Last fall, the Universal Studios Hollywood's annual Horror Nights celebration curiously chose Halloween 4 to specifically honor for one of their mazes. With a new film out, and the original celebrating its 40th birthday, it seemed like either of those would be more alluring for ticket buyers, as opposed to one that is one of the lowest grossing entries, and twice erased from the canon to boot. But as it's my personal favorite sequel, I was ecstatic to see it get its due, and made sure a sitter was available so I could go check it out during the season (sitter hiring is something I only opt for very special occasions). There was just one problem: it was a haunt - and a very popular one at that - so I couldn't spend much time marveling over details, as I was constantly being herded through by the other punters, actors dressed as Myers (and Loomis!), and even the Universal staff with their ever-waving flashlights.
Luckily, the I Like Scary Movies experience, which is now open here in Los Angeles, seemed to be designed for folks like me who would rather appreciate the production design than get spooked by some guy in a mask that you can usually see waiting in a dimly lit corner. Honoring five iconic genre films from the past few decades, the exhibit takes well over an hour to walk through properly, and - unless you're self-conscious enough to get an "I'm holding up people behind me" feeling - there's no one rushing you through it, either. The spaces are opened up enough to let you go at your own pace, and while there's a general path to take through it, no one will stop you from backtracking if you missed something or just wanted to admire it again.
The five films being honored are The Shining, It, Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, and Lost Boys, and while film buffs will note that those are all Warner Bros properties, they still provide a wide spectrum of both eras (with the films ranging from 1980-2017) and sub-genres - you get a haunted house film, a supernatural monster, a slasher, a comedy, and a vampire flick. Thus there's a "something for everyone" kind of approach with an appeal to fans of all ages, something not every horror event can always achieve, especially when it's all being dreamed up by one person - in this case Maximillian, the celebrated designer who has created similar walkthrough experiences at Comic Con for the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean and Snakes on a Plane. Like if it was me doing this you'd just get room after room of Shocker and Cathy's Curse designs, but Maximillian's tastes are clearly more wide-ranging.
And no, it's not a haunt/maze of any sort. Outside of a rattling door in the Shining section and one of those spinning tunnels that gives you vertigo (made up to look like It's terrifying throat), no one's trying to scare you - the purpose of the exhibit is, primarily, to "walk through" the worlds of these movies and take photos with your pals. And the emphasis is on "pals" there - these are not selfie-ready - if you take the pic yourself you're not going to see much of what makes it interesting in a hefty percentage of the rooms and displays (though if you duck into one little room off the main hall you'll see a selfie-taking mannequin, a clue for the one exception to this general rule). So bring lots of friends so no one's stuck always holding the camera! Bonus - the scenes are also lit with flash-free photography in mind; my photographer almost never needed to use hers, so no one will be getting blinded either. Win-win!
One thing I loved about the rooms is that they weren't trying to recreate anything exactly as it appeared in the film. Instead, they give a general vibe of the film as a whole, packing in everything you might remember/love in a few select tableaus. So the Grady sisters are wearing dresses that mimic that famous Overlook carpet, and the elevator spills "blood" that's actually made out of hundreds of "Room 237" door tags. This style of thinking stretches to even individual props; the It room has curtains made from what looks like hundreds of paper boats like Georgie chased to his doom, but closer inspection reveals they're made from hot dog holders and sno-cone wrappers - alluding to other things that come from the carnival.
Of course, if you don't particularly like any of these films (I myself have minimal affinity for Lost Boys - it's an enjoyable enough movie, but I'd be lying if I said I even remembered the significance of some of the things I was taking pictures of) then it might be a tough sell unless you want to be the designated photographer. Luckily for you (presumably non-existent) folks, Maximillian has other ideas for other movies, allowing a potential future where they can rotate the options (or even change it up entirely) every time out, so maybe Los Angeles horror fans (and those traveling in) can keep it afloat long enough for him to do that Shocker room after all. Warner Bros is not sponsoring the event as far as I know; there's no reason to think that they couldn't do things like Pet Sematary (Paramount), Ghostbusters (Sony), or Wrong Turn (uh, Disney) if they so chose.
Bonus for engaged couples - they are apparently open to making themselves available for private walkthroughs if you want to make your engagement photos that much more interesting. It's currently open from Thurs-Sun every week from now until June 16th, with ticket time slots in fifteen-minute increments to keep folks spread out a bit (again, it will probably take you well over an hour to go through it all). You can head over to the official site to check times (some slots are already sold out) and find out about parking and all that (worth noting here though - apart from the It tunnel, it's fully ADA accessible, and I don't recall any major strobe lights, another plus compared to most "haunts").
Ultimately, my favorite thing about it was that it opened in April, not October like 99% of all other horror-centric things in LA. As I've written about several times in the past, the Halloween season causes an overload of genre-themed events here in LA (and in other areas, I'm sure) that can be exhausting and make me almost sick of seeing "scary stuff", so to have this kind of event happening in the offseason is wonderful. On opening night I saw more friends than I had time to say hi to, and we are all running around like kids gawking at this or that little detail or photo op - and none of us were worn out from horror overload as we often are by mid-October. It was just a pure, stress-free reminder of how much joy these movies brought us then and now, and kudos to Maximillian and his team for putting so much thought into their displays and maximizing their considerable imagination for our amusement.
All photos courtesy of Angelica Ulloa.