Deadmonton Haunted House returns, producing an exciting and tense experience
For the last four years, an Edmonton institution strived to reinvigorate the unique anxieties that come with the night.
The Deadmonton Haunted House returns this year along with its mission: providing the city with the experience of communal scares.
Event creator Ryan Kozar has been in charge of the event since its initial creation and has consistently reinvented the Deadmonton Haunted House each year. This year features the special theme of ghostly summonings.
Initially inspired by other professional haunted houses in Canada, Kozar made it his goal to bring the same sense of innocent wonder that comes with the Halloween season.
“Halloween kind of disappears unless you have kids,” Kozar says. “Adults don’t really maintain the same sensation during this time of year. After I saw what can be done and the scale of it I thought to give it a shot.”
The event has been operating out of the old Paramount Theatre on Jasper Avenue for the last three years, and the building’s history and décor immensely supports the morose sensation of the event.
The Deadmonton Haunted House truly excels in its vibrant character and set design. Kozar diligently spends the majority of his year building and ordering intricate set pieces and props, all of which fill the immensely labyrinthine structure of the eerie exhibit.
“I have a real passion for set design,” he says. “There’s a lot of work that comes with trying to make something come to life. It’s all about creating that vivid realism that has people let their guard down, then you hit them with a good scare.”
Kozar’s passion is on full display as you work your way through the interactive exhibit. Immediately, you’re bombarded with all sorts of visceral stimulation, as each room you wander into is vividly different from the last.
Lights and noises blare, causing perpetual unease and as you try and move at a brisk pace you can’t help but notice the intricate detail in each set piece. Whether it’s the grim spectacle of a test subject struggling on a table in a mad scientist’s lab, or the haunting implications of one man pacing in a library full of clocks muttering to himself—every room you enter makes it incredibly difficult to not be immersed.
This engrossment is further amplified by the absolute dedication that the actors bring to their paranormal personas. The event has come a long way since its early days of only having eight actors and now bolsters a roster of 40 to 50 individuals all dedicated to their craft.
Performers get the opportunity to hone their characters over the course of the month long event, which results in their personalities growing with each passing night. Most of the performing monsters encountered are barely recognizable as human, and the ones who are will usually exploit that fact and lead into a trap.
Rebecca Crossman has been working with the event for the last two years now and knows what it takes to come across as truly frightening.
“Half the time they have their blinders on and don’t want to be anywhere near you. It’s then that you have to try and get close and low enough to their face and give them a good yell or scare,” says Crossman as she was fixing her zombie makeup.
Actors also rely on each other for producing the maximum amount of frights where applicable. They’ll give each other non-verbal cues or pass along certain information to maintain the torment of a guest.
“We’ll play telephone with guest information. If a an attendee yells out a person’s name in a moment of terror we’ll use it and pass it along to performers in other rooms so they can use that person’s name to creep them out. It’s a lot of fun,” says Crossman.
The Deadmonton Haunted House is a wonderful display of the combined passions. Vast amounts of effort are combined to create an experience that is equally endearing as it is heart-racing. With every passing year the event refines itself in new and creative ways and shows no signs of slowing down.
When it comes to the pride of his work Kozar says, “When I see them barreling out of the exhibit out of breath and smiling I know they enjoy the work that we’ve put into it.”
Deadmonton Haunted House
Old Paramount Theatre
Until Sun., Nov. 5 ($24)