Below is a review of Miasma’s The Desecration of the Seven Witches. While it only contains minor spoilers, this experience is not expected to be remounted, so read on without worry.
“Be quiet and don’t fucking move.”
These words were the last thing I was told before I was left alone in the darkness with only the drip of the storm drain outside the heavy, locked door to keep me company. I stood on that landing listening to the deafening drip and the heavy footsteps on the floor above me. Weeks of buildup had led me to this moment and if my racing heart rate was any indicator, the tension I had hoped for was as real as the witches inside.
The Desecration of the Seven Witches is the seventh show by Chicago-based extreme immersive horror producer Miasma. Known for dark and somber topics and a brutality not prevalent in the haunt genre, Miasma mixes expert narrative with an aggressive hands-on approach. Like previous experiences, The Desecration of the Seven Witches was a 30-minute, one-night experience in Chicago that guests enter alone. As their first foray in the semi-supernatural stratosphere, Desecration was a marvelous example of using horror elements to analogize a relevant real-world topic.
Seemingly inspired by the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, Desecration brings the mass hysteria, misplaced hatred, and devastation into the modern day. “What side are you on?” These words echoed throughout the experience, obfuscating my own role as I shifted between perpetrator and victim. In this manner, I had the power to become the hatred or feel the hatred felt by so many. When being asked by a victim about your allegiances, the answer on the tongues may be easy for some. What about when a gun is being pointed at you by the perpetrators of the violence? Or when the threat of drowning is very real? Will your ethical conscious still prevail? Or will you save yourself and join in the hysterics, regardless of your beliefs?
Two elements stood out to me as supreme accomplishments by Miasma. First, the brutality and aggression were always in service of the narrative. While never lacking in force or fear, the hands-on portion of the show never was gratuitous or extraneous – but rather felt necessary; this was not torture for the sake of torture, this was forced empathy. The brutality was meant to make you feel the atrocities being done to the titular characters; not merely bear witness. Secondly, Miasma did a phenomenal job with starting the experience weeks prior to the show date. The dread began to set in with the first email correspondence and held steady for the weeks leading up to show night. Each email and text message furthered my already intense curiosity and growing anxiety. The digital age has made contacting and interacting with people commonplace and of the utmost ease. It speaks volumes to Miasmatic Productions‘ dedication to their guests that they go out of their way to contact show-goers prior to show time, and begin instilling fear early, with violent imagery and anxiety inducing dialogue, allowing it to fester and grow over weeks instead of minutes prior to show time. My mind ran rampant for days searching for my role in it all; was I to be made a victim? A voyeur? Or was I going to be forced into being a part of the desecration of another? Each option held its own inherent horrors and suggestions. Late night texts revealed images of mutilated witches, serving as a warning of the violence that awaited. My only criticism of the early involvement is that the voice fluctuated during those correspondences. At times the dialogue was aggressive in nature and at times it was informative and almost friendly. I believe that going with one voice would have only furthered the unease provided by these initial contacts.
The set pieces and characters were nondescript. This is far from a criticism on Miasma. Quite the contrary. Extravagant set pieces were unnecessary to the show. There was just enough ambiance and set decoration to set the mood and instill a general idea of locale. Sparsely decorated rooms and the background soundtrack (provided by noise artist Bovinae) provided more than enough to set the scene. The actors portrayed their characters with professionalism and grace, being just present enough to further the story, while ensuring the guest is the center piece of every scene. Desecration forced me into the role of the protagonist, whether I liked it or not.
After the show’s penultimate lines were whispered in my ear, I was let out into a brightly lit hallway to dress and gather my bearings briefly. Shaky and cold, I descended the lengthy stairwell, second guessing my own legs with every step. The brisk Chicago air on my wet face did little to orient my thoughts. Like walking away unscathed from a violent car crash, Desecration left me shook to the core physically. However, the mental exercise is the show’s true accomplishment. As someone that has been fortunate to have not been the victim of xenophobia, Desecration put me in an entirely new and uncomfortable position. Enlightening would be an understatement. It’s a difficult question to ponder…Would your altruism and beliefs hold up in the face of extreme violence? Or would the urge to survive win out?
Find out more about Miasma and its upcoming shows on their website, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook page. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more immersive and horror entertainment throughout the year.
MORE ABOUT HAUNTING
If you like the above article and want to find more like it, make sure to join our community. If Facebook is your favorite, follow us there and become a part of our groups for Immersive Horror fans and/or Immersive creators. We’re active on Instagram, posting evocative imagery and informative stories to promote our reviews and recollections; follow us there. You can even find us on twitter; click here to follow. For those who want to explore deeper, we have a vibrant Slack community with new event alerts and immediate ticket sale announcements; click here to join. And subscribe to our event calendar to get emails for all or specific events (look for the link right under the calendar)! Finally, we have a newsletter that comes out once a week; click here to sign up.