Gothic Hills Cemetery: Ghosts of the Past (Halloween 2019 Review)

Gothic Hills Cemetery makes a triumphant return to home haunting with Ghosts of the Past. Of course, Gothic Hills never really stopped haunting, but since relocating from North Hills to Sylmar a couple years ago, they had reduced their presentation from a walk-through to a yard display. Halloween 2019 sees them returning to form - bigger and better than before.

Gothic Hills Cemetery Review Halloween 2019Ghosts of the Past follows the template of their previous walk-throughs: it takes the form of a guided tour, which doesn't go quite the way the guide expects, thanks to things going bump in the night. This time, the premise is that the Gothic Hills Historical Society is presenting tours of the final resting place of the Fitzroy Family, including a newly discovered mausoleum within a previously unknown section of the cemetery. Inside the family crypt, a wall slides open to reveal a secret chamber containing a terrifying supernatural force. Somewhat unwisely, the guide leads you inside, whereupon you find yourself trapped when the wall slides shut again, forcing you to delve deeper into the tomb. Inside, you will encounter a talking skeleton, a magic mirror, and an evil spirit. If you're lucky, you may even escape alive...

Gothic Hills Cemetery Review Halloween 2019: Assessment

As before, there is a certain jokey element inherent in the guide's growing discomfort, and the scares are mechanical or digital projections, not actors. Despite the similarities, no one would mistake the new effort for the old one; the new location and the new theme take the haunt beyond what it achieved before. The conclusion is an impressive special effects show, featuring a confrontation between two supernatural forces.

Including a video that sets the scene and a walk through the backyard cemetery before entering the tomb, the tour lasts nearly ten minutes, partly because a few scenes involve pausing to watch or listen to some action taking place. There is also a front yard display where visitors line up to take the tour.

The only area that needs improvement is the tour guide's patter, which somewhat unconvincingly tries to laugh off the paranormal manifestations: "Who's the ventriloquist throwing his voice?" asks the guide when the skeleton starts speaking, even though no one is standing close enough to move the skull's jaw in time with the words. A better approach would be to portray the guide as a rookie who assumes the unexpected activity is a new part of the tour he hasn't memorized yet (this would tie in with the premise that the tour is exploring newly discovered territory).

Gothic Hills Cemetery Review Halloween 2019: Conclusion

Nitpicking aside, Gothic Hills Cemetery nestles comfortably alongside the best Halloween home haunts in Los Angeles. Production values are elaborate, especially the mausoleum exterior and interior. But best of all, instead of offering simple generic scares, the story line of a cemetery tour going off-script ties the set pieces together into a memorably distinctive package.

Gothic Hills Cemetery returns for a final encore performance Sunday, November 3, 7-10pm. The address is 13796 Marchant Avenue in Sylmar. Get more information here.

Gothic Hills Cemetery Review Halloween 2019: Photographs

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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.