If what I saw during a dry run Wednesday night at the Washington State History Museum is any indication “Creepshow: Terror in Tacoma” is going to be a haunted house like Tacoma has never seen.
The production was still getting its final touches when I went through. The lighting and sound effects were being worked on but the sets were all in place and some of the actors were rehearsing their techniques.
The creator, special effects artist Marcel Banks, had everything under control as he gave directions to museum staff, actors and volunteers.
Two things stood out to me. The first was the incredibly long length of the haunted house. It weaves through the auditorium, hallways, stairwells, galleries and loading docks. It even uses a gigantic freight elevator. That alone would make me feel like I got my money’s worth.
The other aspect that takes this production to another level are the richly detailed sets Banks has created. Banks has made the equivalent of a small town’s worth of buildings – both from the inside and out. He’s also made graveyards, a macabre pumpkin patch and his vision of the afterlife.
There’s a living room attached to a ceiling, a throne room of the
Pumpkin King and a graveyard that actually smells like dirt.
When I first heard about WSHM hosting this event I was skeptical of how it might fit in to the space. That skepticism is gone. The show occasionally weaves through parts of the exhibits without the viewer really noticing. Part of the museum’s shanty town is used as a set. Mannequins, historical figures by day, become eerily-lit apparitions at night.
Banks uses lighting, music, sound effects and scents to good effect. But let’s face it: it’s the actors who bring energy to the show. A few were in costume on Wednesday but not in makeup. Banks explained to me the makeup he’s designed for them and it should be over the top.
The mood of the place swings from artistic to creepy to downright gruesome. In one scene an eviscerated woman hangs from a large museum sign that reads “TACOMA.”
Banks has clearly used a lot of props from the museum but he’s also called in favors from his Hollywood contacts. At one point a huge beetle? Crab? Alien? creature lunged at me from a hallway. I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie playing the part of “Victim #3.”
In what I thought was a more sedate set I found myself in a classroom with a pleasant looking teacher. Wait a minute…what’s wrong with her eyes and why is she coming at me with a ruler? And hey, there’s a kid in the corner with his stomach cut open. And boy has he eaten a lot of candy corn. On the blackboard is written, “Children should be seen and not heard.”
In a stairwell lit with blue and red lights I don 3-D glasses and find myself staring down the creature from the Black Lagoon and other 1950s sci-fi monsters.
“Creepshow” has a flavor of terror for just about every taste. If you see it comment here and let us know what you think.
CREEPSHOW: TERROR IN TACOMA
When: 7-11 p.m. Oct. 25-27
Where: Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
Ages: 13 and older