'Delusion: His Crimson Queen' Is The King Of L.A.'s Halloween Haunts
By Abel Horwitz
After a hiatus in 2015, Delusion returns with a show that reaffirms their spot as the best Los Angeles Halloween production running.
Praise be to Jon Braver, the mastermind behind it all, and his team of skilled performers, craftsmen, producers and designers. If the devil is in the details, then Mr. Braver is Beelzebub himself.
"I'm pretty proud of this whole team," said Braver over a phone call last month. "They're ridiculously awesome. They helped develop this brand into something people trust."
He was buzzing that morning, three weeks before opening, after tickets had sold out. "People just snap them up. I'm very flattered by it, humbled by it."
The LAist review of Delusion's 2014 show called it the "crown jewel of haunts." That is not hyperbole. A ticket to Delusion immerses you into a world unlike any other haunt out there. It immerses you so much that Braver bristles at calling his production a "haunted house," preferring the term "interactive play".
As in years past, when the haunt begins you and your small group are brought into the world of Delusion, given a backstory to your reason to be in the world and interacted with at all times by the performers. They call upon you to perform tasks that determine the story that you are going to see. It is a staple of their productions, with each subsequent show raising the high water mark.
The inception of year's theme comes from a little black book of ideas that Braver keeps with him, jotting down thoughts that form in his head. "I take advantage of my A.D.D.," he explains with a laugh.
After that is finding a location, which Braver admits is the hardest part. "People think since we were off for 2015 we had all this time to prepare for 2016, but that's not the case," he says. "We couldn't find the venue until May 2016 and once we did we were frantically trying to get the show going. It's same as every other year. The timing of getting these places adds so much pressure."
As in years past he and his team found the location in a residential neighborhood, despite swearing he was done dealing with the logistical headaches of putting his show in a private home. For guests of previous shows they'll find the location familiar, as it is next door to the Beckett Mansion in the West Adams district, home of the 2011 and 2012 shows.
"I said to my team, 'Yeah, I know that space but I'm not looking for residential,'" says Braver. "Time went by and we were in a crunch and said 'Let me revisit that,' and loved the idea of coming back to the neighborhood.
"I think part of that inspiration was from seeing the space. It's one of the biggest inspirations," Braver says. "Mixing that with an idea I had months ago where I saw somebody that kind of reminded me of Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat and I thought, 'Oh, vampire lore and vampire stories.' And then this venue came around and this year's story is my kind of take on vampire lore."
Ultimately, though, without a solid story Delusion would just be a very attractive set. Childhood inspirations in films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Aliens seem to have etched themselves into Braver's psyche.
"I'm not a big horror fan," Braver admits, "But I am a good story fan. [These movies] have elements of horror, but these are stories that are just paced perfectly. The pacing of it, the suspense, the energy, the feel, the acting. There are very few movies that every frame is perfect. I kind of strive to at least try to touch upon a bit of that. They're just big inspirations."
What happens inside of the mansion is simply too juicy to spoil, suffice to say that fortune favors the bold. Vampires and their minions occupy this magnificent home, crafting a story filled with sex, violence, horror, humor and incredible stunts.
At points your party is separated. Perhaps you will be shoved into a coffin (there's lots of coffins in this year's show). Perhaps you will have to give your wrist to a vampire to feed off of it. At one point you are called upon to use the powers you didn't even know you had to telekinetically launch a vampire twenty feet into the air.
Braver's professional stunt work (The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek) has always been a part of Delusion's makeup. After the show he asked me what I liked about it, and as I listed off various moments he inquired about a particularly complicated piece of stunt work that had vampires flying throughout the room.
"Yeah, but I've seen that before," I said, immediately regretting the words as they fell out of my mouth. Have I become so spoiled by the sheer mastery of this show that watching vampires crawl on the ceiling and get pulled through walls has become commonplace? For shame.
Simply put, you have to go. The tickets for the initial run sold out in 20 days, with three-fourths of the tickets snatched up by the members of Delusion's mailing list before even going on sale to the general public, so it's highly recommended that you sign up for their list.
They hope for an extension, but must tread carefully as their show takes place in a residential neighborhood, and as of now cannot promise one.
Braver promises more. His fans ask him constantly for a year round version of the show, or to simply bring back old storylines so we can revisit them and bring our friends. Give us an opportunity to can share with everyone a show so special it's hard to write about without going into superlatives.
Braver hints at a future. "There are plans in the works," he says, "but I can't talk about them right now."
There is nothing else quite like Delusion. It is beautiful to look at, impeccably crafted and told in such an engaging way that you cannot help but fall head over heels in love with it. We can only hope that whatever comes out of his head next sticks around past Halloween. Having this show pop up once a year is the biggest horror of all.
Delusion: His Crimson Queen is located at 2200 S Harvard Blvd. in West Adams. It runs through November 13 on select nights. Tickets are $65 - $70 depending on the night, but already sold out. Pray for an extension.