Today we examine a new piece of pre-Halloween horror theater: Fallen Saints Arcanum. Fallen Saints was an ongoing series of historical horror plays staged by Force of Nature Productions until the 2020 pandemic forced the show into hibernation. Now three years later, they have resurrected the franchise but with a difference: Previous Fallen Saints installments dramatized the Salem Witch Trials or the Jack the Ripper murders; now the show includes elements of futuristic science fiction, ported over from the SCP Universe, previously seen in such Last Call Theatre Productions as Signals and The Showroom.
What does SCP stand for? Secure, Contain, Protect. A mysterious Foundation is doing exactly that to anomalous creatures with strange powers that it holds in secret facilities. In order to bring Fallen Saints fans up to speed with this back story, there are posters outside the theatre, identifying the various SCPs locked inside the facility, and participants are given cheat sheets explaining vital details. You need not memorize this information to enjoy the show, but it will help set your expectations for the experience, which is an immersive, interactive show, unlike the more traditional presentations seen in past Fallen Saints productions, such as White Chapel (2016) and Salem (2019).
The connective tissue linking the two universes is Fallen Saints’ recurring character of Darkness, who is either one of the anomalous /SCP characters or perhaps the Puppet Master pulling the strings of all of them. Who knows? We can’t say for sure, and neither will you until you take a trip through this mysterious foundation and explore all the mysteries that lie therein.
In order to find out why Force of Nature Productions made these changes we spoke with creator Sebastian Muñoz about transforming Fallen Saints from a traditional theater piece into a walk-through interactive experience somewhat akin to a Halloween haunt. Although there are no jump scares, you are moving from room to room, encountering strange creatures along the way. Close proximity to these potentially dangerous anomalies generates tension, but mostly the show remains a theatrical piece focusing on character interaction and dialogue, leading to a climactic confrontation with Darkness herself.
Fallen Saints Arcanum: Q&A with Sebastian Muñoz
Hollywood Gothique: Why has it been so many years since the last Fallen Saints?
Sebastian Muñoz: Well, that’s due to a little thing named Covid. 2019 was the last one, Salem. And then we had all sorts of different ideas during the pandemic that we wanted to try – some things isolated or remote or Outdoors – but nothing really materialized. So here we are in 2023. We got a great opportunity to partner with Midsummer Scream, with Taylor Scott, David Markland. The whole team was so supportive, and they were interested in bringing us on board to do an activation based on their game, and Taylor was a big fan of the SCP Foundation. It turns out that my son’s also a big fan of SCP Foundation, and the moment we started learning about the SCP Foundation it really was very reminiscent of our Fallen Saints universe, and we noticed that there was a lot of similarities and that that could really make for a very nice, natural merging of the two – having these two universes collide. So that’s what we decided to do.
Hollywood Gothique: First you did that in Long Beach at Midsummer Scream.
Sebastian Muñoz: What we did at Long Beach was a little prologue to [Arcanum], in which there were anomalies escaped at the Long Beach headquarters, and then you had to go around and contain them with your level one key cards. Once you successfully contained all of them, you would come back to Dr. Bright’s office for a debriefing about the Midnight Event that [takes place in Arcanum].
Hollywood Gothique: Although it may help some people or give a little back story, you don’t really need to have been in Long Beach to appreciate what’s happening here in North Hollywood.
Sebastian Muñoz: This one can stand alone because once you get here, the debriefing catches you up, but if you experience Midsummer Scream, it’s like a little added Easter Eggs for you.
Hollywood Gothique: In terms of Fallen Saints the past episodes have all been historical in nature so this is quite different. It has a more futuristic, science fiction feel. How do you think your audience is going to react? Are they going to be thinking this is not what we expected from Fallen Saints?
Sebastian Muñoz: We’ve done Jack the Ripper, La Llorona, Salem, but the beauty is our universe knows no time, no space – none of that. Darkness – she does not follow any of those rules, so she can really bounce around anywhere. So once we took this universe, it was like why not? It’s a natural merge: people trying to contain their Darkness. But you come here and you’re gonna find out whether they can or not.
Hollywood Gothique: So then is it a spoiler to say that Darkness is an SCP anomaly?
Sebastian Muñoz: Is she, or is she not? It’s up to you to find out. You may come face to face with her and you can find out whether she is or not.
Hollywood Gothique: But that is the connective tissue between past Fallen Saints and this mash-up with the SCP Universe.
Sebastian Muñoz: Well, she’s trying to collect everybody; in all places that is what she wants to do – collect all these historical figures to do her bidding, so that makes them part of her collection, and they’re her puppets in a way. So when she found the SCP Foundation, there’s a whole lot of anomalies that could really be enticing for her.
Hollywood Gothique: One other big change between this and past Fallen Saints is we’re talking about an immersive theater production this time. This is not sitting in your seats and watching a play.
Sebastian Muñoz: That’s correct. Normally we have a theatrical setting – sometimes you get up and you move, and we try to involve the audience – but this one’s truly a walkthrough. Part theatrical experience, part walkthrough experience, part escape room – so there’s a lot of elements all melded into one to provide you with this wonderful experience that we hope you enjoy.
Hollywood Gothique: When it comes to immersive theater, there’s a lot of people who might have heard of it and not done it, and they might be a little wary of it. But they really don’t need to be afraid of this one. They’re going to be told to do things, but there’s no gross stuff; you’re not trying to make people uncomfortable or get into their personal space.
Sebastian Muñoz: No, no, no – we definitely want to respect that, because that’s who we are. We’re not grotesque. We’re not like extreme haunts. The word “immersive” covers a wide range of ideas and views, so we been talking to our guests and explaining this to them, because we’ve had guests with very young kids come up to ask is it something that’s acceptable, and then they understand this is who we are; we’re a theatrical company, and this is our wheelhouse. Sometimes people walk up, and they’re expecting something much more intense, and we tell them they’re welcome – everybody’s welcome – but this might not be exactly what you’re looking for if you’re looking for an extreme haunt. So this is good for everybody. We’re probably a great introductory haunt – a good gateway into the immersive world for you to take the first step if you’ve ever thought about it, and then from there you decide just how far you want to push it.
Fallen Saints: Arcanum (2023)
1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
Fallen Saints: Arcanum is so different from past Fallen Saints productions that it might as well take place in another universe – which in a sense it does, take the recurring franchise character The Darkness and placing her within the SCP Foundation (a collaborative, online fictional universe). This shifts the focus away from the historical horror of previous Fallen Saints installments toward science fiction; moreover, the traditional proscenium arch is gone, placing the audience shoulder-to-shoulder with the characters as they proceed through the Foundation’s facility, encountering anomalous creatures with strange interdimensional powers.
The experience feels rather like walking through a Halloween haunt, but the fear factor is mild – more creepy than shocking, with an emphasis on dramatic interaction. Instead of jump-scares around every corner, each room offers a dramatic vignette showcasing one or more characters. Audience participation is sometimes required, such as completing a task or finding a key card, in order to proceed – creating an escape room type effect that keeps participants involved in the action.
Audiences seeking an immersive theatrical production that is enjoyably spooky but not too intense should have a good time. The low-budget production values are actually quite good. The cramped settings add a layer of claustrophobia (nowhere to run from the SCP anomalies), and if the decor is sometimes minimal, the lighting bathes the environs in a thick layer of atmosphere. Makeup and costuming stand up to the close scrutiny afforded by the interactive nature of the production.
Our personal nitpick is that we would have preferred a stronger plot. Although there is a narrative thread, it serves mostly to tie the vignettes together rather than to bring the experience to a solid dramatic resolution. This leaves Arcanum feeling a bit more like a haunted house with theatrical elements than a fully realized immersive play – definitely entertaining but lacking the gruesome high-impact ending of Fallen Saint‘s 2019 effort, Salem.
Fallen Saints: Arcanum runs at the Brickhouse Theatre in North Hollywood on September 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, with performances starting at 15-minute intervals from 8pm to 10:15pm. The address is 10950 Peach Grove Street. Tickets are $20. Get more information at: fonproductions.com/fallensaints.