A beautiful woman in a vintage midnight blue dress has her legs draped over mine; she laughs heartily after asking me if I’d like to play game. I tell her, I’d love to play— and the man next to me ducks behind the sofa we’re sitting on. He emerges wearing a ski mask; his black mask complementing his matching skinny tie and slim-fit suit. He lifts a megaphone to his mouth: Hold his hands. The woman giggles as she pushes my wrists together and he restrains them with duct tape. Maybe I won’t like this game, I think to myself — and almost as if he could hear my thoughts, the man wraps duct tape over my mouth. Last night, we learned to hog-tie people, wanna see? The woman jumps up, squealing with delight and laughing even harder. He pushes me down, my face buried in the couch cushion, and he raises my legs into the air, wrapping them in the tape. The woman continues to laugh with honest enjoyment. She pleads: Do me! Do me nex– but her words are cut short. She gasps for breath, choking, coughing until I feel her lifeless body collapse on top of me, and now it’s my turn to fight for air. Midnight Killer.
Midnight Killer 4 is the final chapter in the Midnight Killer series by underground extreme haunt powerhouse Heretic. Midnight Killer 1 started on November 29th, 2014, with a blind date, a blade, and the word Slave. The next year, on May 17th, Midnight Killer 2 continued the tale of the blade by focusing on a violent group of serial killer hunters known only as The Vicious Cycle and a death-cult ritual that put the audience in the middle of the chaos. On November 23rd, 2016, Midnight Killer 3 put the blade in the hands of an all-female cast that played a game of sadistic humiliation. Most recently, on January 13th of 2018, Sepolto introduced guests to the transformation of the Midnight Killer as she attempts a midnight ritual to kill as many people in one night with a knife.
Midnight Killer moves in a vicious circle, with each show hearkening back to the ones that came before it and, in turn, brilliantly setting up future experiences. Nuanced direction and careful planning by Heretic founder Adrian Marcato creates a Midnight Killer universe in which a cast of deviants can exist. The undercover police officer in Sepolto is revealed to be the future killer in MK2; MK1 ends exactly as MK2 is starting (in the back of a large, moving semi-truck); and the girl with the pink hair from MK2 gives you a dangerous task in MK3. Continuing this trend, Midnight Killer 4 starts with me emerging from the same body bag that I entered at the close of Sepolto.
Although the narrative focuses on the passing of the blade and the murders committed, the way this story is told is nothing short of gorgeous. Marcato doesn’t just set a tone, he curates a specific aesthetic for each experience. Each set is designed to enhance the mood of the story. The fog of the warehouse supports the dreamlike quality of narrative and obscures future scenes behind a mask of haze. Later, a metal cross hidden inside the fog provides a cold, steel structure for you to be restrained to — with your arms stretched wide, vulnerable to the killer in a mask. A set of vintage couches with an old-school radio provides the perfect backdrop for a sadistic game that ends in murder. A second warehouse contrasts against the ephemeral qualities of the first: the dirty, barren interior becomes a playground on which the killer can play a cat-and-mouse game with you, as well as a metaphor for your own impure skin as it is cleansed under a bathroom sink. Each set piece is chosen with intention, with purpose; there’s nothing extraneous or distracting — and it’s perfect.
Furthermore, the set design and aesthetics are greatly enhanced by Marcato’s insanely talented actors. While Heretic may be notorious for their ability to torment, it would be a grave disservice not to mention that each and every performer excels in their ability to act, improvise, and evoke emotion. The laughter of the woman in the midnight-blue dress still rings in my ears; her joy for a game of torment was eerily seductive. The Hollow-Faced Killer spoke with such passion about his integrity and his devout plan to make sure I feel that pain and pleasure are intrinsically linked — right before he shot me with an air-soft gun. A cannibalistic woman used only her mouth to express desire, lust, and repulsion as she bit intimately at my skin with varied intensity. Finally, the Midnight Killer herself (the same one from Sepolto) entranced me with her disjointed inner monologue and her battle against the demons inside her head. These characters aren’t one-dimensional — they are fleshed out, real, and living; a true testament to Marcato’s ability not just to convey fear, but to build a world for that fear to live in.
But he does convey fear, and expertly so. Midnight Killer 4 was a study of dread, what lurks deeper in the fog, and what will come next. I had my hands, legs, wrists, and mouth bound numerous times throughout — with my hands specifically being bound a personal record of four separate times in the hour-long experience. These restraints only served to heighten the fear I had of what was coming next — as what little control I had was removed with each layer of restriction. The painful elements that did come all enhanced the narrative and further established an overall mood for the experience. These components climaxed in a final scene in which I was seated in a majestic chair as the entire cast converged on me wearing masks of the devil and began to cut at my skin, tearing my shirt to shreds, and ripping at my flesh until, at last, the nightmare ended.
Midnight Killer 4 was a cinematic journey into the mind of a killer; it was beautiful, it was haunting, and it was frightening. Heretic excels in this space: creating experiences that top the best horror movies, and creating the kind of aesthetics that Kubrick and Lynch could only dream of. It was the perfect finale to the Midnight Killer franchise, and while I mourn the loss of this beautiful narrative, I am glad I was able to witness — no, experience — the final cut of that infamous blade.
A note from mastermind and Heretic creator, Adrian Marcato:
AM – “Midnight killer took me one year to write and months to develop. It took four years to complete it which is pretty epic considering that I never thought I would make it past MK2. I want to thank my amazing cast & crew my wonderful co-owner and partner Jessica Murder. I also want to thank our guests who trusted me and this show. It was an emotional night and I was very happy with the outcome. The only complaint I have is I wish more people could have come through. Thank you Haunting and Taylor for always supporting this show.”