Oh my god! Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre is presenting a twenty-minute theatrical experience for ages 18 and over that requires you to sign a wavier at the door, indemnifying them from culpability in case of injury! As if that were not intimidating enough, their new show promises to exploit your darkest fears by blind-folding you during most of the experience and forcing you into contact with whoever or whatever is lurking nearby and unseen - which could be just about anything, judging from ZJU's unnerving Urban Death Tour of Terror. This sounds far too intimately immersive and interactive for participants who prefer their horror at arm's length, but The Bogeyman turns out to be an intriguing journey into hidden recesses of imagination.
The intimidation starts on the sidewalk outside the theatre, where you sign your waiver and receive instructions about wearing your blindfold. Audiences enter the theatre at half-hour intervals in small groups, led by hand, each with an arm on the shoulder of the participant in front. Immediately, you are surrounded by menacing, unseen figures. Sounds assault your ears, both recorded and vocal, creating a dissonant cacophony suggestive of Pandemonium.
It's not long before you are separated from your companions and forced to play "games," such as "touching." You may have to lie down and feel bristly hair draped across your face or feel yourself dragged across the floor. Invisible strangers whisper suggestively, threateningly. Once or twice you will be instructed to remove your blindfold long enough to witness strange faces leering in the dark or bodies writhing in shadows.
Honestly, it all sounds worse than it is. Anticipation is a key ingredient of horror, and probably the scariest part of The Bogeyman is waiting outside, blindfolded, wondering what's in store for you. Inside the theatre, the blindfold acts almost as a barrier, shielding you from the worst of the horrors. The experience is rather like a creepy adult version of the old Halloween game in which you were blindly forced to touch "eyeballs" (hard-boiled eggs) and "worms" (spaghetti). The forced contact can be unpleasant, but it never crosses into being abhorrent.
The result is definitely discomfiting, but for those willing to take the plunge into darkness, The Bogeyman is more fascinating than traumatizing - a mysterious excursion into bizarre realms that turn out to be strangely enjoyable.
The Bogeyman Rating
Featuring: Helena Hafstein, Kyle LaCross II, Jorge Lozano, Robertha Mallmann, Grace Soens, Weston Tucker and Laura Van Yck; Directed by Zombie Joe. For Ages 18 and up. *Simple waiver to be signed at door, prior to entry.
The Bogeyman on Fridays and Saturdays through November 23, with performances starting at half-hour intervals from 8pm until 11:30pm. ZJU Theatre is located at4850 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, 91601. Must be 18 or older. Get more information at: zombiejoes.com.