When approaching one of these glitzy PR gimmicks, best to go with an open mind. They are there to create synergistic buzz for their product, of course, offering you a list of preferred hashtags (#insidious, unsurprisingly, for one) should you find yourself wanting to, you know, engage your social media engines in the wake of the experience. But, as such, they are also there to blow your mind a little bit, just enough so that you’ll be sure to breathlessly tweet about the horrifying ordeal and make other folks in your network curious enough to check it out for themselves.
Here’s how it went down, in jumbled-note form.
- When you arrive at the double-wide trailer, you have to stand outside a bit, and sign a digitized consent form, more or less absolving Focus Features and their subsidiaries should you collapse from an exploded heart out of sheer terror. “It’s the anticipation that’s the worst part,” one PR maven suggested. There is something to be said about having to sign such a thing before you climb on board. Clearly, they anticipate there could be trouble.
- Once let in, you stand in the semi-darkness of a creepy hallway, with odd bits of spooky ephemera scattered about over dusty bureaus. Skulls, candles, overturned Tarot cards, peculiar dice, all your favorite tropes are well-repped. Plus, a bunch of mirrors, which I refused to look into for reasons that should be obvious: Who knows what’s on the other side of those things?
- A woman with a headset takes your Twitter handle and instantly sends out a tweet saying “THIS IS HOW YOU DIE!!!!” (It’s a damn good thing my mom is not on Twitter.) She then pounds on a closed door behind her and indicates what next waiting room you should shuffle off to. Inside another tight hallway, you search in the misty darkness for room numbers in vain, only to be screamed at unintelligibly by a shadowy figure tucked away in a closet-like vestibule, who also pounds the walls loudly.
- Once inside the next waiting area, you’re treated to another small, darkened room, though this one has a TV monitor playing segments of the Insidious 3 trailer. The TV asks you to wait patiently.
- After a few minutes, another door opens and you’re led into a small darkened alcove by a woman in ghostly make-up and what appears to be a white nighty, as if you’ve interrupted her bedtime rituals. Unlike the bellowing man before, she speaks in a hushed whisper. She sits you in the chair and puts the Oculus Rift VR goggles over your head, along with a pair of headphones.
- The Oculus Rift footage concerns a medium sitting across from you in a living room, attempting to explain how the dead are clamoring for your soul. Eventually, there are objects virtually thrown at you, and a crowd of sheet-covered ghouls that menacingly surround you. In order to maintain the whole “4-D” thing, your chair rumbles under your legs, blasts of cold air shoot at your neck, and, most distressingly, someone actually touches your shoulder. That part was a bit spooky, honestly.
- Once finished, your goggles and headphones are lifted off, and your demure host-woman whispers that you should go out a different door to the end of the hallway where the EXIT sign is clearly lit. Naturally, there’s one last torrent of fear — cold air blasts, loud crashing sounds, and another ghoulish figure popping out at you from the shadows. But really, this is just a last obligatory gesture — you’ve already survived. Good for you!
- You open the door, blink into the daylight and are quickly shown a photo taken of you right after the OR goggles were taken off, sitting in the easy chair. This, you can tweet or email to yourself. I look vaguely amused. Unfortunately, in my dazed confusion, I must have mistyped my email address and the photo is lost to the Internet dead zone. It’s likely just as well.
Into the Further 4D will be at the South Street Spring Festival at Headhouse Square from 11 am to 8 pm on Saturday, and noon to 6 pm on Sunday. Insidious: Chapter 3 comes out on June 5th.