Photos & Video: Halloween Store Pop Up Experience

Best Halloween Store Ever
Giant skeleton looms over a wicked wonderland
See more Halloween displays than you can count in the "Best Halloween Store Ever."

Tucked unobtrusively into Janss Marketplace, only a short distance from the Reign of Terror Haunted House, lies the self-described "Best Halloween Store Ever." As you can imagine, the retail space is filled with Halloween costumes and decorations, but this venue is more than just another seasonal store. Billing themselves as "in house manufacturers and factory direct importers," the store offers holiday decorating services, haunted house design, and an "interactive Halloween experience" - a walk-through, filled with elaborately decorated scenes.

Viewed from outside, the Best Halloween Store Ever is inauspicious - not even a sign or a banner, just some posters in the windows. The 30,000-square-foot interior is roughly divided into thirds: on the left, costumes; on the right, decorations; and in the center, the walk-through. Essentially, the latter is a showcase for the venue's professional-quality wares, with the mannequins and props organized into a series of dioramas, using lighting, sound effects, and in-house sets to create mini-haunts available for rent or purchase.

For $10, customers can wander through the Halloween Experience, taking selfies alongside Krampus, witches, and other ghouls. The surprisingly lengthy pathway leads past numerous facades, decorated with foliage, flashing neon lights, and lamp posts, which help suggest the illusion that you are really in the scene, not merely walking through a store. Many of the settings have interiors to explore - equivalent to lavish Halloween home haunts (i.e., brief but with professional production values). Among other scenes, you will encounter a pirate ship, a clown house, a sort of Christmas wicked wonderland, and a vampire escaping from its tomb. Each scene is worth perusing on its own; combined, they're almost overwhelming, especially because the path branches off into these mini-haunts, creating a maze-like experience that can leave you accidentally retracing your steps if you're not careful.

Best Halloween Store Ever
Victorian lady wears the vampire equivalent of the Scarlet Letter.

Most of the mini-haunted houses are static in nature, but there are some moving figures (e.g., corpses, half emerged from their graves, rocking back and forth). Mechanical effects are  predominantly reserved for a more brightly lit area near the back, which also features most of the interactivity in the form of pressure pads meant to trigger an action as customers walk past. There is a possessed girl floating over a table, a werewolf chowing down on an eviscerated victim, a crazed clown laughing like a lunatic, and (our favorite) an enraged spirit blasting through the doors of its tomb shrieking like a banshee.

Does all of this add up to qualify as a haunted house attraction? The Best Halloween Store makes no such claim, identifying the walk-through as a "pop up interactive Halloween experience." There are no live actors, and despite the 18-and-over age restriction (due to "startling elements and graphic contents"), the maze is not particularly frightening. It's more like an immersive art installation, along the lines of the I Like Scary Movies Experience - an opportunity to walk through horror-themed settings, putting yourself into the scene and preserving it for posterity on your smart phone's camera.

Whether or not it's a haunted house, the walk-through lives up to its designation as an "immersive Halloween experience," one that is, amazingly, open during the heat of summer - which is to say, right now! Halloween addicts craving a fix can get what they need without waiting for October to roll around - as long as they are willing to drive out to Thousand Oaks. When Reign of Terror opens, the Best Halloween Store Ever will make an excellent co-feature.

Best Halloween Store Ever
"For something is amiss or out of place, when mice with wings wear a human face."

For those not interested in renting a mini-haunt, Best Halloween Store Ever offers a solid selection of decor, wardrobe, accessories (though no children's costumes). The store does not limit itself to Halloween; the store also does Christmas lighting and designs themed events for other holidays and occasions.

Best Halloween Store Ever Photo Gallery

 

Best Halloween Store Rating
80%

Bottom Line

More art installation than haunted house attraction, Best Halloween Store Ever’s interactive pop up experience offers an overwhelming array of spooky displays.

The Best Halloween Store Ever is located in the Janss Marketplace at 225 N. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks, CA. 91360. Hours of operation are 11am-up Thursdays through Sundays in July; 11am-8pm nightly from August through October, with extended hours closer to Halloween Night. Tickets for the interactive Halloween pop up experience are $10; admission to the store is free. Get more info at: besthalloweenstoreever.com.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.