RATING: 6 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 10:00
In a review that’s sure to land us on several government watch lists, we share our enthusiasm for the delicate art of taking human life.
Before we begin, Escape Authority feels it important to stress that the following review features adult content that may not be suitable for younger readers. Black Market Escape Rooms has branded themselves as “The First Rated-R Escape Room.” During a visit, guests will face profane language, extreme violence, blood, torture, simulated murder, nudity, pornography and possibly a clown.
Do we have your attention now? Then, let’s proceed.
A high-priced, high-society underground black market sports ring enabling voyeuristic individuals to privately witness a live murder take place. Beyond the scant rumors found on the Black Web, not much is known about the enigmatic company. It is only after guests sign-up that the specific details of the ominous Murder Co. will be revealed. If you’re still brave enough to make the plunge after signing a waiver, dangerous mystery awaits.
Rich people are weird. They’ll spend their money on all sorts of extravagant things, like private boats, multiple mansions or, you know, the ability to watch someone be murdered for sport. And as the old saying goes, if there’s someone willing to buy it, there’s someone ready to sell it. That’s where Murder Co. comes in.
Founded by the mysteriously gold-masked CEO know simply as Mr. G., Murder Co. is here to give those who can afford it the ability to be private audience to perhaps the greatest taboo of all – “the delicate art of taking human life.” But it won’t be quick. Oh no. It wouldn’t be much of a show if it was just a nice, clean murder. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, quite yet.
Upon arriving at the stated address, members find themselves in the back parking lot of a nondescript warehouse space in the middle of Upland (we told you this would be taboo.) Through the subtly marked door awaits a posh albeit foreboding lobby – a sort of country club for psychopaths, as it were. It’s here that the story begins, well before the clock starts ticking. Mr. G. and his associates aren’t animals, after all, and at Murder Co., death isn’t about savagery; it’s an art form.
And as paying members of the utmost esteem, we are, naturally, allowed to first choose our preferred Artist. There’s four to pick from, each with their own, ahem, personality traits and favorite method of carrying out their craft. Let’s meet them, shall we?
Oblivion, a deranged battle hero whose light was extinguished by the darkness of war, now seeks to teach others the pain he’s endured.
Juggernaut, a mad scientist hell-bent on performing cruel experiments on human beings – both before and after death.
Maneater, a deprived serial killer with a penchant for dressing in drag and collecting certain trophy appendages from her victims.
Sideshow, a crazed clown who operates with no rhyme or reason; he’s just here to spread chaos – and the limbs he’s hacked apart.
Tough choices, eh? While picking just one may be difficult, what follows is the easy part. Members proceed to the viewing area, where, after a brief welcome by Mr. G. himself, they’re allowed to witness their chosen artist, in the flesh, who is about to remove the flesh while they meticulously take the life of an unfortunate human victim – right before your eyes, with just a small pane of glass between you and all the splattering blood. Don’t you feel fortunate?
And if at any point you find yourself wondering where they get the willing victims to be slaughtered for our affluent enjoyment, well, be careful what questions you ask because you may not like the answers you receive.
Black Market Escape Rooms exhibits truly Hollywood-quality scenic from the moment you step into its lobby – full of shadowy opulence – to the moment you find yourselves desperately fighting for your own lives in a grimy underworld full of fresh blood that was recently spilled just for you.
But although one could easily set up a camera and immediately start filming, Murder Co. is far more than just a series of movie sets. These spaces feel real. Every texture is authentic, while theatrical lighting, elaborate special effects and triggered custom audio cues work together to transport this hellish world from the realm of imagination into a true life nightmare.
From the posh lobby to the clinical demonstration area, to the torture chamber and into back of house hallways and offices we were never meant to access, Murder Co.’s world is gritty and, at all times feels genuinely threatening. The sense of danger is perhaps more palpable here than in any horror-based game we’ve ever seen.
Multiple highly immersive live actors round out the experience – some here to help you and others out to maim you. The real fun is figuring out which is which.
If it seems like Murder Co. had some powerful industry backers beyond its fictitious CEO Mr. G., well, that’s because they did. Originally created and constructed by Plague Productions, this team of well-known industry experts is the very same behind some of your favorite haunted attractions at the likes of Knott’s Scary Farm and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, just to name a few. But unlike the others, with Black Market Escape Rooms, there were no corporate limitations. Murder Co. is Plague Productions operating completely unchained.
As is often the case when we encounter one of those rare, over-the-top-cinematic games, all factors merge together to rate its total product – and in the case of Murder Co., that total product is one of the coolest you’ll find in any market. While if one were to strip away the pomp and pageantry, the puzzles on their own may seem a bit on the less complicated side of the spectrum – it’s important to note that in such an intense environment, it would be incredibly different for most guests to focus and progress through the experience otherwise.
Importantly, every step within Murder Co. is entirely intuitive. It’s always clear what task (former) members should be working on, with each bridging smoothly to the next in a linear fashion. At their core, many are standard escape room fare of hidden object discovery or simple RFID placement – but again, within the world of Murder Co. there is just nothing common about trying to solve them in this work environment.
But don’t misread this to think these are puzzles for puzzles sake. Everything in the Murder Co. storyworld fits, including collecting everything from the weapons of torture used by the Artists to identifying their victims from the tattooed scraps of flesh left behind.
What would in virtually any other room feel like a simple task becomes entirely daunting when trying to achieve it while being chased down the hallway by a demented clown swinging a massive cattle prod. And therein lies the true art that is Black Market Escape Rooms; it’s never about the individual parts, but rather how they come together in one hell of an epic, pulse-pounding theatrical experience.
At the time of our visit, Black Market Escape Rooms was still owned and operated by its creators, Plague Productions. Although the venue and its day to day operations have since been sold to new permanent owners, and as such we cannot fully vouch for the quality of experience you may receive from them today. We do need to address an incident during our experience – because although under different ownership, a glance at the venue’s website shows this policy is still in place.
Black Market Escape Rooms has a rule that requires all personal belongings – including cell phones and wallets – be left in a locker in the venue’s lobby. Worse, not only do they keep your belongings, but they also keep your locker key – meaning that they have access to your stuff while you’re gone for an hour. This is something we as a site will never condone, as the safest place for our valuables is unquestionably in our possession at all times. Obviously this matter is made significantly worse when you factor in the liability that someone else has access to them while you’re not present. Upon disputing, the venue’s manager at the time of our visit became quite rude with us, even going so far as to say we’re accusing him of being a criminal – which, of course, we never did. None of this is ok. And while, again, we need to stress that Black Market Escape Rooms has changed owners since, and we do not even know if that particular manager is still apart of their operations team, the policy remains in effect, at least according to their website.
Although we cannot directly speak upon it, we have received some indication from several of our readers that things may have actually gotten operationally worse – not better – under the new owners. We sincerely hope they find a way to steer things back on a proper course, because genuinely speaking, the Murder Co. product is a very cool experience. It saddens us to hear these reports of decreased quality and service – but again, all we can do is share them with you second hand and allow you to make your own decisions. If for nothing else, we leave this review at 6 Keys as a tribute to what once was – but please understand to be clear that our praise – and our direct experience – is for and credited to an entirely unrelated company, and not to the current regime.
Venue: Black Market Escape Rooms
Location: Upland, CA
Number of Games: 1
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $35+ per person (Murder Co.) / $47+ per person (Murder Co.: Hardcore)
We thank Black Market Escape Rooms for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.
Escape Authority would also like to express the utmost gratitude to our friends at Westcoaster for providing us with many of the press-quality photographs used throughout this review. Be sure to give them a visit for even more industry-leading coverage all across Southern California’s world of epic themed attractions!