If you drink with the Devil, beware or running up a bar tab. The price could include your immortal soul!
With so many Los Angeles Halloween haunts on hiatus this season, Hollywood Gothique is not only relieved but also ecstatically pleased to announced that a portal to Hell has opened in downtown, unleashing demonic entities eager to tempt unwary travelers down the path of damnation - through boozy brothels, past voodoo curses, culminating in a spirited sinner's soiree hosted by the Devil himself.
All this comes courtesy of a new haunt: The Sinner's Soiree, from Drunken Devil Productions. Set in the Think Tank Gallery, this clever attraction combines a traditional walk-through maze with a bar, creating an unusual if not completely unprecedented Halloween event (there was something similar at Hell House in West Hollywood eight years ago).
The experience begins with an inauspicious entrance to a nondescript building. As you approach, the most terrifying vision to assault your eyes will most likely be the rats running rampant in nearby alleys. Inside, you go upstairs and enter what at first appears to be an unfortunate throwback to old-school independent haunted houses: corridors fashioned from plywood flats. There are some terrifying ghouls lurking in the darkness, but the surroundings convey little sense of place.
Fortunately, that soon changes. A series of nifty sets suggest a walk down Bourbon Street, an encounter inside a brothel, the lair of a voodoo priestess. Instead of horror music, bluesy jazz floats on the air, and raucous costumed accost you - all of them damned, judging by the look of their ghoulish countenances (achieved with effective makeup, not cheap masks). The overall theme is that they are luring you further and further down the left-handed path, tempting you with promises of a drunken Bacchanalia in exchange for your soul.
The sense of being lured toward a final destination creates an effective sense of anticipation. Strictly speaking, there is no story, but there is a sort of narrative progression - with you as the protagonist walking toward your own damnation. Thus, the Sinner's Soiree becomes something more than a mere series of jump-scares; each tableau is another tourist stop on the way to Hell.
The infernal region itself is represented by the bar into which you emerge from the maze. The decor is lovely, with a New Orleans look and feel suited to the maze's theme. There are spooky pictures on the wall that change appearance as you look at them, and there is a stage with cabaret acts.
Unfortunately, the libations are mostly restricted to wine, beer, and ale; we sampled a mediocre "mixed red" served in a plastic cup. There was also a second serving station, featuring Fliquor Bean coffee-infused whiskey. Mixed with cream in a concoction resembling a White Russian, it was worth a few sips, until it began to remind us of the ghastly and discontinued Coca-Cola BlāK. If the Drunken Devil truly wants to tempt sinners to a soiree of eternal damnation, he should restock the bar with stronger spirits.
The only stage act we witnessed on stage was a couple of dancers in corsets doing a mild bump-and-grind, which Mrs. Hollywood Gothique likened to a scene from Requiem for a Dream (without the pickle, of course!). Fortunately, there was also a ghoulish magician performing amazing feats of closeup prestidigitation - almost any hack can do magic on stage, but it takes genuine skill to stand in the middle of a crowd, watching from all angles but still unable to spot the trick.
The bar is a nice value-added feature, providing an appropriate destination for the walk-through portion of the haunt, but the maze remains the star attraction, thanks to its imaginative theme and enthusiastic acting; costumes and makeup were also impressive, especially the prosthetic countenance of the Drunken Devil himself. Hollywood Gothique attended the Sinner's Soiree on Thursday's media preview when (we were told) not all lighting was working, and one tableau was non-operational for technical reasons. Presumably, the journey to Hell will be even better for those who attend after opening night. Depending on how many sinners show up, we fear the infernal soiree may become overcrowded with thirsty souls yearning but unable to obtain a drop liquid relief. But in its own way this would an appropriate conclusion.
The Road to Hell, after all, is about the wicked fun of the journey, not about the final destination - which is, lest we forget, eternal damnation.
The Sinner's Soiree continues on October 10-11, 16-18, 22-25, 29-31, and November 1. Hours are 7pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; 7pm to 11pm on most other nights. Prices are $18 for general admission, $25 for front-of-the-line tickets, and $50 for VIP privileges (includes access to the lounge and complimentary drinks). Think Tank Gallery is located at 939 S. Maple Avenue in Los Angeles. Get more information at www.drunkendevilproductions.com.
More: The Sinner's Soire 2015
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The Sinner's Soiree Ratings
Imaginative theme and enthusiastic acting makes this maze worth walking through. The bar at the end is a nice value-added feature, with lovely decor, but we think a Drunken Devil would probably serve spirits with a higher PKE reading.