One nice innovation of this year's ScareLA was the introduction of mini-mazes located in the main floor dealers room, which allowed guests to sample the scares that will be available in Los Angeles during the 2014 Halloween season. There was a mix of amateur and professional haunted houses, and interestingly enough, it was often hard to tell the difference! Partly, this is an indication of the increased quality among yard haunts over the past decade; however, to be fair to the pro-haunts, their usual advantages (greater length; more elaborate sets, props, and effects) were cancelled out by the venue, which required every mini-maze to be at most a couple rooms in length. We checked out of them out, and several left us craving an opportunity to explore the full-sized version this October.
Field of Screams, which bills itself as a haunted stadium with five mazes in the Inland Empire, offered the Hellevator. Though we have seen the falling-elevator gag in other Halloween haunts, this version was enhanced by the presence of a masked actor, who times his movements to take place during intermittent moments of darkness: before the lights went out, he was standing across the elevator; after the lights came back on, he was in your face. Obviously, we cannot render a judgement on the entire haunted attraction based only on this one gag, but it does suggest that Field of Screams has more to offer than painted corridors and simple-jump scares.
Fear Station, which this year will be enjoying its second Halloween in Stanton City, California, had a brief walk-through filled with killer klowns and spiderweb-bedecked rooms, which combined to offer some mild scares. Fear Station has its origins in a home haunt named Shadow Walk Cemetery, dating back to 2000. For Halloween 2013, Shadow Walk Productions began collaborating with Stanton City to offer Fear Station. The Halloween 2014 version will offer two walk-through mazes and a scare zone.
BLKMGC, a new horror-themed production company, invited curious guests into what amounted to a creepy photo gallery, where a couple of ghoulish guides pointed out their favorite ghastly images. BlkMgc plans to begin work on a film this year and to have a haunted house up and running in downtown Los Angeles for Halloween 2015. It's hard to draw conclusions about what to expect, based on the short presentation here, though we did get the impression that a BlkMgc Halloween attraction will emphasize the creep-factor rather than the boo-factor. The company does not have a website yet, but you can look for updates on their Facebook page.
Bone Yard Effects, a makeup company in Glendora, California, presented a Freak Show - which was exactly what it sounded like. Rather than a walk-through scare attraction, this was a small tent featuring actors in some of the Bone Yard's impressive makeups, including everything from the traditional Bearded Lady to a "Dragon Man." Bone Yard Effects does not have its own Halloween haunt; however, the head up the makeup for the annual Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can learn more about the company at their website.
We will save reviews of the amateur mini-mazes for the next post in this series, which will focus on yard haunts that will be available in and around Los Angeles this Halloween. However, we do want to mention Urban Death, a half-hour performance piece, which ran three times a day on Saturday and Sunday, followed by a Q&A session with the cast and crew.
As readers may recall, we were seriously disturbed this past October by the Urban Death: Tour of Terror, which we named as the Best New Event in our 2013 Halloween Haunt Awards. Presented by Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, Urban Death: Tour of Terror featured a short maze and a condensed version of the complete Urban Death show, which runs as a non-seasonal event - a series of blackout vignettes that range from strange and weird to unnerving and disgusting.
The performance at ScareLA was similar in tone but featured almost entirely different vignettes. It is difficult to convey the impact in words, but in either it's Halloween or non-Halloween form, Urban Death crosses boundaries and pushes buttons. It features frequent nudity or partial nudity, in which the actors form bizarre tableau, human flesh rendered into living statues, contorted into configurations suggesting agony, despair, or a crude carnality. The performance ends in complete darkness, while voices whisper and footsteps rustle - seemingly all around you, immersing the audience in a shadowy haunted world more disturbing than any jump-scare.
Zombie Joe tells us that few if any of the vignettes at ScareLA will be included in this October's performance at the Underground Theatre in North Hollywood, though some new material will be swapped in. What that new material may be, we do not know, but the ScareLA performance convinced us that Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre has lots more up its sleeve for Halloween 2014. The theatre's website is here.