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SYFY WIRE Interviews

A new horror popup lets you take selfies inside your favorite scary movies

By Adam Pockross
i like scary movies maximillian and robyn

Have you noticed a proliferation of somewhat cheesy selfie museums popping up all over the place (or is that just a weird L.A. thing)? When you first saw friends postering your Insta-feed, did you think: "Yeah, that's cool, but it could use a whole lot less pink sprinkles and whole lot more red blood and worm-infested Chinese food?" Then you'll immediately understand the horrific allure of I Like Scary Movies, the immensely immersive, Warner Bros.-blessed, selfie museum/art installation that offers a whole new way for fans to connect to their favorite films.

The 25,000-square-foot exhibit celebrates five of the best horror offerings ever made — The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, The Lost Boys, and IT — by reimagining them in a geek-out-friendly, highly tactile, and phenomenally photographable way. Or "three-dimensional fan art," as Maximillian, the experiential artist behind the exhibit, as well as some of Comic-Con and Hollywood's most jaw-dropping installations, told SYFY WIRE.

The exhibition was in various states of construction when Maximillian and his wife, Robyn, (both shown above) walked me and a select group around the space, which occupies a whole floor in L.A.'s historic Desmond Building (with its even more historic elevator operator). Though we were not allowed to photograph most of the rooms, as it was just coming into shape for the April 4th opening, even without the VFX, audio, and lighting components, you can already tell this thing's going to make a lot of people very happy. In fact, it's already doing so for some lucky creators/fans...

Maximillian has been working on the project for nearly a year, including refining which titles should be included. "These five movies were really specific in my mind, and that's what I approached Warner with. First of all, I love all these movies, but I wanted something to touch every horror fan, in a way," he said. "From throwback slashers like Nightmare, to '80s vampires, to Tim Burton fans with Beetlejuice, to classic horror with The Shining, to current blockbuster horror with IT… I feel like it just has a little bit of something for everyone, and like it was a good overall celebration of just the genre."

Once WB approved all the concept art, around Christmas, Maximillian's Ultra Productions team of fabricators and artists got to work in their own garages, shops, and studios off-site. Since Mar. 1, they've been schlepping their dreadful fare over to the Desmond, wriggling it up a narrow flight of stairs, and through what seem like the tiniest of doors.

Those doors appear particularly small when you're greeted by a 9-foot-tall hedge maze, the first thing you see in the exhibit space. But this isn't just your average scare night hedge maze, as Maximillian's not interested in doing what's been done before (besides, why relegate your scares to Halloween when "horror is really a 365-day love affair these days?"). This one is emblazoned with "Redrum" on one side and "Murder" on the back. Quite the fitting welcome.

"What I really wanted to do with I Like Scary Movies was do a combination of a few things: art installations, experiences, and photo ops," he explained. "So I'm remixing a lot of the content, and kind of mashing it up in a celebration and kind of a different way than anyone's kind of done before."

From the hedge-maze, we lingered in The Shining realm with a recreation of one of the film's most memorable scenes, done in a way that will look wholly recognizable, yet totally new.

"I'm taking The Shining elevator blood flood and turning that into a combination of the room key tags from Room 237, using that to simulate the blood. So we're doing that all practical, we have hundreds of hundreds of these key tags that we're using to literally do a still-life sculpture," says Maximillian.

From the blood flood, you move into a room enveloped in an all-too familiar pattern.

"I wanted to do a real kind of deprivation kind of area with that infamous Shining carpet pattern, so it feels like it's really enveloping you," says Maximillian, while pointing out two doors, camouflaged within that terrifying carpet, that will serve as sinking pits. "I love the idea that The Overlook is this living breathing entity that overtakes its hosts and envelopes you, so these doors are going to be open and you'll be able to sink into the walls of The Overlook, with a bunch of other different elements in there as well."

There are different freaky elements like the twins, the old lady in the bathtub, and even an adult-size tricycle for visitors to pose on. "I really wanted some hidden things in here that the real fans are gonna go, 'What?!' There's little jokes that they're gonna get," he said .

i like scary movies beetlejuice smoking man

Next, our tour made its way through a massive, cylindrical walkway, which has a basket full of pre-fabricated teeth at the end of it. Soon, this will be a rotating vortex tunnel representing Pennywise's hungry gullet, taking you into Maximillian's IT environment.

Once you're through the jaws of death, you come upon the lair's enormous centerpiece, comprised of sewage-soaked kiddie clothes and evil toys. "Our take on the fear tower in the center, with the kids floating — we're going to have actually a few of them moving up and down."

And really, what says "selfie op" better than floating child corpses? How about 4,000 floating paper boats being blasted with shimmering water projections? Or sticking your head inside Pennywise's mouth?

After spending 15 minutes or so inside Pennywise, there's no reprieve, as you make your way into Freddy's nightmare-imagined throne room, with walls of red and green stripes made of custom printed spandex, stretched to the max with mechanically mounted faces pushing their way through various parts of the room.

And what trip to Elm St. would be complete without a brush with Freddy's glove? Though you've definitely never seen it like this before: complete with fully articulating, metal-smithed finger-knives, supple leatherwork, and the tantalizing feel of charred skin.

"So you can pull down the blades around you and be able to take a super unique shot. All the blades are on little hydraulics so they pop right back up again," heh said, while promising that it's backed by 2,000 pounds of water weight, "so nobody dies."

i like scary movies harry the hunter

Up next is Beetlejuice's underworld waiting room, with photo ops on a leg-lopping couch, inside a shark's mouth, with your shrunken head replacing Harry the Hunter's, or submerged in a pool that looks like an 8-bit broken floor.

After about an hour, we make it across some train tracks (from which you can hang) and into the final room: “An interesting sort of random, bohemian Lost Boys cave lair kind of environment with a seven-foot tall Chinese food box with 20 silicon worms that you can pull around yourself to kind of get into that worm box like Michael saw when he was turning into a vampire.”

The exhibition opens on April 4, and $39 tickets are on sale now. If you're not in L.A., fret not, because Maximillian is taking this horror show on the road.

"This is the first of many stops, hopefully," says Maximillian. "I was really adamant about these specific titles to start off on, and then as we grow, we'll add more movies. There's other movies that they want me to play with, and I would like to play with."

Any suggestions?