Below is our review of JFI Production’s Haus of Creep, the fifth year in the CreepLA Series (CreepLA, Entry, Lore, Awake). There are minor spoilers regarding the experience below, specifically in discussing the various art exhibits and characters you’ll meet. If you are attending Haus of Creep already, I urge you to go in blind, stop reading now, and bookmark it for afterward. But if you need some more information, please keep reading and then buy a ticket. The horror is minimal this year, focusing more on the dramatic and artistic; and this is so much more than an Instagram palace – it’s a full-narrative, multi-track, sandbox experience, and we promise that the art will touch you.
Huddled together, five bodies, wrapped in darkness. A grade-school projector illuminates a back wall – black tentacles, outstretched, tangled, restraining, restricting. You see, there was once a demon. Sucking souls, twisting minds, through a brightly lit screen. Rosay, dressed in a fuchsia lab coat, leather collar, and beret, carefully extracts the tentacles – revealing that they weren’t tentacles at all, but rather, cords, plugs, chargers. On Friday the 13th, Haus of Creep was born. A new image replaces the old, one of faces I recognize: The Company. They hired a team. Kids, and some freaks. She places another image over the other – but this one is burnt, distorted, abused. And it also reveals new faces. But you see, you can’t keep creeps in a cage, not in our house. As she extinguishes the light of the projector, the darkness once again enveloping me, and I feel at home. Things of the dark need the dark.
Haus of Creep is the start of the fifth year for JFI Production’s CreepLA series, and arguably their best. This full-hour experience invites guests into an Instagram-palace-styled art exhibit in which three artists are showcasing their work: Clarissa Hawkins, Rosay Ratcheté, and Cameron. These artists prefer the dark, the dangerous, the dramatic side of art – but The Company wants to ensure that the art is carefully regulated, restricted, and restrained. Caught in the middle is the living art, Rosay’s newest creations, that may just have their own desire to rebel against the chains placed upon them.
The Structure of Art
Let me get this out of the way at the start: Haus of Creep is not an Instagram-palace, but rather an immersive theater experience that satirizes the genre while perfectly exploring the themes of artistic freedom, corporate restrictions, and falseness in a digital age of social media. It’s smart, it’s clever, and it is frightening in the best way possible. Participants are asked to keep their phones in their pocket or purse, and be present to interact with the art, living or static and almost all characters have a full narrative arc that is evocative and meaningful, reflected in the masterful writing of Daniel Montgomery.
Styled as a sandbox experience, Haus of Creep offers guests complete control of where they go and what they see. This level of autonomy is perfect for an experience masquerading as an Instgram-palace, because it offers guests the opportunity to explore and interact as they desire. Specifically, at the start, only half of the exhibit is actually open for guests to explore. More passive guests may find themselves gravitating toward the bar for a drink and a stage show; art aficionados may appreciate the art that ranges from digital to physical – and even showcases some previous CreepLA experiences; voyeurs may partake in various peepholes that show off various…parts of art; theater fans may find themselves captivated by a sad clown and his balloon animals; Instagrammers can find two opportunities to snap a photo at the now famous CreepLA photobooths; interactive fans can have their soul and fortune read in The Core; and immersive enthusiasts can let the art truly touch you in an exhibit called Feel Something in which affectionate, sensual, and forceful touch is explored. Whatever you like, Haus of Creep has it for you.
But that’s just the first third of the show – and only half of the exhibits. Haus of Creep is comprised of three different sandbox portions separated by three scenes that bring everyone together. These scenes hallmark a change in the surrounding areas, characters and exhibits, offering three or more distinct scenes in every room or with every piece of living art. These scenes can range from a one-on-one with an actor, a group scene with ten audience members and one actor, or a small-form scene with five participants and one actor. But don’t fret over trying to get all the one-on-ones or trying to see everything – it’s impossible; just focus on exploration and following characters that intrigue you, and you’ll be pulled into a complete and fulfilling narrative for those characters. With 24 actors in the space at a given time (11 of those being living art, 7 The Company members, 3 artists, and more), this equates to an impressive amount of content – and far more than anyone can see in one – or even two – visits. There’s an immense appreciation to creator Justin Fix for directing these many intersecting and overlapping scenes with expert agility.
Also worth noting is the high level of interactivity. While participants do not have the agency to alter the narrative, they are given multiple opportunities for choice, especially in terms of who to follow and interact with. Explore anything and everything – as long as there is no red velvet rope restricting your movement. But do come back often as those velvet ropes move and change as the night goes on. While the map (ask Margret at the front for one) reveals 15 art exhibits/rooms to enjoy, there are a few more hidden ones for those just lucky enough to be pulled aside. Those who interact and explore will be rewarded, and some of my favorite moments were finding a quiet scene with a character while the action was climaxing in a different section of the Haus (highly recommended for a second time through).
Actors in Art
Haus of Creep’s strength lies within in its powerful and evocative actors. Mixing three district performers as leads for the audience, these characters each lend their own unique narrative to explore. Deidre Lyons-Butchko stands out as Mona Carmichael, a Chicago Tribune art critic who has one of the strongest arcs throughout the night as she reunites with a childhood love for creativity and art, transforming herself in the process. Matthew Maguire exudes camaraderie as Sooky, an art enthusiast who has come to appreciate the new exhibit, helpful and friendly in his demeanor. Sophie Cooper is Chelsea, the influencer who has come to this Instagram palace to grow her social circle – and her blissfully ignorant and vapid personality is a wonderful contrast to the surrounding deep themes and a strong a commentary on the negative aspects of social influencers.
The Company provides the perfect cover for JFI employees to manage the art exhibit while in character. As in previous years, creator Justin Fix takes on a role as Cash, allowing him entry into the exhibit to walk freely and ensure that the art is running smoothly. Stephanie Turek steps out from her role as choreographer to manage the bar – but to those lucky enough to be noticed by The Company, she may also approach them with a task to join The Company. Nerea Duhart (double cast with Dasha Kittredge) perfectly embodies Becca, a sweet, helpful soul, answering questions with ease and always with a smile. In contrast to Becca, Peter (Jonny Perl) is helpful in the most unnerving way possible, especially with his reminders to tag your photos with #hausofcreep. Marissa Pattullo, as Mallory, is perfect in her duality, straining to hold back her intrigue and interest in the dark art that surrounds her, leaving audiences on the edge of their seat to learn if she will be seduced by it or not. Meanwhile, Noelle Urbano oozes art itself as Diamond, using her stylistic exterior as a mask to hide her true interior. Dennis (Davis J Anderson) is the last of The Company, and all he needs is his mustache and referee-inspired knit shirt to make guests wonder if he is an actor or a creep from the local adult video store.
The artists, while all somewhat similar, offer guests numerous opportunities to interact with the creators, and actively demonstrate the hostility between The Company and the artists. Cameron (Zach Brown) speaks to my soul when he explains that art needs room to breathe and cannot reach its full potential when it’s locked behind bars – and he quite literally locked me behind bars. For those who follow him, they may see his ambition overpower other relationships in his life. Clarissa, played by Misha Reeves Bybee (who has literally been in every JFI production, including Ma’s House and American Horror Story: 1984), is manic, wild, and as the cracks begin to show, she becomes wonderfully frightening and exciting. And finally, Rosay (Joshua Rivas) is the star of the evening, unveiling her living art in an effort to showcase distributing, raw, and savage art. Her layered character is one of the most fun to probe and play with.
Ultimately, these are the characters you want to explore, discover, and know. These are the titular “creeps.” Writer and creative director Daniel Montgomery shows he can wear every hat as he dons a gimp mask and showcases a sexier side of Creep. Jacob Miller (wearing an Edyn Rashae clown mask) is the mute, sad clown, Mr. Happy, but doesn’t need a single word to evoke a spectrum of emotion. Kylee Thurman is breathtaking as a wide-eyed living doll, mechanical in her movements, and utterly heartbreaking in her story – her scene with Boppo is a must-see (it runs three times). Speaking of Boppo, Jeffrey Speetjens puppets this domineering puppet and with a powerful voiceover; this scene is easily one of my favorites. Matt Vorce plays The Stalker, with a mustache and yellow sunglasses to match his smarm, he’ll suck on the end of a camera, write you obscene messages, and confuse you for his love, Stacy, as he tries to cut a lock of your hair to keep close. Claire Stephens as Dark Room is another standout; her orange hair, spastic movements, and fierce mannerisms make her feel feral and unknowable. Julia Henning is Number 13, who will peer so deep into your soul that you’ll be shocked when she pulls your darkness out with accuracy and ease. Tyler Gordon brings more sex appeal to Haus of Creep as The Monster but proves he’s more dangerous than just his good looks. Jannica Olin adds to the sexiness of the experience with leashes and collars for some lucky guests. The bar is home to Kit-Kat (Sierra Puett) who dances sensually for those in the bar and may even pull one of you up on stage for something a bit more intimate. And Cameron’s own mother Margaret (the unparalleled Melinda Dekay) may even become a piece of art for the evening, even if she doesn’t know it – and Dekay plays her as so obliviously kind that your heart may break by the end of the evening.
The Beauty in a Design
Actors need a space to play, and the set designers for Haus of Creep have given it to them in spades. The numerous locations are gorgeous and dripping their own sense of character, and each hides darker secrets as the night continues. A festive birthday party doubles as an auction house as the art is sold to the highest bidder; a cozy home is littered with milk cartons with missing children panels and television crime programs; and a long hallway hides a darkroom filled with pictures of The Company – but I won’t spoil what’s hidden within them. Each of these locations shows the duality of art, and that there’s always something deeper, hidden beneath the surface if you’re willing to look and analyze. A simple Instagram palace may not be so simple.
Haus of Creep is L.A.’s best immersive horror experience for this the Halloween season. It takes a novel concept and elevates it to something complex, deep, and relevant. Utilizing themes of social media, control, and artistic freedom, characters feel real and meaningful, despite the fantastical and abstract setting. The various tracks left me feeling unsettled, but ultimately inspired, curious, and excited. There’s so much to see, one ticket is just not enough. I urge you to get a second, and step into the world of Creep; unshackle the chains of art, feel its creativity, and let it touch you.
Haus of Creep runs through November 3rd; buy tickets HERE. Find out more about JFI Productions on their website and Facebook page. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more immersive and horror experiences throughout the year.