOM. You are – without warning – shoved/tackled through a wall of plastic and into the maze itself.
I’m not here to give away Blackout’s many twists and turns. I don’t want to give a play by play as – at the time of this writing – the attraction is still enjoying a very successful run (nearly every night is sold out), however, I will say the experience is a visceral, tangible one. You are pushed, prodded and forced to perform certain tasks. You may be asked to crawl around on all fours. You may even be asked to stick your hand into a certain fluid. Oh, and there is a copious amount of nudity, both male and female.
Personal space? You check that shit at the door.
The staff waiting for you inside the maze doesn’t give a crap about their personal space. And if you’re claustrophobic, there’s one challenge you might not be too keen on…but don’t worry, you’ll survive. The environments are raw, taking on the air of a dingy basement were deviant perverts might lurk. The walls are simple, black plastic and weird, questionable items are strewn about the rooms you are pushed through. More importantly, the maze is dark (duh – it’s called “Blackout”) and filled with fog, limiting your eyesight, heightening your awareness and setting your nerves on edge.
The individuals you encounter through the maze are not as physically imposing as you would expect (many of them looked like aspiring actors you’d find skulking about Silverlake). It’s the guys you don’t see that set you on edge – the ones waiting in the dark who come out of nowhere to drive you deeper and deeper into the maze.
When you come out the other end of Blackout, your clothes might be in disarray – or some clothing might be missing (don’t worry, you’ll get it back). You might have a bit of fake blood on your face. And you may be unnerved. Me? I was exhilarated, spent and slightly turned on. I survived and, at the same time, I successfully pulled off the tasks asked of me – as weird as they might have been.
On the downside – and this is not a knock against Blackout whatsoever but a testament to its increasing popularity and notorious nature – it was not as extreme as I wanted it to be. Yes, regular folk might be repulsed by the experience, however, in the weeks leading up to my jaunt to Blackout, I was hit with stories from friends who visited New York City’s Blackout or had “friends of friends” who heard about how insane it was.
In the end, however, I wanted more. Still, Blackout is a recommended experience that certainly pushes the envelope and was unlike anything I’ve encountered.