Nestled in an unassuming storefront along busy Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood sits one of the most twisted haunts for 2016. If you were to judge it from the outside, the simple banner, Z.J.U. above the entrance and a smattering of playbills plastered on the blacked windows out front, you would think nothing of it. That is where you would be wrong, dead wrong. Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Tour of Terror is back for the 2016 haunt season and is aggressively ready to maintain its spot on our list of must-see haunts in Southern California.
Part haunted house, part theatre piece, Urban Death Tour of Terror is is a very unconventional experience that explores deep seated fears in the human psyche. Zombie Joe’s utilizes their skills in the Theatre of the Absurd, Grand Guignol, and the Theatre of Cruelty, in which dialogue is essentially reduced to grunts, moans and screams, and the action is firmly stationed in the surreal, the disturbing, and the repulsive.
Prior to each of the 5 nightly performances, guests pay for their tickets and line up just outside the theatre. Once the show begins, guests are greeted by a surprisingly chipper and engaging usher at the door, handed a flashlight, and sent inside in groups of three. When we say “flashlight” we really mean, a painfully dim, blue flashlight that has been specifically fashioned so that you have to be right up on something before you can actually see it. Shrouded in darkness and making our way through a makeshift maze of draped black plastic sheets, we follow the sounds hidden in the darkness along the path, wincing at what we might find. Long, paper white faces leer around every corner, with disapproving eyes. Gruesome discoveries lay hidden just beyond vision by a thin veil of darkness. This is just the beginning of the experience as we are to make our way through this torturous nightmare to the performance space deep within the theatre.
We arrive at the performance space. It is awash in red tones, the floors and walls painted a flat black. We are told to sit or stand anywhere we like, but we are asked to stay behind the yellow caution tape on the floor for our safety. Lights dim, music swells, and a barrage of mind-blowing scenes play out before us. To reveal them would be to neuter them of their visceral power. As with Grand Guignol, this Urban Death Tour of Terror plays on disturbing imagery, sudden surprises, and moments that will make your skin crawl. There are a few particularly effective moments that had the hair on the back of this reviewers neck standing straight up.
Once the performance is over we are only two thirds of the way through the waking nightmare. We are then made to navigate our way, once again out through the pitch black maze with the dimmest flash lights ever created. This time the performers have reset and we face a brand new collection of monstrosities. Dumoed right back out on Lankershim, we are offered a piece of Halloween Candy by the same chipper host that sent us into the hellish experience to begin with and realize that, wow. That was freakin’ incredible.
Produced by Zombie Joe, Directed & Created by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer, Urban Death Tour of Terror for 2016 is remarkable. Going toe-to-toe with the biggest of haunts just up the street, Zombie Joe’s offers a criminally inexpensive option for Halloween scares. The Original Musical Score by Christopher Reiner is on point, as usual, acting as the trademark sound that triggers a sense of foreboding mystery.
The cast is, as per usual, utterly fearless in their work of seeping into our nightmares. They are uniformly strong with Jonica Patella, Matthew Vorce, and Elif Savas leading the charge. Jana Wimer, Zombie Joe have done it again, sanding away at our protective barriers so carefully constructed in our daily life. This is a haunt that MUST be experienced every season. Thankfully you still have plenty of time to catch it. Go now!
(5) Performances Nightly:
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS @ 7:30p / 8:30p / 9:30p / 10:30p / 11:30p
OCTOBER 7 through NOVEMBER 5, 2016.
Plus Special Early-Performances on HALLOWEEN: MONDAY, OCT. 31 @ 7:30p / 8:30p / 9:30p.
ZJU Theatre Group: 4850 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Tickets Only $15 ~ For Reservations CALL: (818) 202 – 4120
Advance TIX On Sale at: ZombieJoes.Tix.com
Official Websites: UrbanDeath.com and ZombieJoes.com