Halloween Conventions Part Two: ScareLA
An interactive and immersive Halloween show
Only 88 days till Halloween and thankfully for the second weekend in a row there is a Halloween convention to help you prepare for whatever you need. This weekend, it's ScareLA.
Halloween continues to grow in popularity each year. Anyone who’s been to a Spirit Halloween store recently has probably witnessed homeowners dropping hundreds of dollars on all sorts of decorations and animatronic props for their homes. I was behind one woman last year that was buying her husband his Christmas presents at the Nov. 1 sales at the Spirit Halloween store. She had well over a thousand dollars worth of merchandise that was being slashed by 50 to 75 percent on the Halloween version of Black Friday sales. She was thrilled.
Lora Ivanova understands that kind of passion for the holiday. She is the executive producer of ScareLA and has been with the event since its debut five years ago at The Reef LA.
“I think psychologically Halloween gives us all an opportunity to experience a jolt of energy that we usually don’t get a chance to get in the remainder of the year,” Ivanova said. “We get to face our fears, and experience something scary but we know everything is going to be okay. If a monster jumps out of a haunted house you know it’s just play pretend so there is an element of levity and fun in facing danger on Halloween that we just don’t get at any other point in the year. And it’s very exhilarating.”
But with ScareLA she wanted to also tap into the Halloween community because she saw the holiday as being about bringing people together because of shared interests as opposed to other holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving that revolve more around family.
“There’s no crazy in-laws coming into town, no pressure to cook the turkey, no stress, and it brings people together,” she said. “And you get to dress up and express yourself.”
ScareLA had two years at The Reef LA and outgrew the venue so it moved to the Pasadena Convention Center. This year it moves to an even bigger venue, the LA Convention Center. Attendance has grown from about three or four thousand the first year to just under 12,000 last year.
I asked her to describe her event to someone who has never been and she practically purred with delight at the thought of a newbie.
“This is the best kind of victim we’re looking for, people who have never been,” she said. “They can expect an amazing experience and I will define that because I don’t use the word amazing lightly. What we have done at ScareLA is we have created the night of Halloween in our show floor. We have divided it into two main areas that are about 200,000 square feet combined. One of them is preparing for the night of Halloween, it’s where our show floor is, where the stage is, the screening room, all the make-and-takes, and the classes are.”
In the past there have been make up classes and ones on how to carve tombstones. But this year there will be a new class devoted to movement classes where attendees will be able to learn how to move and growl like monsters. Also new will be “Shaolin battle classes, just in case the zombie apocalypse does break out. So self defense against zombies.”
A section of the floor will also be dedicated to a giant inflatable corn maze that Ivanova can’t promise you will escape from. That’s what’s fun about her. She is a showman who wants her show to be about more than just vendors selling Halloween merchandise.
Last year she insisted on taking me into a room that had been set up like a campsite and there were paranormal investigators talking about their cases. It was like telling scary stories around a campfire as a kid. That apparently was the germ of an idea that will explode at this year’s ScareLA. The other part of the show floor, about 60,000 square feet of it, will be devoted to what she calls Scarywood. It’s like Hollywood but with a twist.
“This is what we are calling our dark, interactive, and immersive haunted house part of the convention,” Ivanova explained with glee. “We are going to keep pitch dark and in that space we are building from scratch an entire little town called Scarywood. It’s a city out of time and out of place with its monstrous residents. There are zombies that you can actually play in a giant zombie infection game in an arena or go to Creepy Carnival and enjoy a 3D maze. There will also be an entire circus that will be performing shows three times a day, a dark stage with a freak show, a sideshow, a zombie ballet, bands, a bar. For the first time ScareLA will actually be serving specialty drinks that are going to be spooked up.”
Plus you will also be able to find for the first time at ScareLA, augmented reality haunted houses.
“All you have to do is download the Clever Fox app from the iTunes store or Android and you will be immersed in an abandoned building in which horrible crimes have been committed and you are the first ones to enter after 30 years since it has been closed and quarantined,” Ivanova said.
You can also experience your own death in a virtual reality experience called Flatline that will be premiering at ScareLA.
“The specific thing about Flatline that makes me particularly proud is that the two creators of Flatline, Jinsha Moore and Jon Schnitzer actually met at ScareLA a few years ago,” Ivanova said.” Since then they have started collaborating on projects and this is the first they have launched together. It is based on the stories of people who have experienced an out-of-body moment in their lives and you will get to feel what they felt in the back of an ambulance that will be parked on the ScareLA show floor.”
ScareLA promises to offer a lot this year, so no matter what you might be looking for – shopping, how-to panels, VR experiences, art, haunted houses, performances – you should be able to find it somewhere at ScareLA.
“ScareLA is like a canvas,” Ivanova stated. “We work on it and we present it to the world. And then we reinvent it again the following year.”
This will be my fourth show and I’m looking forward to experiencing Halloween in August. I'm just trying not to panic that I now have less than three months to prepare for my favorite holiday.