On July 17th, 2016, I arrived at NYZ Apocalypse with a friend, ready to experience the debut event of Fringe Immersive and Will Puntarich’s collaboration with NYZ Apocalypse: ESCAPE THE DARK.
After being redirected to the event’s entrance by two costumed actors, me and my friend pulled into the parking lot of NYZ Apocalypse.
Several other groups were already congregating by the entrance as we approached, watching as an actor with a faux gun emerged from the door.
We were instructed to form a line against the wall by the man, who informed us that there was a situation in the fictional Apollo Prison and entertained us while we waited to enter.
After an undetermined period of time, Will Puntarich, the creator of Fringe Immersive, arrived in a bloody lab coat, providing more details about our impending experience.
Once he left, we waited outside for a bit longer, the sun still visible in the sky, and were then sent inside to sign waivers for the 18+ contact version.
Some more waiting occurred on the inside; however, the actor from the parking lot kept us entertained, and everyone seemed to be simultaneously anxious and excited for what was to come.
As the relatively short line dwindled down, it soon became my group’s turn. Not quite sure what to expect, we were led through a door by an actor, beginning the haunted attraction/escape room experience.
Upon entering, I was provided with a flashlight that I would be using to keep the infected prisoners away from the group.
The both of us were then led into the darkness, where we were left to navigate each room by ourselves, in search of clues that would supposedly lead us to a cure.
After a brief period of wandering through the dark, actors started to appear, targeting the other member of my group, who was behind me.
In the beginning, I was a bit skeptical of the scare factor, but my opinion soon changed after a female prisoner with dreadlocks unexpectedly appeared from behind one of the many routes for actors to navigate.
Completely startled, I proceeded through the fictional Apollo Prison, encountering a series of aggressive actors who neither of us heard approaching until it was too late and some rather bizarre versions of Daphne, Shaggy, and Fred from Scooby-Doo.
During each individual encounter with the characters, we were prompted to search an area in order to find a clue (in the form of a number), with a limited amount of time before we had to move on.
This proved to be a somewhat difficult task (as it should be); however, the actors provided us with hints, which allowed us to find all three numbers before we ran out of time.
Although each of these encounters were fairly short, they allowed us to take a break from being pursued by the seemingly relentless prisoners.
During one instance in particular, the dark humor that accompanied each of their roles resulted in a comical (and twisted) search for a clue that left one of my hands covered in a sticky substance — the remains of a character.
As the interactive ESCAPE THE DARK event neared its conclusion, we encountered a masked man who asked us for the code (the three numbers that we had found in separate rooms).
Once he was provided with this information, the group was allowed through a door, and I soon found myself face-to-face with the co-creator of the event, Will Puntarich, who successfully managed to scare me even more than the infected prisoners, due to his sudden appearance.
After completing a video interview regarding the experience, we proceeded to a nearby exit, finding ourselves back in the parking lot. A new line of people had formed by the wall, waiting to experience ESCAPE THE DARK.
Having stated the aforementioned details, there are some issues that I would like to address.
First and foremost, the price, which was around $40.00, seemed a bit high when considering the duration of the event.
My group was inside for approximately 20-25 minutes, and there are some events of a similar nature that cost about the same for double the length of time. For this reason, I would personally recommend lowering the price to $25.00-$30.00.
Moving forward, there was also a bit of a slow start to the attraction, resulting in some missed opportunities for interaction with the actors.
This issue could be resolved by adding more infected prisoners in the beginning and/or including an interaction with Velma, the only unused human character.
Speaking of the actors, there were three issues with the infected prisoners that reduced the scare factor of the attraction.
(1.) They didn’t take advantage of hiding in the prison cells toward the beginning; (2.) the majority of them approached us from behind to create scares; and (3.) the focus — at least in terms of the physical contact for the 18+ version — was completely on the other member of the group (there was no physical contact between me and the actors).
I also recommend better clarifying when you’re supposed to search for clues and whether or not groups will be separated — my group was not separated, despite the fact that we seemed to be informed that we would be.
Additionally, the event would benefit from providing more of a plot toward the end.
My group didn’t understand what we were looking for prior to encountering Daphne.
And despite providing the correct code, the unknown events leading to the Apollo Prison blackout were never explained, nor did we find a cure.
Lastly, I recommend changing the group requirements to no more than two or three people and making the requirement clear on the promotional poster.
Pumpkin Rating & Conclusion
Scare Factor: 5 / 5 Pumpkins
Price of Admission: 3 / 5 Pumpkins
Duration of Event: 4 / 5 Pumpkins
Pumpkin Rating: 4 / 5 Pumpkins
ESCAPE THE DARK was an overall positive experience that contained some genuinely terrifying moments.
Despite some missed opportunities in the early sections of the attraction, there were enough actors scattered around to make the group stay alert for the majority of the experience.
In addition to this, the interactive nature of the event and use of both haunted attraction and escape room elements resulted in an experience unlike any other related events that I’ve previously attended.
Thank you to the co-creator of Fringe Immersive, Will Puntarich, for providing us with press passes!
ESCAPE THE DARK will be returning for one night in August 2016 and again in October 2016 (every Sunday night).