Can you believe we’re graduating high school in a few days? Crazy to think how quickly four years has gone by! But, before we leave and begin the rest of our lives, there’s still time for one last party, isn’t there? And I hear that woman, Sue Ann, who lives just around the way, is going to throw it at her house for us. She wants us to call her “Ma” though. I mean, weird that a middle-aged woman is going to open up her house to a bunch of high school kids, but hey, what the hell, free booze, right?
Blumhouse and Universal Pictures, the folks behind the upcoming film MA, invited us out to Ma’s house the other night for one hell of a party to celebrate its release. This was a house party to rival all other house parties, as it was packed to the gills with food, alcohol, dancing, Instagram influencers, and spooky moments.
In addition to all of that, our friends from JFI Productions (those fantastic folks behind CREEP and THE WILLOWS) had a mini-immersive haunt, tying directly into the movie’s plot, giving party-goers a little more to experience. In fact, that’s probably the best place to start, since spooky walk-throughs are our bread and butter.
Throughout the evening, JFI Productions had plenty of characters wandering the party, such as high school students and the local PD. They mingled, talking to guests, and having their own adventures. There were at least 10 by my count (and likely more), and it was a lot of fun interacting with them. Of course, because it’s high school, there was plenty of drama to be had: he likes her, but she likes that other guy, and so on. But hey, it’s a party, isn’t it great Ma lets us hang out here?
We had a lot of fun interactions with these characters, from learning about what they planned on doing after high school, to getting a very interesting palm reading from the resident goth girl, and dancing with the local police. There was even a mother there, frantically looking for her daughter who didn’t come home last night, leading us to believe that something darker was going on. It was clear that every character had an arc that was explored over the course of the night, and it was pretty cool to watch that play out. Some of their stories didn’t turn out for the best, but some did have a happy ending (“But not like that!” one of the characters exclaimed to me just before I left).
Like I mentioned earlier, to help round out their story, there was a mini-experience that brought you to other areas of the house. Though clocking in at just under 10 minutes, we got to learn a bit more of Ma’s backstory, and find the horrors within her home. Our group was first lead to the basement to party some more, but we had to search for more alcohol. Of course, while doing so, we came across a poor girl who was locked inside a cage by Ma.
We ran upstairs to try to help her friend, only to find one horrific scene after another, finding out that Ma has been seemingly torturing some of the local high school kids. It was fun, it was fast, and it was freaky. While not a traditional JFI immersive offering, it was cool to see their take on a traditional “haunted house” of sorts. They already proved they can translate someone else’s intellectual property into a great time, with 2017’s LORE, and I truly hope other companies hire them to tackle more. Arguably, this was the highlight of the evening, as their actors are always top notch and the scenes they stage are always a wonderfully creepy aesthetic.
The party itself was just that…a party. Located in one of the historic mansions in Los Angeles (a location familiar to fans of DELUSION), it looked like every raging party you’ve ever seen on movies and TV. The booze was flowing, the food truck was hopping, and there were plenty of Instagram-able things to see and do. Which, is a good thing I suppose, because the party WAS meant for Instagram influencers, amongst others, to help promote the film.
While we do appreciate the party itself, it was a bit of a logistic nightmare once inside. There wasn’t a clear direction or flow of what to do, and you were left to your own devices. For example, when it came to the walkthrough experience, it was kind of a free-for-all as to waiting for it…and wait for it, we did. It should be mentioned that this was through no fault of JFI Productions, who made the best of a very chaotic situation, but the haunt scene this was not. I can’t help but feel that Universal was a bit unprepared for the crowds and how crazy it would become.
Compared to something like Warner Bros.’ activations for their films (like their “That’s Where IT Lives” from last year), there was no clear direction and it was kind of a free for all. Of course, it may be like comparing apples to oranges, since one was a party and the other was not, but if Universal continues to do things like this in the future (and I hope they do!), I hope they learn a little bit from this experience on how to better handle the next one.
Overall, though, it was quite a night, and I enjoyed being able to spend some time in Ma’s world with other immersive friends. The whole thing was definitely an unique idea to promote the film, and I applaud Universal’s efforts for that. I was already interested in seeing it, but after last night, I definitely am!
Be sure to see MA in theaters on May 31st!