Hollywood Gothique goes behind the scenes of the Monster Peep Show, interviewing creator Chris Thomes to learn the secrets of his ‘interactive shadow boxes.’
The Monster Peep Show is an exhibition of displays inspired by classic movie monsters, currently on view at Ghoulish Delights in Woodland Hills. Described as “Interactive Shadow Boxes” by creator Chris Thomes, the installations use audio effects, lighting, and some limited motion to create the sense of peeping in on a world that remains mostly out of view, showing just enough to intrigue the imagination. Fans of macabre art and/or old horror movies should be pleased by the results.
Tucked into a small gallery near the back of the store, the five installations feature Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each includes a title card explaining the back story of its character, with jokey titles: “Long in the Tooth” (Dracula), “Needle and Thread” (Frankenstein), “Shave and a Haircut” (The Wolf Man), “Catch of the Day” (The Creature), and “Hyde & Seek” (you can probably figure that one out). There are also aroma cards, each providing a scent themed to its display, such as dirt, peat moss, or forest undergrowth.
The Monster Peep Show lives up to its name by providing only a glimpse of each character: The hand of Frankenstein’s Monster reaches over a window sill. The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s claw grasps items of intimate apparel through a port hole. Dracula’s hand extends from inside his coffin while a bat flutters nearby.
The only faces seen belong to Mr. Hyde and the Wolf Man. The former peaks through a curtain after a writhing shadow on the window suggests the transition from Dr. Jekyll. The later appears reflected in a mirror, though the facial characters are more reminiscent of Oliver Reed’s Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) than of Lon Chaney Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot in The Wolf Man (1942), which is referenced in the displays title card and props (“Even a man who is pure in heart…”).
The exhibits somewhat resemble decorations in a haunted house attraction, but they do not provide jump-scares. Rather, they work more on the level of art installations, each one capturing a brief snapshot suggesting a larger story taking place offstage: for example, the lady’s underwear dangling from the Creature’s claws evokes the rather pervy vibe of the character’s cross-species attraction to a female scientist. Also, despite moody lighting and atmospheric audio (including Renfield’s famous enthusiasm for “Rats! Rats! Rats!”), the tone is more tongue-in-cheek than frightening, as evidenced by the fanged dentures soaking near Dracula’s coffin.
The Monster Peep Show originated during the Covid pandemic, when Chris Thomes decided to use the spare time during lockdown to do some drawing. Inspired by the classic horror movies he watched during Halloween, he started with the image of Frankenstein’s hand reaching through a window.
Originally conceived as a painting, the idea morphed into a diorama and eventually expanded to include five displays. “Needle and Thread” and “Catch of the Day” exhibits are static, but “Long in the Tooth” and “Hyde & Seek” include some physical effects, and “Shave and a Haircut” includes the special mirror effect.
These effects, plus atmospheric sound and lighting, take the Monster Peep Show exhibits beyond what a diorama usually includes. After “a lot of pre-marketing thinking,” Thomes landed on the designation “Interactive Shadow Box” to describe the results because the goal is “to affect all your senses.”
“I’m a storyteller and I’ve worked for Disney for years, and what I’ve learned from my experience there is, especially if you go to Disneyland, the dark rides in fantasyland and even Pirates of the Caribbean let you marinate on a scene,” says Thomes. “So that was definitely the inspiration – to allow somebody to take in the story but because they’re not a huge scene with a lot of movement and they’re very subtle, they were designed to give you a moment like a cinemagraph that almost you see a little bit of movement but it gives you a sense of a world that you can’t see and as you walk away with that, it plays in your head.”
The results are definitely worth seeing. Our only objection is a matter of quantity rather than quality. The Monster Peep Show is a rather small exhibition. The five interactive shadow boxes can be perused in a few minutes, depending on how much time one spends lingering over each one, waiting for Mr. Hyde to peak through the curtain or for the Wolf Man to appear reflected in the mirror.
Still, the exhibition provides a good reason to visit Ghoulish Delights, which is a relatively new store catering to horror fans in Woodland Hills. In addition to the Monster Peep Show, there are some art pieces for sale, also inspired by classic horror movies, featuring characters such as the Bride of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man.
Monster Peep Show rating
The Monster Peep Show should appeal to fans of macabre art and classic movie monsters. The only reason we do not give it a higher rating is that the exhibition is rather small – five installations that can be perused in a few minutes, depending on how long one takes to linger over each one. Still, it is worth seeing and provides a good reason to visit Ghoulish Delights, a relatively new store catering to horror fans.
Monster Peep Show continues at Ghoulish Delights through the month of May. Store hours are noon to 7pm most days, open one hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. The address is 20969 Ventura Blvd Unit 101, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Check out the full interview with Chris Thomes in the video at top of page.
Monster Peep Show Photo Gallery
Click any image to scroll through the entire gallery…