[Interview] Jon Braver for DELUSION

Horror master Jon Braver is back for the 2021 season with his acclaimed interactive attraction DELUSION which will feature an all-new terrifying story, Reaper’s Remorse. Additionally, this experience will offer an Open-World scenario to give guests an even fuller, more meaningful immersive experience.

Official Synopsis: There are some dead that won’t let go. Clutching to this world by whatever threads they can find. Pretty red shoes. A shotgun. A loved one left behind. And although these strands of life can be as innocent as a child’s toy… everything has its price. A price only Esther Phillips can afford. She lives alone. A solemn collector surrounded by artifacts that not only tell tales but carry the very souls they’re tied to. An ethereal prison of those unwilling to let go. Esther’s latest acquisition may be her greatest yet… if she would only go near. Fear, anger, and regret bleed from it. Things decay, but memories can linger. A rare invitation has been extended to you, fellow lovers of the occult. An exclusive evening to play your part in the haunting and epic story of Esther Phillips.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew had the chance to chat with Jon Braver about Reaper’s Remorse where they discussed everything from going back to his horror roots, creating an open-world concept, COVID safety, and more.

Hi Jon! It’s so nice to speak with you today! How does it feel to be back working on a new DELUSION show after the craziest 18 months of our lives?

Jon Braver: It feels better than ever, that’s how I feel. I feel jazzed and excited. I’ve never felt more excited about doing a DELUSION show ever. It’s like a mission now to bring people back together again after this shit storm.

For this new show, Reaper’s Remorse, you’re going back to your horror roots. Can you talk a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Jon Braver: It’s funny, right? When you said back to my horror roots, I imagined myself coming out of my mom [Laughs]. The last show we did was The Blue Blade, which was awesome and had an Indiana Jones-style that I loved. I kind of wanted to check that one off the Iist, doing like a Raiders of the Lost Ark kind of thing. With anything I do, I have to really feel it and I just don’t really, I don’t push that. I don’t really try to force myself in a certain direction. I felt like after The Blue Blade and a little show with the gaming restaurant Elite that was like a little escape room I didn’t do another show and then the pandemic hit. I felt like after hearing from all the fans…and again, I’m a fan of this stuff myself. So I’m like, what do I want to see? I want to go back to that fantastical horror, not just horror in general, but this is my favorite genre, the fantastical horror. So I was like you know what, I think everybody’s going to want to go back to that and feel that energy again. We’re also opening in October, so I think we have to just stay in that vein. I’m not going to open up a Delusion on Ice Disney thing in October [Laughs]. But it felt natural and I knew I had to get back to horror.

I had an idea for a story and there’s a venue I found a couple of years ago through a location manager that I discounted for other reasons, and then it came back into my life and I was like, oh man, okay, this would be great. The story, as opposed to previous years, the script for this year just flowed much quicker and easier for me. I set out with a goal for this year – make this the most terrifying DELUSION out of all of them. Have it have the least amount of dialogue because we’d have a lot of diatribes in the previous years. I love the actors and they love delivering lines, but I want this one to move and there is a ticking clock to this story. It’s pretty intense and it’s definitely the scariest one, I would say. I just wanted to get back to horror cause I think, you know, especially after this, we need a really fun, otherworldly, fantastical, horror experience and do it together with people, with our friends and strangers. Nothing brings people closer together than horror.

I saw that this show is going to be located in Pomona and, from what I’ve seen of the mansion, it’s gorgeous. Can you expand upon how the mansion and the grounds are going to contribute to a much fuller experience? 

Jon Braver: The mansion is expansive and it’s got a lot more to it than what you see. There are grounds as well, too. There’s a nice forested grounds and lawns and stuff that we’re going to be incorporating as well, too. This is the first year that we’re doing this open-world experience, so we’re really encouraging people to come out and spend the whole night there. You have your showtime but come two hours before – have food, drinks, we’ll have a full bar. The cool thing about the open-world experience is to think of it as an eerie scavenger hunt. So there’ll be lots to do pre and post-show, lots more to explore, and to further enhance the story and the play that you’re going to witness in really fun and exciting ways. There’s a lot of different story threads and quests you’re going to go on that are open to being explored at your whim with your drink and your friends. Then BOOM, your showtime’s in like an hour, you go off and do like five-story threads/quests over here and get a drink and then go into the play. The play is about an hour long and after the play, you come back out and then these story threads you’ve just experienced before, there’s more to it now. They’re going to take on new meaning as you now learn more about the full narrative.

The open-world works as a standalone as an addendum, if you will, to the play itself. As opposed to any other previous Delusion [show], this is the most all-encompassing and really tackles the concept that I want it to do, which is the open-world and narrative format together. We encourage people to come out. It’s open from like 6:30 – midnight. So if you have a 10 pm show, come at 7, have drinks, have food, go on the exploration, the story quests, go to the VIP section, which is another whole thing we can talk about. That’s a secluded floor of the mansion that you pay an upgrade and there’s a Dark Arts Lounge. There’s a resident up there that you can interact with that helps further define the stories about the very strange eccentric character as well as her private collection VIP experience. Esther Phillips, who’s their leader, has a section of more personal items that you can explore within these story threads that we were talking about. There’s just a lot to it and it’s going to be wonderfully intense.

With all that’s still going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, what are some of the changes you’ve made so that the event is both thrilling and safe for patrons and performers? 

Jon Braver: I will say first that those who are taking the risks, in the beginning, to put up these productions are going to reap the benefits, is what we’re hoping for. That by the time, cross your fingers, we open it will be a lot better. It’s already going in that direction, thankfully. What I will say is that we were very strict about wanting to go back to the DELUSION format. So, it’s 11 people, every 15 minutes, you’re going to be grouped with strangers going through intimate spaces. The way that we want to keep our people safe as possible is all cast and crew are vaccinated. I’m not hiring anyone who’s not, so they’re all fully vaxxed. Besides that, we’re not going to control our guests in terms of whether they’re vaccinated or not. If people feel more comfortable wearing a mask, by all means. We foresee most people probably not, but again, we leave that optional for people. We don’t want any inhibitions in any kind of like barrier between people and the actors but, you know, there are certain things that we’re going to have to do per city code or stuff like that. But, right now, it seems like we’re in a good direction, knock on wood.

The two shows I’ve been to, The Blue Blade and His Crimson Queen, featured incredible over-the-top stunt work. Is that something we can expect with this show?

Jon Braver: Stunts are part of the show. It’s not something that I was forced into. It just has to come naturally. How many stunts [does this show have] I won’t say right now but to me, it’s not as important as like, do they make sense to the story? There are moments of otherworldliness for sure. I’ll leave it at that [Laughs].

What are you most excited for people to experience with this show?

Jon Braver: I’m most excited about this new format of open-world and narrative. I’ve always wanted people to come out and make an evening of it. We’ve been so focused on the play that we haven’t had the time or the budget to really focus on other things for people to do because everybody who goes to the DELUSION show, always wants more. I think this is the first year we’ll be giving that to people, giving them more of a holistic approach to DELUSION. This definitely harkens back to the old school DELUSION plays in the horror realm with the creepy venues, so I’m excited to get them more involved in the story, seeing them there for the whole night, everybody there spending hours exploring and connecting with other people. As I say at every interview, my favorite thing ever is watching people come out of the show. You can literally almost see them beaming. As I said in the beginning, this is a mission. This one’s a mission. This one takes on more meaning after COVID, so we’ll get people back to real human connection again.

To purchase tickets to Reaper’s Remorse, visit here!

Shannon McGrew
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