ScareLA Convention–Halloween in Summer!

Forget Christmas in July

A good start

On the first weekend of August, I was surrounded by ghouls, goblins, monsters, jack o’lanterns, costumes, makeup, fog, and C-list celebrities. Thanks to ScareLA, I got all the trappings of Halloween in the middle of summer!  I was a first-time attendee, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve never been a Halloween junkie, so could I take a whole day of it?  The answer was…barely.  Although there was plenty to do and see, a lot of it started to blur together.  Combined with long waits for some of the experiences, I had my fill of the macabre.  Until October, that is!

Now in its 5th year in Los Angeles, ScareLA “combines the city’s top talent and unique setting with a twist! The con kicks off the scare season and unveils the hottest attractions and products in SoCal. Mingle with thousands of fans, haunt entertainment professionals, top scare event designers and operators, makers, artists and filmmakers. Enjoy a weekend jam-packed with Halloween season teasers, attraction unveils, classes, industry panels, haunt tours, screenings, cosplay and games” (from their website).

There was an overwhelming number of booths and vendors in the main exhibit hall.  Makeup, yard decorations, costume pieces, clothing, accessories, artwork, toys, jewelry, DVDs and more were all around me.  There was even a horror museum, which was largely still photographs taken on the sets of classic horror films.  Most of the vendor booths I walked by with a cursory glance, but some of the artwork really caught my eye and I browsed.  If I had any place that was in need of art at home, I might have got something.  And one of the decoration shops had a fog machines that trapped the fog inside bubbles that it sprayed into the air.  When they popped, they released little globs of fog in all directions, which was by far the coolest effect I saw that day. When I first arrived there was a long line for one of the booths.  I later found out they were all waiting for round purses/bags with jack o’lantern faces on the side.  They were neat but I didn’t understand the fervent demand for them. Adding to the variety of offerings was a school bus containing a VR experience for the movie “IT,” an actual blood mobile for donations, and a screening room for horror films, many created by attendees, including a short film that my friend starred in which was screened for attendees.

Get out while you still can!

The convention hall also had quite a few interactive areas of varying types.  There were a surprising number of 10-minute Escape Rooms, which was a welcome surprise, since I’m a huge fan.  My friend and I even got the 2nd best time of the day at one of them, which resulted in a prize box from Loot Crate!  I’ll call out the specific room in my breakdown below.  There was also an inflatable corn maze, which was thematically awesome, although not actually challenging in the slightest.  There were also numerous crafting stations, where people could participate in all kinds of activities like costume and makeup workshops, game shows, and even lessons on being a “haunt actor”–you know, those people who scare you in the haunted houses.

My main goal in attending was for all of the immersive experiences.  The rise in interactive, immersive entertainment, particularly around Halloween (like Delusion and Tension Experience), has been a focus of my recent reviews here at Media Geeks.  ScareLA knows this growing sector of spooky entertainment is a big draw, so they devoted an entire second convention hall to these experiences.  Called “Scarywood,” it contained a performance stage, a 3D walkthrough, multiple haunted houses of varying sizes, a slick “runway” for costumed performers to slide on, an Augmented Reality experience, a Virtual Reality experience, live psychics, a haunted woodland campground set, a separately-ticketed circus show, and more! Below I’ll give some quick mentions of specific attractions or companies that left an impression:

Crossroads Escape Games mini-game

The Asylum, a 10-minute Escape Room from Crossroads Escape Games.  This was my #1 must-see experience based on Crossroads’ history of quality games.  It didn’t disappoint, and this was the one where I got a prize for 2nd place!  A great self-contained room from a great company.  Website here.

dekker dreyer’s The Summoning. Supposedly an Augmented Reality walkthrough, it requires downloading an app, which my friends and I did.  Even after that, we saw a single static ghostly outline. Someone not in our group could see an additional scene that we couldn’t, and we couldn’t figure out why.  Even if we had seen that one extra “ghost,” this still would have been a bust.

Wicket Lit had readings in the faux cemetery, but I missed them all.  I mention them here because I’ve been to Wicked Lit twice and love them.  They perform spooky stories outdoors with the audiences walking along from scene to scene.  It’s great Halloween entertainment for all ages.  Website here.

The Bunker Experience was another mini escape room that my friends liked even better than the Asylum. They were promoting their Halloween event, which sounds very cool–a 90-minute experience with multiples escapes, live actors, and a maze.  It’s like a “best of Halloween” rolled into one event!  Website here.

Rose MacBeth, a blindfolded knife fight in a graveyard from Wise Guys Events. This was a silly, short, partnership game, with plastic knives and roses where you either try to kill the other pair of lovers or find your own partner with the rose.  After two rounds it was close, but the other team pulled off the win in round 3.  Wise Guys Events specialize in custom events for your gathering.  Website here.

Based on the crowds, people were amped up for Halloween despite the warm weather.  And yet, they didn’t quite fill the convention halls.  Personally, I liked that.  It meant the aisles weren’t crammed with people, and it didn’t feel like a madhouse.  Considering they have grown each year, I anticipate that will continue, but I do hope it never becomes too crowded as to be unpleasant.

This convention was good for even casual Halloween fans because there was just so much to DO, not just merchandise booths.  There were tons of hands-on activities and experiences that you didn’t just feel like you were at a Halloween-themed mall.  I only went for Saturday, and I don’t think I would have needed a second day to get the full experience, but they do have 2-day passes for the die hard fans.  If you find yourself itching for cool weather and the onset of fall next summer, hit up ScareLA to get your fix early.

ScareLA has not announced their dates or pricing for next year, but their website is here. The experiences I linked to above are all ongoing or upcoming, so check them out for some spooky fun, especially now that fall is really here!

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I’m happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I’m privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don’t see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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