October brings ghoulish makeovers that turn L.A.’s world-famous theme parks into haunted playgrounds, from Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland to the mother of all horror attractions, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. But one movie studio is offering something new by keeping Halloween focused on horror movies instead of horror mazes.
L.A. Weekly recently visited “Horror Made Here,” a spine-tingling exhibit running through Nov. 1 inside Warner Bros.’ recently opened Stage 48: Script to Screen experience, which offers guests of the studio tour a fresh and contemporary look into the movie- and television-making process.
Upon entering Stage 48, the last stop of the in-depth, two-hour tour through Warner Bros.’ 110-acre studio, you’ll pass familiar sets such as the Central Perk coffee shop from Friends and the living room from Two and a Half Men. But in a dimly lit section of the building, next to the invitingly warm sitcom sets, some sinister items that may have haunted your nightmares are on display.
Among them are Regan MacNeil’s cracked bedroom door from The Exorcist, the menacing glove with knives for fingers from 2010’s remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, stop-motion puppets from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and lavish 18th-century period costumes from Interview With the Vampire.
“We have some of the creepiest and most horrific IP [intellectual property] that’s out there,” says Danny Kahn, executive director for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. “You talk about The Exorcist; that left such an impression on me.”
“It haunts people to this day,” adds Lisa Janney, vice president of corporate archives.
Perhaps the item that draws the most attention in Horror Made Here is Annabelle, the demonic doll that made her debut in 2013’s The Conjuring and got a starring role in her own movie the following year. “You know these are props, but it’s still like tempting fate to handle Annabelle,” Kahn says.
The menacing doll is appropriately kept in an antique wooden display case, which, some think, Annabelle can open on her own.
“We have our overnight cleaning crew that videotaped on their phones the case coming open, so we’re kind of dealing with a personnel issue a little bit,” Kahn says, laughing. “We have a couple of people that are a little bit freaked out right now.”
“Annabelle gets her own room,” Janney says lightheartedly of the area where the doll is stored at the Warner Bros. Archives. “She doesn’t mix well with society.”
As Janney and Kahn talk about the doll, a guest asks if the prop in the case is the real Annabelle. “It is,” Janney replies.
The guest smiles but quickly rushes past the case and out of the exhibit area.
The idea for a horror exhibit within Stage 48 was truly an interdepartmental effort, say Kahn and Janney, both proud horror movie fans. When trying to narrow down which horror pieces from the vast collection to include in the exhibit, Janney says, “It was a really big group that helped make those decisions. Everybody had a say, everybody put in what they thought would be most exciting.”
“I think each one of us might have been pushing a little bit more, you know, cheering on our [favorites],” Kahn says.
Warner Bros.’ strongest legacy of classic films is arguably its film noir of the 1940s and '50s. However, there’s no doubt that the studio is responsible for some of the most respected horror pictures ever made, including William Friedkin’s horrifying film of demonic possession, The Exorcist, and Stanley Kubrick’s haunted-hotel masterpiece, The Shining.
Horror Made Here also features a detailed display developed by Academy Award–winning makeup artist Christien Tinsley, which demonstrates the step-by-step process behind prosthetic, special effects horror makeup.
Though this is the first year Warner Bros. has devoted a portion of the studio tour to horror films, it’s looking like Horror Made Here could be a yearly Halloween treat for L.A. “There are so many ideas and thoughts about where we can go with this,” says Kahn. “I really think this is the beginning, and we will see it expand.
“It brings you back to a place and time,” says Janney. “You remember when you were a young kid and watched Nightmare for the first time. It’s about being there, and that’s what these props and costumes do.”
There’s also no shortage of horror history while on the tour through the studio lot. Exterior scenes from 1953’s House of Wax (the first 3-D color film by a major studio), Gremlins and 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street were all shot on the backlot.