Meeting Larry Bones
We arrive at Bone Yard Effects, Inc—a legend in the special effects industry. Larry Bones emerges from within and greets us warmly. He’d normally show us around the studio—but it’s filled with monsters, facades, and secrets that we cannot yet see. Instead, we are taken to his office, filled with masks, costumes, and life-sized monsters so life-like I almost think they’re real. Larry is the founder/owner of Bone Yard Effects, which has served the entertainment industry since 1995. In 2006, Larry became the Department Head of Makeup and Hair for Halloween Horror Nights. Each year transformed hundreds of people into terrifying monsters with a team of over forty people. He also has an impressive list of film and television work, and provides a line of foam latex prosthetics. But Larry is now undertaking his most ambitious project to-date: Into the Black!
What is Into the Black?
Into the Black is a four-part experience: a narrative-driven movie, a virtual-reality (VR) experience, a haunted house in October, and a documentary detailing the entire process. The story focuses on The Black House, an isolated Victorian mansion deep within the woods, and home to Anton and Isabella Black. This reclusive couple worships the occult, and when local villagers begin to disappear, they are blamed. The woods surrounding their house is made off-limits and the villager soon forget about the Blacks. The horrifying stories about this family fade into legend.
The film starts in modern times and follows “a team of paranormal investigators as they try to locate this legendary house.” They want to find out if the legends are true and what dark entities the Blacks really worshipped. The film will also serve as a teaser to build excitement for the experience. When you arrive at the haunt, experience the VR event first, which “takes you back to 1866 where you get to see how horrible the Black family really was. You’ll witness their venture into the occult and demonology.” Both the film and VR experience prepare you for what you’ll see in the haunt: because you are stepping foot into the Black house. “Exactly what you see in this film is exactly what you’ll see in this haunt. If someone dies in the film, you will find their dead body in the haunt.” There will be a lot of Easter Eggs for those two have watched the movie and experienced the VR. “These experiences are all tied together so tightly.”
How do you experience Into The Black?
The haunt and VR experience sound insanely ambitious and innovative, but you’ll want to watch the movie first. So where can you see it? Larry tells us that the movie will debut at Midsummer Scream in July. And after it debuts, it will be posted on YouTube to watch for free.
But the movie will only show you one level. “You need to go to the haunt to determine what’s going on within this house—and what’s under this house.” We all laugh nervously at this as it sounds frightening. “This experience will change about half way through from a Victorian house to something much darker.”
The haunt runs for fourteen days: Friday – Sunday, October 6th – 29th, and then from October 29th through Halloween; all at the Pomona Fairplex at Club One at the bottom of the grandstands. This venue is a 9,000 square-foot building that is climate controlled and up to fire code. It’s here that you can experience both the VR event and the haunt in its entirety. Larry recommends that “you go through the VR experience first to learn more of the story and the characters you may see while in the haunt. We are interweaving and cross-matching everything.”
The VR experience is currently being shot in conjunction with Dave Love and Hollow Studios, who was responsible for FearVR: 5150 at Knott’s Scary farm this past year. Larry also says they are paying attention to issues of motion sickness. “You will get the sense of being moved but you will be stationary the whole time. We wanted to make sure no one throws up.”
And for those who want to discuss the events afterwards, there will be plenty of space to congregate. “There is also an Oktoberfest event happening about 100 yards away. You can come to the haunt and then grab a beer,” Larry says happily. Haunts and beer—who could want more?
How scary is Into The Black?
This is a haunted house—not an extreme event. Larry promises, “No one will be grabbed, shocked, or force-fed—we are relying purely on fear.” And a sense of fear, of dread, is the what truly differentiates this experience from the other haunted houses out there. Larry started with one idea when creating Into the Black: you go through alone.
Yes, this is an individual experience. One at a time. You will be taken away from the comfort, the familiarity, of your friends. Larry explains, “when you’re with your friends and something scary happens, you can just laugh it off. The real fear comes in when you don’t have someone to laugh it off with.”
The other benefit of going in alone is no more conga lines (a bunching of people in a haunted experience—forming a line). In traditional haunted houses, you can see the scare multiple times before you even reach out. But going through alone redefines that: you’ll have no idea what’s coming. “I hate the conga line,” Larry exclaims. We laugh—we hate it too.
Larry wants to make sure that no guests ever run into each other. Guests will be entering every thirty seconds, but Larry’s crew is up for the challenge. “We’re relying on a talented team of scare actors trained to scare participants from behind so they are constantly moving forward.”
He even teased there will be interactivity between audience and actor. “You may see scenes with one demon, one actor from our movie, or even one character from our VR experience.”
The Fears Inside
Into the Black will instill a sense of dread into its guests. This dread starts before you even set foot in the haunted house. Larry created a world with this experience—each element is building upon the last to create an alternate reality for you. Approaching the Black family home at the Fairplex will be surreal because you’ve already watched a team of paranormal investigators explore it and you’ve already learned it’s backstory in the VR experience, all before you even step foot inside.
And when you step inside, Larry has created some truly terrifying moments. “I thought about what is scary to me. I love Victorian themes—they’re just creepy. And it’s the dread of going down these long dark hallways—alone.” Larry focused on fears that seemed universal to most people. He also wanted to expand on what the other haunted houses focus on: “[In a typical haunted house], you are startled, but you aren’t scared. You need that sense of dread to truly be scared.”
Larry continues, “some of the film team has seen the demons we are creating and comment, ‘I’m not going in there. At all!’” It’s a wonderful testament to the creature creation of Larry Bones when his own team is hesitant to go through Into the Black because the monsters are too frightening. Larry is currently doing head casts on everyone right now. “We want them to have custom fit make-up and custom fit masks. We’re custom fitting everything.” In his 11 years at Halloween Horror Nights, Larry has never casted anyone, so this is truly something special and the effects will demonstrate that.
For those who want in your face scares, don’t worry. “It’s not all just a sense of dread,” Larry says with a smile. “There will be plenty of sections where demons are crawling out of every hole.”
What Inspired Into The Black?
At Midsummer Scream last year, Larry was given the opportunity to create a special immersive scare-zone at the event, entitled Toxicity, which centered around a genetics lab that suffered a toxic explosion. “It was a wonderful experience and showed me the beauty of having creative freedom.” That planted the seed for Larry. And it grew in his head. “If I was to make my own haunt—what would it be?” One night while working Halloween Horror Nights, the idea came to him: what if guests went through alone? He returned to his scare base and just started expanding on this idea—and he wrote ten pages. “I don’t know what it was that did it; but I knew I needed a notepad. And it just came rolling out.”
Larry just started talking to people from here. Friends and coworkers that he’s worked with for years were quickly on board. Some even left their current projects to join Larry—revealing their faith in his work and ideas. The pieces just came together. Larry is thankful every single day “that he doesn’t have to struggle harder to make this come to life. His cast and crew make his life so much easier.” After all this years, so many people are coming forward offering whatever they can to help Into the Black. And that’s something beautiful to Larry—this community is just amazing.
Into the Black is a four-part experience that is both ambitious and innovative for the haunt community. Larry and his team are creating a fully realized world through a movie, a VR experience, a haunt, and a documentary—all centered around The Black House and its inhabitants. Start with the film at Midsummer Scream or on YouTube. And then catch the VR and haunt experiences this October at the Pomona Fairplex. And when this is all over, watch the documentary on how it all was made. This is a movie Larry has been watching in his head for the past year; and as both his fans and his actors agree, we all “thank Larry for letting us live in the world in his head this Halloween season.”