Not just for Halloween or Instagram: ‘I Like Scary Movies’ is horror as art installation

Cynthia Salazar, left, and Chelsea Salazar pose for a picture at the "I Like Scary Movies" art exhibit in downtown Los Angeles.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

“I Like Scary Movies” is the rare art installation where guests are encouraged to touch everything.

In fact, creator and experiential artist Maximillian designed each set piece, which includes memorable moments from the horror movies “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Shining,” “Friday the 13th,” “It” and “Beetlejuice,” with interactivity in mind.

“We encourage everyone to touch everything, like the creepy Freddy [Krueger] skin and the blades on his glove,” Maximillian says. “There’s a huge satisfaction to knowing that people can get a whole different level of sensory experience being able to touch something and see what it’s made of.”


Inside the massive installation space at the HD Buttercup DTLA building, guests are encouraged to walk through tunnels and across bridges and to climb into coffins and couches, snapping selfies along the way.

The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 17, is produced by Ultra Productions and inspired by horror movies from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. Despite the scary elements, the installation is not designed as a traditional Halloween-themed jump-scare haunt or even a pop-up photo op.

“It’s definitely not haunted house, it’s more art gallery,” says Weston Santos, the installation’s art director.

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“There are certain things within ‘I Like Scary Movies’ that you can’t get to physically, you can’t take a photo with necessarily,” says Maximillian. “Certain things you just have to see and sometimes the view is obstructed. And that’s all really purposeful because not everything is a photo op.

“I don’t consider us an Instagram museum or even a pop-up, for that matter,” he adds. “We’re trying to do something a little different.”

Bettina Diaz, 10, takes a picture inside a tunnel at the "I Like Scary Movies" art exhibit downtown.
Bettina Diaz, 10, takes a picture inside a tunnel at the “I Like Scary Movies” art exhibit downtown.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The name “I Like Scary Movies” is what Maximillian calls his “‘Snakes on a Plane’ moment.”

“It’s just supposed to be fun,” he says. “It’s supposed to be something different. And it’s a call-out to social media with likes. It’s not love, it’s like.”

At the same time, the sets are so intricately designed that guests will want to put their phones down to see everything. Between sculptors and fabricators, approximately 15 artists contributed to the sets. Hand-sculpted props include the sandworm from “Beetlejuice,” a bear from “The Shining” and Freddy Krueger’s clawed hand, which required work from both a sculptor and a blacksmith.

“We sourced out different companies to make each one,” Santos says. “So each one is its own art piece.”

“We haven’t really had anything like this before, you know?” Maximillian says. “The thing is that with horror in particular, anything that’s experiential tends to be Halloween- and fall-centric. I wanted to celebrate the content in a different way and to prove that horror is a 365-day business. And that there are fans out there who love to be involved and consume this kind of content all year round.”

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The installation’s initial two-month run stretched through spring 2019 at the Desmond building on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile. “We launched in April as a very specific tactic to show that people would be into it,” says Maximillian. “And they were.”

So much so that “I Like Scary Movies” was extended for another month before being brought back for the fall season.

In lieu of the “Lost Boys” scenes from the first run, the current version has a Camp Crystal Lake reimagining from slasher classic “Friday the 13th,” complete with a lake made of glittery machetes and a 10-foot-tall sculpture of Jason’s signature hockey mask rendered in dangling crystals.

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“We basically have taken a lot of the things that people have grown to love and remixed them a little bit for the second one,” Maximillian says. “So that’s the one thing about ‘I Like Scary Movies’ — it’s never going to be the same thing twice. Whether it’s here in L.A. or in another market, it’s always going to be a different show.”

In fact, plans are already in place to take the show on the road. “We’re going to try it out with a bunch of different markets and a few different countries, as a matter of fact,” says Maximillian.

“We’re looking at different genres,” says Robyn Snodgrass, Maximillian’s wife, business partner and executive producer of the installation. “We can put all sorts of different movies in there depending on our studio partnerships.”

Lisette Munguia poses for a picture at "I Like Scary Movies."
Lisette Munguia poses for a picture at “I Like Scary Movies.”
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

In the lobby, guests are greeted with a funeral viewing scene and encouraged to climb into the empty casket.

“That’s been a really interesting thing for people to participate in because we sort of joke that you can be present for your own viewing,” says Maximillian. “And horror fans are a macabre group just like I am, but I wanted to do something that would strike a chord with people. Like, We’re all going to end up here, what are you doing right now?”

During a recent visit, actor Seth Green staged a photo on the funereal set with his wife.

“They did this mourning shot where she was in the casket and he was kneeling down holding her hand,” says Maximillian. “It was a powerful moment.”

'I Like Scary Movies'

Where: HD Buttercup Building DTLA, 2118 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles

When: Wednesday through Sunday, through Nov. 17

Tickets: $39


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