Zombie Joe's Underground has a history of pushing limits, most famously in their signature work Urban Death. Casts, writers and directors often try to find new, strange ways to explore the macabre. Tortured Souls marks their latest effort.
But here's an important point--and the crux of what makes this review difficult to compose. Quite simply, despite the disclaimer above, spoiling this might very well ruin the experience.
So forgive the circular language that follows, so lacking in telling details!
The "show" lasts approximately 30 minutes, and as far as I can tell we the audience have wandered into some antechamber of hell itself--or some kind of very unpleasant afterlife. We certainly get the strong impression these denizens we encounter have died, and exist in an almost timeless loop of madness and desire.
We do, as a result of things they say and sometimes what they do, get some hints about those encountered. For example, at one point they literally sit each of us down as individuals and read something aloud. In dim light, the company enacts certain pains and desires. Some don't seem particularly bad or evil. But then, we don't know their whole story do we?
More disturbingly, we don't really know why they are here at all. We have after all no real reason to suppose they deserve any of what seems to be happening. Do we? After all, to some extent it all happens to us as well...
The cast consists of Jason Britt, Chris Harmony, Jonny Hazen, Ian Heath, Daniel Palma, Kimberly Sadovich, Elif Savas, Kevin Van Cott, Matt Vorce and Yael Wallace. Again, without giving too much away, the raw concentration of the cast members is much of what gives this experience its power. No jump scares here. No threats. Just deeply disquieting moments and images, words and motions which pile up one atop the next.
Does this sound attractive? Intriguing? It did to me, and I found the event sufficiently intriguing Zombie Joe kindly allowed me to go through a second time. Warning: Tortured Souls certainly includes very disturbing imagery, including full frontal nudity and simulated acts of great cruelty.
Tortured Souls plays Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm and 11:45pm until March 25, 2017 at ZJU 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo sign, just north of Camrillo), North Hollywood CA 91601.