ScareLA 2016 Recap

This past weekend, on August 6th and 7th, was the 4th annual ScareLA convention. I of course checked out the event and see all the spooky offerings and the announcements from Universal/Knott’s. For 2016’s event, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark was the official host for the convention. She did meet and greets along with autograph signing, which was a staple of the show floor.

The theme of this year’s event was “The Season of the Witch,” which definitely was an interesting take. The story behind the theme is that it is “a playful invitation for attendees to take a flight of the imagination and celebrate all things spooky and unusual.” I definitely had that phrase in my mind while I walked around the showfloor.

DSC_0055This year’s event has grown immensely in size, with the addition of vendors and live experiences in the Conference Center. The Conference Center was called the “Basement of Horrors,” where it was home to the second stage, screening room, interactive game rooms, classrooms, and vendors.

DSC_0052

 

Just in between both the exhibit hall and conference center was a zipline. I didn’t see many guests participating in the zipline course. It looked fun, but I didn’t get the chance to go on it because there was so much to do. My complaint with this is where is Halloween? It was an ordinary ziplining course that didn’t contribute to the overall theme of the event. So to me this was a miss in my book.

DSC_0036

 

The main showfloor, let’s talk about that, shall we? The square footage for the floor remained the same as last year, but with a lot more vendors. As I was walking around the showfloor, I noticed a lack of seating for those who purchased food at the concession stands. At last year’s event, they had ample seating available, which was nice. I saw tons of people sitting by the wall eating their burgers and nachos (including me), and was a pretty terrible experience. I saw people not picking up their trash after themselves, having the staff on site taking care of that. I was not happy about that at all.

Here’s some pretty pictures of the floor. Enjoy!

DSC_0011

In the main stage this year is a giant ScareLA sign, pretty neat, wish I could take it home. They had fog rolling and lights everywhere to anticipate the panel. Right before each panel, the emcee, the “Wicked Witch of the West,” introduces the panels to get the crowd excited.

DSC_0009

The first major panel of the event was Knott’s Scary Farm, unfortunately the famed Jeff Tucker wasn’t able to make it to the convention. Instead in a usual KSF fashion, the history of the event is described and how it has grown since. Lots of cool information that I never knew about. Jon Cooke came out and did a giveaway of a prop gun used for Special Ops: Infected. The giveaway question was “Who were the first people to die at Knott’s Berry Farm?” Sounds like a grim question, but the answer was Walter and Cordelia Knott, an answer I would of totally got lol. No one was able to answer correctly, but a follow up question was given, which was “What gun did you use for Special Ops: Infected?” Of course it was answered and a lucky fan was given the gun.

Since Elvira: Mistress of the Dark was the official host of the event, she came out to the panel and announced her new show! Other details were given such as a reinvested Infected experience, called Black Ops: Infected. Visit Knotts.com/ScaryFarm for more details on what is at this year’s event!

The panel line-up was definitely diverse this year, less focused on the theme parks and more on the aspect of horror/halloween. They panels such as Syfy’s FaceOff, Trendsetters of Terror, The Science of Fear, and much more.

Experiences

DSC_0008Of course one of the staples at ScareLA is the mini-haunt area. The mini-haunt area was called The Vault of Darkness and then there were more in the Basement of Horrors. Inside of the Vault of Darkness, you could tell that they tried to fill up empty space that was void of any exhibitor. They also had a Dark Cabaret stage, where there were a series of freak shows going on, and it was pretty enjoyable, although it was hard to watch when there was a queue in front of you for a mini-haunt.

The biggest and most popular attraction at ScareLA was a haunted maze called “Blood Offering: Legend of the Iron Witch.” The haunt maze was created by Brooke Walters, a name familiar with Knott’s Scary Farm history. I went through that attraction, and it was absolutely a blast. Brooke and her team were able to build the attraction in a day, with of course the maze being built beforehand. The amount of effort to build this experience is definitely to be praised for.

Blood Offering definitely had a sacrilegious theme to it, with elements of religion in it, but it worked so well with the story behind it. The story of it plain and simple is you’re either on the good or bad side of the Iron Witch, and your path to salvation or sacrifice will depend on what choices you make inside the cold dark chambers of the attraction.

The maze to me seemed more theatrical than your typical jump scare type haunt maze, and it was welcoming to see it have that type of approach to tell a story while making it a haunt experience. I would describe this as immersive theater, such as Delusion or Wicked Lit. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope something new brews for next year’s event.

DSC_0049

Then there was this experience. This was “The Rope.” As I was walking inside the Conference Center, I was confused as to what was happening, then I realize it was this experience. The Rope was “a immersive horror experience taking you through the darkest moments of waking life utilizing sensory deprivation and physical/emotional tests to challenge your sanity.” Guests were blindfolded and taken all around the show floor to create this type of experience I’ve never encountered before.

Hollywood Horror Museum

The convention also offered the “Hollywood Horror Museum,” a much anticipated museum being developed in LA to showcase everything horror. They had a nice collection of props and art, even some you can purchase. They had the Dragula car, the Wolfman, The Terminator, and much more. I wish there were more props in there, but this is just a small taste of what is to come when the museum officially opens soon.

Cosplay

Of course in typical convention fashion, lots of cosplaying. Here’s a few pictures of cosplayers, and they all look absolutely amazing, kudos to them!

DSC_0111
The cutest cosplayer of ScareLA 2016. The dog dressed up as an alligator. SO CUTE.


 

Shows

ScareLA offered shows such as the famed Decayed Brigade on the main exhibit hall, along with the Haunted Campsite, and Todd Robbins.

I was fortunate enough to make my way inside of the Todd Robbins show at the last minute, and it was worth watching for an hour. The best way to describe his show was a one man magic show, but using freakshow elements that made me cringe for certain moments of the show. Let me show you a few pics of that show.

DSC_0134

DSC_0124

Then I visited the Haunted Campsite, which was home to Wicked Lit and TAPs Ghost Stories. The team over at ScareLA was able to conjure up a lot of great content for the event this year. I really enjoyed Wicked Lit, which is an immersive theater experience adapted from classic literature. Wicked Lit is produced by Unbound Productions, and you guys can purchase tickets at WickedLit.org and use the code SCARELA for a complimentary post-show backstage experience ($25 value). Hurry as the code expires on August 30th!

2016-08-06 16.07.43
I apologize for the grainy quality, camera didn’t want to cooperate with me.

More about Wicked Lit. They designed the room to look like a campsite. The official name of the room is the “Haunted Campsite,” which they had Wicked Lit and TAPS Ghost Stories rotate every half hour to do their productions. Lots of great talent from the cast, including the cello player who was telling a spine-chilling story, with the use of her instrument. I am looking forward to the full production this October, so stay tuned for that.

The story Wicked Lit put on was entitled “The Initiation.” The performance is based on legends and books that fit the realm of horror, and it worked seamlessly. There was a cello player telling a story by playing music, which amazed me, and created a lot of suspense in the atmosphere.

All the performers performed with integrity and emotion, and that convinced me enough to think that this is “real life,” but in fact of course it’s all acting. Hope to see you guys next year!

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

Elvira had her own area in the middle of the exhibit hall, entitled the Elvira Experience. Guests had the opportunity to do a meet-and-greet with her, along with a picture (for a price). As part of the experience, Elvira had a booth selling merchandise, such as handbags and candy, and they did sell quite a lot it. I heard a few complaints about how much time each guest got to meet her, which made some angry and not worth the $60. But otherwise, it was a hit and people loved meeting Elvira.

dsc_0087.jpg

Overall Conclusion

Ever since ScareLA 2015 ended, I’ve waited patiently for th is year’s event, following everything that got announced since then that will be at the event. I absolutely love the Pasadena Convention Center venue, beautiful architecture, along with water stations all around for guests to get their drink of water. In terms of layout for the event, they grew significantly by size, utilizing more of the space they got, and used it well (for the most part). The addition of the Basement of Horrors helped spread guests around the convention, with even more vendors inside of there. From what I heard from guests is that some didn’t realize that there were even more offerings inside the Basement of Horrors than just the classrooms. I hope for next year’s event they are able to put up more signage to help guests navigate around for the weekend.

What I noticed is that some of the signage looked unprofessional, using paper as signs. Sure it doesn’t take much effort to print a piece of paper and call it a day, but I felt that it made the con look a bit lazy, but I know that a lot of effort was put in to create the event.

As for the presentations, as I said earlier, they offered a wide range of presentations that didn’t focus just on haunt announcements, but more on the topic of horror and halloween. Jon Schnitzer, the director of programming did a phenomenal job of getting big names at the event to draw people in, and people seemed to really enjoy it. Having fog rolling and lights on the main stage was pretty cool, although I wished they turned them off during the panels as it kind of annoyed me, but that’s a small thing I have.

The experiences were absolutely phenomenal this year, from the VR to Blood Offering, they were to die for. I hope to see ScareLA create more unique attractions at 2017’s event, and course more haunts coming out to showcase their event.

The biggest complaint I have was queue management for registration, as I said earlier. I wish there was a quicker way to register without having to wait 40+ min to check in, and I’m sure they’ll address that for next year. Those who purchased the Fear Freak or VIP Monster tickets should of been in a front of line for the mini-haunts as well as other components of the event, as they paid a hefty price for priority access, and the only priority access they got was the exhibit hall when it opens as well as the main stage.

To finally recap, 2016’s event was the largest year of ScareLA to date, with the biggest line-up of vendors, experiences, and presentations that kept guests busy throughout the weekend. I am already looking forward to next year’s event, so keep your eyes peeled for 2017 announcements as I’ll be on the top of things for that. Hope all of you have a fun and safe Halloween season, as it is still “The Season of the Witch.” With the witch casting a dark spell this Halloween season, things are brewing this fall.

I personally want to congratulate the entire ScareLA team for being steadfast for brewing together the event. I want to give a shout out to Supersonix Media Inc. for providing me with press materials for the event, I look forward to reconnecting with you in 2017! Hope to see everyone at ScareLA next year!

–  Eric Oh