Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 Review

Can the annual Halloween production at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre still shock audiences accustomed to its unusual stylings? Read our Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 Review to find out...

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 Review - Overview

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 folds some new wrinkles into its twisted tapestry of demented depravity. The annual Hallloween stage show at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre still consists of vignettes flashing out of the darkness in brief explosions of light and sound, but this year's presentation feels less like a slide show of still images and more like a series of GIFs. Instead of bombarding viewers with incomprehensible snippets that leave them wondering what the hell they have witnessed, Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 sometimes includes scenes that last long enough for the audience to grasp what is happening.

It's a simple innovation but one that makes this version of the show noticeably different from its predecessors while still retaining the unique essence of Urban Death.

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 Review - On Stage

Urban Death: Tour of Terror continues to push boundaries. In the past, Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre has tailored its presentation to Halloween audiences by at least somewhat toning down the sexuality of its other productions; however, Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 begins with a flash of nudity before the lights even go down; this is quickly followed by an explicit scene with malfunctioning sex robot. Though nothing else goes quite this far, these early moments set audience expectations on edge for the rest of the run time.

What follows interweaves few familiar bits (scratching sounds in the dark) with new material, mixing pathos and outright humor with the expected moments of horror (though little of the overtly repugnant material sometimes seen in the past). Some scenes convey a hint of narrative; even the static tableau make an occasional satiric point (the "world's best boss" standing atop two secretaries). At times the show teases viewers with prolonged darkness, enhanced by clever sound design, as when the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel" raises expectations about what will finally pop out when the last note rings (hint: not a weasel). There is even something like a blackout scene from a midnight spook show, featuring a piece of spectral levitation, dimly glimpsed and yet utterly amazing.

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 - In The Maze

Once again, Urban Death's Halloween stage show is bracketed by a maze though which viewers pass on their way in and out of the theatre, with only a pinpoint flashlight to guide them through the unfathomable gloom. For a set up visibly low on production value (the "walls" are black plastic bags), the maze remains remarkably effective, thanks to the bizarre denizens lurking within its twists and turns.

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 - Conclusion

A couple of years ago, we began to wonder whether the Urban Death: Tour of Terror's novelty was wearing off, but the Halloween 2018 show is strong as ever, offering playful variations on the familiar formula and striking a perfect balance of tones: creepy, sad, sinister, and even satirical, Urban Death: Tour of Terror is not just the same old nightmare.

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 Ratings
  • Maze
  • Stage Show

Bottom Line

Though still a series of vignettes, Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 feels less like a slideshow of still images and more like a series of GIFs, with scenes that last just long enough to convey a hint of narrative, mixing pathos and humor with the expected horror.

Urban Death: Tour of Terror 2018 continues Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre on October 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, 31; November 2-3. The address is 4850 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601. Tickets are $20. Call (818) 202-4120 for reservations, or visit www.urbandeath.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.