Who’s in? This haunted movie palace awaits your presence

An orchestra of the dead. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

Seraphic serenade

“Angel of Light” with a demonic twist

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Chandeliers in the foyer. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

One of the keys to a successful Halloween haunt is the location, and therefore atmosphere, in which it is set. The Queen Mary (1934) is one such place, and the Los Angeles Theatre (built in 1931) is another.

“Angel of Light” takes place in the latter, and there’s a storyline, yes, even though at times it’s harder to uncover than a pharaoh’s tomb. But let’s start digging.

Those who (dare to) enter the front doors of the old, stately theater are escorted into a foyer that, as far as setting the mood, is reminiscent of when we step into Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and the walls begin to rise or the floor begins to sink, depending on one’s perspective. The room is bathed in gauzy blue and red light, and the glorious chandeliers seem to be floating above us.

Various figures emerge, ushers and usherettes from another era, for we are now in the glitzy Hollywood of 1935 and ready to begin our adventure.

The priest and Rota Krisha. Photo by Warren Tarbell

“Angel of Light” is first and foremost a visceral experience, but the backstory is that in the early 19th Century a young woman with a hex upon her is taken to Father Nicolai. The girl, Rota Krisha, has somehow plagued her rural village and the priest will attempt to exorcise the forces that possess her by summoning an angel. This takes place in some labyrinthine catacombs, and you can now cue our first escapade…

I happened to be the first in line of a small group of wanderers, and this was truly a case of the blind leading the blind: I couldn’t see a damn thing. Lesser mortals have tumbled down oubliettes and other trapdoors. I’m not saying this wasn’t as spooky as presumably intended, but it did entail a lot of groping about until finally some ghouls began pushing their faces towards us from small windows or stood growling in the dark corners. I actually stumbled out of the maze itself into a behind-the-scenes area, which I guess, for me at least, was part of the overall ordeal.

The very tall man. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

The cigarette girl. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

Emerging from the catacombs, more or less unscathed, visitors, patrons, ticket-holders, whatever you wish to call them, enter a new set of hazy rooms swirling with dim blue and red lights, including one with an acrobatic midget and a fellow who seemed at least seven feet tall. They’re rather unsettling, at least as compared to the ghouls who only glare and snarl or the cigarette girl who’s a delicious throwback to that long-ago time when the likes of her were not at all uncommon.

The starlet, still waiting for her big break. Photo by Warren Tarbell

Another woman who evokes an age now dispersed in history is a blonde and beaded starlet who poses and preens in front of a mirror in what was, if memory serves, the anteroom to the ladies’ restroom. She reminds me of Dark Harbor’s Graceful Gale, another wraith bordering on the edge of the earthly and the intangible.

In addition to an array of lighting effects there’s the music or sonic atmosphere which, at times, is more noise than sound. On the other hand, our disorientation is clearly intended, right?

Eventually we gather in snaking lines (think of being in an amusement park) as if waiting to board a dark ride. When we’re unleashed we have to push our way, somewhat forcibly, through the two tightly pressed halves of a rubber wall. I think this can be unnerving for some, but just keep going: don’t stop, don’t give up or scream for help! Soon we’re going up stairs, with a second flight of them on the outside of the theater. It’s a bit arduous if you’re not young.

Waiting for the show to begin. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

The grand finale takes place in the auditorium itself, which is about ten times the size of any normal AMC or Regal movie theater. We’re escorted to our seats, and now there’s a floorshow, one in keeping with the setting. There are elegantly attired ballroom dancers gracing the apron of the stage, and meanwhile a sultry woman in a tight, gold-colored, slinky dress sings “Summertime” from the 1935 musical “Porgy and Bess.” It’s a mesmerizing performance, but suddenly there’s a seismic shift and the scene slides from classy to frenzied, the whole thing exploding into the diabolical. The singer herself, now divested of her shimmering gown, seems attired in something reminiscent of what Tim Curry wore in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

And the identity of the woman in gold? Apparently she’s an incarnation of that village maiden we met before slipping into the catacombs: Rota Krisha. Well, be that as it may…

As anyone can guess, that’s the explosive climax to “Angel of Light,” after which we’re ushered back onto South Broadway, an area more dilapidated than it was 90 years ago. The glitter of starry-eyed Hollywood has long since disappeared.

It started out tender and sweet. Photo courtesy of Angel of Light

The experience is more sensual and startling and pleasantly unsettling than any explanation can convey, so I haven’t really given anything away. On the night I attended, however, the wait times were quite long from one sequence to another, and so there was a sense that the organizers hadn’t ironed out all the kinks as far as moving along each group. Also, there’s a lot of walking involved, which only compounds the ordeal of standing on one’s feet. This is another way of suggesting that one wear comfortable shoes and be in some sort of good physical shape.

“Angel of Light” is an atmospheric experience. Photo by Warren Tarbell

That said, while it’s a bit exhausting it’s also a memorable outing and one you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

As for the creative teams behind this event, it was the brainchild of ODEON, in collaboration with Fever. Credit for the original storyline goes to Chris Anastas and Mark Binder, produced by Buck Mason. In addition to the gentlemen above, ODEON was founded by Scott Feldhacker and Rick Beyer.

Angel of Light is a walk-through, immersive experience, located in the stately Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. Showtimes begin at 6 p.m. and end by midnight, each performance from 60 to 90 minutes, taking place Wednesdays through Sundays, with the last event set for Oct. 31. Tickets are $60 Wednesday and Thursday, and $70 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not recommended for those under 13 or with ailments or disabilities. Tickets available through feverup.com. ER


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