The downtown Halloween haunt - which made its debut this October - offered a scream-filled final weekend.
Sometimes we say goodbye too soon. Only last Saturday, November 3, we were bidding farewell to the Halloween season with Hollywood Gothique's 2012 Halloween Haunt Awards, listing the most memorable achievements that delighted our senses during the preceding six weeks of haunted houses, hayrides, and scare zones. Little did we know that we would have something else to add: that very evening, we headed out to the closing night of the Blumhouse of Horrors in downtown Los Angeles's Variety Arts Theatre. We had attended the press preview night on October 2 and found it somewhat rough, though full of promise, and we were curious to see what a month's worth of refinements might have wrought. We're sorry we did not make a return trip sooner, because the version of Blumhouse of Horrors we saw on Saturday night certainly deserved a mention in the annual Halloween Haunt Awards. Although not intensely frightening, the Blumhouse of Horrors offered a spectacular tour of terror filled with ghosts and ghouls of every imaginable species. We cannot think of any other stand-alone Halloween attraction in Los Angeles that offered so much to see and hear - a virtual cornucopia of carnage, creeps, and crazies.
What made the difference between October 2 and November 3? The basic structure was the same: a half-hour tour through an old theatre, where a magician disappeared decades before, along with the theatre owner's wife. However, the overall experience was enhanced in several notable ways:
Although the major players were still in place, their scenes had been altered and improved, with additional dialogue and more interactivity with the guests passing through.
- The cast was augmented with numerous supporting players, who filled the hallways between the rooms where the major scenes took place. Consequently, Blumhouse of Horrors felt haunted every step of the way, with little or no down time between the major set pieces; there was always someone blocking your way, sneaking up from behind, or materializing at your elbow.
- A multitude of special effects had been added, such as a ghostly projection at the end of the hallway, near the very beginning of the tour, which helped set the tone for what followed. Later, the scene in the Magi's room (which had previously been good enough but not outstanding) was much creepier, not only with additional dialogue but also with shadows on the billowing curtains to suggest the magician's presence before his actual appearance. Most notably, the on-stage disappearance near the end (a major anticlimax on preview night) now featured an actual disappearance when the magician and his beautiful assistant entered the magic box. The cuckolded husband also made an appearance, seeking revenge, while sparks of electricity flew, adding a note of spectacle to the finale.
The combined result of all these improvements was that the Blumhouse of Horrors no longer left you feeling "Is that all?" after a scene had played out. Bits of business that had previously fallen flat were now charged with energy, each delivering a satisfying thrill or nervous laugh before urging you on to the next sinister scene in the lengthy horror show.
Not all the improvements were to everyone's taste. One of the first additions we noted was near the beginning, in the alley outside the theatre, where a demon standing on a fire escape urinated on customers trying to pass. We suspect that someone from Blumhouse of Horrors had seen how much fun the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride 2012: The Congregation (reviewed here) was having by dumping bodily fluids on its customers; unfortunately, unlike the Hayride, Blumhouse of Horrors offered no protective ponchos. Oh well, at least the "ghosts" inside the Variety Arts Theatre managed to stay in character while offering us a towel to dry our hair.
Back on preview night, the Variety Arts Theatre had upstaged the show within its walls; the ambiance of the aging building was more frightening than any of the scenes enacted before our eyes. By closing night, however, the Blumhouse of Horrors was putting on a really big show - as big as any Halloween event we have ever seen. We left feeling energized and elated, with enough of a Halloween horror buzz to (hopefully) see us through the long eleven months until next October - when, we sincerely hope, Blumhouse of Horrors will return, taking its place among the best Halloween Haunted Houses and Hayrides in Los Angeles.