Theatre 68's 2009 Haunted House - Review

The Living Dead welcome you to the Theatre 68 haunted house
The Living Dead welcome you to the Theatre 68 haunted house

The Theatre 68 Haunted House in Hollywood is in full swing for the last week of Halloween, and if you decline to sample the horrors contained therein, then you are only hurting yourself (in the sense of the old joke: "What do you do to hurt a masochist? Nothing!"). This is one of our favorite Halloween events in Los Angeles: it was great last year, when we first encountered it, and it is every bit as good this year. A handful of the old vignettes are back, but this is a largely new presentation that should be on every Halloween fanatic's must-do list, whether or not you have experienced it before.

What does Theatre 68 offer that other Halloween attractions in Los Angeles do not? The answer may seem obvious, considering the location, but it is essential: Theatre 68's haunt features a theatrical approach that raises it a level above jump-scares of the funhouse variety. Although not really scripted, the presentation forces you to experience a series of brief vignettes that make you feel as if you have become a part of a horror melodrama.

Monsters keep a close eye on you inside the haunt
Monsters keep a close eye on you inside the haunt

Partly they achieve this by sending visitors through in small groups of two or four. The action in each scene is triggered by your arrival, and the focus of the monsters' attention is always on you; consequently, you never miss a scare because of its being sprung on someone before or after you.

Another important facet is the layout. Because of the theatre location, you are not walking down simple black corridors with right angles at every turn. Without these clearly defined confines, you are not always sure where to go next, which can be disorienting, especially when your path is blocked by a wall with no exit or when an apparent door is virtually slammed in your face, forcing you to take a new direction. There is also one supremely surprising moment with a movable wall that is guaranteed to take you by surprise.

At time you even hesitate as your path takes you toward danger. Then the monsters urge you toward an exit as you move to escape them. At other times, a "victim" characters run screaming in your way, warning you to run for your life through an open door. This approach reaches its climax in a clever gag at the end, which we cannot reveal without spoiling. We will only say that this is the closest anyone has ever come to realizing our dream of a haunted house attraction, which would be a Halloween version of the interactive "Be Black, Baby" sequence from Brian DePalma's early black comedy, HI, MOM!

Horror breaks through the proscenium arch at the Theatre 68 haunt.
Horror breaks through the proscenium arch at the Theatre 68 haunt.

In a dramatic sense, Theatre 68 succeeds where Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios fails: Universal's theme park Halloween attraction promises to make you feel as if you have entered into a horror movie, but the experience is more like walking through a living museum recreating horror hits from your favorite franchise; even without a proscenium arch, you are one step removed from the scenes that play out in front of you, and you get the feeling they would continue with or without your presence. Theatre 68, on the other hand, really makes you feel like an active participant; in fact, you are the centerpiece of the show, which cannot go on with you. There are many Halloween haunts that hurl horrors of every kind at you; Theatre 68 is the only haunted house that truly immerses you in the action every step of the way.

Theatre 68's Haunted House runs through Saturday, October 31, from 8:00pm to 11:00pm weekdays, till mdnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $10, available at door. A canned food item for the homeless gets you a $1-discount.

Theatre 68 Haunted House
5419 Sunset Blvd., east of Western Hollywood, CA
Phone: (323) 960-7827
Website: www.68centcrew.com