by Dot Cannon
A sharp whistle pierced the Basement of Horrors.
Day 2 of ScareLA, Southern California’s first Halloween convention, was just about to start at the Pasadena Convention Center.
We looked for the reason for the summons, and found…
…this cute creature, courtesy of Southern California Herpetology Association and Rescue. He was taking his morning walk.
And yes, those are real snakes!
This “nonpetting zoo” was a new addition to the fourth annual edition of ScareLA, which happened Saturday and Sunday, August 6th and 7th.
We’ve had the pleasure of covering ScareLA, “Southern California’s summertime Halloween convention”, since it started in 2013. Every year, they come up with new “dark delights” for attendees.
Elvira, “Mistress of the Dark”, served as official host of Scare LA 2016, themed “Season of the Witch”.
Some classes and shows had happened in the Convention Center’s east building in 2015. But 2016 Scare LA made it a much busier location!
Indie and classic horror film screenings ran throughout both days. And a special “Halloween treat” was waiting.
Attendees had the opportunity to see “Creature”, the first music video ever filmed at The Bates Motel, of Psycho fame. (It’s also the only one the Alfred Hitchcock Estate ever authorized.)
AND, they had a chance to hear the story behind it–as well as hear composer Brian Evans sing it, live, to his video!
Evans told his audience that he’d awakened at three, one morning, with the song in his head. Writing it took him five minutes.
Then, he put out a press release, announcing that he’d be filming the music video at The Bates Motel.
Shortly afterwards, Evans received a call from the Alfred Hitchcock Estate’s lawyer. No one there had known anything about the filming. The attorney told Evans to send them the song.
“When the lawyer called back, he said, ‘you’re lucky, the Hitchcock Estate liked it,'” Evans told the audience. “He said, ‘Go in, get out, do it in one day, and don’t ever do this again.” (Here’s the link to Evans’ video, featuring Carrot Top.)
Mini-haunts and “escape rooms” were once again part of the fun. However, this year…
…Scare LA premiered its first original haunt, “Blood Offering: Legend of the Iron Witch”.
Another new (and enjoyable) addition: the “Dark Cabaret Stage”, in the Vault of Darkness mini-haunt area.
Among the Day 2 panels was “Masterminds of Interactive Horror”. Six interactive-haunt creators took the stage to discuss the immersive experiences they’d designed.
“We really wanted to play with the idea of who and what makes up a creep,” said Justin Fix, of Creep LA. “This year is called ‘Entry’. We want to have people transported to what we’re doing.”
“We’re doing another story, about 60 minutes long, that takes place in an old villa back in the West Adams district,” said Delusion creator Jon Braver. “The audience plays the part of the couple’s children. You’re searching for your parents within this dreadful villa.”
While Delusion is currently sold out, Braver said, he hopes to have an extended run. “Delusion will try to go to early December.”
As in previous years, Scare LA’s DIY “make-and-take” workshops were a highlight of the two-day convention.
Attendees were learning how to make everything from Gothic faux-copper plaques…
…to ghoulish kitchen treats.
At the same time, classes were in session, with a full “Scare Student” seminar curriculum.
“Which movie could you not wait for, to come out?” Reel Guise Cosplay founder David Schoelen asked his “Cosplay 101” students. “Is there a video game you play, over and over? What we’re trying to do, is get a link back to your imagination (to determine who you’d like to be).”
“Different kinds of monsters move differently,” actor and NightShift Theatre Founder Joanne Latimer told her “Move That Monster” class. “You can characterize monsters into two groups: ones that are created by magic, and ones that are created by science.”
(Latimer will be appearing in Theatre Passe Muraille’s “Aunt Dan and Lemon”, opening September 14th in Toronto. She is also directing “Broken Branches“, which opens in April, 2017.)
Scare LA’s show floor, as always, left us monstrously entertained–and terrified we were going to miss something.
Of course, no single post could do justice to all the excellently-eerie exhibitors. Here are just a few favorites.
Towards the end of Day 2, we sat in on a Scare LA tradition: the preview of Universal Studios’ upcoming “Halloween Horror Nights” mazes.
As you might guess, this is always a capacity-crowd event!
This year, before Universal Studios Creative Director John Murdy and Art Director Chris Williams took the stage, there was another “first”.
“I’ve never in all my life had a zombie ballet troupe open for me. That’s awesome!” Murdy commented.
Williams and Murdy told their Scare LA audience that Universal Studio’s two new mazes, for Halloween 2016, would be “Krampus” and “The Exorcist”.
And the scare is in the details.
“I’ve been searching for the scent for weeks now,” Murdy said, as he discussed designing the “Krampus” maze. “I want the scent of burnt Christmas tree”.
Murdy said they’d been trying to get the rights to “The Exorcist” for eleven years. “As soon as I got the call that we were going to do this, I was hit with a wave of panic. I wanted to do it, but didn’t know how we were going to.”
Of course, one of the challenges of “The Exorcist” is that it happens mostly in one location: Regan’s bedroom. Another is the fact that more people are walking in every few seconds.
“The main role (for the mazes) is called ‘blackout performer,'” Williams said. “This maze has more of that type of performer than it has anything else.”
(A blackout performer, he explained, is one you’ll never see–who just keeps doing one action. Rattling a doorknob continuously, for example.)
And as if this election year weren’t scary enough–Williams and Murdy also said they’ll be doing “The Purge”.
Not a maze, this is a ‘scare zone’ which includes Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam as scary stiltwalkers. Bling girls and purge girls will represent red and blue states. (We’re unsure whether people will be screaming more in fear or with laughter–but this one will be fun!)
While Scare LA has been creative, push-the-envelope fun since its inception, this year’s “Season of the Witch” edition had an added element: warmth.
Kitty Bungalow was doing pet adoptions throughout the weekend. “Find your familiar,” invited a sign just outside the cages in the main lobby.
Southern California extreme-sliding team Decayed Brigade also put their influence to use. This year, they’d partnered with 4Life Animal Rescue. Prior to their shows, they circulated a jar, asking audience members to donate a dollar to help them save lives.
Each of the two Decayed Brigade shows we saw began on a somber note. Prior to the shows, their announcer requested a moment of silence, in memory of some of the troupe members they’ve lost in the past year, as well as families who have lost loved ones in recent events.
Decayed Brigade dedicated their performances to these absent members.
Then they performed each of the two shows we saw with the heart, camaraderie and showmanship that is their hallmark.
Another Scare LA “Halloween in the Summer” has become a memory–and it’s a great one!
If you’re already looking forward to next year’s Scare LA (and you should be!), remember: Scare LA has recruited volunteers in the past. Normally, a matter of months before each convention, they accept applications. Volunteer staff must be: reliable, ready to perform any tasks that need to be done and willing to put in an honest day’s work.
We’ll tell you more about Scare LA’s 2017 volunteer needs–the minute we hear “boo”.