Beasts from the Sea! – An Aquatic Horror Adventure at Zombie Joe’s

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater is a company whose bread and butter is offbeat, bizarre horror, and Beasts from the Sea! is decidedly true to form. The latest show from the North Hollywood-based team, Beasts is a quick (10-12 minutes) but densely-packed walk through series of vignettes. Combining strange creatures, stranger people, and a deep-sea nightmare theme, groups of up to six are plunged into a unique experience that’s a must-see for those brave enough.

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Directed by veterans Zombie Joe, Brandon Slezak (Future Court: The Bindy Lipton Massacre), and Denise Devin, Beasts from the Sea! is more family-friendly than some ZJU productions but still might be a bit too much for small children. After being welcomed and warned of their impending doom, audience members are led through a series of otherworldly vignettes on a quest to secure their salvation from the monsters who would claim them. Zombie, Slezak, and Devin do a great job of making efficient use of the space (as always). By leading guests on a meandering path up, down, and through the space, the cast is given time to shift sets and costumes. And they need it; Beasts from the Sea! packs an impressive number of encounters into such a small venue and time frame. Also worth mentioning is the score by Joseph Bishara, who also did Dark Dark Ride Ride’s music, and whom horror movie buffs may recognize as the composer behind several Hollywood horror features including Insidious, The Conjuring, and others. The creepy soundtrack only adds to the experience as we face down a vicious siren, a swashbuckling pirate, a vengeful sea witch, and other stranger beings (including some decidedly Lovecraftian abominations lurking in the shadows).

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Monsters from the AbyssAnd Cheerios

It’s hard to pick a standout from within the cast; all play their roles well, and to be frank it’s not always easy to tell who’s who as the ensemble shifts between man and monster as dictated by each scene. Speaking of, the costuming is another strength here. Ragged gowns, cargo netting, glow-in-the-dark make-up, bestial prosthetics, and more are employed to good effect and bring each skit to life. Likewise, it’s difficult to pick out a favorite scene, but stopping to feed the fish at one point was a surprisingly cute pause in the procession of madness.

Fun at Forty Fathoms

Beasts from the Sea! is solidly done, leaning way into the weird while avoiding highly graphic or taboo content. The result is a show that’s accessible to those who prefer a more PG-13-like experience while still remaining on-brand for a ZJU maze. That said, the ending feels a little abrupt and lacking in resolution; being pulled unceremoniously out of the show’s climax to find that we are suddenly done is a little jarring. I also might have preferred a longer runtime, but with a $15 ticket price and each show involving no more than six audience members, I can understand the company keeping things short and sweet.

To sum it all up, Beasts from the Sea! is a novel, clever, and well-executed mini-haunt that should appeal to a broad audience but is over just a little too quickly.  Beasts runs on Thursday through Saturday for two more weekends (July 25th-27th and August 1st-3rd) with shows running every 15 minutes from 8pm till 11pm, so there’s still time to book your own passage into the perilous depths. Tickets can be purchased here.

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