Published July 31st, 2023 @ 8:58 pm EDT by Michael

Evil Dead


Hourglass Escape Rooms
3131 Western Ave #422B
(206) 718-3705

Type: Giddy     Awe: 7/10     Care: 7/10     Challenge: 6/10     Teamwork: 4/10      Theme: 5/10

This well-regarded escape room from Seattle’s Hourglass venue really does look like Evil Dead. It doesn’t feel as much like Evil Dead as it could, but traces of the film’s blend of horror and comedy come through enough to give players a taste of its unique flavor whether or not they’ve seen any of the Evil Dead movies.
Fans of ED1, 2, and/or Army of Darkness will notice a lot of missed opportunities to combine wacky gore-humor with horror. The film is distinctive but not inimitable, so some more thought could have been put into that. It should be part of our color coded system, a room focusing on the “giddy” collection of elements and techniques, but it feels a lot like most horror rooms set in a cabin. This is unfortunate, because the movie does not feel like most horror movies set in a cabin. The movie feels like a bit of a relief actually. It’s funny the way evil-clown movies should be funny, or, in comic books, the way Grant Morrison’s Joker is funny.



One reason this would have been a good idea is that Evil Dead is one of those franchises that might be more fun to walk through than to watch. Especially since we players, unwitting but here for a good time, would be the cause of the unleashing of the horrors.


Evil Dead is two or three universes away from that of the Necronomicon’s creator, H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulu-verse situations have an aesthetic of their own, and it’s not even compatible with Evil Dead, so the inclusion of the Necronomicon can be confusing for some designers. Fortunately., its presence here is a lot mroe Raimi-esque than Lovecraftian. The scenery, in particular, has a vintage Sam Raimi feel, the best example being the twisted visage of a mounted deer head in the living room, whose facial expression is as funny as it is macabre. What kind of backwater lunatic would want that on his wall? That’s the kind of inconsistency that contributes to the experience: it’s helping to layer the premise, and helps us to understand that even the good guys (whoever they were before they were gobbled by evil whatsits) are not our kind.


Some features are imaginative, but I got the impression that a couple more complicated concepts had to be removed. Vestiges of an early system involving character-sheets and player-roles remain here and there, but this system was (I think wisely) abandoned. So no need don’t need to print out the character sheets they email you at booking.


There are some fun Raimi-isms, too, and they don’t rely on knowledge of the movies to be enjoyable. A video-recorded actor plays Ash, from the movie, and captures the persona (as engaging and personable as he is impatient, demanding, and sarcastic) well. This helps with some of the less logical puzzles (like a directional one where it’s unclear how the owner of that cabin, or the dark forces that surround it, managed to incorporate it into the otherwise dilapidated shack). A chainsaw is presented in a halo of light, like it’s a religious object, so you can almost hear facetious choirs singing when it’s discovered.


It seemed to me that the builders were most successful in capturing Raimi’s style when they directly imitated his aesthetics. Some players, particularly fans of Raimi’s early work, might feel that the room’s puzzles overall could have benefited from Raimi’s influence. The predicament feels somehow too quiet for a horror-comedy like Evil Dead, and even if the film is less widely-known today than in years past, an immersive adaptation of it could potentially make players who haven’t seen it want to check it out. There isn’t as much uncovering of ludicrous lore as there is looking sideways at objects to spot an implausibly disguised number. And I dislike jump scares as much as anyone, but they are a good way to release tension and provoke laughter, which is one of the films’ main selling points. There wasn’t a feeling of comedic dread, and while I know that kind of tension is hard to create, that’s what game designers are for.


Another key example of how the fun of the movies was captured superficially, but not viscerally, involves the chainsaw. It was introduced dramatically, with bright white light behind it, so that you could practically hear the facetious holy choir sound-effect behind it. That’s superficially on-brand. But it wasn’t used in the game in a way rthat made players think, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” A room of this type could (and perhaps should?) make people shout “I’m never letting you choose what we do on date night ever again!” — and this one doesn’t do that. It does have one queasy part where a player had to reach into something they almost definitely won’t want to reach into, and that’s pretty cool. But it needed to do more of that, and keep upping the ante.


Lastly, teamwork. Evil Dead was about a partnership between characters… initially unready and ill-equipped, they have to become badasses under an unreasonable amount of supernatural pressure. It’s hard to incorporate that specific idea into an escape room, but the way it is now, there’s not really much teamwork at all. The key to capturing the story’s feel is finding the absurdity. As with all rooms of this giddy type, that absurdity is also what will help guide the puzzle design. It’s all about making the players do ridiculous things (not embarrassing things, things they can laugh at) in order to progress. Off the top of my head, opportunities for that kind of absurd cooperation in this room might involve incantations. The Latin-esque conlang used in the story is already silly, so that’s a good start. Instead of putting the words on paper that can be easily carried around, would it be funnier if it’s carved or painted on something stationary, so that it has to be shouted from there into whatever room the ritual has to happen in? That would make occasional noisy goblin interruptions potentially funny (if used for humor rather than as an actual layer of challenge).

Look, I don’t know, but there’s no reason to overthink this, they have the horror part mostly down. It’s not gory or scary enough to turn people away just because they don’t like horror, and that’s great. The only thing missing now is some more humor. The room just isn’t quite funny enough.


The room is more than good, it’s very good… it could have been (and with an update, still could be) great.

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