The Horror Honeys: The Willows: A Horror Honey Haunt Review

The Willows: A Horror Honey Haunt Review

An Event Review with Kat Wells

I had nothing but terrible experiences with haunted houses growing up. From hometown haunted trails buried deep in the woods to Universal’s House of Horrors (may it rest in peace), I was all palm and ass sweat and full body shakes when faced with the prospect of relentless jump scares lurching out at me from the dark. A few years ago, a dear friend and human security blanket convinced me to lean into the fun of it, and the spell was broken; now, I’m the friend offering to lead the pack through pitch black mazes, laughing and screaming the whole time.

The uptick in recent years of more immersive haunts has been fascinating to observe, but as much as I learned to enjoy traditional haunts, this new, personalized type of spooky experience intimidated me. In the fall of 2015, though I finally ovaried up and dragged myself, screaming on the inside, to CREEP Los Angeles’ inaugural offering.

CREEP (the creative brainchild of Justin Fix (creator), Daniel Montgomery (writer, artistic director), and Fiona Rene (artistic director, performance director), has put on two years of absolutely stunning shows during the haunt season. The CREEP brand is a mixture of richly symbolic narrative, unsettling characters, unnerving, protracted moments, and cinematic visuals. I can close my eyes and picture every detail of rooms from both the 2015 and 2016 shows. They were that beautiful, and sometimes as terrifying as they were stunning. So, when I was invited to preview their upcoming, year-round offering The Willows, I jumped at the chance (and my palms immediately started sweating).

There is nothing that could have prepared me for my 2-½ hour experience at The Willows. The show takes place inside a sprawling Los Angeles mansion built in 1918, a time when World War One was coming to an end and Warner Brothers Studios was just opening its doors. The house oozes history, and while The Willows is not a period piece, it is all about the past: its dark secrets, its treasures, and its control over us. It pains me to describe anything specific about the event since I went in blind, but the loosest of all descriptions goes like this: when you sign on to attend this event, you are being invited to a sort of celebration hosted by the Willows family. What you are celebrating and why is revealed in small conversations, sidelong glances, and tear-streaked faces. There is a treasure trove of backstory should you choose to seek it, and fortune favors the bold. But beware; many of the revelations waiting to be uncovered at the Willows’ abode are dark and unpleasant.

The rich aesthetic spectacle of this show and the stellar performances of the actors cannot be overstated. The house is blanketed in candlelight and stuffed to the brim with odd sculptures and paintings, and wistful, warbly tunes float through the rooms filled with characters who feel like they’ve lived there forever. The performers truly own the space, and I’ve found myself thinking about each and every character I met, wondering what they’re doing now and how they are.

Art is about escape, and when it is very good, it is an intimate examination of what it means to be human. To have relationships, to live with the pain of our choices, and to face the darkness that resides within us all. There is something very cathartic about the experience of The Willows, and it is extremely exciting to see the CREEP team innovating and evolving in this way. Painstaking care has been taken to give the characters and the story an undeniable richness and depth, and the creators of The Willows challenge you, in a modern and frenzied world, to have patience and to let this evening wash over you. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

There are certainly touches of the horrific and the macabre, but what’s new and wonderful about CREEP’s latest offering is that it is meant to be enjoyed even by those who don’t like to be scared. In fact, there is a lot of good old-fashioned fun to be had at The Willows. There is drinking, and laughter, and games... but the moment you begin to lose yourself in the spectacle, you just might catch something out of the corner of your eye that will make your blood run cold.

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