There is no shortage of large-scale haunted attractions available in Southern California during the Halloween season. But if you’re looking for small, in-your-face creeps, look no further than Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif. for “Urban Death.”
If you’ve never stepped inside Zombie Joe’s tiny black box theatre, you’re in for an experience like no other. For years now, groups of passionate entertainers and performers have been filling this black box with some of the most twisted and dark entertainment you could ever imagine being performed, just inches away from the audience. But this dark entertainment isn’t just reserved for the Halloween season – you can experience it all year long.
The group’s flagship show is called “Urban Death,” and it’s had numerous iterations throughout the years. The vignettes seen during the performance feature adult situations that bring your nightmares to life, often with a bit of twisted, dark comedy. At times it is unnerving, and at other times you find yourself laughing. All of this is done with no set in a small black box with minimal lighting and effects. That’s the charm of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, and I’m often in awe at the way these bare-bones productions can affect me. It’s impressive, to say the least.
With the success of their flagship show, they decided to put a twist on it around Halloween time, adding the “Tour of Terror.” This tour includes a haunted maze that leads into the theater. Once again, Zombie Joe’s has turned their small lobby into a minimalist haunted maze with just a very dim flashlight to light your way. As you tiptoe through the maze, you will often be shocked at the cast of characters your tiny light will land on. You’ll be asking yourself “what is that?” As you get a closer look you may regret asking yourself such a question.
As you can probably tell by now, “Urban Death: Tour of Terror” sounds very much like a show meant for adults. And it is, as it often features adult themes and full nudity. So when they announced that this year there would be a family-friendly version of the maze/show, I was intrigued. How on earth could this production be made into something that would be appropriate for the whole family?
As I previously mentioned, as dark as the show can be, there are often moments of laughter. That is amped up quite a bit for the family-friendly version… if your kids have a twisted sense of humor. There is obviously no nudity in this version and the themes change from creepy monsters or murderers to something like a creepy tooth fairy. To be completely honest, the tooth fairy may have been my favorite moment from either show. It made me grossed out (to the point that I had to look away), yet full of laughter all at the same time.
The same way that “Urban Death: Tour of Terror” isn’t for every haunt fan, I would also say that it’s not for every child. In my opinion, this production could be the perfect transition show for a young haunt fan who feels they’re ready for the big leagues at Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm or one of the other large haunts in town. If your ten, eleven or twelve-year-old is begging for you to buy them those expensive theme park haunt tickets, you may want to take them on a Tour of Terror at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre first to find out if they can truly handle the scares.
For tickets and more information, visit www.UrbanDeath.com.
Jeff DePaoli is a voiceover artist and producer living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of Dizney Coast to Coast, the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. In addition, he works as a segment producer for the Halloween and horror convention, Midsummer Scream. @JeffDePaoli