In the heart of Hollywood lies a path to another world. 'Icons of Darkness', the city's newest exhibit, sits just past the Hollywood and Highland intersection. Inside, it houses the largest collection of screen used special effects, props and costumes in the world.
"The whole disposition of all this is to become a science-fiction, horror, movie hall of fame," explains collector Rich Correll. "I get very excited by all this even though I've seen it a million times. I mean, you can't even believe the stuff I have inside here.".
He's not wrong. Six hundred-pound Stan Winston-made hydraulic T-Rex heads pulled from Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. An authentic Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman costume from Tim Burton's Batman Returns. Gremlins hand puppets made by Rick Baker. Army of Darkness miniature skeletons. Xenomorphs pulled from original molds from James Cameron's 1986 screamer Aliens. A Pan's Labyrinth Faun suit gifted by Doug Jones himself. Running around in this gallery as a film fan is akin to stepping into a hedge maze of possibility.
Don't be surprised if Rich Correll's name sounds familiar. Before he went on to co-create the Miley Cyrus-led Hannah Montana, as well as write, direct and produce a slew of massive television properties, the avid collector made a name for himself on one of the biggest shows in history: Leave it To Beaver.
"When I was making Leave it to Beaver, right around 1960, Jerry Mathers and I were always bugging our makeup man to take us to the makeup lab because Universal is where they made all these great horror movies, and we wanted to see what they had up there," recalls Correll. "So finally, he gave in, and he took us up there, and we were like kids in a candy shop – literally. We saw all this stuff that we recognized, but we also realized that they were throwing stuff out right and left, which was shocking. Nobody really cared at the time. I looked in the trash can, and there was a head in there from a movie called Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I saw a head of Mr. Hyde, so I said to this guy, "Hey, can I take that?" and he said I could, so I took that out of the trash, and that's actually what started the whole thing."
Adds Correll, "I started asking some of the makeup effects guys if there was anything they weren't gonna keep. Again, in those days, nobody really paid attention to stuff like that. I made friends with Don Post and started collecting Don Post masks. I always loved Halloween. My parents thought I was crazy. They didn't know what was going on because they weren't into that at all, but I always loved it. So the horror movies, the sci-fi movies, the fantasy movies, those were always my favorites. Once I got the chance to start collecting, I just kept going".
Correll's gang of close-knit friends include the likes of Peter Jackson and Rick Baker, so it comes as no surprise that when the horror aficionado decides he wants another monster moseying around, he's got a handful of effects artists on speed dial.
"Mike Hill is fantastic," says Correll, "He's kind of Guillermo del Toro's guy now, but there's a guy named 'Rubber Larry', [a.k.a Larry Torro], he's a friend of mine. He's doing fantastic sculptures of current people. When I had the Men in Black stuff built, he was the one who built the heads. I've got the costumes, and he made the head of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Joe Petro's one of the best painters in the business, he's a great hair punch guy, and he restores things. I've had things come in that have literally fallen into ruin like mummy dust, the guy's repaired it, and it looks perfect. Petro restored the pterodactyl babies, he restored one of the Winston maquettes. He's one of these guys that uses doctor's glasses, like close-up glasses to paint things with a one-hair brush, it's crazy! Tim Martin, who's a super good guy, he's one of the alien specialists. There's a guy named Patrick Magee who's got a great place, he does a lot of stuff for Universal Horror Nights, and he's made his own films. Magee's great, I love him".
Correll has directed a plethora of iconic television series and films. Full House, Reba, The Jamie Foxx Show, Married with Children. Along the way, he became a household name for the house of mouse, with staples like The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, That's So Raven, and Hannah Montana. So given all that history, why would the legendary Disney Channel director decide to showcase a horror collection?
"It was the polarity of what I did for a living, I always loved this stuff, even as a little kid," says Correll with a laugh. "Of course, I'm still a little kid. When I was a kid, my favorite day was Halloween, and my favorite movie was King Kong. It still is! Nothing's changed. Over all these years, it's still the same. This stuff keeps you young at heart. People come in, they see all this, they freak out. I like making people happy, especially if they're running around laughing. The scary stuff makes people laugh. They scream and then they laugh".
Correll got his practice swings in while running haunted houses across the country for several years. It turns out that the Icons of Darkness exhibit isn't just filled to the brim with costumes and props – it's also armed to the teeth with hidden jump scares.
"I used to design haunted houses all the time," states Correll. "The biggest private haunted house in the country was at the Playboy Mansion Halloween party. I started that party and ran it for years and years. I used to design them at a thing called the UCLA Mardi Gras, and then I helped my friend in Columbus, Ohio put some together, and then I started running the Playboy thing".
According to Correll, the key to scaring folks is getting them to look the other way.
"Usually, it's two things: one, it's misdirection and two, it's sound," says Correll. "Loud sound is as scary as the image you're going to see, and the misdirection is, 'Oh look, here's the puppet from Saw, and if you look over here, it's Jason Voorhees' – and then the puppet from Saw jumps out at you. You don't tell everybody, 'Hey look, concentrate on this and watch it,' and then have it jump at you. You try to misdirect them. It's the same as running a haunted house. Everything in a good haunted house is misdirection. To make everybody look to the right while the guy on the left comes up after you. Or you go into a haunted nursery where people are expecting things to fly off the bed, and there's a pile of toys on the floor, and it's the pile of toys that comes to life. They just don't expect it".
Correll excitedly announces that he plans to expand his exhibit into an even larger space in Las Vegas.
"All of this is going to Vegas," says the collector. "This is 6500 square feet, we're going to move it to 16,000 square feet and put the whole collection up. I can't wait".
Make sure to visitIcons of Darkness right here in Los Angeles while you still can, and keep your eyes peeled for more news on the collection's big move to Vegas very soon.