[Immersive Experience] DARK PASSAGE

My hometown area of Philadelphia welcomed brand new Halloween haunt/pop-up bar DARK PASSAGE to the scene this fall, and the marketing is correct…it is definitely the most unique of its kind! To say the least.

First off, props to the creators – Pseudonym Productions – for creating an immersive experience that isn’t just another jump-out-and-say-boo Halloween haunt that we’ve all done a thousand times before, and is, perhaps, a lot more accessible for the scared-y cats in the friend groups (there’s always one) who get anxious over fake chainsaws chasing them and everything of the sort.

But, albeit DARK PASSAGE‘s unique premise of inviting their guests to a “realm between life and death,” the experience left my guest and me more perplexed than immersed.

We first made our way to the Strange Spirits bar and had a couple of interesting sounding pre-made drinks: the “Soul Stealer” and the “Wicked Chaos,” which were variations on seasonal sangrias and cider-based cocktails. As we headed towards the hallway of the experience, no one jumped out at us or attempted to scare us. Instead, we walked through a few cool, cloud-inspired hallways and were told by a mad-scientist-inspired actor to pick which way we wanted to proceed: something along the lines of “order” versus “chaos.” (Eventually, everything leads into each other somehow, and you would through both ways anyway.)

At the risk of sounding vague, I truly did not understand the overall narrative, except that it revolved around a woman who had done something terrible and was caught up in different dimensions, reality versus thinking it was all in her head/life versus the afterlife. To be fair, I’m not even sure if the actors knew what was going on; much of the dialogue felt like improv. I recall a lot of existential crises going on: “Is this really happening?” was a line that got repeated several times.

…Stumped by that synopsis? Me too. My guest and I eventually gave up trying to follow along with the story/mystery at hand and just gawked at the bizarre and creepy prop items in the various rooms to walk through. One really cool neon-colored room, in particular, was filled with all sorts of fucked-up sex position pictures and porn dummies…and a pillow with NICHOLAS CAGE’s face on it. So, there’s that!

I will say that DARK PASSAGE‘s cast is its strongest trait – every single actor was completely committed to their roles and never broke character once. With their dark, heavy eye makeup and industrial goth-inspired outfits and footwear, I couldn’t take my eyes off of several of them. One actor, in particular, – who seemed to be at the crux of the whole narrative – was so passionate about his craft that he’d get right up in guests’ faces and ask them questions as if they too were in the story. I don’t know your name, tall sir with the blond hair, but you were so engaging.

With all that being said, if the overall narrative is clearer and less confusing in time for next Halloween season, I would definitely give DARK PASSAGE another shot, and perhaps find out once and for all if “this is really happening…” For more on Pseudonym Productions visit www.pseudonymproductions.com.

Julieann Stipidis
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