As usual, Halloween in Los Angeles has turned out to be crowded with more bats than we could possibly squeeze into a single belfry. Having scrambled to as many Professional Haunts and Theme Park Haunts as we could in the early weeks of the season, now in the final days of October we turn our attention to amateur Yard Haunts. Many of these are open for only two or three days; some are open only on Halloween night. In order to visit as many haunted graveyards as possible, we took advantage of those that opened early; after Halloween, we will be back to report on the rest.
Our first yard haunt discovery for 2008 occurred last week at Horror on Frankel Street, whose 2008 presentation is titled Scarecrow village. This walk-through maze (in the back yard and the garage at 2719 Frankel Street in Lakewood) is filled with at least eight monsters or madmen eager to scare local trick-or-treaters. The last performance in 2008 for this one is tonight, from dusk till 10:00pm.
Next up was The Infected, located at 1401 N. Buena Vista Boulevard in Burbank. We hit this one on the weekend and were impressed with its high-impact approach. Based around the premise of a lethal viral outbreak, this home haunt eschews the traditional decorated graveyard approach in favor of walking you through what looks like an emergency medical facility gone to hell. Watch out for infected med-techs and soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. The Infected is open Friday and Saturday night, from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. We liked this one so much we listed among our Halloween Haunts You Do Not Want to Miss.
On Wednesday, we headed out to the House at Haunted Hill (4400 Saltillo Street in Woodland Hills). We loved this one when we first entered its ethereal realm back in 2006. For 2007 they underwent a major change, synchronizing all of their spooky mechanical, sound, and lighting effects to a story relayed through taped narration and music (voiced by a talking Jack-O'Lantern, appropriately enough). This year, the presentation remains basically the same - same narration, same music - but there have been additions and improvements among the props and set pieces. Most notable was a new talking head for the vengeful dead wife who invokes the spirits to torment her living husband's new bride. Also, the lighting scheme has changed a bit: last year, most of the ghouls and ghosts were shrouded in darkness until they lit up on cue; this year the haunt seems a shade brighter, so that you can peruse the melancholy morbidity in between shows. The House is open tonight and tomorrow night, from 7:00pm until midnight. Last year, it topped our list of 5 Yard Haunts Not to Be Missed.
Last night, our Halloween chariot took us to the Fright Gallery yard haunt (454 South Lamer Street in Burbank). Unlike other haunts, this self-described “terrifyingly hilarious experience in suburban lawn art" is not just a decorated yard or a walk-through maze; it offers a live mini-musical production, lampooning some popular cultural artifact by adding a Halloween twist to the story. Fright Gallery has been dormant since 2005, so we were eager to see their new show, a campy take-off on HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, titled "Dead of the Class." IT was a lot of fun, but we suspect it would have been even funnier had we been more familiar with the target of the spoof. We actually preferred the 2005 show, "Twisted," based on WIZARD OF OZ. Tonight's performances start at 7:15pm; the final one for 2008 is at 9:45 on November 1.
Our last dip into the Halloween cauldron so far was at The Witch's Castle (4218 Shadyglade Avenue in Studio City). The witch was not at her cauldron (this was only a "Preview Night"), but the props and sets were up, with lightening, fog, and sound effects in their full glory. The set-up is similar to last year, but the mechanical dragon has been moved off the porch and back into the yard (where he was situated back in 2006); apparently he has been deemed to be more effective when seen in darkness and distance, rather than close up. One of the proprietors said the haunt had been scaled back for 2008, but this was not immediately apparent to the eye; if anything, we noticed one or two new additions: the projected video of the haunt's title now features animation of a witch flying through at regular intervals; and the front window is now open allowing you to see inside the house, where lighted silhouettes of witches fly around the walls. The Witch will fly in on Halloween night only, from 6:00pm until 9:30pm or possibly later, depending on how long till the crowd dies down.
All photographs copyright 2008 by Steve Biodrowski, except where noted.