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Halloween

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mayor Garcetti's altar frames City Hall. - L.J. WILLIAMSON
  • L.J. Williamson
  • Mayor Garcetti's altar frames City Hall.

Grand Park's third annual  Dia de los Muertos celebration is its most overtly political yet. 

Starting with 10 altars in 2012, the exhibit of tributes to the dead — some personal, some issue-driven — has now grown to include 50 different exhibits, many of which have cultural or social justice themes — police brutality, gay rights, gang violence, the plight of unaccompanied minors traveling from Central America to immigrate to the U.S. This year's event also includes three altars by politicians: Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Jose Huizar, and L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who announced in September that she will try to unseat Huizar from his spot on the City Council. 

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cult Stars

How a Hollywood Artist Became a Champion Pumpkin Carver

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Mon, Oct 27, 2014 at 1:43 PM
COURTESY OF JON NEILL
  • Courtesy of Jon Neill

In the weeks leading up to his appearance at Cowtoberfest in Fair Oaks, Indiana, Jon Neill started training. He ran daily, clocking in around five-and-a-half miles per workout. He dropped 20 pounds, which he says gave him the energy to take on the gig. Also, running got his arms moving fast and that would ultimately help him dig into the 850 pound white pumpkin that he would sculpt into a monster in six hours. 

By now, Neill is used to the pressure. He spent two seasons competing on the Food Network challenge Halloween Wars. In the show, teams consisting of a pumpkin carver, cake sculptor and candy maker create spooky, edible displays. During a small window of time, Neill must turn a pumpkin into a sarcophagus or a creepy doll's head and those elements somehow have to work with figures made of sugar and cake or Rice Krispy treats. (Neill's team won this year's battle.)

Originally from Kansas City, Neill grew up carving pumpkins. His family used to grow them. Eventually, the regular jack-o-lanterns he made morphed into scarier creatures. However, it wasn't until a few years ago that the San Fernando Valley resident got into the professional pumpkin carving game. A friend asked him to audition for Halloween Wars as a cake artist. Since cakes aren't his specialty, he aimed for a pumpkin carving spot. Neill made two time-lapse videos showing himself at work. One went to the network for the audition. The other found a home on YouTube. "All of a sudden, I was getting thousands of hits," says Neill.

He wasn't sure if this was a "fluke," or if there actually was an interest in pumpkin carving. Turns out it was the latter.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cult Stars

A Musician Who Makes the Creepy Sounds at Dark Harbor

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Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 4:24 AM
Jaymie Valentine at Dark Harbor - LIZ OHANESIAN
  • Liz Ohanesian
  • Jaymie Valentine at Dark Harbor
Jaymie Valentine isn't the type of person who gets scared at Queen Mary's Dark Harbor. She might jump back — "I'm a jumpy person," she says — but fear, the kind that produces the screams we hear over and over again inside the holiday fright park, is rare. Instead, she is part of the reason that others recoil and run in terror out of mazes. At Dark Harbor, Valentine makes the bumps in the night.

For the past five years, Valentine has been handling the sound design for the Queen Mary's annual Halloween haunt. She makes new sound collages every year, mixing together ambient sound with cut-up melodies, the occasional beat and lots of noise. Her Dark Harbor back catalogue is re-used with the older haunts. Long before the first patron enters the gate, Valentine knows how Dark Harbor will scare them. She gets maps of how the event will look and notes on the narrative and specific scares. Then she heightens the experience with sound. If they ask for something that recalls a school, she'll think of things like bullies and bells and scratches on chalkboard.

Very little here comes as a surprise to Valentine. Then, in a dark, swampy corner of a maze called Voodoo Village, Valentine got her scare. We'll leave the spoilers aside, but the sound design artist was taken aback. "I usually can't be authentically scared," Valentine says after we exit the maze. "That one actually worked."

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween

Is This the Scariest Haunted House in Nation? (VIDEO)

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Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Blackout House (2:14) from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

Two years ago, we warned you about Blackout House, the creepiest haunted house in the nation, asking you to imagine "somehow finding yourself among a group of apprehensive 'fresh fish' being badgered and browbeaten by a brutal prison guard" or exiting an elevator on the wrong floor only to find "a labyrinthine, sensual inferno in which you fall under the absolute control of mostly unseen sadistic psychotics."

Blackout House is back, throwing its doors open on Oct. 16 at 500 Mateo Street in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles, and they're up to their sick fun of binding and blinding you while "running, pushing and prodding you through a harrowing gauntlet of sexual abasement and humiliating physical and psychic tortures."

They let L.A. Weekly peek behind the scene during final dress rehearsal and set-decorating, and we got a bit inside the heads of the actors and designers:

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Last year's ScareLA drew 4,000 attendees. This year, that increased to 6,000. - PHOTO BY NANETTE GONZALES
  • Photo by Nanette Gonzales
  • Last year's ScareLA drew 4,000 attendees. This year, that increased to 6,000.

A dead-eyed nun in a sexy habit takes the controls of the Hellevator — a simulated elevator ride from, yes, hell. The rickety box jolts and rocks from side to side. While the ride lasts mere minutes, the experience is just shaky enough to scare the free candy out of everyone.

It's only August. But the second annual ScareLA, held in a downtown high-rise design center and showroom called the Reef, is wall-to-wall Halloween. The two-day convention brings in revelers who bleed orange with exhibitors, panels, workshops, films and previews of large- and small-scale haunts, mazes and even Terror Trucks — like haunted houses with four-wheel drive.

Halloween is big bucks in the entertainment capital of the world, and theme parks are a huge part of the revelry. From September to November, Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights, Knott's Scary Farm, Queen Mary's Dark Harbor and Six Flags Magic Mountain's Fright Fest transform nearly the entire acreage of the theme parks into freaky spectacles with walkthroughs, live shows and other features designed to make you puke into your funnel cake.


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Monday, August 11, 2014

LIZ OHANESIAN
  • Liz Ohanesian
The breath-halting thud of a recorded piano hits as soon as the elevator door opens and a tightly packed group of people stumble out into the dark, second-floor lobby. The music isn't instantly recognizable, but it invokes the mix of dread and morbid curiosity that marks the best horror scores. Old dolls pop out of a tiny crib and toy chest displayed under an eerie, corner light; "Now I lay me down to sleep," reads the writing on the nearby chalkboard. There's a scream— ear-piercing, sort of human, sort of something else— not too far in the distance. Some people are trying to corral monsters into the elevator.

It's still early in August and we're inside the Reef (formerly L.A. Mart), a downtown building known for general design and creative work. Still, Halloween has overrun two floors of the venue for Scare L.A., an annual convention dedicated to the spooky holiday. Outside, the line is long and, inside, the panel rooms are frequently standing room only.

Co-founded by Lora Ivanova, who has worked on related events like the trade show HAuNTcon, and David Markland, who edits the blog Creepy L.A., this celebration of frights came out of their own fascination with October 31. After the 2012 holiday, the two lamented having to wait a year for another round of tricks and treats. Markland mentioned to Ivanova that there should be a dedicated convention. Ivanova figured that they might as well do it themselves. In its debut year, Scare L.A. brought in 4,000 people. This time around, Ivanova anticipated more. After all, Los Angeles loves Halloween.


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Actors in Delusion - COURTESY OF HAUNTED PLAY
  • Courtesy of Haunted Play
  • Actors in Delusion
After our Nov. 13 article pointed to potentially unfounded neighborhood complaints as the main cause behind the closure of Delusion, some Silver Lake residents reached out to tell their side of the story.

The article quoted Delusion creator and director Jon Braver saying that the Halloween attraction's early departure was largely the work of one neighbor and a hired consultant who regularly called the police over fabricated noise complaints, which led to Delusion's permit not being renewed.

Interviews with residents reveal a more complicated story, as they say they suffered a variety of parking and noise disruptions that reinforced the neighborhood's ongoing struggles. The result is a "he said, she said" dispute in which both sides -- the neighbors and the show's creators -- accuse the other of being inconsiderate, unfair and unreasonable.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Actors in Delusion: The Masque of Mortality - COURTESY OF HAUNTED PLAY
  • Courtesy of Haunted Play
  • Actors in Delusion: The Masque of Mortality
Note: This article has one update and one correction, below.

Delusion, the popular live-action, interactive Halloween attraction now in its third year, has closed for the season after its organizers were unable to renew its special event permits through the city.

The creators were leasing space in Silver Lake's Pilgrim Church (formerly Bethany Presbyterian), which has received attention lately over restaurateur Dana Hollister's plan to convert the space into a boutique hotel. Neighbors are reportedly worried about the impact of traffic, noise and parking on the community.

According to Delusion creator and director Jon Braver, the show suffered from a harassment campaign by a neighbor across the street who regularly called the police with trumped-up noise complaints. Braver, who secured the venue in August, says the conflict became a proxy battle for the development project.

"It became painfully clear that we were being used as an example of what could happen if Dana starts building this hotel," says Braver.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween

Meet Jill Kill, L.A.'s Haunted House Critic

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Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 5:00 AM

JILL KILL VIDEO STILL
  • Jill Kill video still

"I just wandered in the dark for about ten minutes -- fucking terrifying -- with a bag on my head. I've lost everyone and anyone and they separated me from my friends forever," says a young, dark-haired woman whose teeth appear to glow in the black light of the room.

Despite how it sounds, this isn't a transcript from a gruesome kidnapping caught on surveillance tape. The woman in front of the camera is Jill Kill and she's videotaping herself on a handheld Canon s100 while voluntarily subjecting herself to a glow-in-the-dark nightmare of sorts: a three-maze attraction called Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare in Pomona, CA.

It's a fairly routine Thursday night in October for Jill Kill, a haunted house fanatic who's been documenting her screams and scares on her Youtube channel for more than two years. Her hundred-something videos serve as first-person chronicles of all things dark and menacing, from haunted houses to scary movies to horror conventions and even Bats Day, the annual goth field trip to Disneyland. In a three-part video series from 2010, she wears black eye shadow and lipstick and adopts a British accent to read erotic fan fiction sent to her from an OK Cupid suitor.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween

7 Awesome Halloween Celebrations in L.A. This Week

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Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Puppetzilla Halloween - COURTESY OF LOS ANGELES GUILD OF PUPPETRY
  • Courtesy of Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry
  • Puppetzilla Halloween

Many L.A. residents may not get to enjoy seasonal staples like colorful autumn leaves, but one thing this city can do is throw a damn good Halloween party. Embrace the spirit of the holiday with events ranging from family-friendly to NC-17-rated. Or design a clever costume to show off at a masquerade ball or the famous West Hollywood Carnaval.

Puppetzilla Halloween Show

What is it about puppets that enchants us so? From Yoda to the Muppets to Lamb Chop, these colorful, soft characters steal the spotlight with their darling wit and expressive facial features. They're like cartoons we can touch -- they tug at our heartstrings while puppeteers pull at their wires. The tender feelings we have for these creatures follow us into adulthood, when something inside us desperately wants to hear our favorite cloth friends cursing like sailors. No one understands this better than the members of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry, founded in 1956. The local guild, one of the largest of its type in the nation, tours its Puppetzilla PuppetSlam for enthusiastic crowds all over the L.A. area. For Halloween, they're getting naughty. Join the guild's puppet masters for a Puppetzilla PuppetSlam Halloween at the Bootleg Theater, but don't bring the kids. Not only is the show 18 and older only, but you also can expect filthy language and NC-17 sexual content from the adorable mouths of marionettes, shadow puppets and ventriloquist's dummies. There also will be costume contests, film shorts and prize giveaways. Hosting the evening is Mike Larsen, who has been a comedy writer and producer for Real Time With Bill Maher and The Drew Carey Show. Proper training -- with all her blue makeup and floral muumuus, The Drew Carey Show's Mimi may as well have been a live-action Muppet. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Westlake; Tues., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; $5 in advance, $10 at the door. (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.org. --R.K.

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