Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, North Hollywood, CA
Over the years, Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre has been a constant innovator and envelope pusher with avant garde horror theater. Be it their famed Urban Death and Urban Death: Tour of Terror series that is perhaps their most well-known production--at least in the haunt community, or their similarly dark, demented, and twisted Blood Alley series, or their giddily absurd brand of frights in Dark Dark Ride Ride, Zombie Joe and his troupe have constantly brought new dimensions and ways to experience their presentation of terror and fears and the sadistic side of things.
Their latest offering is Beasts from the Sea!, a haunted production that is part moving theater, part immersive theater, and park haunted house walk-through. Just what is this show about? Well, in general terms, guests go underwater to a bizarre and submerged kingdom, where they must unravel the mystery of some missing energy gems and help rid the inhabitants of the dastardly villain that has been plaguing this ocean dominion--all while encountering various terrors of the deep! And if you don't think the sea is that scary, well, just wait until you see Zombie Joe's unnerving portrayal of it!
Beasts from the Sea! has a progression similar to Dark Dark Ride Ride in that it takes guests all throughout the theater lobby area, intimate black box theater house itself, and even backstage, before dumping them out into the rear parking lot. The catch is that there is no vehicle this time, just a guided pedestrian procession through the story. And it all transpires across less than fifteen minutes! During that time, guests are immediately plunged into the story and dragged along like fish stuck on a line, with nary a second to catch a breath.
There are some startle scares in Beasts from the Sea!, but it wouldn't be completely correct to label this as a haunted house. It is certainly more interactive than that, and it's also filled with a tone of grotesque macabre and disturbing absurdity, with alternating moments of surprise and silliness. Perhaps my favorite part of the entire show involved a moment where we had to "feed the fish." It's tough to describe what transpired without completely spoiling it, but trust me when I say that I was ticked to depths when the fish emerged, swimming around with spastic energy, eagerly looking for food but never spending more than a moment in one place to get it.
The cast makes amazing use of the tight confines of the theater, moving the small group audience members back and forth and relying on pinpoint lighting--sometimes coming from each other--to illuminate the scene. And still other times, a grand reveal showcases a climactic moment, or a sensational battle, or a sudden surprise.
Ultimately Beasts from the Sea! brings a fun sense of horror to audiences experiencing this theatrical walk-through. It's that energy and zaniness that makes Zombie Joe's so addictive and contrasts so wonderfully with the darker moments.
Beasts from the Sea! has been extended one last week to this Friday and Saturday, August 16 & 17, from 8:00pm - 11:00pm. Shows run every 15 minutes, though there is a break from 9:30 - 10:00 (9:15 is the last show before said break). It's certainly one heck of a ride!
And if you're looking ahead to haunt season, Urban Death: Tour of Terror will be back, starting Friday, October 4th, and Fridays and Saturdays through Saturday, November 2. Tour of Terror will also operate on Halloween night. Hours at 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm, 10:45pm, and 11:30pm, with a non-gore/violence/nudity family-friendly version playing Saturdays plus Halloween night at 7:00pm. It is sure to be another Halloween season hit!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.