Into the Black is a Labor of Love
Nestled into the massive Pomona Fairplex (Gate 17), Into the Black’s modest façade hides the true beauty within. I am entering The Black House, a Victorian mansion, undisturbed for years. Ornate picture frames adorn the beautiful walls; but they’re not enough to distract from the torn wallpaper hanging as lifeless as the house’s inhabitants. The hallways are long and foreboding—but oddly silent given the house’s sordid past. I trudge on finding my way into the living room and then a child’s bedroom. There’s something dark on the bed, so I lean in close. A candle flickers, illuminating a body, intestines pulled out, soaked in blood. It’s a man I recognize, a man from a film I watched the day before, a film about a group of paranormal investigators trying to find The Black House. I hear a snarl behind me, something deep and inhuman, and realize that I am about to suffer the same fate.
Abandoning the days of black panels, cheap Halloween masks, and uninspired sets, Into the Black is an experience celebrating the details of a haunted house. Each wall, each costume, each prop is crafted with care and fits perfectly within the mythology. The rooms are cohesive, interesting, and just begging to be explored. Into the Black is the best looking haunted house—but it’s so much more than just a haunt.
As a piece of a much larger mythology, Into the Black is part movie, part virtual reality (VR), and part haunted house—all revolving around The Black Family. All flow together seamlessly, offering guests a cohesive narrative that provides plenty of Easter Eggs for those who immerse themselves in the full experience. But for those unable to commit the time needed to unravel the entire backstory, each part can stand alone and be enjoyed as a classic paranormal experience. But if you have twenty-five minutes to spare, we highly recommend making some popcorn and settling down to watch the film even before stepping into the haunt. Following the story of a team of paranormal investigators attempting to find the Black House, the film is a perfect introduce to the mythos, the characters, and some of the exact sets guests will see in the haunt. It creates a connection with the audience even before they arrive at the experience.
A Virtual Journey Back in Time
Before taking the leap and braving this mysterious family home for themselves, guests are recommended to first partake in the VR experience. In a short video from the scientific team at Para-Tech Laboratories, they explain that they now have the ability to explore the past via haunted artifacts believed to have been owned by the Black Family. Stepping into a larger antechamber, guests are met by a display of history: a dilapidated Victorian dress, vintage books, a discolored chair, and one of the creepiest dolls ever seen. The VR tech is then placed on the guests, and they are thrust back into 1866 where they will meet the Black Family firsthand.
Into the Black’s VR is exceptional. Assuming the role of the youngest Black’s favorite doll, the aforementioned creepy artifact on display, guests witness the family secrets through the doll’s glass eyes. The acting is strong, the sets are gorgeous and realistic, and the use of real-world tactile interactions enhance the experience. These are all done to elicit dread—and further immerse the audience. It is a worthwhile and rewarding virtual journey, and a great starting point for newcomers to VR.
The Black Family House
Back in the present, guests are invited to step into House Black alone. With 8,400 square feet to explore, the experience is long and elaborate. However, guests will soon realize there isn’t a scare in every room nor in the long hallways connecting them. But that works in Into the Black’s favor. Instead of the cacophony of loud noises and jump scares that other haunts provide, Into the Black relishes in the pauses between scares. This is where the dread builds. This is where the fear takes hold. And this is also where the aesthetics are so important. There’s so much to see in between scares. Walls are adorned with almost a hundred different picture frames filled with Victorian imagery. If there were constant scares, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the care and love put into every single room.
When the scares arrive, they come big. The actors are exceptional at what they do. It is clear that veteran scare actors/coaches Cirerra Skelton and Chris Foglesong are involved in this project. Two of the best in the business, their influence helps elevate the scares from a jump scare to something more visceral and dark. The monsters don’t simply jump out, but rather, follow you through the experience, stalking your every move. Further, the demons are gorgeous—in the most terrifying way. The elaborate costumes are all tailored to the specific actor’s face and body, after each actor was life-casted to ensure a distinct look and personality for each demon. it’s almost a shame the haunt is so dark that audiences can’t appreciate every nuance.
As you delve deeper into the family home, you finally learn the truth of what the family was involved with. Despite the strong narratives in the film and the VR, the narrative in the haunt is left to the interpretation of the guests. And there are no actors leading you into the house, no paranormal team to meet, and no one other than the demons (and Lilith) to scare you. This fact reinforces the feeling of you being alone, isolated, and hounded by the forces of hell.
Into the Black is a project that exudes the love and passion of its talented team. Larry Bones, creator of Into the Black and previous Department Head of Hair and Makeup for Halloween Horror Nights, has taken on his most ambitious project to date and succeeded in creating a living, breathing world. Each aspect of Into the Black flows seamlessly into each other and just oozes beauty and fear. It is a perfect haunted house for the Halloween fan in each of us. We look forward to going into the black again!
Into the Black runs at the Pomona Fairplex during the month of October (weekends and October 30th + 31st) from 2pm to midnight. The virtual reality experience is 13 dollars while the haunt is 29 dollars. Check for the fairplex event page here and the official Into the Black website here.