So, I got this LivingSocial deal a few weeks ago to Hell Break LA. It’s a Hollywood haunted house that, somehow, slipped through our haunted house radar and got a few buzzes from our friends. We had two tickets and a ticking expiration date of October 31: what to do and when to go? Thus, yesterday evening of God’s Day Of Rest we decided to check out Hell Break LA and see what it was all about. It is a decent entry in the canon of LA haunted houses.
Hell Break is located on Santa Monica at St. Andrew’s and is housed within the endlessly fascinating old Sears building. The building is lit red and there are spotlights highlighting it from all directions. As you approach, you start to notice very loud, somewhat silly remixes blasting and a sad trail of trash surrounding the usually abandoned facility. The area around the building is one that needs a little love and is known most recently as the block that the Ronni Chasen murderer killed himself. Those are haunts that you do not get in Hell Break.
For a Sunday, the scene was totally empty. We had VIP tickets from the LivingSocial deal, which means access to the Prison Maze and Haunted Maze and front-of-the-line access. If the place was busy, these $60 retail value tickets would have far exceeded their worth. For an empty night? It was OK because the front-of-the-line access did not even get to play itself out. The place is surrounded by very homemade poster signs and spray painted “HELL BREAK” decals on the wall. You can still see Sears signs and notices on how to get these ghost departments. The ticket counter was where the old shoe department was. (A note on this: They ask for your zip code and, obviously, people with zip codes nearest to the facility get a discount. We got five dollars off the extra ticket we had to buy!)
With a handful of other people, we all decided to try the Prison Maze first. You line into a room made to look like a police lineup. An actor cop with bizarro contacts sets out the rules (No photos, don’t touch people, etc.) and attempts to instill fear in you. He leads you into a dark room where you meet “The Warden” and, again, you are given a fairly scary talking to. We won’t go into great details on what happens throughout the entire Prison Maze, but there are some frights. The chapel scene in particular was the best. Where the Prison Maze excels is that there are so many good actors employed to get up in your face and scare you. It can be campy (Ahem, Fake Hannibal Lecter Guy.) and very convincing (The Pregnant Girl was the best!) but it is an overall good attempt despite you being able to see the seams of creation everywhere and you won’t be at a shortage for opportunities to make Sears jokes. Believe us: every scary person we encountered we asked how to get to the Men’s Department. No one had an answer.
The second attraction was the Haunted Maze. This is the less hyped, upstairs maze that is an actual labyrinth. You are given no explanation and are led up some stairs and basically told, “Find a way out.” It’s dark up here and you just have to figure your shit out. We were a group of three and we went up with a couple. Before heading in, we asked them, “Should we split up or stick together?” Without responding, they headed to the right and we wandered to the left, where a white head was poking around the corner and who ran out at us as we said, “Isn’t that a man?” This maze was markedly more scary as you can’t see shit, have no idea where you are going, and are literally walking into scary people. The only flaw with this maze is that we were too good at it: we got through it in ten minutes and, when seeing the words “END” at the end, we tried to go back through and get lost but the man at the end told us we couldn’t.
Hell Break is fun. Expensive, sure, but we assume the money is going to the many, many actors involved. The only problems were that the Prison Maze was not a maze and that both are entirely too quick. I like to stew in my horrors and get to the point of vomitting before I’m through. In both situations you feel tingles in your stomach but you’re already in the Sears parking lot before you could build up your vomit strength. Moreover, someone needs to rent this space for next year and do a retail themed horror mall maze. Chopping Mall live, anyone? Please let us make this happen. They do excel in story and that upstairs Haunted Maze is fun. Why not spook yourself at Hell Break for Halloween?
Hell Break runs through Halloween and is open from 2PM to 1AM that day. Today and tomorrow they are open from 7PM to 1AM.