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The Game (#110 of 4)

Trauma Center: Blackout Haunted House

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Trauma Center: Blackout Haunted House
Trauma Center: Blackout Haunted House

Every Halloween season, a handful of boutique haunted houses turn shuttered storefronts into temporary funhouses for giddy friends looking for an unusual night out—and willing to fork over around $30 and up for a ticket. Blackout Haunted House, situated on a drab block in midtown, is not that night out.

If fear were a drug, Blackout would rate as some pharmaceutical-grade stuff. The producers have been tinkering with volatile ingredients over the past few years, trying each October to concoct the perfect recipe of shocks to rattle even the most jaded New Yorker.

The first scare is the daunting waiver you’re required to sign upon arrival. Patrons are also presented with a list of rules that rivals those of Fight Club. The first rule: “You must walk through alone.”

“If you want, you can leave your glasses here,” suggested one of hosts as I waited my turn to enter through a slit in a black plastic tarp. It was hard to imagine why my spectacles would pose a problem. Surely they accommodate for eyewear!

The Conversations: David Fincher

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The Conversations: David Fincher
The Conversations: David Fincher

Jason Bellamy: Ed, earlier this year we had a lengthy and spirited debate about Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. Encapsulating that exchange is difficult, but to nutshell it as best I can: I argued that Kaufman’s film is “complex for complexity’s sake” and that Synecdoche, New York’s inner themes aren’t worth the effort of their labyrinthine design; you disagreed and argued that the structure was “encoded with elegant metaphors.” Throughout our exchange, at my blog and yours, I’m not sure that the word “gimmick” was ever used, but thematically that was the bonfire we danced around.

I bring all this up because David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, inspired by a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a 166-minute exercise about a man (Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button) who ages backward. He’s born, on the night after the end of World War I, the size of an infant with the physical maladies of an old man, and from there his body grows younger while his spirit and soul grow older and more experienced. Within the margins of this story are ankle-deep philosophical waxings about the aging process (body vs. mind), a fairly straightforward love story and a Forrest Gump-esque trip through American history. But I wonder: Is Benjamin Button anything more than a gimmick?