A blood-streaked hand suddenly juts out from behind a shower curtain. It’s holding something, not a knife, not a body part, but -- gasp -- a Diva Cup?
“Could you empty this?” the owner of the hand, still hidden, asks and gestures toward the sink.
The cup is overflowing with fake menstrual blood. This is not your typical Halloween experience.
“KillJoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House” was created by Toronto based-artists Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell as a response to hell houses built by radical evangelical groups each Halloween, which showcase a gruesome retribution for the sins of fornication, abortion, suicide, occultism and same-sex relationships. The installation aims to reclaim this punitive scenario as a sex-positive, trans-inclusive, and queer celebration, while poking fun at the notion of lesbian feminists as humorless hags.
Reading that, you might think a Ph.D. in gender theory is necessary to know what’s going on, let alone to enjoy the haunted house, located in a community center in West Hollywood. But fret not -- you have an earthy, self-proclaimed women’s studies adjunct professor as your tour guide.
She’s just one of the many feminist tropes and ideas that have been brought to life at KillJoy’s Kastle, most coming off as more campy than disturbing, encouraging irreverent laughter over actual fright. If the woman greeting you at the door seems gruff, don’t take it too personally. That’s zombie Valerie Solanas, notorious Warhol-shooter and author of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto (short for Society for Cutting Up Men). That rhythmic pounding in the next room? Clad in flannel and combat boots, that’s a literal ballbuster hammering away at ceramic testicles in a mesmerizing and clever vignette.
There are many spectacular characters worthy of your attention, but don’t think you’ll be left to be a mere observer. A large part of the performer-driven space is audience interaction. In other contexts, this might mean having teenagers in monster masks snarling at you for a cheap scare, but at KillJoy’s Kastle, you participate in myriad ways -- from the physical to the more cerebral.
You might punch a bag emblazoned with the word “capitalism” on it. Or you might take a shot of liquor from a witch’s fake penis. You will definitely see a group of consciousness-raising moaning ghoulfriends, naked except for the sheets covering their heads.
If all that sounds overwhelming, you might look forward to the calmer final stage of the haunted house -- lesbian processing. The term refers to the stereotypical lesbian penchant for overanalyzing, overdiscussing and overthinking their relationships, which is exactly what you are sincerely asked to do in a brief discussion with the lesbian feminists who have helped produce the haunted house.
As silly and over-the-top as it might seem, KillJoy’s Kastle is a bold, subversive space where you can’t look away from pervasive feminist issues and herstory, because they’re in your face, brightly colored, and neon-lit.
KillJoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House by artists Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue. Organized by ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries. Continues through Oct. 30, 2015 at Plummer Park, West Hollywood.
Also on HuffPost: