Director – Anthony DiBlasi, Screenplay – David Bond, Based on the Works of Rebecca Swan, Producers – David Bond & Corinne Ferguson, Photography – Scott Winig, Music – Adam Barber, Visual Effects – In the Dark Entertainment (Supervisor – Jason Murphy), Makeup Effects Supervisor – Yoshihiro Nishimura, Masks Designer – Simon Sayce, Art Direction – Tim Rutherford. Production Company – Dread Central/Dark Elegy Films.
Dana Christina (Allison Belle), Chad Rook (Bob/Red Skull), Dylan Sloane (Zachary Young), Ami Tomite (Konishi), Yoshihiro Nishimura (Cameraman), Chantal Perron (Dr Silvia Nichols), J. La Rose (Phil Cutter), Ashley Smith (Nell Leacock/Female White Skull), Cam Damage (Death/Allison’s Mom), Max Kanborg (Max Belle/Male White Skull), Niki Rae Hallow (Erica), Jen Znack (Cathy/Peep Show Girl)
In an effort to get over the nightmares and traumas of her childhood, Allison Belle signs up for an extreme haunt. This promises to take a regular Halloween haunt to an extreme where a person is brutalised, tortured and subjected to their greatest fears. After signing her consent, Allison and another patron Zachary are taken through a facility where they are subject to a series of nightmare scenarios and imprisonments. However, the staff warn the organiser Bob that he is pushing things too far and that Allison is mentally unstable.
Director Anthony DiBlasi has become a rising name to watch out for in recent years. DiBlasi first emerged as an executive producer of several Clive Barker films, The Plague (2006), The Midnight Meat Train (2008) and Book of Blood (2009), before making his directing/screenwriting debut with the Barker adaptation Dread (2009). DiBlasi subsequently went onto a reasonable directorial career with the clairvoyance film Cassadaga (2011), the thriller Missionary (2013), the haunted police precinct film Last Shift (2014), the slasher film Most Likely to Die (2015) and the thriller Her Last Will (2016), as well as producing Exhume (2017) for his regular co-writer/co-producer Scott Poiley.
DiBlasi had previously dealt with the person being forced to confront their fears in Dread. Here he ventures into the idea of the extreme haunt. Extreme haunts are an existing phenomenon that take the idea of a regular Halloween haunt to a next level intended to present patrons with scenes of extreme shock value and to psychologically brutalise and imprison them. Extreme haunts have appeared on film before in The Houses October Built (2014) and sequel, Hell Fest (2018) and Haunt (2019), as well as the documentary Haunters: The Art of the Scare (2017).
DiBlasi depicts the inside of the haunt like an industrial nightmare – a factory-like facility of dingy basements covered in neon paint, with constantly strobing lights and ear-splitting industrial music pounding on the soundtrack, as the two patrons are dragged through by figures in masks and fetish gear. The intention seems to be creating a deafening and at times visually overwhelming depiction that captures something of what an extreme haunt is.
DiBlasi soon starts giving us scenes that mess with us. In one scene, Dana Christina is made to watch in front of a peepshow booth as a girl (Jen Znack) starts pleasing herself, which Dana begins to get into, enjoying herself too, all before the woman abruptly slits her throat. Elsewhere, we see Dana being waterboarded; in another, she is pushed into a tank of water and forced to struggle to keep her head above water.
There is a much in the way of horror homage. The film features masks designed by Simon Sayce, best known for creating the Lament puzzlebox in Hellraiser (1987). There is also the employment of Yoshihiro Nishimura in an acting role – Nishimura being the Japanese director known for gonzo splatter effort such as Tokyo Gore Police (2008), Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl (2009) and Mutant Girls Squad (2010), among others. The script comes from a story by trans horror writer Rebecca Swan who had previously been adapted to the screen with the Masters of Horror episodes Cigarette Burns (2005) and Pro-Life (2006).
After a reasonable set-up, DiBlasi lets things slip in the second half. He creates a fearsome character in Red Skull but then unmasks him and reveals him to simply be an ordinary guy (Chad Rook) trying to keep his operation going, while struggling with finances. Red Skull’s mystique is abruptly deflated in scenes where we see Chad Rook on the phone to his ex, pleading to talk to his kid but being refused because he is behind on child support payments. The film wraps the whole story up by having Dana Christina snap as a result of her experiment and kill everybody.