Horror has a distinguished pedigree: You can trace gory entertainment back to Shakespeare’s plays, all the way up to the splatter cinema of the ’70s and its descendants. The Parisian Grand Guignol theater of the 19th century caused some audience members to vomit or pass out. In the Twin Cities, we have the Haunted Basement, an annual Halloween tradition now in its seventh year that’s the scariest event of the season. It’s a freeform haunted house, a multimedia experience combining actors, sound, lights, and other sensory overload. The audience is given protective wear against splashing gore, and a safe word in case anyone needs to escape (and many do). It’s harrowing fun, walking the edge between thrills and terror so expertly that many come back every year enticed by the prospect of fresh frights.
9/27–11/2 • soapfactory.org
Last year, members of the public competed for free tickets to the Haunted Basement via a scavenger hunt. The stunt ended on Friday the 13th at midnight, when participants were lured into a park and swarmed with clowns when they claimed their freebies (a scene reenacted here with Haunted Basement director Noah Bremer).
Actors play characters and beings that could have been plucked from nightmares, such as last year’s Evy Muench. “She was our demented version of Pippi Longstocking,” says Bremer. “A little girl who wanted to help, but couldn’t help but get people into more trouble. Innocence lost and unexpected images from childhood often creep into each year’s creation.”
Downstairs at the Soap Factory is a spooky space with all sorts of corners, shadows, and places where unseen forces might hide. Ghost hunters regularly cite the Soap Factory building as one of the most haunted in Minnesota. “Even the actors report seeing ghosts, feeling drastic temperature changes within a room, and unexpected voices from the darkness,” Bremer says.
The Haunted Basement contains rooms and scenes as indelibly disturbing as this blood-spattered site of who knows what depravity. RawRedMeat Productions contributes gory effects, including more than 150 gallons of artificial blood—don’t wear your nice shoes.
The Haunted Basement makeup this year includes new custom latex masks and prosthetic pieces designed to look horrifyingly convincing. A team of volunteers helps create nightmarish original creatures and supernatural beings that change from year to year.