There is a small, pitch black cracker box of a theater near the NoHo sign in the valley where the spirit of Halloween and all things dark and disturbing find a place to rest their fangs and horns all year round. When the preternatural essence of October and Samhain rolls around, the treats that lie within The Zombie Joe Underground have to be extra special and you can bet the Devil your soul that they are.
For those of you not familiar with the semi-regular editions of Urban Death, it’s a virtually word free collection of horrific scenarios or suggestions purposely made to unsettle you in a very unique way. Some of the time is spent in utter darkness so murky you cannot see who is next to you. When the lights come on, what is in your face may make you scream, laugh or almost run out. Clowns, Necrophilia, the misshapen and the mentally ill all congregate in ways that are both simple and brilliant without any props or explanations. It’s alot like being trapped in Clive Barker’s basement, or a pastiche taken from H.P, Lovecraft or Silent Hill.
To tell you any more would be criminal. This is a class act of warped genius that is best experienced cold with little warning or expectation of content. What distinguishes The Tour of Terror Haunted House version of Urban Death from its former incarnations is that its lobby has been crafted into a dark maze. You navigate through with a tiny in point flashlight that actually gives the nightmares lurking more of a heads up than being a viable light to see with.
Once the entire audience has been in the mazes in numbers of two, the show portion of Urban Death begins. A short piece about possession and crab walking really impressed me. This portion lasts about thirty minutes and then the audience is shown out back through the maze, but lo and behold it’s not the same. Big props go out to the directors and actors and those who ingeniously worked out the logistics of this premium piece of freakishness. If screeching teenagers and long lines at places like Universal Studios are not your scene and the extreme abuse doled out in Black Out makes you think twice, then Urban Death Tour Of Terror may be the adult attraction you are looking for.
ZJU Theater Group is located at 4850 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood 91601. Shows very Friday and Saturday until Nov 1st with four performances a night starting at 8:30pm. Reservations are recommended and if you hurry, you might catch a discount at Goldstar Los Angeles.