Boney Island 2018 Review

Can L.A.'s most beloved yard haunt make the transition to professional status? Read our Boney Island 2018 review to find out!

Boney Island 2018 displayThe Boney Island Halloween attraction is a zombie that won't stay dead. Though the metaphor may seem strange when applied to the whimsical skeleton magic show, it is appropriate: the former yard haunt has shuffled off its mortal coil twice, but it keeps coming back. Abruptly cancelled last year (because of neighbor complaints and the expense of meeting city requirements for security), the former yard haunt has been resurrected as a professional attraction, nestled comfortably next to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Ghost Train, near the Travel Town section of Griffith Park, where it opened for business on Thursday. The question is whether Boney Island can survive in the Los Angeles Halloween marketplace. The answer remains to be seen, but in terms of entertainment value, the new Boney Island is bigger and better than ever.

Boney Island 2018 Review: Bigger is Better
Boney Island 2018 Review snap dragons
Snap Dragons in Boney Island's Hauntington Gardens

The most obvious difference between Boney Island 2018 and its previous incarnations is the greater space afforded by the new location. The displays have been artfully arranged, making it easy to peruse them while leisurely moving through the grounds. The attractions have a modular feel, many fashioned to resemble miniature stages, and they are fairly widely separated, providing enough elbow room to appreciate each one in turn. Some are angled to prevent you from seeing them at a distance, so be sure to make a complete circuit so that you don't miss anything.

The Magical Cauldron show is still the highlight, now presented with the skeletal Master of Ceremonies standing before a truly impressive haunted house facade, where Jack O'Lanterns beam out of the windows, lip-synching with the music while the cauldrons emit their spurts of brightly colored water. Karnack the mind-reader is back, along with other familiar performers.

Fortunately, Boney Island has not simply spread the same old stuff out over a wider area. The extra space allows for more interesting presentation. For example, the orchestra of mechanical skeletons playing Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre is much more comfortable nestled on some very long branches of a tree, and the screen projecting the skeletal dance below is now at eye level, so we can appreciate much more fully than when it was on the roof of the house in its old location. Even better, the old Hauntington Gardens is now fashioned as a mini-walk-through, turning its living flowers and vines into a separate little magical wonderland

Boney Island 2018 baby dragons
They're cute when they're little.

There are also new features, including games and a liquor bottle lifted by an invisible hand to fill a glass. The Boney Island Theatre presents silent spooky cartoons in between live magic acts. And taking a slightly more creepy turn than we have seen in the past, there is a short Deadwood Forest walk-through, filled with skeletal creatures: bats and snakes flap and writhe among black-lit backgrounds; a mother dragon beams down upon her babies; and a vortex of spiders spread on the ground. With music more magical than menacing, the effect is somehow fantastical instead of frightening - it's like a mini-fun house where kids will be laughing instead of screaming.

Boney Island 2018 Review: Conclusion
Boney Island 2018 skeleton orchestra
Skeleton Orchestra

Though Boney Island's last-minute cancellation last year was sad, the yard haunt had outgrown its location and needed room to breathe. It has now found a perfect home, which features the haunt's attractions to charming effect. The proximity to the Ghost Train is an added bonus; some displays are visible from the grounds of Boney Island, and they are a perfect match in tone, celebrating the spooky season in a colorful, charming way.

The best thing one can say about the new Boney Island is that it does not betrays its origins. Yes, its low-tech, homemade charm remains intact, but in its new venue it is a professional-quality event that a newcomer would never guess peg as a former yard haunt. For families who want Halloween fun instead of frights, Boney Island 2018 is a must-see.

Boney Island 2018 Rating
  • Halloween Fun Factor
5

Bottom Line

Bigger and better, the new Boney Island does not betrays its origins. Yes, its low-tech, homemade charm remains intact, but in its new venue it is a professional-quality event that a newcomer would never guess peg as a former yard haunt.

Boney Island continues at Griffith Park on October 13-14, 18-21, 25-31. Hours are 6-10pm. The address is 5202 Zoo Drive – Los Angeles, CA 90027. Visit boneyisland.com for more information.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.