Well, over the next three weeks, on the Northwest corner of the intersection – the area will once again be home to something ghastly. Something ghoulish. Something evil. Perhaps more terrifying than potential offers from strange women (depending on how you see things, of course).
The IT Experience: Neibolt House Hollywood is a new temporary attraction to highlight (and help hype) the forthcoming Warner Bros. release of IT – the brand new adaptation of the beloved Stephen King novel.
Press and special guests were offered up a preview prior to the attraction’s public opening on August 14th, 2017.
I was joined in the haunt by several other names in the horror journalism trade – some of whom are old pros when it comes to haunted houses and immersive attractions. I made it clear that I was not the veteran that they were, and so I would be using them as buffers, shields and bait when we actually entered the home.
So I just want to shout out a quick thanks for helping me (and in some cases, deserting me), Shannon McGrew of Nightmarish Conjurings, Jeff Heimbuch of Horror Buzz, Sabina-Lissette Graves of Moviefone and James Oster of JoBlo.com. They were brave when I was not, and when they weren’t brave, I was left behind to fend for myself. So thank you.
While we awaited our scheduled tour, there were several “Georgies” wandering about – heads down in their yellow hooded slickers, seemingly floating (see how I did that?) about the area with helium-filled red balloons. You know – the iconic image of the ill-fated kid checking out Pennywise in the city gutters.
Now don’t let that insightful comment fake you out. I’ve very little experience with IT. I owned the paperback as a pre-teen, read about 100 pages and then the read was cut short. I think it was more due to the monstrous size of the novel (1100 pages or so) and random childhood distractions, more-so than abject terror.
I also saw the Tim Curry television mini-series well into adulthood, and other than Curry’s iconic turn as the freaky-ass clown, it had little effect.
So going into this experience, as well as the forthcoming film itself – well, I’m going in pretty blind. Which is good in a way, but I’m also less-than fluent in the language of this world.
For a pop-up attraction, The IT Experience was nicely detailed and obviously professionally done (we’re talking studio dollars here, folks!)
SPOILERS. SPOILERS. SPOILERS.
I’m about to take you inside the attraction, step by clown-detesting step! So cut back on your reading if you must. You’ve been warned.
As you enter the house, past a never-ending sea of people in those yellow raincoats (an iconic image in and of itself), avoiding the slalom course of bobbing red balloons, you’ll be greeted by a two story, spiral staircase up. There are dead leaves crunching beneath your feet, accompanied by faint and eerie cackling from multiple sides as you ascend.
Once you reach the top and join the rest of your group, led by one of the many Georgies, you’ll receive instructions. These will vary based on your assigned Georgie. My group and I were able to go through twice! The first Georgie warned that you should never open any doors unless instructed to do so. The other one simply asked that he never be left alone. “I don’t like being alone.”
As you move past some more disembodied cackling and into a room full of clowns (this is IT, folks – you knew they would show up eventually), you’ll find several moving parts, including a hissing coffin which opens randomly and creepy little clown trinkets moving about – accompanied by circus music. And with those distractions, the real horror will strike. But I won’t tell you what.
Georgie then moves you into the next room, which is a sort of garage/living space – where a plethora of props (including some Fangoria swag – paying tribute, yo!) cover every corner. There’s a short video on a rusty old television, with a woman surrounded by children – screeching, “Kill them all!” will no doubt put you on edge. But there will then be – on the dripping wall on the far side of the room – home videos (you’ve seen them, and the blowing hair of Pennywise in the film’s trailer) and then a completely nightmare-inducing, almost hallucinatory image of Pennywise behind a bunch of red balloons. It’s then that you’ll be ready to move on.
And that’s what you do – forever guided by Georgie.
The next step, beyond a dilapidated old garden bench – takes you downstairs, past a wall of grabbing hands extending from dark holes in the sagging wallpaper. When you reach the bottom – you’ll be told to wait – with one door open just a smidge (hiding what?) on one side and a closed door on the other.
Eventually Georgie will take you through the closed door – where you’ll discover a playroom of sorts – filled with all kinds of trinkets, toy trucks, a ventriloquist doll and more (wait for it) clown-themed knick-knacks.
But what’s that on the far side of the room? Three filthy doors in a row. One marked, “NOT SCARY AT ALL”, the second one marked, “SCARY” and the third one christened (all three messages in dripping red paint) “VERY SCARY”.
Georgie will ask for volunteers to open the first two doors. Behind the “NOT SCARY AT ALL” is an animatronic, convulsing figure. Okay – not too scary. The door didn’t lie. The second person (I didn’t open any doors on either of my tours – I follow directions) opened the “SCARY” door and a real person in some sort of rotted-flesh get-up jumps out and wanders among your group – babbling endlessly about – what? I don’t know! A warning? Speak more clearly!
As you’re jonesin’ to get out of here (you can’t go backward) you’ll be ready to go through the door marked “VERY SCARY” – and Georgie will plead for you to go in first.
Sure, why not? As Colonel Mustard said in Clue – “I’ve lived a good life.”
As you move into the next room, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a bloody and absolutely filthy bathroom. The tub is full of maggots (projected onto the floor of course) and the toilet is swarming with skittering roaches (also projected). But it’s no less itch-inducing and grotesque. Over by the sink, someone is crouched over and convulsing. Are they vomiting? What’s going on? Well, the sprayed blood across the wall in front of them might offer some clues.
Let’s get by quickly, shall we? Oh, but what fresh hell is this? An entire room of yellow-hooded Georgies – are they all statues? Is one of them real? On my second trip through the house, I found out (right up front) that one of them is a real person.
But the real horror is just beyond this sea of floating balloons and yellow slickers.
It’s Pennywise himself – in the flesh. At the end of some sort of sewer tunnel. He cackles and he lunges, all with the creepy aid of strobe effects. Going through a second time didn’t make his sudden, spastic jumping any more palatable.
And then you’re led further into the sewer, eventually being told by a holograph (a la Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride) across a screen of mist – of Pennywise… saying… oh, I don’t know… something about “floating”.
And then you’re out of this hell – perhaps leaving little Georgie (or your companions) behind. Or grabbing that lost kid in the raincoat and taking him away from all of this death, before realizing, this person is just an actor and I’ve committed the crime of kidnapping. Or you’ll do none of these things, ‘cause you’re not like me and can separate horror haunt fantasy from real life. Whatever “floats” your boat. Ahem.
And then you’re back out in the “safety” of Hollywood – leaving behind the horrors of The IT Experience – perhaps warding off any potential streetwalkers on the nearby corner. But then you’ll remember that we’re not here in the ‘80s, so all should be well.
But there are still many of these random Georgies milling about in the crowd, which you must wade through in your bright red galoshes (if you’ve properly dressed for the occasion).
Despite the fact that the event is free, it appears to be “sold out”, per the website. But if you can finagle your way in somehow, and haven’t read my spoilers – then you should make it happen. It’s a great deal of fun and will certainly up the ante as far as hype for the film. Well done, WB!
The IT Experience runs beginning today; daily from 1pm to 11pm; until September 10th, 2017. IT the film opens in theatres nationwide on September 8th, 2017.
Stay tuned to this space for potential IT cast/crew interviews as well as my review of the film itself.
“We all float down here.”… or we float over here – specifically at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.