By Andy Haynes
Catharsis is an all new immersive haunted experience currently unsettling guests in the Orlando area. The experience was created by Pseudonym Productions, the company who brought us “When Shadows Fall,” and indeed, takes place in the same venue. Without giving too much away, there are even some references to the story of When Shadows Fall throughout Catharsis.
Catharsis bills itself as “unlike anything Florida as ever encountered” and for me at least, that was definitely true. It’s hard to talk too much about it without giving away any spoilers, since not knowing exactly what to expect is the crux of the experience.
After we arrived at the venue and signed in, we found our way to the deadly sins bar to enjoy a drink and sign a wavier. We were then summoned to the back and our trip through Catharsis began. The whole experience from arrival at the venue to unceremonious departure lasts about an hour, after which you are asked to leave immediately. This makes sense due to the attraction’s fast turnaround and the limited parking available at the venue.
Without going into detail, the experience itself involved a lot of uncomfortable situations and invasion of personal space all of which served to underline the unsettling nature of Catharsis. There is a story that underscores the event although on our trip through we were a bit confused about exactly what it was and left wondering if we had missed something. It was ultimately unnecessary though as the individual moments in Catharsis are what made the experience unique. Again, I don’t want to spoil it, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite that up close and personal with actors as I did at Catharsis!
Due to its location and immersive features, Catharsis will definitely draw some comparisons to When Shadows Fall. Although similar, the two events had very striking differences. The open-ended freedom to explore that was offered in When Shadows Fall doesn’t show up in Catharsis, as you are led by the hand (sometimes quite literally) through the structured environment. This leads to a loss of control by the audience and actually allowed greater enjoyment by those seeking a more passive experience. That’s not to say you won’t be moving around and getting your hands dirty, but just that most of the active decision making that defined When Shadows Fall is absent from Catharsis. Another unique feature of the attraction is the ability to go through in small groups or even alone. This is in sharp contrast to the conga line style of Halloween Horror Nights and the free-for-all feel of When Shadows Fall. I do have to compliment the designers on this, as at no time throughout the experience was did I feel the presence of other audience members beyond my group. The whole event felt very personal and isolating.
In the end, I will say I enjoyed Catharsis. I would recommend this for someone looking for a more immersive experience and something different from the jump scares of a traditional haunted house. I think experiencing it alone is definitely the way to go since having less people in the group heightened the attraction. Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to be pushed outside of your comfort zone!
Catharsis runs select nights through Oct. 30. Tickets are $24 for standard entry and $34 for the private experience. For more information or to make a reservation, visit fearcatharsis.com.