McKamey Manor; 2007-present; directed by Russ McKamey
Haunters: The Art of the Scare: 2017: written and directed by Jon Schnitzer
In operation since 2007--originally in San Diego, now relocated to Nashville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama--McKamey Manor has become known for its extreme "emotional torture" experience.
How to describe what goes on inside those quotation marks? Visitors to McKamey Manor are led through a fairly typical-looking haunted house environment, but that's where the resemblance to anything put on by your local Jaycees chapter ends.
They're accompanied by a gang of costumed characters who look like they might be members of the Insane Clown Posse after an especially rough night. The characters tie down guests, threaten them with power tools, cover them in disgusting substances (and often, stick them in their mouths), douse them with cold water, place live bugs and spiders on their faces, and in general bully and manhandle them into submission when they don't do as they're told.
People scream and cry, tremble and vomit, plead for mercy and their lives. Occasionally they zone out and take on the thousand-yard stare of torture victims. Through it all you don't get the impression they're acting, but that the emotional distress and breakdowns we're seeing are real.
And Russ McKamey is right there during the whole thing, cajoling and taunting his victims to accept just a little more abuse, like the world's meanest BDSM dominant. He also records the experience, most of it in extreme close-up.
There's more than a bit of the drill sergeant in Russ's demeanor. Also, the frustrated auteur. The recordings he makes are later edited into surprisingly sophisticated videos--each essentially a commercial for McKamey Manor--that occasionally last four hours or more.
Who exactly signs up for this sort of thing? A lot of people, apparently. McKamey Manor boasts a waiting list with 24,000 names. And for the privilege of being accepted, guests pay only in dog for Russ's dogs.
In interviews peppered throughout the videos, the guests make it clear they're fine and their experience in the Manor was completely consensual, a way to push their limits and see what they can take that no one, ever, should even consider trying themselves. Which, to a certain type of person, only makes it that much more appealing.
I was introduced to McKamey Manor in a documentary on Netflix titled Haunters: The Art of the Scare. (From which the trailer, above, is taken.) It was also recently featured on an episode of Dark Tourist, on Netflix as well. And Russ's videos--hundreds of them--are available on YouTube and its web site. (I would have posted one of those, but for some reason McKamey Manor doesn't allow its videos to be played on outside sites.)
If you're one of those people for whom torture porn is just a little too tame, a visit to McKamey Manor might be in order.
McKamey Manor videos are available on YouTube and at McKameyManor.com; Haunters: The Art of the Scare and Dark Tourist are available on Netflix
If you've been reading these recommendations over the past month, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you found something that made your October a little more enjoyable. Have a scary and happy Halloween!