A Look Inside Eli Roth’s Goretorium
by Dustin Hall
It’s been spoken about in hushed, excited whispers. For months, Las Vegas visitors and residents have been watching black sheets and saw blades perched along the top of the Planet Hollywood Casino, waiting for The Goretorium to open its doors. All that anticipation is finally ready to be met, as Eli Roth’s pet project, a high-end, year round haunted house, opens its doors to horror hounds and their relentless thirst for frights and gory fun. “Slaughter on the Strip,” its ads proclaim; “You’re Fucked.”
I was lucky enough to get into the preview night of this event last weekend. How lucky? Well, over 1,000 people were waiting in a line extending outside of Planet Hollywood to get into the place. Only a couple hundred of us were able to get in to see Roth chainsaw open the doors for the first time, literally, and see the sights. Since then, a good number of reporters and celebrities have made their way through the malicious maze, but the common folk remain in the dark. This week will see the venue open proper, with anyone able to take a tour.
At $40 a pop, $60 VIP, the Goretorium is a bit more expensive than your typical haunted house, though not ridiculously so. Yeah, the cheap crap places are about $20, but the better houses are $30 or more already, so it seems reasonable. And what’s it like inside? Well, I can’t give away all the surprises, but I can say that what you’re really paying for is production value. The Goretorium doesn’t have a lot of things, in principle, that other houses don’t have. They’re not reinventing the wheel. You’ll still find a lot of people screaming, air guns, dark halls, rotating tunnels and tight spaces. It’s the usual fare. But what the Goretorium offers is production value. Your slightly inflated ticket fee pays for quality make-up job on the cast members, richly detailed sets with custom construction, and a large cast of characters, running madly through the maze.
What’s the big deal about the production value? Well, compare the Goretorium to Vegas’s other big horror attraction, the Fright Dome. The dome happens every Halloween, when Circus Circus transforms the Adventuredome amusement park into a massive haunted house, with rides going all night, and five-ish mazes spread throughout. It may sound amazing, but the mazes offer little. Each is a series of isolated rooms, each connected by walls covered in black trash bags, each sparsely decorated, each with one guy hiding in a corner, ready to pop out and say BOO! or whatever. And all of them have a chainsaw guy at the end. All of them. I know the sound is scary guys, but come on, its predictable. Overall, its a lame experience, it feels really cheap. In past years, the reason to go has been to find the one celebrity sponsored maze and enjoy that, like when Saw took over a couple years ago.
So, by comparison, the Goretorium has a fully realized set, with a narrative about the hellish Delmont Hotel to back it. There are no sparse rooms to be found, and indeed the room at the finale is full of crazed character, an orgy of blood that was quite impressive. Its worth it just to go in and see what kind of scares can be drudged up with such deep pockets, instead of having to rely on Wal-mart make-up kits, strobe lights, and thrift store furniture.
That said, I currently wouldn’t go through the Goretorium more than once or twice. The maze is cool, but not any longer than any other house, and while the beginning and end of the experience were really interesting and unique, most of the real meat of the experience is pretty typical to haunted houses, just with prettier trappings. Also, while the house has a narrative, it’s actually executed fairly weakly. All the sets follow the theme pretty well, but the characters we’re introduced to in the hallways were unseen during my walkthrough, and all the crazies running about inside seem unrelated to Roth’s vision of the story. So, for a place set to run year round, that seems like a problem.
Happily, the plan at the moment seems to be for Roth to continually find new ideas, and make seasonal changes to the maze, in order to find new and more impressive scares. If that’s true, then I’ll certainly find reasons to go back, just to see the new additions, and hope that the innovations that open and close the experience eventually spread throughout, bringing new surprises and shocks found nowhere else.
So, there it is, a new Vegas highlight for the tourists, but now one that caters specifically to horror fans, starving in this city for a few more attractions. Maybe nothing new to the haunted house genre, but just for the effort, the sheer visual, visceral quality in the venue, a worthy attraction, and one I’m happy to recommend.
Update: here are some stills from opening week, courtesy of the official Goretorium Facebook page.