Eight chairs encircle the tight room. I make my way to number six and sit down. The chair resembles an electric chair – wooden, but with small metal rivets across the bottom and back. But most peculiar is the large restraint bar overhead. A nurse in a dirty white uniform skips toward me and lowers the bar, locking me in. Welcome to Group Therapy. Push a button and the corresponding seat gets a shock, she explains with delight. Just be careful; they might shock you back. I glance down at the panel before me – eight buttons all lit up. The guy in seat three looks like a prime target, so I push the glowing three. His body convulses as the electricity runs through his body. My anonymity is betrayed as a laser emanates from my seat pointing directly at seat three. He notices this too – and without hesitation, his finger pushes a button – seat six – as my muscles tense and my body burns with pain. The 17th Door: Fearless
The 17th Door returns for the fifth year with The 17th Door: Fearless, the third and final year at Perpetuum Penitentiary. With an ever-growing list of trigger warnings – latex, moving vehicles, and suffocation join the prior list of insects, projectiles, touch, claustrophobia, and electrical shocks – this elevates The 17th Door to an extreme haunt categorization by us. The format remains similar to previous years: Groups of eight participants traverse the labyrinth and interact with the many abstractions of prison inmates, guards, and doctoral staff. With one minute per room, each room feels interactive and playful, without the impressive effects ever feeling overdone.
The narrative focuses on the redemption arc of Paula. After her rape, the death of her child by her own hand, and her lock-up in previous years, Paula has taken control of her own life, gained some muscle, and developed an inner strength. Thus, this year feels far more empowering compared to the darker years in the past. This tonal shift is welcomed and feels emotionally resonant for those who’ve created a connection with Paula during her previous tribulations. The 17th Door has risen leagues above a traditional haunt classification, becoming an immersive experience by incorporating a strong narrative that permeates throughout. I have not seen many companies keep a narrative going for five years with such evocative power behind it; and The 17th Door deserves heavy praise for this.
The expressive nature is largely due to the strong cast of passionate haunters within The 17th Door: Fearless. Including numerous veterans in the industry, the actors are able to elevate the fear through their presence and movement. Mad Dogg (Kristian Penza) returns with enough machismo and bravado to fill Perpetuum alone and has a long-awaited interaction with Paula. The numerous Paulas have audiences cheering as her abuse becomes her strength and she turns the tides on her tormentors – with Chelsea Cook giving life to the character in a surprising conclusion. The warden is as gross and perverted as past years, and his fate is worth the price of admission alone. Daddy (Alex James) is a personal favorite, just hope he doesn’t drop the soap for you during shower time. The Vixi Ward and their demented Virtual-Reality experimentation is a must-see (and brand-new this year) – with Rosie Mayer single-handedly commanding her pre-scene and providing the perfect introduction to the The 17th Door for newcomers and veterans alike. And these blue-haired vixens (Charlotte Cocker, Camree Lynn, & others) expand into the rest of the experience, strapping you in with perfect precision and eeriness. Each actor brings a strong energy, passion, and emotion to their role; they are not just scare-actors, but true immersive actors.
But The 17th Door wouldn’t be what it is today with just actors; the main draw is the impressive technological feats that each room delivers. Each room offers an innovative way to push participants outside of their comfort zone – and does so in a repeatable manner that delivers the exact same experience to guests who come the first and last night of the season. Each year, The 17th Door improves upon this, adding bigger and better effects. Some return from last year, like the gas chamber and firing room, but most rooms are completely new. Group Therapy, Tumbler, Car Smash, and Breathless are some of the most notable – and are already fan favorites among those who’ve been. If it can be imagined, I’m sure the talented team behind The 17th Door can create it.
For those who want to try The 17th Door: Fearless (or are being dragged out by their friends), they offer mercy pendants that give a lighter experience. This removes the electric shocks from your experience–but actors still may touch you. Further, for those who do not wish to purchase the pendant, participants can mercy out of select rooms. The actors in each room and the signage will warn you repeatedly of rooms that are physically demanding or may be tough for those pregnant or with back/neck issues. Head their warnings and don’t ever be ashamed to mercy if needed – the actors wear their mercy count with pride.
Fearless is The 17th Door’s best year yet; and also their most frightening. Utilizing unbelievable technological innovations, Fearless does things I never thought possible in a high-volume immersive experience. The actors elevate it a step further, creating some evocative moments for the audiences to connect to. But most importantly, Fearless begins the conclusion for Paula, a character so many of us have followed over the past five years. Her empowerment becomes our strength as we fight off denizens of Perpetuum Penitentiary. I am both excited and sad to look to her last year with us in 2020.
The 17th Door: Fearless runs now through November 2nd; buy tickets HERE. Find out more about The 17th Door (including their waiver) on their website and Facebook page. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more Halloween and horror entertainment throughout the year.
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