Halloween is my favorite holiday. Every year, one of the things I look forward to in Austin is our coolest haunted house, House of Torment.
I never used to think of Halloween haunted houses as having large or small budgets. They all blended together. However, in the last ten years House of Torment has dominated the market in Austin, becoming the go-to place for Halloween scares.
Starting in 2003 at North Cross Mall, House of Torment eventually moved to the former Laser Quest building in Highland Mall’s parking lot. Back when I was in high school, Laser Quest was a rad laser tag attraction that had multiple stories (and before that it was the movie theater for Highland Mall). Eventually it was shut down and in 2005 the building was renovated into a haunted house attraction. This former laser tag building was perfect for a haunted house because it had multiple stories, paths to walk through and the walls were already painted black.
Film Quality Production
Over the years, House of Torment had raised the production quality to the point where it feels like walking into a big budget movie. It’s gone from black walls to spray foam walls, and now it has a full on production team for film quality production sets, make up effects and stunts. It’s actually quite impressive.
Although they change the walls, rooms and gags every year, some of their rooms are annual staples and always memorable. I don’t think I’m giving anything away because you don’t know it’s coming until half way through the room, but one of the rooms is slanted so that you lose track of gravity and aren’t sure which direction is down. It’s perfectly safe to walk through (hold on to the rail), but it’s disorienting just by optical illusion. Additionally, they also have some of the most amazing hollywood style make up effects to find outside of a film production. These make up artists, Matt Valentine and his brother, Michael Faust have also been featured in Syfy’s Face Off television show.
House of Torment adds new props, new monsters and changes out sections of the haunt every year. When talking with the performance director Michael Garcia about how they plan out each year’s event, he explained, “We’re in midseason, but we’re already thinking of next year. We all have different backgrounds and have different ways of thinking with influences from TV or music. I read comics books, watch TV shows, play video games. When a new gag is invented, we start coming up with the idea and sketch it out.”
Three Separate Attractions This Year
Currently there are three attractions at House of Torment, located in separate buildings within the same area. You can purchase a ticket to all three attractions or just one. It’s recommended to purchase a fast pass online before you arrive. That way you spend less time waiting in lines. I also recommend going as soon as you can. The closer Halloween gets, the area becomes more crowded and the lines get longer.
The first of three attractions this year is “Blackthorne District Realms Collide,” which is in the main, multistory building.
Returning this year is the Slaughter House, which in my opinion is the most terrifying attraction. It’s a Texas Chainsaw style barn which was featured in previous years, but this year they added clowns (enjoy). I don’t startle very easily and I know I won’t actually get hurt, but that chainsaw noise is just so unnerving.
This year House of Torment features a third section called The Coven, which is witch themed. One thing that’s cool about the performance directing is instead of relying on props and actors to jump out and go “Boo!” they focus heavily on actor influence and costume influenced story lines, creating the need for new witch costumes this year.
Yes, Austin Has an Official House of Torment Day
For more than a decade, House of Torment has been absolutely one of the best Halloween attractions Austin has to offer and a staple of this season’s spooky traditions. For that reason, the Austin City Council proclaimed 10/10/14 House of Torment Day. I think that’s pretty cool and I’m forever amused by the pictures of the House of Torment monsters in the Austin City Council.
After Halloween, House of Torment will be open on November 1st, 2nd, 7th and 8th for Blackout. That’s where they cut off lights and you walk around with glow sticks in the dark. The creative team at House of Torment jokingly refer to Blackout as “Apocalypse Live.”
House of Torment is located at 523 E Highland Mall Blvd and is running every night throughout the month of October. For tickets and scheduling, check out TheHouseOfTorment.com and follow their Facebook page for future additional events.
Have you been to House of Torment? Share your experience in a comment.