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September 2, 2014

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Photos: Fright Dome turns up fear a notch with help from ‘The Collector’

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Leila Navidi

Corey Walker, playing The Collector, claims victim Deandre Scott inside Fright Dome at Circus Circus in Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.

Fright Dome 2013

Richard Loeks plays The Stranger inside Fright Dome at Circus Circus in Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Jason Egan is having guests brave the main haunted house alone this year.

“When you’re alone, it takes away the safety factor,” Egan says. “You’re only limited by your nightmares.”

Fright Dome, the annual haunted attraction inside Adventure Dome at Circus Circus, has built a reputation over the past decade for being among the most frightening and boundary pushing in the country, featuring DJs, live performances, thrill rides and, at its center, a variety of haunted houses to tap into the darkest corners of just about anyone’s psyche.

“The last thing people want to do is the same thing as last year,” Egan says of innovating in the niche and costly haunted house industry. “That’s the hardest part — outdoing ourselves. We use focus groups, social media. I keep my tech and design staff on year round.”

This year’s attraction raises the bar by upping the number of haunted houses to six, from five, two of which are torn from the pages of “The Collector” horror franchise. Egan’s crown jewel is arguably the main “Collector” house, a maze-turned-haunted-house, which guests must traverse by themselves, navigating a home that’s supposed to have been gruesomely booby trapped by the masked serial killer at the center of the eponymous horror movie franchise.

“It’s going to be a very intimate, relatable experience in that this is a house that’s been overtaken by a devious mastermind who has figured out a perversion for every home security one would desire,” says Marcus Dunstan, writer and director of the “Collector” films and writer of four of the seven “Saw” films. “This is a flip. This is your own personal space turning against you.”

Egan, who has featured horror film-themed houses in Fright Dome since 2009, teamed up with Dunstan after fans requested “Collector”-themed scares through social-media polling. The collaboration process has taken nearly a year, encompassing everything from concept design to rigorous actor auditions to constructing actual rooms of a house inside Adventure Dome.

The result is what the pair of effusively geeky horror enthusiasts promises will be the most detailed and immersive Fright Dome experience yet, taking visitors through rooms of reimagined scenes from the films and using props from the movies (Egan lists knives, baby dolls and the Collector’s infamous red box, to name a few).

“We wanted to make every nook and cranny as authentic as possible,” Dunstan says. “You’re a single star in a galaxy of possible bad.”

In addition to the main “Collector” house, this year’s Fright Dome will include a second house from the franchise called Hotel Argento, modeled after the Collector’s own sickly booby-trapped home. Other houses include the 3D Clownaphobia experience and the revamped Camp Chainsaw house.

Though Egan, an admitted perfectionist, jokes that his crew and he will be working on Fright Dome until 6:59 p.m. today, one minute before the attraction opens, he’s eager to finally unveil their work and get fans screaming.

“We’ve just got to start up the chainsaws, and we’re ready to go.”

Fright Dome opens today at Circus Circus at 7 p.m. for visitors ages 12 and older. Tickets start at $32.95.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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