The Theatre 68 Haunted House has been one of Hollywood Gothique's favorite Halloween events in Los Angeles, ever since we first ventured into the ghost-filled lair in 2008. Theatre 68 doesn't have the production value or expanse of other Halloween Haunted Houses & Hayrides, but it offers something distinctive that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Located in a smaller venue, Theatre 68's haunted house offers a more personal, intimate variety of horror, with audience and characters engaged up close and personal. The scares and shocks are triggered by your arrival on the scene; unlike the action on display in Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and at the Knotts Berry Farm Halloween haunt, the ghostly goings-on within Theatre 68 are there for your own personal perusal, and it truly seems as if they would not occur but for your presence (which makes you rather complicit in the mayhem). Our question upon entering this year's manifestation of the haunt was whether or not it could find some way to squeeze something new into its limited space.
To our delighted surprise the 2011 haunted house feels almost totally revamped. Yes, old set-pieces are re-used and re-purposed, but the layout has been totally rearranged, presenting familiar elements in unfamiliar settings, so that even if you recognize a gag, it arrives from a new and unexpected direction. Additionally, several new vignettes have been added: a good Samaritan loses his head; a chained victim loses a leg; an apparently inanimate scarecrow leaps to life. And just when you breathe a sigh of relief on your way to the exit...well, let's just say it's not over till it's over.
The new layout makes the event feel slightly larger, taking you up stairs and giving you a view down upon the theatre below, which has been transformed into a small graveyard. As in previous years, you pass through a door that takes you behind the scenes, into small dark rooms and corridors, often with no obvious exit, your efforts to escape confused by the cackling maniacs tormenting you on all sides. These ghosts and demons really are there for you, and they will not let you escape without inflicting a good scare.
We approached Theatre 68's annual Halloween event with a certain concern this year. The interactive, immersive element that previously distinguished Theatre 68 from other Los Angeles Halloween Haunts, has been duplicated and expanded in Delusion: A Haunted Play (reviewed here), which has the advantage of being staged in a much larger location (an actual house in the West Adams district near downtown). Could Theatre 68 compete, or had their distinctive style been usurped by an upstart?
Although we love Delusion, we think Theatre 68 still offers a denser haunting. The rooms are smaller, the corridors shorter, but they are packed with monsters and maniacs. The cast seems bigger this year, with little or no double-duty among the actors (who used to move freely through the haunt, showing up multiple times). Consequently, you will encounter more malevolent mayhem per square foot than just about anywhere else this Halloween. Theatre 68 still offers the best scare value for your dollar, making it one of the Best Los Angeles Halloween Haunts.
Theatre 68's Haunted House continues through Halloween night at: 5419 Sunset Blvd., east of Western Hollywood, CA. Hours are 8-11pm on weeknights and Sundays; 8pm till midnight on Fridays & Saturdays. Tickets are $12; one dollar off with a donation of a canned good. Get info here: theatre68.com