There were even sideshow demonstrations, like these conjoined twins, that were part of ScareLA's haunt samplings. (Sabina Ibarra/Living Out Loud LA)
Ushering in the Halloween season this weekend was Southern California’s very own ScareLA, the annual horror and haunt convention. From local haunt news to DIY panels and workshops for creatives, Living Out Loud highlights the top five things we took away from the fantastic weekend at the con.
1) The Latest Haunt Attraction News – ScareLA has become the premier gathering for the leading haunts in the city to make major announcements. SoCal’s earliest haunt pioneers, Knott’s Scary Farm, revealed they would be bringing back a classic icon of their festivities: the Headless Horseman. They’re also offering their annual passholders a special Scary Farm season pass. Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is also rolling out a season pass to be able to celebrate all 14 nights of their haunt for only $50 with this year’s set of attractions, featuring the new Voodoo Village. Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights was on hand, and creative director John Murdy has followed his tradition of revealing a maze annually at ScareLA by bringing out special guest John Landis to announce the American Werewolf in London maze for HHN 2014. Interactive horror experience Haunted Play Presents Delusion: Lies Within held their first round of auditions for roles in this year’s production all weekend and gave a sneak preview during the show.
2) Tips From Horror Experts – Scare Students were also able to take part in special panels and workshops led by horror specialists in the media to talk about how to get your foot in the horror-world door. Fangoria’s Rebekah McKendry and Shock Till You Drop’s Ryan Turek gave insightful advice at the Marketing Your Horror Project panel that encouraged horror creatives to start early on promoting their products – whether it be book, film or haunt. They emphasized not shouting in the digital world about a concept but rather finding a theme and establishing it quietly as a project grows. They also stressed the importance of quality in artwork, graphics and engagement with an audience with a great angle that hasn’t been seen before. At the Horror Digital Writing Lab, aspiring writers were able to work in a writer’s room environment to create a pitch for a digital horror idea led by Julian McCrea of Portal Entertainment, creators of thrilling story apps (The Craftsman). In just two hours, virtual strangers banded together to practice developing a story following real structures used in the industry.
3) DIY Resources Aplenty: Props, Makeup and Gore – The floor was filled with resources with the latest in creating your own Halloween experiences. SoCal’s Valley Haunters hosted hands-on tombstone-making workshops where attendees could walk out with their own personalized front yard decoration the very same day. Mixed-media companies like Hi-ReZ Designs showcased their visual FX videos in special props that could be activated by sensors and spray out water for say a big box that held a hungry zombie (seen through a clever window screen) that moved along with the video – bringing a whole new meaning to experiencing the atmosFEAR in a haunt. Makeup great Larry Bones (of Boneyard Effects & Horror Nights), also had his team making people monsters throughout the day to demonstrate the artistry and patience that goes into creating wonderfully horrific walking nightmares. One of the coolest seen was a Merman with fins and all. Scattered throughout the floor was the latest in lighting, fog and blood for all your production needs.
4) Portable Haunt Samplings – Various sections of the convention were turned into haunt segments from an array of haunters. Inside, Haunted Hollywood Sports let attendees try out their annual zombie-shooting extravaganza, and popular house haunt Perdition Home showcased their art and a creativity in a walk through. There were even sideshow demonstrations, like conjoined twins. Outside, Terror Trucks, the latest in haunt scare-taculars invited guests to try out portable haunts like the chilling ‘Cold Storage’ and ‘Buried Alive.’ Theater haunt productions even had a room where con-goers would disappear to test their limits with “Urban Death” and “Alone.”
5) The Haunted Mansion Celebrates Its 45th – ScareLA kicked off with Haunted Mansion historian Jeff Baham (doombuggies.com) hosting a talk with Bob Gurr, one of the ride’s Imagineers, to ring in the anniversary of the Disneyland attraction’s opening, sharing stories of the its development. On the floor, vendors sold various Haunted Mansion-inspired accessories and home decor, swapping stories about what the ride meant to them growing up – whether they were scared as kids but grew to embrace its magic or always loved it. Many special FX booths displayed their Haunted Mansion-inspired projections of headless ghosts, devious brides and disembodied psychics showing how haunters have been inspired by the attraction. Artists like Bob Lizarraga and Dienzo had numerous pieces inspired by the various characters of the ride’s mythology. The Captured Aural Phantasy Theater group held special performances of Disney’s storybook record “The Haunted Mansion” to rooms filled with wall-to-wall creeps. Machine Project’s Chris Weisbart – who last year wrangled a crew together by simply sharing his take on the Madame Leota head trick among other similar illusions in a bare booth, demonstrating ideas for what would become the eerie dark ride-esque art installation the Alvarado Caverns and Mystery Theater – returned this year to host his own full-fledged workshop talking about how to build and collaborate on home and haunt experiences. This is how it all started at the very first ScareLA: People gravitating to the familiar Haunted Mansion effects and striking up a conversation, leading to excitement over a project that took those beloved effects and created something new.
Stories like that are what will surely keep the community at ScareLA growing and coming back for more annually. Congrats to the team for another successful year, and we’ll be seeing fellow Scaries at the haunts all season long.
Keep it spooky, L.A.