Events & Attractions

ScareLA 2018 Recap

This past weekend I attended ScareLA for my second year.  Now in its fifth year, its second at the L.A. Convention Center, ScareLA aimed to take a new creative direction with this year’s event by immersing guests in the dark for the entire show experience.  With the theme “Descend Into Darkness” the event was two days full of panels, experiences, classes and screenings. I spent both days at the convention and this year split most of my time between panels, film screenings, and the showfloor.

This year, the first thing guests experienced at the convention was the “Dark Rock Stage.”  Set at the security check for the Hall, guests coming and going from the convention could experience live music throughout the day from a variety of bands.  While waiting in line for the event to start on Saturday morning we got to enjoy a live performance from solo act Ban Sidhe and on Sunday were awoken to the hard-hitting rock of the band Fifi Larue.

Once in the convention hall, the first thing I noticed was the decrease in the overall size of the convention.  ScareLA 2017 was hosted in the L.A. Convention Centers West Hall, which is over 200,000 square feet.  This years event took place in the L.A. Convention Center’s South Hall K, which is around 96,000 square feet.  The single hall housed all elements of the convention including mazes, screenings, panels, and the show floor.  While the feedback I heard from vendors makes it sound like this was a great move for driving foot traffic to their booths, it had severe negative effects on the film screenings and panels, which I’ll elaborate on later.

The Show Floor

The show floor housed over 150 exhibitors.  This year the majority of the vendors seemed dedicated to apparel, accessories, and artwork with only a handful of businesses geared towards professional or home haunters.  Peppered amongst these were makeup demos, celebrity signings, and promotions for local haunts.  The biggest addition to this years show floor was The Queen Mary’s “Queen Mary After Dark” which featured a lounge and a number of bars where guests could purchase drinks. The show floor was also lined with a number of photo ops created by Gory Girl, which were actually a great touch to this year’s event.  You can see a sampling of some of the display elements below.

ScareLA Asylum Photo Op

ScareLA 2018 Alien Photo Op

ScareLA 2018 Creepy Granny Photo Op

With this year’s show in the dark, the majority of the show floor was lit by the spotlights used by the booths to showcase their wares.  This was great for the vendors but atrocious for photo taking, so I wont share any photos of the exhibitors here, but if you want to see some of the vendors that were there, head over to the All Hallows Geek Instagram where I shared a number of my favorites throughout the weekend.

The Experiences

ScareLA featured nearly 20 haunts and attractions in 2018 including four full mazes and a number of smaller haunts.  Unfortunately this year I didn’t make it to any of the haunts as I was immersed in a number of panels and the show floor most of Saturday and then Sunday when I had blocked off time to do them the lines were much longer than Saturday and it wouldn’t have allowed us time to make it to the screening of Scary Stories Documentary.  I did however get the chance to see the human-sized Ouija Board and Eyeball Pit. Both of which looked cool and made a great photo op.

ScareLA 2018 Eyeball Pit

Like in past years ScareLA is trying to embrace all of the mediums in which Halloween and horror can be celebrated and this year was no different.  In addition to traditional haunts, ScareLA hosted two VR experiences with Escape VR and the VR Terror Tour.   While Escape VR was a more traditional VR experience, VR Terror Tour was an immersive experience where attendees board a bus and descend into a world of hellish creations.

Presentations and Performances

This is where I spent most of my time over the weekend.  The main stage or “Monster Stage” housed nearly 20 different presentations or performances over the span of the two days and was MC’d by Vander Von Odd and a guest host on both days.  The subject matter of the presentations varied from celebrity panels to educational panels and entertaining performances.

The first performance of the weekend that I experienced was the Zombie Ballet from Leigh Purtill Ballet Company.  The Gong Show winning performers put on a unique performance that takes real ballet, zombie-fies it, and makes it accessible to everyone.  The end result is entertaining and fun and yet what I got was only a glimpse into a bigger performance that the ballet company is putting on this October.

Zombie Ballet at ScareLA 2018

Following the Zombie Ballet was the first presentation I attended of the weekend, “From Batman to Beetlejuice: Ve Neill Retrospective.”  The Q&A style presentation featured Academy Award winning makeup artist Ve Neill as she shared stories and answered questions about her 40+ year career in Hollywood. If you want to know more about Ve’s presentation be sure to check out my piece highlighting six things I learned from the panel, which includes Beetlejuice’s true color.

Ve’s presentation was also the first time it was obvious that having all of the convention’s events in a single hall was going to be problematic.  During the Q&A Ve commented multiple times on how loud things were and often had trouble hearing questions from the audience.  The sound problem would continue throughout the weekend with sounds from haunts distracting from presentations or loud booming soundtracks to nearby playing screenings taking over the main stage audio.

After Ve’s Q&A, I stuck around for the always entertaining Ed Alonzo AKA “The Misfit of Magic.”  I first saw Ed Alonzo during my early years of attending Knott’s Scary Farm where for many years he was a regular performer. After his performance, Vander Von Odd mentioned casually that Ed would be returning to Scary Farm this fall, which makes me wonder if he’ll be taking back his residency in the Charles M. Schulz Theatre now that Elvira has retired.

Ed Alonzo performing at ScareLA 2018

Immediately following Ed Alonzo was the Hell Fest panel, which was moderated by 102.7 KIIS FM’s JoJo and featured the film’s Director, Greg Plotkin.  What was unfortunate about this panel was that despite having a moderator, the focus of the panel didn’t stay on Hell Fest.  Because it was thrown to the audience to ask questions the majority of the questions were related to Plotkin’s editing work on films like Paranormal Activity or Get Out.  During the panel, Plotkin did talk a bit about the effects of the film and stressed that practical effects were an important part of the film and how he didn’t want a lot of CGI.  He also teased that if the film did well he would love to do another film set in the Hell Fest universe that explores the back story of the barker character played by Tony Todd.

The final presentation I sat in on Saturday was “Meet George C. Romero: 50 Year Anniversary of Night of the Living Dead.”  The title of this was a bit misleading as the focus of this wasn’t so much Night of the Living Dead so much a Q&A with George C. Romero, the son of George A. Romero.  During the presentation, Romero talked about his father, his life, and his thoughts on the direction of the horror genre. He also shared details on how he plans to continue the legacy of his father, which I detailed in a separate post.

On Sunday I attended one presentation and that was the first presentation of the day from the Collywobbles podcast.  The presentation was on Haunted Los Angeles locations and while the hosts were entertaining, it was disappointing since the three locations they covered were fairly well known haunted hot spots, such as The Queen Mary and Griffith Park.  We had planned to attend the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights presentation, but it was going on at the same time as the screening for the Scary Stories Documentary.

Overall I think the selection of presentations and performances were strong.  Vander Von Odd was a solid host and kept the panels moving and was able to easily fill gaps between shows.  I particularly enjoyed her paired with Anita Procedure on Saturday as the two seemed to have great stage presence and chemistry together.  They were also good at filling gaps in questions when audiences didn’t have anything to ask.  I do wish however that the panels I sat in on had moderators that could have prevented some of the tangents that took place and also to help keep questions topical and relevant.


This year I decided to dedicate some of my time to screenings since I sacrificed screenings for panels, experiences, and haunts last year.  The screenings were made up of mostly shorts, but also feature-length films like Killer Kate!, Scary Stories Documentary, and Bloodyback.  Overall the convention screened over 40 films including short blocks from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest and Screamfest.  The one, and probably only upside to the screenings being held out in the open is that it made it easy to pop in and catch a film in between panels, or while eating or on your way to something else.  Over the course of the weekend, I caught about nine films, including Scary Stories Documentary, the documentary on Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series.  My favorite short was from the Screamfest Short Film Block titled Post Mortem Mary and Scary Stories Documentary is a must-see for anyone who grew up loving Schwartz’s stories.

I think the film selection for ScareLA was strong this year, that said like the sound issues at the Monster Stage, the screenings were negatively affected by the fact that often the Monster Stage audio drowned out the screening audio and bright lights from vendors or other locations would often wash out the imagery on the screen.  I feel screening the films in an environment like this is disrespectful to the filmmakers as it takes people out of the experience because of the distractions or at times prevents viewers for fully seeing or hearing whats happening in the film.  During Scary Stories Documentary the screening area was competing with a packed Monster Stage for Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights presentation, which featured previews of some of the new soundtracks created by Slash.  The soundtrack songs, as well as the cheering crowd, often overtook the audio of the Scary Stories Documentary, which was frustrating as a viewer.

Frustrations with the single-hall approach aside, ScareLA was enjoyable and while I didn’t get the chance to do everything I had planned, I still had a good time. ScareLA seems to be experimenting with the space at the newer L.A. Convention Center location, but I do hope they break things up next year so that presentations and screenings aren’t competing with one another in terms of audio.

If you want to see more of what unfolded at this year’s event be sure to check out all of my updates from this weekend on Instagram and Twitter.

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