On June 17, in the blistering heat of Austin, TX, I had the pleasure of going to Gun Media and Sumo Digital's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Game pre-release party. The event was rad as journalists, influencers and fans got a chance to play the game and meet some of the creators, mo-cap and voice actors. But in the back of the venue was a familiar sight, The Texas Chain Saw house, except it was mini. Attendees could walk around and inside the house, and I'm pretty sure everyone there took a selfie with it. I bumped into Chris and Haylee Haynes from Morbid Entertainment, who built the house. They specialize in haunted attractions and escape rooms, and on the game's release, I thought I would chat with Chris about building the house and Morbid Entertainment's work.
FANGORIA: When were you approached by Gun Media, Sumo Digital and the TCM crew about this project?
Chris: Gun Media first reached out to our team in late 2020, just about when the world was still going a little crazy with the pandemic! Given the magnitude of this project, a non-disclosure agreement was required before we could all start chatting about ideas and how to bring this thing to life. The original concept was to create a 360-degree downscaled version of the classic 1974 film farmhouse. Attendees at the show were originally going to be able to walk through the front door and experience game demo stations in the combined dining room/kitchen scene created.
F: Before you started building, how much research did y'all have to do to make the scaled-down version of the TCM house?
C: My wife and I hadn't watched the original TCM film in at least 20 years so to say we had to do some research was an understatement! After about 200 screenshots later and hitting the rewind button more times than we can remember was a great start to relive the classic film's setting and focus on as many scenic details as possible. I'm sure the great folks at Gun Media and Sumo Digital had to do the same at the start of the game's inception!
F: Have you had a chance to check out the original house that is now located in Kingsland, Texas?
C: Unfortunately not. But with having the privilege to attend the game's pre-release party in Austin, TX back in June, we managed to at least visit The Gas Station, which was a close enough drive to enjoy all things horror-related plus some good Texas BBQ!
F: How long did the build take?
C: Our production schedule always has multiple projects built simultaneously at any given time. These days, escape rooms keep us busy night and day, but we still love the occasional opportunity to work on haunted house-related sets or when something as unique as the TCM - Gun Media build comes along! The initial build for the downscaled TCM house took roughly 4-5 months to complete alongside other projects. It's a 360-degree scenic work of art inside and out with details everywhere you look. However, there were many disruptions with the original timeline of the game release and where the build was to debut. COVID-19 didn't exactly hit at an ideal time for anyone, but it threw a wrench into the formula for Gun Media and the license holders to search for alternative shows through most of 2021, both here in the United States and considerations for a large show in Europe. Long story short, this project was taken down at our shop in Buffalo, NY, and remained in storage for almost all of 2022. Once things were beginning to return to "normal" and a new concept for the game's pre-release event in Austin, TX this past June was locked in, we could quickly move forward and coordinate logistics. Some further modifications had to be done to the house since the original intention was to be at a gaming show. When install time rolled around, my wife and I unloaded three giant pallets in 100+ degree heat and reassembled the set in a couple of days before the pre-release party. Overall, we were overjoyed for this TCM build to see the light of day and receive the attention it deserved to compliment the incredible game that's been created!
F: It was cool to step into a downscaled house at the pre-release event for the game. Is the house going to pop up anywhere else?
C: The game's pre-release party was epic and we were so happy to see everything come together for Gun Media, Sumo Digital and the TCM crew. Everyone was incredible to work with and at the end of the day, we think the party was cooler than the original plan! We didn't even anticipate the interaction guests were having with the house! The laughs and screams were priceless from media coverage, reenactments, and our authentic props on display. These are the exact moments that make any project rewarding. Right now, she's back in storage until further notice. However, there has already been some discussion of another top-secret event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original film next year.
F: Do you have any new horror projects you are working on?
C: My wife and I will always live and breathe all things scary (but she's a little crazier than me!) so when a horror-themed escape room or haunted house build comes along, we're definitely happy campers! One of the most popular escape rooms we offer is Morbid State Asylum, with many optional bells and whistles to make the experience a bit more "memorable" for players! We're naturally from the haunted house background, having owned/operated District of the Dead here in Buffalo, NY, from 2011-2016 and escape rooms from 2018-2020 that overlapped with the end goal has always been to transition to this side of the industry, which is how Morbid Entertainment was born in early 2016. Since then, we've been creating immersive scenic design and experiences for many different entertainment industries.
Through the years, we've created a handful of awesome horror-related projects, but one we're just a couple weeks away from starting (and very excited to finally bring to life) for an existing client before the end of the year is a horror-themed alien/secret moon facility escape room! We've had this idea on the back burner for a while and are collaborating with our favorite prop maker again, Midnight Studio FX, so this is an over-the-top scary experience. Players have absolutely no idea what they'll be walking into for this 60-minute escape room...(sinister smiles) packed with special effects, scares and a variety of scenic work!
Today, we're your one-stop shop for turn-key haunted attractions and immersive 60-minute escape room adventures, mini escape games and custom scenic work. It's been one hell of a ride so far, and I couldn't imagine having anyone else by my side to experience so many different places we've traveled and the experiences we create together.