The odd saga of Eli Roth’s Goretorium
The Strip attraction is off to a rocky start, but its potential is simply scary.
Wed, Oct 10, 2012 (5:18 p.m.)
Mona Shield Payne
- Daily, 7 p.m.-2 a.m.
- $25 (locals), $35 (online), $40 (door, GA), $60 (door, VIP)
- Harmon and Las Vegas Blvd.
I’m sitting against a white wall, under a pair of bloody handprints, next to a zombie. It’s early August and I’m at the Goretorium actor auditions. So the zombie, like the evil clown with the long teeth and the girl with the ripped-up throat, doesn’t yet have the job. They have to get through interviewer Joshua “Ginger” Monroe first.
“There are no taboos here,” Ginger tells me. “The freakier you are; the more we accept you.”
One by one, Ginger takes the actors into the back office for questioning. Are you allergic to latex? Do you have any phobias? Are you an aggressor or a victim? A college-age girl walks in wearing a gas mask. She’s got an ax in one hand and a dirty jar of fluid in the other. She sets the jar down on Ginger’s desk. Its label reads, “RESUME.”
“Any unusual talents?” he asks.
“I can scream,” she says.
“Let’s hear it.”
“Well,” the girl says, “it sounds a lot LIKE THIS!!!”
She screams like a man.
The next interviewee speaks three languages, growls and has no latex allergies. The third, a Rob Zombie fan also with no latex allergies (“I’ve been tested extensively”), says he can ride a flaming unicycle and pop out his shoulder. They’re exactly what Ginger’s looking for.
Before the month is up, Ginger, Eli Roth and the Goretorium team will transform these applicants into a cohesive crew of fiends.
It’s late September and my friends are pissed. They were invited to the opening of Eli Roth’s Goretorium, showed up 15 minutes early, waited in line for just under three hours and didn’t get in. They weren’t alone.
Goretorium posted a picture of the massive line on Facebook with the caption, “There’s 1,000 people lining the bridge for the Goretorium preview!” The 184 comments below are less enthusiastic: “over 2 hours in line, only to be turned away at the last minute ... Horribly handled. 2 hours+ in line, rsvp’d and got no communication and door shut in face of hundreds waiting.”
You know how soft openings go: One person invites two friends, and they each invite two more, and everyone tweets the invitation out to their followers. We can’t fault Goretorium for that, but management should have handled the line better. Instead of photographing the would-be patrons, Goretorium should have told them, “You’re not getting in, so save two hours and head home now.”
When I make that point to Goretorium’s CEO Robert Frey, he replies, “We opened a combination entertainment production/nightclub/lounge in one night with no dress rehearsal and got caught off guard by how many people turned out. Of course there were going to be glitches, but we learned from it and moved on.”
Frey is straightforward. Instead of excusing what happened, he acknowledges it and looks ahead.
A couple days later, I get a call from a friend who’s on the Strip, standing next to a group of Goretorium protesters. They’re not upset about the botched party; they’re former employees.
I speak with two of them. One woman tells me she was offered a job at the new attraction but never got trained and never got shifts. She wasn’t fired, just casually abandoned. Another woman says she left a job at Sephora to work at Goretorium, only to learn that the company pays its actors minimum wage. She tried to get her Sephora job back, but it was already filled.
The protesters say that Goretorium’s management misled them. One says she told the company she was currently making $1,000 a week; their reply: “Don’t worry; you’ll be happy with your pay here.”
Goretorium CEO Frey is less willing to discuss this matter directly: “We searched high and low for the best of the best in terms of cast, and I’m really happy with this group. Beyond that,” Frey says, “it’s our policy not to discuss personnel matters.”
Frey’s happiness is not a one-way street; current Goretorium employees are happy with their new gigs, too. A friend who works at Goretorium has only positive things to say about company management, and he says his coworkers all feel the same.
Maybe they’re happy about Goretorium’s “bonus pool” of cash that’s supposed to be divvied up among workers who best promote the haunt through Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. Goretorium’s “Bonus Pool Requirements” handout offers tips on how to create Yelp profiles that boost the attraction without getting deleted or “filtered” by site moderators—tips like, “Review your 2 favorite spots favorably FIRST.”
As of now, only four reviews show up on Goretorium’s Yelp. An additional 40, both positive and negative, have been filtered, and 32 more have been deleted for violating Yelp’s Content Guidelines or Terms of Service. I read many of them before they were deleted, and many seemed like transparent boosterism.
It’s early October and I’m finally walking through Goretorium myself. It’s great. My pissed-off friends and the protesters call it “Boretorium,” but they’re wrong. Goretorium is scary, surprising, funny and freaky … which only makes the stacked Yelp reviews sadder. Goretorium doesn’t need employees to post great reviews; legitimate patrons are going to post positive reviews on their own.
My girlfriend, who went through with me, says, “I felt like I was inside of a horror movie.” I loved seeing her reactions to the mindless cannibals, the tortured girls and the undead bellhops. I’m glad Goretorium is trying to make amends with the locals (see Tuesday’s Facebook announcement of a special discount), because I want all my friends to walk through the haunt, too.