Derangement Syndrome Part II: Interview with Mike Fini

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In Part I of my interview with Mike Fini, we discussed the origin of Deranged and his journey from home haunter to commercial business owner. In Part II of the interview we shine a light on style, theme and character development.

Horrorlust: How would you describe the style and theme of Deranged?

Mike Fini: I’d definitely say our style is an actor driven haunt. There are several haunts in the area that do incredibly detailed haunts from top to bottom, and unfortunately we’re not there yet. If you want to see incredible props, animatronics and Hollywood caliber set designs, I’ll recommend you to the experts at Hush, Rotten Manor and Exit 13. I like to think of us as the low budget horror film of haunted houses. We’re not going to draw big box office numbers like Halloween or Friday the 13th, but we’re going to do what we can to leave our guests with an unrivaled, personal experience.

Horrorlust: What haunted attractions would you say have most influenced Deranged?

Mike Fini: It would be impossible to list all the attractions that have influenced me and my team as I’ve spent the last 7 years attending an average of 20 haunts a year. A few notables would be the Realm of Darkness, Sinister and Bloodview. I always enjoyed the interactivity that was provided at the Realm of Darkness. It was an attraction I attended year after year and will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first real haunt I ever attended.

A big influence was the late Sinister in Utica. They operated with minimal space and resources, but provided an intense, interactive and fun haunt. The experiences I had their were unique and tend to stick out and get brought up every time I’m talking haunts and that says something.

The actors at Bloodview out in Broadview Heights, OH. stuck out to me as well. Through my two trips, I don’t remember it being a terrifying experience, but I’ve always left there with a smile on my face. Not everyone can be scared in a haunted attraction, but everyone can be entertained. That’s something we’re really trying to capture this season at Deranged.

Horrorlust: How many total staff members does it require to operate Deranged?

Mike Fini: We can operate with 16 – 17 people if we have to. We shoot for around 20 – 24 people on any given night. That includes parking, ticket sales, our ticket taker and the demons that haunt inside the gates.

Horrorlust: What kind of instruction and training are your actors given?

Mike Fini: When we do actor training, we try and work on improv. Jumping out and saying “Boo” is easy, that’s why we try and avoid it. The most memorable characters in haunts tend to be the ones with the snarky comments, that can come back with wit at whatever may face them. That’s definitely something we’re still working on, but I’m more focused on actors being able to think on their feet, rather than being able to drag their feet around as a mute zombie.

Horrorlust: The Baker is an interesting character — what inspired his creation and more generally how do you decide what kind of characters to include in Deranged?

Mike Fini: Ahh yes, the Muffin Man, or the baker if anyone may be checking the copyright on that — I play 1860s rules baseball over the summer and everyone is coined with a unique nickname as that was a thing back then. One of the players on my team, volunteered to act in my home haunt last year, his nickname on the field was the Muffin Man (due to his daily trip to the vending machine at his old job). It was only right to carry over his name and create a room based around his character, which we’ve expanded on this year after it’s popularity at the home haunt.

One big factor with the home haunt, you get a lot of younger visitors as opposed to a commercial haunt where you see older teens and young adults. We’re still messing around with the character to see if we can get it to translate the way we want to. It seems as if every haunt has their mad scientist, and in a way, he’s ours. Instead of messing around with radioactive potions, he’s trying to figure out the recipe for immunity as everyone fears for the apocalypse.

We’ve flip flopped themes just in the planning process, and it’s kind of fallen by the wayside. Being powered by primarily volunteer actors, I wanted to give them the creative freedom to create a role they would enjoy playing throughout the season. In doing such, we’ve lost a bit of the story, which we’re still trying to hop back into. It’s definitely been tough trying to balance the creative freedom of 20 different actors while holding to somewhat of a theme.

Horrorlust: Your predominant character is a clown known as Marbles. Why was this character type your personal choice and what’s the story behind the name?

Mike Fini: Back to the Muffin Man, this is a name that carried over from vintage baseball. I was given the name when I began playing when someone misheard my wrestling name (Mike Marvel). While Marbles the Clown was something I did at the home haunt, my acting nights at Deranged are very limited. The character never really took off as it never had any distinguished paint or costume as it’s varied over the years.

I’ve just always enjoyed being a clown as I much prefer face paint to a mask. It doesn’t muffle your speech, you can still make facial expressions, and with the products on the market you have the ability to turn yourself into a monster from your eyes to your teeth to your nails. I’ve always found the role of the clown very easy and natural to play and when given the chance to act, I prefer more of a challenge.

Horrorlust: In your estimation, what does a successful 2018 season look like for Deranged?

Mike Fini: A successful season is having people leave with a memorable experience. Whether they smelled something disgusting, whether they got scared, or even if they were just entertained, we want to leave a lasting impression on our guests, so that hopefully they’ll return to see us in the future. Any income that Deranged receives this season is just getting thrown right back into the haunt for next year, so from a financial standpoint, the more people the better. At the same time, keeping our numbers relatively small gives us the ability to create a more personal and intimate experience with our guests.

Horrorlust: What can guests expect from Deranged this final weekend of the haunted house season?

Mike Fini: This weekend we’re amping up the intensity. If you’re 18 or older, this is the weekend to come. Sunday night we’re putting on a show that’s more intense, and a little more…raw! However, if you have young ones, we will be doing a Scare-Free trick or treat this Saturday from 3pm – 5pm.

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Deranged is located at 35560 Goddard, Romulus, MI. The box office opens at 7:30pm on nights of operation; it closes at 11:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and at 10:30pm on Sundays. General admission is $13 per person. For more information, you can visit their official website: Deranged Haunt.

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