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Horror immersion tours featured in new documentary 'The Blackout Experiments'




thrill seekers react to a Chateau Le Fear cast member as he performs at the house of horror interactive walk-through show.
thrill seekers react to a Chateau Le Fear cast member as he performs at the house of horror interactive walk-through show.
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

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Opening at select cinemas this weekend, "The Blackout Experiments" follows several extreme thrill seekers who participate in an "immersive horror" experience called Blackout.

The events happen sporadically in Los Angeles and New York. Participants are subjected to scary, intense, and disorienting activities. There has even been waterboarding, forced nudity, and enough violence that some participants later called it torture instead of a thrill.

Some tours similar to Blackout are less sadistic but will "kidnap" participants who have to meet a series of challenges in the city.

So why would people want to immerse themselves in a found-footage film?

Margee Kerr is a sociologist who studies human response to fear. She says some thrill seekers may feel a self-esteem boost because they’ve confronted their fear and survived. Others may have had highly stimulating experiences, such as former soldiers who have to acclimate back to civilian life.

They may feel the need to do these excursions simply because normality bores them. There are also genetic factors that come into play, such as dopamine deficiency. This can make people more comfortable with uncertainty and motivate them to thrill seek. Thrill seeking is also culturally defined. People in the U.S. are more motivated to be scared than someone in a third-world country, but not without a controlled environment.

What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

 

Guests:

Rich Fox, Filmmaker, “The Blackout Experiments

Margee Kerr, sociologist specializing in the science of fear and author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear” (Public Affairs, 2015)