When we first heard about the Blumhouse of Horrors, we admit we were a bit skeptical. The pitch sounded promising enough – one of the most respected names in paranormal horror was opening a Halloween attraction in a haunted theatre – but hype is cheap, and filmmaking success rarely makes a successful transition to live experiences. But after a recent walk thru of the attraction, located in downtown L.A.’s historic Variety Arts Center, we’re eager to tell people it’s our most anticipated new Halloween attraction for 2012.
“This is definitely not a maze, ” Josh Simon, one of the attraction’s coordinators, told me when I arrived. Instead, he said, when guests “will be getting a haunted tour of the building.”
Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by an usher who will tell them they’re among the first to visit the Variety Arts Center in 79 years after it was closed following a still unsolved tragedy. In 1933, guests will be told, during a routine performance a magician’s assistant, also the theatre owner’s wife, entered a “disappearing box,” only to never actually return. The magician himself disappeared soon therafter, never to be seen again. Distraught, the theatre owner boarded up the theater, which has remained vacant. Until now.
The intimate, 40 minute tour will keep groups limited to groups no larger than fifteen guests at a time as they’re escorted through the Variety Art Center’s various nooks and crannies, with all sorts of surprises along the way.
Jason Blum, producer of the “Paranormal Activity” film franchise, “Insidious” and the upcoming “Sinsister,” all paranormal themed horror films, began tooling with the idea of turning his skills towards a Halloween attraction over a year ago. According to Simon, he was largely inspired by the talents of the mostly Los Angeles based crews he was working with.
Leading the Los Angeles based cast and crew of over 100 is Thom Spence, who has worked on as an art director on a number of horror films and a “huge haunted house fan.” Jeanette Brill, a veteran line producer, is overseeing production. Additional consultants within the haunt industry have also been brought on to ensure a quality attraction.
The department heads on the Blumhouse of Horror all have film production experience, which is lending help in terms of quality and quick turnaround. “They’re all used building these things quickly and making them look great,” Simon said.
“We dreamed up a bunch of creepy crazy things,” Simon told us. “We’ve created some stuff thats never been done in a haunted attraction.”
The most exciting aspect of the Blumhouse of Horrors is the planned use of the authentically eerie old theatre. While most Halloween mazes are filled with narrow passageways and subdivided rooms, the folks at Blumhouse are taking advantage the large space provided by the theatre’s stages and offices. On a practical level, this will facilitate visitors who are being escorted from room to room as a “tour,” but on a creative level it will allows for immersive, realistic sets that feel more natural than even the best professional haunts provide.
On our visit even in the early stages of set decoration, the magician’s office was filled with assorted devices of his trade amidt other period furniture (and remained practical enough that a Blumhouse staff member was able to use it as their office temporarily). The largest rooms in the theatre – the main stage, and a smaller, 99 seat style stage – are both left largely intact. While the backstory is largely fictitious, visitors will authentically get a full tour of the historic Variety Arts Center.
If the attraction follows the Blumhouse Production trademark of using atmosphere to deliver fear (over cheap scares), we’ll be satisfied.
Located one block away from L.A. Live, the Blumhouse of Horrors also adds a boost of energy to the downtown Los Angeles scene, which hasn’t had a major Halloween attraction in recent history. If this attraction is a success, don’t be surprised to see a boon of other Halloween attractions sprout up around the numerous empty warehouses and storefronts downtown next year.
The Blumhouse for Horrors runs October 4th thru November 3rf at the Variety Arts Center, 940 South Figueora. Tickets start at $29.