The kid who arrived in Vegas 16 years ago with a chainsaw, a strobe light and a dream is hitting it big.
Jason Egan, founder of the 250,000-square-foot Fright Dome Halloween theme park at Circus Circus, is moving into the film industry with the premiere of “The Neighbor” on Thursday night at Brendan Theaters at the Palms (the film is made available to the public on DVD and Blu Ray on Sept. 6). The movie screens at 8 p.m. Egan’s executive co-producer in the $2 million project is Las Vegas attorney Tony Sgro of the law firm Patti, Sgro, Lewis & Roger, who has branched out in his own career to represent pro athletes and entertainers.
Thursday’s premiere event to be a real VegasVille experience. A red-carpet premiere outside Brendan Theaters at 7 p.m. marks the opening. The film stars “Blue Collar TV” comic and frequent Vegas headliner Bill Engvall, Josh Stewart (“Finest Hour,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) and Alex Essoe (“Starry Eyes”). Movie is co-written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (who have teamed on the “Saw” franchise and “The Collector”). Dunstan also directs.
The story is set in Cutter, Miss., a burg that, similar to many small towns in horror films, possesses an unsettling subtext. One day, John (played by Stewart) discovers his girlfriend, Rosie (played by Essoe), is missing, and their neighbor Engvall becomes a person of interest in the disappearance.
Turns out Rosie is safe, but Engvall’s cellar sure is a macabre place.
“It becomes clear that the seemingly quiet town is more dangerous than it looks, and John and Rosie must do more than just run away if they want to survive the night,” reads the movie’s official plot synopsis.
For Egan, the film marks his latest effort to blossom from his Fright Dome roots. He opened similar attractions in Hong Kong in 2014, and this year is set to debut Fright Dome Ghost Ship Harbor in Boston, staged on the U.S.S. Salem battleship, which, conveniently, is said to be haunted.
This activity marks a remarkable advancement for a guy who arrived in Vegas in 2001 at age 23. Egan hit town as a new graduate of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln with a degree in business management and a fascination with fright. He opened a his first haunted house in Las Vegas on Highland Drive, just west of the Strip.
Embolden by the success of that attraction, Egan soon secured a meeting with officials at Circus Circus and sold them on a seasonal partnership at the hotel’s Adventuredome. The pitch from the tirelessly convincing Egan worked.
Fright Dome was launched in 2003, and has grown into a vast park of five themed “houses.” It is also one of the top 10 Halloween theme parks in the U.S. by such outlets that monitor such businesses (USA Today and Travel Channel). In 2015, a little fewer than 100,000 visitors filed through Fright Dome when the park was open through the month of October. This year it opens Sept. 30 with its annual “Black Carpet” premiere.
Over the years, Fright Dome has been visited by such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, David Copperfield, Kevin Hart, Paris Hilton, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne and even Stevie Wonder.
“The two main moments were Michael Jackson, and I thought it was a joke when they called me on the radio and said he was at the entrance, waiting for me,” Egan recalls. “I was like, ‘Am I dreaming right now?’ The other was a couple of years ago when Sharon and Oozy Osbourne took their private plane to Las Vegas just to see my event … They took me to dinner afterward and we just had a blast.”
In developing Fright Dome, the 37-year-old Egan (who turns 38 on Sept. 6, the film’s widespread release date) has become a significant player in the horror industry. He has secured licensing partnerships for themed Fright Dome houses with such major horror titles as “Saw,” “My Bloody Valentine,” “Halloween,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th.”
A film collaboration is a natural next step in Egan’s ascension in the fright culture. His next project is under the title, “House of the Exorcist,” which is to be set in Romania.
“My goal is to make a movie so disturbing, people walk out and ask, ‘What the heck did I just experience?’ ” says Egan, who has forged an empire by evoking that very response.