House of Torment opens with new ways to thrill and chill

  • Charlotte Moore
  • Special to the American-Statesman
10:14 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 Austin360

Even on an innocuously bright and sunny weekday morning, a behind-the-scenes tour of the under-construction haunt House of Torment has one group of visitors straining to keep their wits about them.

After 11 years, the tradition seems to get creepier every year, and this season will be no exception when the haunts open on an appropriately timed Friday the 13th.

“Our goal is from the second you get out of your car, we want to be engaging you, entertaining you, scaring you, making you uneasy,” said Jon Love, House of Torment’s vice president. “It’s mayhem.”

Although guests view it as a once-a-year ritual, the haunted house is a year-round project. This year, the crew has revamped the frights in the main haunted house, the Blackthorne District — a town spotted with heaping mounds of blood and gore and littered with hanging corpses. Something horrible happened in the Blackthorne Asylum.

“Dr. Ectobius was conducting experiments on patients because the Blackthorne Corporation was telling him to do so,” Love said. “Unbeknownst to Ectobius, they were trying to open a rift to the Realm of Torment and let all the monsters and terrifying creatures through.”

Which is precisely what happened.

“All these monsters came through and infested the city and so they locked the city down,” Love said. “Our guests will be breaking into the city to find out the secrets of what actually happened in the Blackthorne Asylum.”

This season’s traipse through terror offers a daunting combination of tried-and-true scares — monsters jumping out at you, clangs and bangs in the dark, chainsaw wielding maniacs — and new frights including the Hellion, the haunt’s largest monster to date. The Hellion, created by Wayne Anderson of Syfy’s Face Off, is a blood-thirsty creature with horns, talons, and a 15-foot wingspan who lives in the House of Torment’s second haunted house called Cursed: Ancients Emerge.

Yes, second haunted house. The House of Torment is a three-haunted-house, multi-leveled affair covering an impressive 20,000 square feet.

The third element of this amalgam of distress is called Slaughterhouse: The Harvest, a big wooden maze of a construction set ominously out by itself in the “fields” of the mall parking lot. Inside, guests will face vicious and cannibalistic savages and a most horrible looking creature called the Scarecrow.

Fun times.

True horror devotees who can maintain their composure long enough to see beyond the panic will appreciate the exceptional creativity and dedication of the haunted house crew.

“We spitball ideas and whiteboard them,” Love said. “Sometimes those ideas are story art. Sometimes those ideas are characters or monsters. Sometimes those ideas are things you can do to do someone in the haunted house to scare … them. It’s a theatrical experience.”

On weekends this year, there will be a DJ, ghoulish dancers and videos rolling on the side of the building creating a festival feel in the lot. But expect more fright than fest.

“We really went above and beyond in terms of both production and design,” said Daniel McCullough, founder of House of Torment. “We hope you’ll come scream with us.”

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