By YASMINA KETITA
ANGEL OF LIGHT is the new immersive walk-through horror experience in downtown Los Angeles that I had the pleasure of attending. This frightening yet beautiful haunt at the historic Los Angeles Theatre is a 1930s tale that comes to life, which follows the anthology story of ROTA KRISHA where ancient curses, sonic secrets and demonic possession intertwine.
I’ve been to haunted walk-through experiences at Canada’s Wonderland Halloween Haunt and Niagara Falls’ Screamers, but ANGEL OF LIGHT took me by pleasant surprise, as I was intrigued and captivated by the many aspects involved in this creation. Once I entered the Los Angeles Theatre, I was immediately stunned at the beautifully carved ceiling and walls as well as the ghostly lighting. While I waited to be ushered into the first attraction, actors in 1930s attire who seemingly died and are stuck in their hellish purgatory welcomed me. It must’ve been eerie fate that I happened to be in the very front of my group that walked through the first haunt, so it was fun being startled in the best/horrible way.
The 60-minute event included much more than your typical scare-jump tactics. Drama, interaction, choreographed dancing and more played parts to make this haunt a one-of-a-kind mysterious adventure that I highly recommend this spooky season. I had a chance to speak with co-creators, directors and producers Chris Anatas and Mark Binder about this unique haunted attraction.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did all of this come together and what initiated the idea for ANGEL OF LIGHT?
Chris: ANGEL OF LIGHT is the name of a very sought-after binaural beat that lives within the sound syndicate and a story called HEX. Kids in a small sleepy, lumber town in the Pacific Northwest that takes place in 2030, are all wrapped up into the sound syndicate, and the sought-after psychedelic trance and binaural beat that has affirmations and ASMR, was really stimulating kids and doing things in the wrong way was called the ANGEL OF LIGHT.
The story from the movie HEX, which is the original story that spawned the ANGEL OF LIGHT, was the name of a track that was banned from the sound syndicate. We are calling this ANGEL OF LIGHT as our prequel to the movie HEX that we plan on shooting. We felt that using the ANGEL OF LIGHT as a prequel to the story HEX, fit in line a little bit more with what were doing at the Los Angeles Theatre. Telling the backstory of HEX is what MARK BINDER (co-creator/director/producer) and I wanted to go in that direction so we would have the story of the ANGEL OF LIGHT and that would lead us into the future slowly as we would film.
ANGEL OF LIGHT is two different pieces of the start of the story from the movie HEX and its connotation stems from the second Corinthians verse in the Bible, which literally means Satan, or Lucifer and we’re leaving that up to everybody’s own kind of interpretation. We’re using something that’s kind of mysterious and something that’s very juxtaposed of what people think it should be which is the term that has more of an eloquent angelic feel to it, but it really means something completely opposite.
I definitely got that vibe even when I watched the trailer but as I was walking through ANGEL OF LIGHT, I noted the religious tones but in an evil sort of way.
It was my first time attending the Los Angeles Theatre and I was completely mesmerized by this building. I spoke to somebody at the show and they told me a story about when Charlie Chaplin did a show there and because it was a negative experience for him, it led to the theatre’s demise over the years. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, maybe you could confirm. Was the Los Angeles theatre your first pick of venue?
Yeah, absolutely. Walking into the Los Angeles Theatre, my first kind of elbow bump and comment to Mark Binder was “this is the Titanic before it sank.” It’s so well preserved and in such great pristine condition. You walk in and you’re completely transported so right away we’re like, this has the look and the smell of an old place and it also just reeks of a creepiness with a ghostly feel to it. We have to tell our original story and do it at the Los Angeles Theatre.
It was an independent theatre built in 1931 but they went bankrupt a year and a half after the premiere of City Lights starring Charlie Chaplin. It was a technical innovation that was much ahead of its time and the largest theatre west of Chicago, just massive. And yes, they did have problems with the talkies back then with Charlie Chaplin. Getting a blacklist from Charlie Chaplin led to bankruptcy, causing the fall of the theatre. It reopened and resurrected a few years later in 1935 and then it was open for spurts of time and actually, MGM was showing a lot of their films there. So it did operate through the mid 30s into the 40s and 50s and that’s when I think in the late 60s were starting to show movies and it was just one of those abandoned theatres where people would go see movies once in a while but it was never mainstream again. I believe the current owners of the theatre were asked by Tom Bradley, the mayor of L.A., to buy it and clean it up to not let down such a classic theatre.
I love that they didn’t renovate it. When I saw the detail and architecture of the actual theatre room, I thought it’s insane to me what humans can build. It’s a gorgeous theatre and it definitely added to the ambience and haunting mood of the show.
I was talking to you and Mark Binder at the show and I asked when you started all of this and you said five months ago, which is crazy to me how much you’ve accomplished in five months. I’m sure the entire production wasn’t easy, but what was the most challenging aspect that you faced?
By the way, we recalculated that number and it’s more like three months. I think the most challenging aspect that we both recognized was this is downtown and a lot of people have never heard of it. It’s not like pointing them to a place in North Hollywood that everybody knows. So that would present us initially with what has become a little bit of a tough neighborhood. The challenge was that we’re new and people didn’t know who we were and we’re going to a building that most people don’t even know exists in L.A.
I found walking through ANGEL OF LIGHT that there were different kinds of actors. There were ones walking around speaking to me and ones that were delivering a kind of theatrical performance as well as a physical performance in the form of dance at the end. I was wondering what was the audition process like in terms of the right set of actors and performers you were seeking for each of these different kinds of artistic methods.
Hats off to all of them and big congratulations from the actor standpoint. MARK BINDER’s wife JANINE BINDER helped with our choreography in the main theatre, but the message from Mark and I was simple, and I don’t mean to knock other activities and events that go on here in town, we don’t want jump scares, goons and boos, and people that rattle boxes and just scream. When we had all the actors audition, we mentioned to all of them, we’re creating art and you’re helping us achieve that and that’s why we did a casting call and that’s why we wanted true actors to deliver amazing performances and gave them a pallet to create as well and that was very important to us.
So yes, we did a true audition where people came in and we ran them through all different versions of what we wanted them to say from scripts to letting them go off on their own to give us their interpretation of what was going on, all surrounded by the sonic procession, and it worked beautifully. Then we went to a choreographer at a dance studio, and we did a call for professional dancers. Mark and I went to the finals of all these auditions and I must have looked at a final audition of over a hundred dancers that came through that they were just taught four hours ago. We handpicked the best to do the Adagio and it was definitely a true professional choreographer, SHANNON BEACH, and she really knocked it out of the park.
What differentiates ANGEL OF LIGHT from other haunted walk-through attractions?
You’re walking into an experience where we’re slowly going through and telling you a story without telling you a story. We’re letting you live within the experience. The building itself is its own character and has its own story that everybody’s slowly unravelling in their brain. Where am I? What happened here? What’s going on?
One of the major differentiators is that we’re taking over a building as the history fits into the story and as I’ve discovered and unfolded, is haunted. The projectionist in the ‘40s had a heart attack and died in the projection booth and I’ve seen crazy pictures of him roaming the halls and the people who have worked there have just got crazy stories. They don’t really keep overnight security guards for more than a few weeks at a time because they quit. They get creeped out and they just don’t want to be there anymore. So we’re using that building as part of our story but there are parts that don’t lend themselves to the theatre so we transform those into something else. For instance, when you walk down the stairs, you get to the catacombs. We built the catacombs because that part of the theatre was a big blank empty room. I know that most of the other haunts are built into a warehouse. There’s a good one here in Pomona that’s in an old mansion and they do a phenomenal job but they don’t use enough of the actual mansion in the haunt. I think what separates us is we’re using the whole building.
Even the outside, I love that. I was at one point like, my god, now I’m outside, this is crazy. I just have one final question. Will you be doing ANGEL OF LIGHT again next year?
We will absolutely be doing ANGEL OF LIGHT next year when the curse is revived and we’ll unveil the story of how one of ROTA KRISHA’s family or kin comes back – but this time it’s 1955. We plan on doing it year after year and once we get to the third year, 1975, where something happened at the theatre, only this time we plan on releasing our film Hex which takes place in 2030, and doing the premiere at the theatre. We’ll also shoot ANGEL OF LIGHT and tell the whole prequel of the story and probably shoot some of that at the Los Angeles Theatre, as well as Eastern Europe. We intend on doing multiple locations over the next few years and I think we want to do different cities.
ANGEL OF LIGHT is running until October 31, 2023 at the Los Angeles Theatre. Don’t miss this unique experience!