by Jaimz Dillman
What happens in a town like Orlando when one of the biggest events of the year is canceled? For Halloween Horror Nights alumnus Patrick Braillard and Kim Grommel, you take the chance to create memories and a brand new tradition. Tunnel of the Damned at the Orlando Forum is Central Florida's newest haunted offering located just down the road from their home theme park. Partnered with owner Michael Beacham Braillard and Grommel were presented with the opportunity to bring a different kind of experience to horror fans left without their yearly mecca of monster-filled mazes.
With more than 30 years of event experience between them, along with all the technical elements needed already at The Forum, they just had to write the story, cast and costume the actors, build the walls and create the scenery - all while keeping the safety precautions of a pandemic in mind. A pretty hefty task, right? But calling in the right people like Odd-O-Ts for staffing and FAKE Productions for the build, they've been able to turn a usual 13-month planning period into a 6-week achievement.
When you arrive you'll be checked in for your assigned time in a group of no more than 8 and masks are required at all times. Once temperatures are taken and the Sargeant assembles the vict...um, volunteers, your quick video preshow explains a mass has taken over the island of Manhattan and it's up to you to find your way out of the portal that's opened up. There were some sound issues during our preview which made all of this info hard to hear but the suggestion of adding closed-captioning was well-received during the creator's interview.
As you start military personnel bark orders at your group to stay together and keep moving, The benefit of keeping the groups small brings the ability to pulse people through allowing space for everyone to have their own scares and the actors a chance to reset and prep for the next round.
Weaving through the city you're trying to escape... something... whether they're zombies or the after-effects of toxic poisoning wasn't too clear but they were all masked. The ending was a shocker, haha. It does give you the feel of a true spooky trip even though they were only about 85% done at the time of preview. A second trip through showed some areas where more set dressing, effects, and actors could heighten the thrills so it'll be interesting to see it once complete.
An exit to a funky fab bar area invites you to stay awhile longer and enjoy a libation. The bbq from Git'n Messy BBQ will be reason enough to take a seat on the spacious outdoor patio. Made to order pizzas and dessert offerings from Orlando favorite Seven Bites round out the menu.
Attendees will pay $19.11 for a one-time pass, $26.57 for a day pass, and $74.50 for a seasonal pass (plus Eventbrite fees). With the storyline changing twice during the duration of the run, the season pass is definitely the best bet as you can come back to see the evolution throughout October. Think of it as a 3-act show. Ten days after opening the preshow video, the aesthetic of the house, and way through the predator-filled passage will change. Then, 10 days after that the third act is put in place resulting in the grand finale.
While caution from the pandemic has put a halt on most time-honored outings for those seeking hair-raising terror, The Tunnel of the Damned is a promising option that will give you that familiar sinister feeling.