Abby the Acrobat, a petite reddish pumpkin, sits high atop a pedestal, ready for her daring performance. On the count of three, our host Jack tells us, Abby will fly high into the Autumn sky and land gracefully just above our heads. One, two, three! Abby takes a clumsy step, and instead pops a few feet off her pedestal, landing flat on her face. An unseen heckler cackles. “Looks like this pumpkin turned into a squash!” Jack’s JamBOOree 2
Opechee Haunt is the brainchild of young artist Sam Kellman, who is quickly gaining recognition for his contribution to L.A.’s next generation of prodigious haunters. In 2018, Kellman produced The Donnie Darko Experience, a full-on adaptation of Donnie Darko that closely replicated that film’s most iconic scenes. The experience was intimate and scary (only one guest allowed through at a time), but showed off an impressive attention to detail and special effects that rival some of the larger haunts in the city.
For 2019, Kellman switched gears in a drastic way, instead creating Jack’s JamBOOree 2, a family-friendly show featuring talking pumpkins, live actors, and even some fun audience participation. The show takes place in the front yard of Kellman’s home, with stationary props brought to life with an array of special effects wizardry. Jack’s JamBOOree 2 is a sequel to Opechee’s 2017 production Jack’s JamBOOree, which used the same format and many of the same characters. Guests who attended the original show will spot a number of Easter eggs and callbacks hidden throughout the performance. This second JamBOOree was also teased at Midsummer Scream earlier in 2019 through a lighthearted scavenger hunt.
Simply put, Jack’s JamBOOree 2 is the most ambitious home haunt in Los Angeles. The show is 20 minutes long, not including a 20-minute pre-show portion with spooky stories projected onto a garage wall. While it may technically fall under the category of “yard display” rather than haunt, it’s more of a cross between Disneyland’s Tiki Room, a Universal Studios stunt show, and a Saturday morning cartoon.
The show follows two friends – who happen to be pumpkins – named Jack and Gus, who are excited to unveil their new variety show, the titular JamBOOree. There’s a standup comedian, a barbershop quartet, and even a tiny pumpkin acrobat. Unfortunately, there are also rumors of a terrifying shadow monster looking to disrupt the fun.
The technical achievement here is highly impressive, with lighting and sound cues bouncing around the space with speed and precision. There’s a lot of excellent projection mapping work, especially in the pre-show, which features short stories told through expressive silhouettes – a major highlight of the event. The inclusion of a live actor at the climax of the piece is incredibly exciting and fun, and amps up the experience immediately. The aforementioned audience participation comes in at the show’s most dramatic moment, when guests must help defeat the shadow monster. It’s another brilliant bit of entertainment that elevates the show and sets it apart from just about any home haunt – quite possibly anywhere.
The sheer ambition on display is both the show’s greatest strength and biggest weakness. Kellman took a “more is more” approach, and one imagines that his only limitation was time. The story and writing, while very confident, is scattered and difficult to follow. A number of segments are too long, especially the dialogue-heavy denouement after the excellent climax, when the audience is expecting to shuffle out on a high note. On the technical side, it was very difficult to hear most, if not all, of the show. There are also some sight-line problems, and the ambient lighting makes some of the biggest moments, which are projected on a wall, very hard to see.
Jack’s JamBOOree 2 is truly a grand experiment, and though the final results are mixed, it’s an extremely bold and vital work that manages to do so much. It essentially creates a new genre of home haunt, and throws down the gauntlet for other yard displays and animatronic shows. At its best, Jack’s JamBOOree 2 gives off flashes of that elusive Disney-esque wonder – and, at about one-millionth of the budget, that achievement cannot be understated. This writer finds himself hoping for a partnership between Opechee and Boney Island, whose singing pumpkins could learn quite a lot from Jack and company. With a little tightening, Jack’s JamBOOree 2 could be an excellent and beloved family institution for years to come.
Jack’s JamBOOree 2 has concluded its run, but you can find more information on the Opechee Haunt, including any upcoming shows, on their website, Instagram, or Twitter. Check out our Event Guide for more Halloween and horror entertainment throughout the year.
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