Exclusive Preview of The Tension Experience: Ascension
If you are able to experience only one haunt this Halloween season, make sure it’s The Tension Experience: Ascension.
Sure, splat-pack filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman, the man behind the currently running Los Angeles-based interactive event (as well as several of the Saw “torture porn” films and the highly theatrical Repo! The Genetic Opera and The Devil’s Carnival series, among others), will tell you that it’s not a “haunt.” In that he is indeed correct. But what is it exactly?
I’ve spent the last forty-eight hours ruminating on this, while being nagged persistently by scare enthusiasts to describe my two-and-a-half-hour experience in a darkened, abandoned factory this past Saturday, September 10th, in a particularly seedy section of Boyle Heights.
First off, let me tell you what The Tension Experience: Ascension isn’t…
It isn’t McKamey Manor so you won’t be tortured, hurt, or beaten. It’s not Blackout so, happily, you won’t be waterboarded. It’s not a theme park haunt so don’t expect monsters to slide around on metal knee pads. And it’s not an actual religious sect called the O.O.A. Institute attempting to recruit you into their malevolent fold (although that’s the narrative, and it is indeed effectively chilling in the realistic-cum-Lynchian physical realization of that concept alone).
It’s also not something to be enjoyed solely by members of the active The Tension Experience community, a passionate collective that sprang into existence months ago when the event’s cryptic website initially crept online and who have followed it fanatically ever since, immersed in a The Game type ARG while also attending the many small pop-up events which have been put on by Bousman surprisingly free of charge.
(For more on the textured backstory of Tension, see The Daily Beast writer Jen Yamato’s illuminating article here.)
What The Tension Experience: Ascension is, is your own personal horror movie, of which you’ll be the actively participating star. Part immersive theater, part LARP, part escape room, part haunt, and entirely psychological, Bousman’s unique creation (brought to life with long-time collaborator Clint Sears and Emilie Autumn) will test you. It’ll push your boundaries and your buttons through inspired narrative and production design. And the gamut of fears and the ways in which they are played upon, whether they be gymnophobia, scotomaphobia, phonophobia, claustrophobia, or merinthophobia (you’re Googling right now, aren’t you?), are entirely effective.
In essence, you will be scared. You will be taken out of your comfort zone. Your heart will race, and the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up. And you will be elated following the experience and hunger for more (fortunately, Ascension is the first in a planned narrative trilogy of immersive events, which means the rabbit hole will grow even deeper).
Is it worth the price of the ticket? Absolutely.
Just wear underwear. You’ll thank me later.
But please remember: Tension will follow you back so if your phone rings in the middle of the night, don’t be surprised.