Event Report: Fright Dome 2016

Dread Central hopped a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, this past Friday, September 30th, in order to cover the highly-anticipated opening of the haunt attraction Fright Dome (at Adventuredome at Circus Circus), now in its fourteenth year of scaring the hell out of Sin City.

Arriving to the carpet, we were immediately beset on by a menagerie of scare actors hired by Fright Dome creator and owner Jason Egan, who in true Tod Browning fashion has employed individuals with actual physical anomalies, which were accentuated by entirely professional makeups. In addition to the duo of Johnny Eck-like young women with truncated torsos (made up as a carnival performer and a zombie, who traversed the carpet using their hands as locomotion), a motley assortment of sinister clowns, black-shrouded witches and chainsaw-wielding madmen also stalked the press line.

Of the celebrities attending the opening, Motley Crue front man Vince Neil made an appearance in (questionable) priestly garb while flanked by three naughty nuns, and the quartet seemed generally enthralled with the oddities which surrounded them. FX maven and horror director Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hellraiser: Judgement), UFC fighter Forest Griffin and Fright Dome Creative Director Terry Salkoulas were also on hand, as was Fright Dome creator Egan, who chatted with us on the carpet.

Fright Dome

Fright Dome – Gary Tunnicliffe

“Most kids decorate with spooky things when it’s Halloween, but not me,” said Egan of Fright Dome, which at the tender age of twenty-three he’d negotiated the launch of with MGM Resorts International for Circus Circus’ Adventuredome.

“I was decorating my mom’s basement and pulling off scare pranks as far back as I can remember. When my friends were saving their money for holiday time or random things, I was saving for the post-Halloween clearance sale at Spencer’s so I could expand my arsenal! I’ll never forget my mom telling me to become a doctor or a lawyer – that Halloween wasn’t a career. Little did she know then what my crazy, twisted mind would come up with!”

Fright Dome

Fright Dome – Jason Eagan

With the sun setting and the carpet wrapped, we entered the sweeping, fog-filled 250,000-square-foot facility and were happily marauded by an assortment of committed scare actors the moment we stepped in. Given that the annual haunt is ranked as one of the top 10 haunted attractions in the nation by USA Today’s 10 Best, and recognized as one of the nation’s best haunted attractions by Travel Channel, we weren’t surprised.

As for the 2016 season of Las Vegas’ Fright Dome (the event has a Hong Kong companion, as well as a cousin in Boston’s Ghost Ship Harbor attraction, which takes place aboard the battleship U.S.S Salem), Egan not only teamed with Scott Cawthon to deliver the all-new “Five Nights at Freddy’s” maze based on the wildly popular video game of the same name, but also with the previously mentioned Tunnicliffe on the new-for-2016 “Krampus’ Not So Silent Night” maze. We enjoyed both immensely, particularly the Krampus attraction, which effectively delivered the titular half-goat, half-demon St. Nick antithesis as it merrily punished misbehaving children by way of live actors, custom animatronics and top-notch production design.

Fright Dome

Fright Dome – Vince Neil

It was Christmas gone wrong, but it felt so right.

From there it was on to “Clownz,” and for those suffering from coulrophobia, the length of the maze may prove daunting. Once more, the Fright Dome scare actors were entirely committed to their roles, and the inspired production design plunged us into a loopy, colorful and often black-lit world evocative of the attraction’s title.

The same can be said of the mazes “Hellcatraz” (the opening of which had us being processed into a watery prison overrun by zombies, and which was altogether brilliant) and “Wasteland 2” (post-apocalyptic mutants hungry for flesh).

For this writer though, the standout attraction of the evening was “Ouija,” an isolation-style haunted house available to Fast Pass or VIP Tour purchasing customers only (purchasing them is highly recommended). After a thirty minute or so strobe-lit wait, we were granted access in groups of three, and soon found ourselves seated in a pitch black room around a table, in which a shrouded woman led us in a séance. The climax of the scene, and full disclosure, I’m infuriatingly difficult to scare, sent veritable chills up my spine by way of its sleight of hand, creativity and delivery, as did the rest of the attraction, which once separated from my group I navigated alone, and often in the dark.

Fright Dome -Desire in the Fire

Fright Dome – Desire The Fire

In addition to the six haunted houses and chilling scare zones, Fright Dome guests can also experience seven thrill rides under one roof, including two roller coasters: El Loco, an adrenaline-pumping adventure complete with G drops, gravity-defying turns and over-the-edge twists, and Canyon Blaster, which will take you through a double loop and double corkscrew shrouded by shadows and fog.

With Vegas the playground for Los Angelenos year round, it’s time for Fright Dome to become the seasonal same for not only SoCal haunt enthusiasts, but for those worldwide. It’s simply top notch.

Fright Dome is open from 7 p.m. to midnight September 30-October 31 on select nights. General admission tickets start at $36.95 with additional fast pass upgrades starting at $20 allowing express line entry for all six haunted houses.

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Fright Dome

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Sean Decker