Urban Death: Tour of Terror Haunted Theatre isn’t your grandpa’s haunted house. Hell, it’s not even like any haunted attraction we’ve ever seen, to be accurate! What Zombie Joe and his well-known Underground Theatre Group have unleashed on Los Angeles this Halloween season is nothing short of haunting, perplexing and for the twisted folks out there… even a bit titillating.
Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is a respected team of actors that performs on the West and East Coasts, bringing incredibly intimate, boutique experiences to live audiences throughout the year. Their popular Urban Death show was altered this Halloween season to become something new for the company – a haunted attraction, combining live theater and elements of a haunted house under one roof for an experience that is both frightening and artistically provocative.
So what is Tour of Terror? Without giving away too many details or specifics, it definitely is living theater bookended by two maze experiences. Granted, the maze portions of the haunt are not long at all; they are merely a vehicle to get you to and from the show area. Groups are given time slots, so you should make a reservation in advance (818) 202-4120. They do take walk-ups, but only if there is room in the group for more (each group is approximately 15-25 guests).
Every other person is given a dim, small flashlight and ushered into the darkness of the building that Zombie Joe and his crew call “home” in North Hollywood, California. The maze portion of Urban Death: Tour of Terror is nearly pitch black, with actors in very close proximity to each guest, menacing and screaming at them; it’s definitely frightening and regardless of what you might think, the flashlights only illuminate the faces and bodies of the ghouls waiting for you in the darkness, and nothing much more. This is how the experience ends as well, through different scenes and more intense, weird encounters.
Once everyone has made it to the stage area, there is an approximately 15 minute production; a condensed version of Urban Death, that features very short vignettes that depict everything from suicide to nightmares and live burial. There is some nudity involved here – the level of intensity and “adult” content (although not at all in a crude or lewd sense of the word) definitely makes this a haunt meant for an older crowd; leave the kids at home for this one.
The acting is of course, great, and the visuals are very disturbing. Crowds laugh nervously, some scream, and others stand there with their mouths hanging open, trying to process what the heck it is they are being visually – and audibly – bombarded by in the darkened theater. There are some very definite WTF moments, and some elements that we were really impressed by. In all of my years attending haunted attractions, I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before – and for that reason alone, I was thrilled and really excited by the show and the prospect of future productions like this coming from Zombie Joe and his company in the future.
By chance, Zombie Joe and the team found themselves in the company of several high-profile haunted attraction review sites at the same exact time for the very same show (honestly, no one at all knew or planned it): Theme Park Adventure, Scare Zone, and Hollywood Gothique. Talk about a triple-threat; Zombie Joe, who openly said they were all freaked out and uncertain as to how the public would react to their production, suddenly had a group of really seasoned and critical eyes on him! However, Joe was a most gracious host (he honestly is the nicest person in Los Angeles – maybe anywhere) and his team did a brutally great job.
Is Urban Death: Tour of Terror for everyone? Not at all. Just the way art and theater are subjective, some may not get this, others may be turned off by it, and likely, a few will be disappointed that there are no chainsaws or shaker cans involved. However, this is what it is: live art, and an expression of theatrical horror. And we like it.
In fact, after experiencing the Urban Death Tour of Terror, we told the crew that we’d be more than content with a longer theatrical experience – hell, make it last an hour! In the artsy weird community that is NoHo here in Southern California, there is definitely a niche for this, and we think that Zombie Joe and his team have come up with something truly new and refreshing. It is raw, it’s gritty; it is horror performance art and theater at its most unflinching and vulnerable early stage all at the same time. It’ll only get bigger and better from here – and TPA supports this venture all the way!
Zombie Joe and his team can be found at 4850 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, California. Be sure to give them some love and tell them you’re TPAers when you go! Zombie Joe will hug and love the candy corn out of you!
If you have experienced Urban Death: Tour of Terror, what did you think? Add your comments and conversation below and let’s talk about it!
– Rick West