The outside of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre is a small, compact storefront on Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, with a simple sign that reads “Z.J.U.” But the inside has been transformed into a dark labyrinth of nightmares that is unlike any other haunt we’ve ever experienced. Part walk-through maze, and part theatre performance, the Urban Death Tour of Terror is a truly unique experience that presents guests with mesmerizing vignettes of horror while also providing the traditional scares that haunt fans expect from a walk-through attraction.
At the front entrance, we were given a small flashlight whose beam of light had been further dimmed by black paper, and we were told that this would be our only guiding light as we went through. The tour begins with a short walk-through section, where each turn reveals actors in various strange or frightening scenes. The walls are just plastic sheeting, but that detail fades into the background as you use your flashlight to reveal each bizarre scene. Because the light is so dim, the focused beam of the flashlight illuminates only what’s right in front of you, a tactic that enhances the scares in this section. Although the actors don’t go for the full “boo!” effect here, the sudden appearance of an actor and scene right in front of you amidst the tension of the darkness did make the short walk-through pretty scary, and we heard a lot of screams coming from people as they went through.
After making it through the short “tour,” we entered a small theatre, where the real part of the Urban Death show began. The performance involves actors in short scenes of horror-like scenarios, although what goes on is actually hard to describe. There is no dialogue here, only an onslaught of sights and sounds, and even complete, uncomfortable darkness at some moments. We don’t want to give away even a single vignette of this performance, because we feel that the surprise of what’s coming next in the show is part of the fun and suspense of it all. We will say that it is a riveting performance, and parts of it are very suspenseful and actually scary. It’s only about 15 minutes long, and we really wished that this part of the Tour of Terror were longer. One of our readers described it as “American Horror Story live,” and we thought that was a good way to put it. Some of the show is very adult oriented, with semi-nudity and uncomfortable situations. But if you like haunts and horror (and of course you do, if you’re reading this), you’ll be able to handle it easily.
Zombie Joe’s Theatre Group does put on a longer version of this show (Urban Death), and we definitely plan to see it when it runs again.
After the performance, we made our way back through the “tour” portion of the haunt. This time, we walked through even more disturbing scenes of depravity, which were different and more intense than the ones we went through on the way in.
Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Tour of Terror is a completely original haunt offering. Although there are other theatrical-style haunts out there right now (e.g., Delusion, Purge: Fear the Night), Urban Death brings a true artistic, daring originality to the haunt scene. We highly recommend checking this out, especially if you’re bored of the typical maze or hayride and want to experience something different. And at only $12, it’s probably the best haunt value in Los Angeles.
Urban Death runs Friday and Saturday nights from October 11 through November 2, at 8:30, 9:15, 10:00, 10:45, 11:30 pm. Tickets are $12.
Check out the Urban Death website for more information.
- Haunt Design: 4.5 skulls
- Theming: 4 skulls
- Scare Factor: 3.5 skulls
- Fright Value: 5 skulls