Finally, after an unforgivably long delay, we are back to wrap up this year's edition of our annual Halloween Haunt Odyssey. Previous posts in this series detailed our visits to Rotten Apple 907's Burbank Underground, the Eternal Rest Cemetery and the House of Restless Spirits, the Reign of Terror, and the Forest of Mirrors. Atypically, our final stop was at not an amateur yard haunt but a professional Halloween haunted house: the Vampyr Inn's Bloody Ball in West Hollywood.
This is a new Halloween attraction, presented by a company calling itself the Haunting Factory. Although the Haunt Odyssey usually focuses on amateur events, the Vampy Inn's Bloody Ball was included in our schedule because it opened late in the season, and more than anything the purpose of the Haunt Odyssey is to visit attractions with a limited window of availability, usually a few nights around Halloween. In this case, the Haunting Factory kept the show running through Sunday, November 1, allowing us to catch up with it just before closing time.
This late arrival had some advantages, as there was a special presentation for the last hour before closing time: a special "flashlights only" tour, during which the regular lighting was turned off and visitors were supplied with small flashlights to use as they wandered the dark corridors of the Vampyr Inn.
Outside, on a trendy strip of Santa Monica Boulevard, a woman in skeleton makeup prowled the sidewalk, luring passersby into the haunt. In keeping with the November 1 date, her spiel emphasized Dia De Los Muertos rather than Halloween - a novel touch.
We arrived just in time to sample the regular version of the Vampyr Inn's walk-through, then go through a second time with flashlight only (or, in our case, the light from our video camera). The difference was not quite as striking to our eyes, since the night-vision camera we use revealed everything almost equally under both circumstances, but we imagine that visitors not so equipped would find the lights-out version of the Vampyr Inn quite a bit more intimidating.
One advantage of turning out the lights is that it disguises the somewhat bare-bones aspect of the setting. Situated in a location suitable for a hip nightclub, the Vampyr Inn's Bloody Ball featured at most minimal sets and props: simple flats separated by tarp, decorated the odd desk, chair, and coffin. Even so, the effect was sometimes unsettling, such as the sight of a victim drained of blood, body resting in a bathtub.
Although the haunt's West Hollywood location might have led one to expect a surfeit of Anne Rice-style homo-erotic vampires, the cast provided a great deal more variety, ranging from the old-fashioned to the modern - some Victorian, some Goth, and some hip. In fact, with one pointy-earred specimen suggesting Nosferatu, the Vampyr Inn provided very nearly a historical tour of the evolution ov vampires.
The scares were mostly of a simple sort: thirsty blood-drinkers lurking around corners and in shadows, waiting to frighten timid victims as they scurried through the shadows. Yet "simple" often works quite well: the visitors we accompanied through the Vampyr Inn jumped several times, and we imagine the effect would have been magnified quite a bit on Saturday (Halloween Night) when the Vampyr Inn's customers would have consisted of mostly inebriated club-hoppers wandering in looking for thrills.
Easily the best gag of the event took place in a bare black room with a bright spotlight aimed to shine directly in your eyes as you entered. Blinded by the glare, it was impossible to make out any details in the room or to spot an exit, leaving one to assume that the only way out was to walk "into the light" - setting you up for an effective sucker punch. Lurking behind the light, virtually invisible because of your eyes' inability to adjust, was a vampire who rushed forward, laughing maniacally at your predicament and blocking any further progress. The effect was unexpected and disorienting, and it still was not obvious where to find an exit, forcing you to retreat haphazardly, shielding your eyes from the glare until finally an egress became visible in the opposite direction from the light.
We spoke briefly with the Haunting Factory's proprietor, who told us that the Vampyr Inn's Bloody Ball fully came together only at the last minute, because of problems getting approval from the city (a common problem for Halloween haunts, apparently). 2009 represents the Haunting Factory's debut, but they intend to be back next year with a new theme, in the same area but not the exact same location. Hopefully with the benefit of time and experience, they can expand upon this beginning and offer something bigger and better in 2010.