‘I Like Scary Movies’ a bracing mix of interactive art, wit

By | May 30, 2019

AT: Dean Lamanna

LOS ANGELES — Horror film mavens, especially those in Southern California, think they’ve seen it all when it comes to live fright-genre presentations such as Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. And that’s something of which “I Like Scary Movies,” a new interactive art installation, seems keenly aware.

The 25,000-square foot presentation, occupying the second floor of The Desmond, a historic building on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A.’s Miracle Mile district, eschews easy funhouse scares, flashy strobe effects and in-your-face costume characters with please-touch-me-if-you-dare detail, multisensory creepiness and social media-friendly staging — lacing it all with surprising wit. It opened in early April and is scheduled to run in its inaugural location through June 16 before going on tour.

The display offers some strikingly visionary interpretations of iconic scenes from five horror / fantasy movies produced by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema: Beetlejuice (Netherworld waiting room), It (Pennywise’s sewer lair), The Lost Boys (misty railroad bridge vampire hangout), A Nightmare on Elm Street (Freddy Kreuger’s boiler room) and The Shining (bloody elevator hallway, hedge maze and more). And unlike most haunt attractions, it encourages participants to sidle up to and step inside the fearsome “props” — in effect, inviting them to help shape the experience.

Wonder what it’s like to be caught in the grip of Freddy’s finger knives? You’ll find yourself encaged by them here.

“I Like Scary Movies” is the brainchild of locally based experiential artist Maximillian, with his wife, Robyn Snodgrass, executive-producing through their company, Ultra Prods. It taps into its creator’s 20-year history of making multimedia promotional and entertainment installations for the likes of Comic-Con, Marvel Entertainment, Pixar, Walt Disney Pictures and his current collaborator, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

During a chat in his exhibit-adjacent office — a space filled with concept illustrations, copies of Fangoria magazine and wall art patterned after the Overlook Hotel’s trippy geometric carpet in The Shining — the artist told Amusement Today that he considers the installation “3D fan art.”

“We’ve done a lot of things that were promotionally based, but no one had really tapped into doing anything that was celebrating movie IP [intellectual property] in a ticketed experience,” said Maximillian, who spent a good part of his youth building backyard haunted houses and invested a year and a half seeing “I Like Scary Movies” from concept to completion. “I’ve always loved illustrated fan art, and our goal was to create an experience where fans could take their time to engage with the fantastical worlds of scary movies that have shaped their fandom.”

Having established a prior working relationship with Warner Bros., he realized that many of his favorite genre movies were produced by the studio — and their partnership on the installation followed naturally.

“When I pitched this concept to them, I had these five movies in mind,” the artist said. “I wanted a little bit of something for every horror fan, from throwbacks to current. I wanted classic slasher with A Nightmare on Elm Street. I wanted Tim Burton fans with Beetlejuice. I wanted ’80s vampires with The Lost Boys. I wanted classic horror with The Shining and a millennial blockbuster with It. It’s one ticket, five movies — with a little dash in there for everybody. It can bring every demographic of horror fan in.”

Working with 56 fabricators and artists “of every ilk” — from foam sculpting and fiberglass work to scenic painting — Maximillian realized his vision while deriving additional ideas and approaches to his own concepts. “I gently pushed them out of their comfort zone to do something different,” he said. “I didn’t want this to be all shiny and fiberglass; it’s horror, so it had to be a little rough around the edges. It had to have some darkness to it, a little bit of D.I.Y. It couldn’t be glossy and shiny and bright.”

An aspect of the project he particularly loved was working with individual artists who were just as passionate about creating something one would not find in, say, a theme park haunt. One element of the It exhibit illustrating this is a walkthrough section featuring wavy curtains of strung-together paper boats — a kind of floating tunnel that sets observers adrift between reality and fantasy while guiding them toward the next scary scene.

“The boats are made of paper sno-cone bottoms and hot dog trays,” the artist said proudly. “I wanted to keep them in the carnival world, and amusement, and have that be something that would be a call-out to that and also striking and cool. One of my artists and I wracked our brains figuring out how to do it, but it worked. We wanted to something different from the origami boat you see in the movie. It was about pushing the edges, pushing the boundaries, and making it tactile.”

Although he continues to make minor adjustments to the exhibit daily, Maximillian, for now, is enjoying the role of observer — peering with satisfaction from behind the exhibit’s black curtains as fellow horror fans give his elaborate “die”-oramas dynamic life.

“We want them to be able to take a deep creative dive into some of their favorite movies in a way that is fun, engaging, artistic and memorable — allowing them to really explore and enjoy the thrill of it all.”

“I Like Scary Movies” reinterprets scenes from several beloved horror / fantasy films, including Beetlejuice, It, The Lost Boys, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining. Experiential artist Maximillian, shown with his wife, exhibit executive producer Robyn Snodgrass, created the installation. COURTESY “I LIKE SCARY MOVIES”; AT/DEAN LAMANNA


Read about the ‘I Like Scary Movies’ exhibit in
the JUNE 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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