A Brief Introduction
Las Vegas, Nevada’s Freakling Bros. is operated by Duke and J.T. Mollner, a father and son who have contributed to the development of the haunt industry since before the 2000s.
Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with J.T. Mollner, filmmaker and creator of the No Remake Pictures production company and creative director and manager of the three-attraction venue.
Freakling Bros. Interview
Blayde Reviews Horror:
Freakling Bros. has been in existence for decades, continually evolving into the well-known haunted attraction venue of the present. As of the year 2019, the overall venue is comprised of three individual attractions: Castle Vampyre, Coven of 13, and Gates of Hell.
Each of these attractions is characterized by its own theme and level of intensity, providing guests with a diverse set of scares. That being said, how would you describe the attractions to potential new guests, and how do their scare factors compare or differ from each other?
Castle Vampyre is creative, original, illusory, and our most “classic.” This attraction is the Pirates of the Caribbean of Freakling Bros. If there is one house on the property that is suitable for kids, it’s this one.
That being said, even though there’s not much blood and gore, and the themes are traditional, I would still argue that the Castle is scarier than your average haunt by any other company. It’s still considered by many to be our very best offering.
Coven of 13 and Gates of Hell are both built for adults. The themes in Gates of Hell are dangerously offensive, politically incorrect, and violent, so it’s definitely the one that is “more” adult, but both are equally terrifying, albeit in different ways.
Beyond its more “traditional” attractions, Castle Vampyre and Coven of 13, the venue also offers guests the opportunity to experience Gates of Hell, its notorious “R-rated” attraction that may only be entered after signing a waiver. The comparatively mature Gates of Hell opened in 2011 and is the most extreme attraction offered by Freakling Bros. during the venue’s regular hours.
What initially made you interested in creating such an attraction, and do you have any plans to incorporate more “adult” elements into future horror shows?
I’d argue that Gates of Hell isn’t just the most extreme offered by Freakling Bros., but also the most extreme offered in the country. USA Today said we were the most frightening in the continental U.S. last year, and many of the extreme haunt seekers who travel to see us have told us the same.
My dad and I realized a few years back that many adults didn’t come to haunted houses because they thought they had grown out of them. Our lines were filled with older kids and teenagers.
We decided to prove them wrong — to offer something specifically for adults because nobody else was doing it. Now the line for Gates is not only usually our longest, but it’s filled with folks in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and above. We’ve officially become the only option for grownups in Vegas, and we are very proud of that.
To ensure that its overall venue continues to remain up-to-date with the most recent haunt industry standards, Freakling Bros. is partially destroyed and reconstructed after a five-year time span, one of its three attractions being entirely redesigned.
Coven of 13 originally debuted in 2015, and with the 2019 haunt season scheduled to begin in around half a year, one of the existing attractions — presumably Castle Vampyre — is nearing the end of its Freakling Bros. run.
Although there is still some time before this will likely happen, do you have any information about future attraction replacements or changes that you can share?
Yes, 2019 will be the “farewell season” for one of our attractions. And we are already beginning design for our new offering. More clues will be revealed after the coming season.
In addition to its three featured attractions, Freakling Bros. also hosts an extreme event known as “The Victim Experience.” During the event, participants (“victims”) are subject to ongoing physical and psychological torture until they “survive,” use the safe word, or — in some instances — must be forcibly removed to decrease the risk of harm to any persons.
Four different versions of The Victim Experience have been hosted thus far since 2013, the last of which occurred in 2017. Currently, however, the event website is inactive, and it is unclear if a fifth version will surface in the future.
With that said, are there any plans to revive The Victim Experience during the 2019 haunt season or a later period of time?
For now, there are no plans to revive The Victim Experience anytime soon. But plans can change…
You have worked alongside your father, Duke Mollner, since you were a child and before Freakling Bros. was even officially established.
Originally playing a role in your father’s successful home haunt on Halloween nights, you later were associated with the former and current attractions of Freakling Bros. — Circus of Horrors, The Dungeon, The Black Box, The Mortuary, Castle Vampyre, Gates of Hell, and Coven of 13.
How has your experience been collaborating with him and moving from the role of actor to designer and co-owner?
My dad is the very best in his field. The very best. As I was growing up, I saw haunts all over the country — small ones, large ones, and amusement park-sized ones. I never saw the originality, artistry, or innovation that I saw in my father’s work. Not anywhere ever. And I still haven’t.
I grew up aspiring to be like that. Both in my filmmaking and as a haunted house designer. I have learned so much from him and continue to. I was also lucky enough at some point to realize I had inherited some of his creative genes. A lot of this came naturally, which was a relief.
My dad was also an amazing basketball player, but I sucked. So, I was well aware that not everything is passed down. It took me a long time to earn my keep with him and with the company. My dad doesn’t hand anybody anything. He makes you earn it.
Gates of Hell was a concept I took to him and we designed together. It was a huge risk. If it had flopped, who knows what would have happened. But the experiment worked, and I earned his respect as an equal. It became my haunting rite of passage. Now, together, we are unstoppable. I think we both feel more creative and full of ideas now than ever.
Coven of 13, our newest attraction, is a prime example of that. There are so many Easter eggs from my Mom and Dad’s original stuff on Rochelle Avenue in there, but those things are blended with some absolutely innovative and never-before-seen haunt ideas that are total originals.
The first room was my Dad’s idea, and there’s nothing else like it. It’s absolutely terrifying. He just gets more creative with age, and it’s an honor to be working alongside him. It’s also been fun for me to have a chance to cast him as an actor in my films. Did you know he’s an actor? The guy does it all.
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