Theatre of Terror
While the big corporations tout their massive (and crowded) haunting events (Universal Studios, Knotts Scary Farm) it might be worth your time to creep around a few of the smaller "mom and pop" productions right in your own backyard. One of these is the "Theatre of Terror" right nearby in South Pasadena. Set inside the historic Fremont Centre Theatre, the trip through might not take long (20 minutes tops), but the price and fun scares are worth it.
The Theatre -- a small but thriving playhouse -- is said to have once been a mortuary and is rumored to be haunted. This sets the stage for the spooky goings-on inside and the maze-like trip you’ll take through the bowels of the building.
After a brief video history that plays outside the entrance to the haunt, small groups are ushered in to get their scare on. Already this was a plus over standard haunted houses. For one, the line wasn’t that long and two, the event directors logically keep the number of people that enter to a minimum.
This allows for it not to be just a crowd of people banging into each other as the creeps jump out at you or follows you through the building. Instead, you bond with the handful of other terror-goers, and the ghouls get to spend their time with you. Bwah-ha-ha!
Once inside, you navigate the outside grounds of the building through a grotesque carnival-style setting, past a chained werewolf, and inside the theatre. All sorts of nooks and crannies lead you by creeps that jump out at you, interact with you (without touching you), and basically just follow you around whispering and taunting you. For some people this might be a nuisance, but you have to give the actors credit for being so committed to their characters that they never break. In fact, if you start to interact with them directly, they easily go with it.
I won’t spoil any of the surprises, but I will offer a few tips. If you’re claustrophobic like I am, there is one area where you are required to get on your hands and knees and navigate a nearly pitch black maze. Thankfully, it is very short and didn’t really freak me out too much.
However, it smells disgusting which I’m not sure was on purpose or not. That said, it’s not so bad, but you can choose to take the wimp’s way out and go through a side door to get to the next area. Another note is that, while the whole walk is fun, the second half is the most effective.
The costumes are well constructed and look just as good as the best haunted houses out there. The theatre itself has that old uncomfortable feeling so it matches the vibe. And when hands are pushing out through walls or robed figures stand very still waiting for you to slink past them, it’s giddily frightening.
At $12, the walk is a nice alternative to the big events around Los Angeles county and still affords you time to get dinner or drinks nearby. Parking is easy and proceeds benefit the South Pasadena Arts Council. So, in essence, your screams are actually doing some good. And scream you will.
"Theatre of Terror" runs though Nov. 2 at the Fremont Center Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, CA. For information and tickets, visit www.eviltwinstudios.com.