Escape rooms started popping up in Southern California roughly 4 years ago with the arrival of The Basement-Live Escape Room Experience in Sylmar. Since that time, the industry has blown up with countless escape rooms opening throughout LA, the OC and Inland Empire. Most are a fun time with themes ranging from escaping a serial killer’s lair, pulling off a massive bank heist or even eluding a blood-thirsty Krampus within a 45 to 60 minute time limit. The experience is typically intense, even if some of the puzzles start to feel a tad bit repetitive (I mean how many times can you use a black light to find the combination to a lock?) to an escape room veteran. After having tried out around 30 or so escape rooms to date, the Scarepop team is always on the hunt for “fresh blood” and that’s literally what the Inland Empire’s newest Immersive Horror Escape Experience, Black Market Escape Rooms-Murder Co. promises…lots and lots of blood. And a few…how shall we say it… “adult” themes.
Billed as “the nation’s first R-Rated horror escape experience” Black Market Escape Rooms’ Murder Co. is part escape room, part immersive theater and part haunted attraction, and it is the latest attraction created by haunt designer, Jon Cooke. After working for Knott’s Scary Farm for many years and designing some truly brilliant mazes (PARANORMAL, INC., SHADOWLANDS and DARK RIDE), Cooke has struck out on his own for his first independent venture.
Murder Co.’s website promises “intense scenes of harsh violence, pitfalls and physicality,” in which groups of up to eight members find themselves trapped in a gore and chaos-filled race for survival.” So if that sounds like your idea of fun, then Murder Co. is for you!
Based on what Scarepop has seen so far, the production values are as high as it gore ratio, so brace yourself for a bloody good time!
In preparation for checking out Black Market Escape Rooms-Murder Co., Ted Dougherty (co-writer and director of Murder Co.) was nice enough to give Scarepop the scoop on what to expect and how we might survive:
One question right off the bat, are haunted attractions the gateway drug to escape rooms?
TD: In terms of the guests, I think there are those who really have used haunted attractions as a gateway to horror-based escape rooms. They’ve braved more standard and passive haunted attractions and are now looking for something, like a horror escape room, to dive further into these types of worlds. As an art form, I believe horror entertainment overlaps with immersive experiences, escape rooms and haunted attractions – these presentations meld together well and guests are figuring that out. Some people prefer a standard attraction while others want more immersion or choose to figure out clues and puzzles. We realize many people desire more of an experiential or personalized presentation – something more memorable. Murder Co is a response to all of that.
What was your main goal when creating BLACK MARKET ESCAPE ROOMS and what makes it a cut above the rest?
TD: One of the several ideas behind Black Market Escape Rooms is to use our backgrounds in the theme park industry as a way to create more intense and personalized experiences for our guests. After visiting several escape rooms, we really thought there were so many opportunities to draw guests into deeper and scarier stories. In the theme park industry, it’s one of our jobs to be storytellers and bring those stories to life. It just so happens we’re nuts about horror, Halloween and haunts – so we’ve aimed at using those subjects as our canvas.
From what I’ve read about Murder Co., it kind of reminded me of a voyeuristic version of ELI ROTH’S HOSTEL. What’s the main storyline of this escape room without giving too much away?
TD: Murder Co is an underground, black market sports ring that allows its members to pay top dollar to witness live murders. Our guests are Murder Co members and after choosing their “artist” (murderer), they will indeed, watch a live murder. But, of course, there’s always a twist with these things – that’s when the guests discover all may not be what it seems.
It sounds like Murder Co features a handful of actors (awesome!) known as “artists”/murderers that you’re able to choose from, does this mean each artists has his or her own experience to unleash upon participants during repeat visits?
TD: Yes – we’ve spent a great deal of time to ensure that each artist provides a unique experience for the guests. Each of the artists have their own personalities and their own flavor on how they conduct business. As a result, no two experiences are exactly alike.
If you had to classify Murder Co’s R-Rating using the following horror movies which one would best represent the level of gore you’re going to experience?
A-HALLOWEEN (Intense, but relatively bloodless)
B-THE SHINING (Psychologically Creepy, Moderately Bloody, Old Woman Boobs)
C-HOSTEL (Torture and Gore)
D-THE THING (“Oh shit, that’s nasty!”)
TD: For me, the best option is “E”- ALL OF THE ABOVE
MURDER, CO is the first horror experience to be unveiled at BLACK MARKET ESCAPE ROOMS, how often do you envision opening up new experiences? Are the future experiences going to expand upon the Murder Co storyline?
TD: We’re taking things one step at a time so our focus is currently Murder Co, so it’s a little difficult to lock in how often we’ll be opening new experiences. But I will say it’s probably sooner than later. As far as the Murder Co future goes, we’ve really enjoyed working with this as a subject matter. It certainly holds a permanent place in our dark hearts! I think if we see an opportunity to expand the Murder Co world, we will certainly be open to it. There’s much more content we wrote and conceived that hasn’t made it out to the public – the information is definitely there. It’s so fun, grimy and terrorizing – who wouldn’t want to go back and play with it?
Black Market Escape Rooms-Murder Co. is now open Thursday-Sunday. Book your tickets via their website (we recommend a group of 5-6 people for the ideal experience) — just be sure to leave the kids at home.