Evocative miasma of ectoplasmic entertainment engulfs audiences in a haunting immersive experience
“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14.
As a name for a Halloween horror show, Angel of Light sounds far too sacred to be anything but highly ironic; the true irony, however, is that Lucifer means “light-bearer” – a reference to the Fallen Angel’s formerly exalted status before taking up residence in Hell. The title makes sense in light of the immersive experience’s back story, in which an exorcist summons an angel to battle demonic forces but finds his call answered by Satan himself.
This is a fabulous premise for a Halloween attraction, but exactly what kind of attraction is Angel of Light? The official description promises a sinister synthesis of “technology and live theater” yielding an “immersive walk through horror experience.” Does that mean Angel of Light is an interactive play in which the audience follows characters through darkened catacombs as the macabre drama unfold before their eyes?
Not really. Angel of Light combines several elements to create an evening’s worth of spectacular, spectral entertainment: two lengthy walkthroughs, a large free-roaming area, and a climactic stage performance that brings the curtain down with a stunning flourish. What you will not see is three-act storytelling. There is history behind the haunting, but you need not know it to enjoy the experience, and the walkthroughs follow the template of a Halloween haunt, emphasizing pandemonium instead of plot points. These elements coalesce into an evocative miasma of ectoplasmic entertainment that fills every crevice of the Los Angeles Theatre, transporting audiences into a fascinating hour-long immersive experience richer and more satisfying than the conga line of Halloween theme parks.
If there is a problem with Angel of Light, it is not the absence of a narrative; it is a multiplicity of wait times. Fortunately, the show rewards audience patience seven upon sevenfold, leaving no acolyte unenlightened, no sceptic disappointed.
Angel of Light Review: Arrival
Anticipation is high on the sidewalk in front of the Los Angeles Theatre. Of course street parking is impossible downtown, but there is a convenient lot next door, making it relatively easy to arrive at your appointed entry time. Next to the queue is a sign marked in half-hour increments, with variations, but the numbers are more aspirational than accurate. Visitors are advised to arrive early in order to have enough time to experience the complete show, but although we arrive fifteen minutes before our 7:30 appointment, we still wait outside till well after 8pm.
At least this provides time to peruse the posters outside the theatre, advertising a “Night with Rota K. Preston” performing “Songs of the Morning Star.” Rota is a key figure in Angel of Light‘s back story. As Rota Krisha, a young girl in 19th century Europe, she was the subject of the disastrous exorcism that summoned the Angel of Light; now three decades later she is making her Hollywood debut under her married name. (The timeline is a bit iffy: Rota looks twenty-something in the posters even though she should be pushing forty in the 1930s, when the story is set.)
More significant is the poster’s sly reference to the “Morning Star,” a phrase that has come to be translated as “Lucifer.” Rota, apparently, has not left her demons behind in Europe, so we should expect her to put on a literal Hell of a Show.
Angel of Light Review: Lobby
Upon entering, visitors are engulfed in the theatre’s opulent lobby, bathed in hues of deep red and purple. Shrouded figures sit, silent and still, until their faces come to life. After a few minutes of the audience being crowded into another line, an usher appears to whet their appetite for the tour we will be taking before seeing Rota’s stage show. Then a motley, mismatched crew descends the staircase from the balcony: half seem from Hollywood, the other half from Central Europe.
Suddenly, a shrill, shrieking tone erupts, sending the party assembled on the staircase into paroxysms of agony. It will not be the last time the evening’s festivities are disturbed by the frightful ululation.
Unfortunately, after the long wait outside, there is even more waiting in the lobby. First, we wait by the balcony staircase for the characters to arrive. Then we move to the top of another staircase and wait some more before descending. Finally, we wait outside the entrance for the tour promised by the usher, which finally brings us to…
Angel of Light Review: Walkthrough
Dim, flickering lights do little to dispel the darkness surrounding the entrance of Angel of Light‘s first walkthrough. Beginning your journey, you pass what looks like an Eastern Orthodox priest, mumbling prayers to ward off evil. The darkness is filled with eerie intonations – wordless vocals simultaneously soothing and sinister. Walls of stone and brick suggest catacombs or a dungeon, dark except for scattered, faint candles. Faces appear through small, barred windows, warning you to flee unspecified dangers lurking in the darkness.
Suddenly, the setting and the era seem to change as you enter a room with a man standing near some early 20th century sound equipment. This makes sense if you have read the haunt’s back story: Rota married a sound engineer after moving to Hollywood. This apparently innocuous fact is rendered sinister when you know that her botched exorcism involved “spiritual sound healing” gone wrong. Presumably, modern technology will amplify the deleterious effects.
Next, a low river of roiling fog leads you into a large room where abstract blobs of blue light ebb and flow upon the walls, and lightening-like sparks flash and sizzle as if you were moving through a giant neural network. Have the sound engineer’s experiments reawakened the Angel of Light?
Angel of Light Review: Sinister Soiree, Phantom Phonebooths & Haunted Bathrooms
Leaving the walkthrough behind, you enter the upper level of the Los Angeles Theatre, where an ethereal Hollywood soiree appears to be underway. Here, you are free to roam among a suite of rooms at your leisure, exploring sinister sights hidden in alcoves, such as a dimly lit children’s playroom, where an out-of-tune music box slowly plucks away as if its spring is winding down. Beware the silent, shrouded figures; they may seem inanimate, but you never know for sure.
While you explore, you will encounter spooky cigarette girls and other phantoms from a bygone era. Occasionally, the disturbing sound you heard in the lobby will pierce the room, provoking spasmodic tremors among the ghosts, as if their spectral existence is disturbed by these strange sonic vibrations.
Weirdly, even when undisturbed by this strange sound, there is a broken-record quality to these specters. They initiate conversations, but when you respond, they seem capable only of repeating their initial remarks. Perhaps they are not surviving souls at all but mere echoes of the past, floating mindlessly into the present?
Prominent among these lost souls is a glamorous starlet in a circular, mirrored room, who gazes narcissistically at her multiple reflections, tearing herself away only long enough to ask, “What are you looking at? Don’t you know who I am?” Her awareness of your presence, coupled with her refusal or inability to engage with you beyond repeating her questions over and over, becomes quietly unnerving, so you look for an escape route, which leads you to…
A gated doorway provides an entrance to a long, narrow hallway, serving as an opulent restroom. Individual stalls line the left wall; a wide-open room on the right provides elegant wash basins. Clearly, this is an exclusive area reserved for high-class Hollywood elite.
Yet even among these gilt-edged stylings penetrate sounds of horror. A sinister, static figure at the far end of the hallways catches your eye, and curiosity lures you closer. As you approach, your ears are assailed by distant reverberating cries for help. No sign of the wailing victim is visible, but if you enter the last stall on the left and bend down toward the vent near the floor, you will find the source of his pleading voice. His actual location remains a mystery; there is nothing you can do to save him.
Back in the main room of the soiree, you will find phantom phonebooths, one occupied by a strange mysterious figure. Take a photo with him if you dare, or try making a call on one of the phones. Rest assured that, whichever one you pick, the voice on the other end of the line does not reside in this world.
Angel of Light Review: Creepy Cocktails
There are two bars serving the soiree. One is located in the main room, bathed in eerie dark blue light. The other is in a smaller, red-tinged room, adorned with ominous paintings and ghostly faces floating on the wall. Both provide ambiance gloriously charged with atmosphere appropriate to a haunted setting. There are tables but no chairs; if you need to sit, you can find one or two opportunities back in the mirrored room.
The drink menu provides some intriguing names: Rota’s Poison, Mothers Ruin. Unfortunately, these disguise conventional cocktails, such as gin-and-tonic. Ask for a Vodka Press, and instead of club soda with ginger ale or tonic water, your vodka will be mixed with Sprite. The concoction is quite palatable, but these are not recipes themed for a haunted Halloween party.
Angel of Light Review: Walkthrough 2
After imbibing liquid spirits and rubbing shoulders with ectoplasmic spirits, you may be wondering what next is on Angel of Light‘s menu of mayhem. It is a good question. The posters outside the theatre and the usher’s introduction in the lobby have suggested there will be a stage show, but nowhere in the soiree will you see indications of when or where this will take place. Nor is there a sign indicating the departure point for the second walkthrough; in fact, if you are not paying attention, you might not realize there is a second walkthrough (we stumbled upon it while searching for a member of our party).
Look for a crowd gathering around a small alcove with two doors marked with exit signs. The one on the right leads not only to the kitchen but also to a queue for the second walkthrough. No departure times are listed: you simply wait outside the alcove until a large enough crowd has gathered, then go through the door and wait in the queue until you are given the signal to depart. While you wait, eerie mirrored moving images flash across the walls, raising expectations for the horrors to come.
Initially, the path leads you behind-the-scenes of the theatre, through dressing rooms with a private mini-bar, occupied by a demented clown and various characters in clerical garb. Their strategy is is one of face-to-face confrontation rather than jump-scares; the vibe is eerie and unsettling rather than startling.
Equally unsettling is ascending and descending multiple staircases in the dark, some inside the theatre, one outside. Eventually, the backstage setting morphs into a marvelously rendered outdoor cemetery, where hooded figures (perhaps deranged monks?) shuffle through the shadows, warning you to leave.
Eventually, you descend a staircase leading to a corridor outside the theatre’s seating area. The show is about to begin.
Angel of Light Review: Stage Show
For the last time this evening, you wait – this time for the doors to open. Once inside, there is more waiting for the show to start, but on this occasion, there is more to do than simply wait. The theatre is haunted by ghoulish figures lurking in the dark – posing, contorting, sneaking up on unsuspecting victims while low, throbbing tonalities reverberate off the walls and into the depths of your soul. If there is an empty seat next to you, you may find it filled by an unwelcome new “friend” eager to make your acquaintance. Your only solace is that no conversation is required with your mute companion who communicates only through writhing bodily gesticulations.
Eventually, the stage lights go up, and Rota makes her appearance, delivering a mesmerizing rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime” while masked musicians accompany her and tuxedoed dancers glide across the stage.
After a verse or two, the song is interrupted by a familiar, disturbing sound. The faceless ghouls reappear while Rota and the dancers shred their elegant garments, revealing black-filled underwear suggesting a Goth S&M club. A sort of choreographed pandemonium erupts as Gershwin’s enchanting melody is eclipsed by throbbing rhythms and low, descending electric tonalities. The musicians behind Rota disappear, replaced first by a gigantic, shrieking demonic figure mirroring Rota’s dance moves and then by a mass of writing bodies.
Eventually exhausted by their wild gyrations, the performers emit a final synchronized scream before collapsing on the stage, their dead bodies bathed in red light. The show is over, and it is time for you to escape before the Angel of Light comes reaching for you. Make your exit quickly, pausing at the merchandise table only briefly if at all.
On your way through the lobby, watch out for the ghosts and ghouls you saw before. They will pose for you, lulling you to pause and take pictures, but for your own safety, it may be best to leave the premises while you still can…
Angel of Light Review: Conclusion
With its cocktail party vibe, Angel of Light is closer to House of Spirits than Delusion, but in a way it is even closer to 2019’s Cinema Phantasmagoria, which also evoked the ghosts of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with ghoulish ushers and movie stars inhabiting a downtown movie palace. Angel of Light is considerably more elaborate, expanding the walkthrough element with more sets and characters and swapping the live stage show in place of an old movie screening. In both cases there is a sense of being transported into the past, but the immersive element is enhanced by holding the audiences inside the environment for the duration of the event (no popping outside to visit Clifton’s Republic or Grand Central Market).
The linear structure of Angel of Light maneuvers visitors to experience the attractions in the proper order; thus, sections that might not stand out on their own add up to cumulative effect. The lobby scene provides an intriguing introduction. The walkthroughs evoke a creeping sense of dread enhanced by ominous sonic soundscapes. In between, the cocktail party offers enough free-roaming fun to steel your nerves for the the second half of the show, in which the characters get a little more confrontational. Finally, the stage show provides an amazing climax that jolts audiences into a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, this linear strategy also has a downside, creating logjams at regular intervals. The problem is aggravated by multiple wait times before the two walkthroughs and the stage show (at one point you wait outside a door to get into a line where you wait some more). The accumulated wait time grows enervating, dampening enthusiasm. To put things in mathematical terms, after waiting outside nearly an hour, it took us another ninety minutes to get through the supposedly one-hour experience.
All that said, the experience itself is almost everything you could want it to be. Although the story will not be apparent to anyone who has not read about it beforehand, Angel of Light does envelope you in its fictional world to an extent that overcomes the failing of conventional Halloween haunts: brevity. With only an occasional exception, even the most elaborate haunted house offers only a few minutes within its hallways, often forcing visitors through like a herd of cattle, with no time to pause and savor the ghoulish delights. Angel of Light encourages you to explore its haunted world at length; even the walkthrough sections allow some leeway to set the pace, and of course the cocktail party invites leisurely inspection of its supernatural amenities.
In terms of production values, the Los Angeles Theatre is a wonderful setting, whether playing a haunted version of itself or being redressed as catacombs and graveyards. Costumes and makeup are effective, especially in dimly lit areas. The cast in the cocktail area are given more chance to perform as opposed to lurking menacingly in the shadow of the walkthroughs. Sound design is wonderful – with musical textures alternately ambient and ear-shattering. The highlight is Rota’s performance. Thanks to her beautiful vocals, it is a joy to watch even before the horror kicks in, after which the shrieking soundtrack and chaotic choreography rock the theatre to its foundation. Ultimately, long lines cannot dim the shining brightness of this Angel of Light.
Angel of Light
1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
Though not as far removed from a conventional haunt as one might expect – the walkthroughs are more like a theme park maze than an interactive play – Angel of Light is a first-rate immersive experience, combining various elements that add up to more than the sum of their parts, leading to a climax guaranteed to satisfy even jaded horror hounds.
The only reason this gets a four-star rating instead of five is the interminable amount of waiting in line, both inside and outside the theatre. Other immersive shows have found ways to better handle crowds; hopefully, Angel of Light will learn as well.
Angels of Light continues at Los Angeles Theatre until Halloween Night, with performances Wednesday through Sunday. The show starts at 5:30pm nightly, with entry times at approximately half-hour intervals (last entry at 11:35pm). Prices start at $59.50 for general admission, with higher prices on peak nights. The address is 615 S Broadway in Los Angeles. Get more information at angeloflight.live.
Note: Angel of Light is a prequel to an upcoming film Hex, intended for release in for a 2025. The creative team behind the live show and the film is writer Chris Anastas and sound designer Mark Binder.