I recently had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive online interview with Will Puntarich, creator of the extreme D E A D of N I G H T trilogy, among other events of that nature. Below is the entire interview, which contains information regarding plans for Fringe Immersive and more…
From 2013 to 2015, you hosted the D E A D of N I G H T trilogy at the haunted attraction, Chamber of Horrors, in Hauppauge, New York. These events served as your introduction to the haunt industry, and ultimately led to the creation of Fringe Horror Theatre and its two events in 2016, B L I N D ❤ D A T E and DYSTOPIA: SURVIVAL HORROR ESCAPE HOUSE.
Despite their differences, all of those events had one major factor in common: all five of them were associated with a fairly new, more extreme genre in the haunt industry, the immersive horror experience. In your own words, can you describe the difference(s) between haunted attractions and immersive horror experiences?
Haunted Attractions/Scare Attractions are less immersive as a whole. For most haunts, it is mostly marketing to say to someone that going through their attraction is like going through your own personal horror film.
I can’t agree with that. You do not ever actually feel like your life is in any sort of danger and while the themes of most haunts DO come from horror films and pop culture, the method of how it is delivered is based on how many people you can get through the attraction, and that is usually per minute.
Not nearly enough time to immerse anyone. Immersive horror should allow enough time from start to finish to get in the head of the consumer. You can’t do that at a haunted house.
As of recently, it has been revealed that you will be changing your company’s name for the second time; Fringe Horror Theatre is becoming Fringe Immersive. This decision will not only impact the name of your company but also the types of genres that will be associated with it.
Although you still plan on hosting horror events in the future, you also want to incorporate some other genres into new events. Considering your previous focus on horror, what made you decide to make this significant shift in the direction of the company?
We’re an art collective. We do not want to be a company in the same respect that most haunts are. Getting all corporate with it would be like selling out, which is great for some but not so much for us, as artists and writers.
The decision to change the name was based on us wanting to expand beyond doing just horror theatre. That is our roots, and we will still do horror-themed events, but we want to try other genres and different aspects of pop culture.
We’re looking to do anime-themed shows, noir, science fiction, drama, etc. It will greatly help expand our brand and our work by opening that up.
Despite the aforementioned changes being made, Fringe Immersive’s debut event will be focused on the horror genre. On July 17th, 2016, ESCAPE THE DARK — a collaboration between the rebirth of your [art collective], Fringe Immersive, and the Long Island-based attraction, NYZ Apocalypse — will be held at NYZ Apocalypse in Deer Park, New York.
Unlike any of your previous events, there will be an option for teenagers who are 16 or 17 years of age that would like to attend. According to the official ESCAPE THE DARK poster, there will also be a contact option for those who are 18 years of age or older.
Will this adults-only contact version be noticeably different than the version available for teenagers?
This was another decision made to bring more people to our shows, but we still will cater to those who know our extreme content. I can’t say there will be a huge difference with the experience for those 18 and up or under; if you get the contact option you will be wearing some indicator that you are OK with contact.
Likely, you will have a little more of an intimate experience with the actors [if you choose the contact option] than the others who do not choose it; for them, it is just a haunt-like experience with escape room elements.
Over the past few years, escape rooms have become increasingly popular, and the haunt industry seems to have claimed them in a sense. ESCAPE THE DARK is said to have some escape room elements to it, although there aren’t any specific details regarding this [aspect] as of yet. Would you be willing to elaborate on what this means?
You’re going to solve some puzzles, or look for clues, and you will be timed in those rooms, and there will be an actor to facilitate should you not beat the clock. I can’t say anymore than that.
ESCAPE THE DARK is your first immersive horror experience that doesn’t use the extreme elements that events like the D E A D of N I G H T trilogy and DYSTOPIA: SURVIVAL HORROR ESCAPE HOUSE were known [and sometimes criticized] for.
Although your goal is to offer some future events that will attract a more diverse audience, do you feel like the new type of content that Fringe Immersive will be releasing will still appeal to your original fan base?
If our fans only want extreme stuff, our fans will have to open up their minds a bit, and that should not be hard for them considering how far we have already pushed them and how they have pushed themselves.
Speaking of your previous events, you will be taking a break from releasing extreme content. There have been some fans who were against this decision, but it has already been stated that fans will have the opportunity to attend events of that nature in the future.
As of now, do you have a specific year that you plan on offering [those events] again?
In the next two years, we will continue the Dread the Night Trilogy, our reboot of our first three experiences as Dead of Night. You will get to see RITUALS and FROM BEYOND…don’t worry.
You have been collaborating with other companies since the creation of D E A D of N I G H T. Do you ever plan on having a permanent address for Fringe Immersive where you can host your own events while still having the option to collaborate with others?
We like the idea of not owning a building and moving around; using different spaces and, if anything, we’d much prefer to move out of using haunts entirely and [focus] on real-world locations. As a collective, we only want to continue to collaborate with other artists who want to contribute. We’re down for all of that.
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This concludes the interview. On July 17th, 2016, I will be attending ESCAPE THE DARK in Deer Park, New York. A complete review of the one-night horror event will be available to read later that week.