The final week of October is here. It's do-or-die time - time to squeeze in your last blood-curdling screams of fright before the season ends. There are so many Halloween events in Los Angeles that you intended to attend - haunted houses, harvest festivals, horror movies - but you kept putting them off, and now Halloween night is mere days away. Fortunately, the 31st falls on Friday this year, so many haunts will stay open an extra day or two on the weekend; nevertheless, you should avoid delays - most of the professional haunts and theme park haunts are open continuously for the final days of the Halloween season. You should get to them now, because as big night approaches, amateur yard haunts begin to open their gates, providing their own enthusiastic brand of thrills and chills for neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
With this in mind, we offer a list of Halloween Haunts You Do Not Want to Miss. We are assuming that you have already made up your mind about whether to attend the more famous October attractions. Here, we focus on some less heavily promoted haunts that deserve your attention.
2008 HAUNTED HOUSE DISCOVERIES
These haunts are not necessarily new; this is just the first time we have explored the horrors lurking within their tombs.
HERITAGE HAUNT: 2401 San Fernando Road, Newhall
Put on by the Santa Clarita Historical Society, this haunt is based on actual history and legends of the old Western mining community in the area. Set in a real building (rare for a haunt these days), it has some of the authentic feel of the old Haunted Vineyard. With an eerie soundtrack, there is more emphasis on making yoru skin crawl than on making you jump out of your skin - although there is some of that as well, accomplished both by actors in makeup and by mechanical pops that pop up like malevolent Jack-in-the-Boxes. Official website. October 30-31 & November 1. Read a complete review here.
THEATRE 68 HAUNTED HOUSE: 5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Perhaps our most spine-shuddering discovery of the season, this is a very effective, condensed haunt (short but filled with scares) set up inside a theatre. Find details on our Professional Haunts page, or check out the theatre's website. Through October 31. Read our full review here.
THE INFECTED: 1401 N. Buena Vista, Burbank
A riff on QUARANTINE (with a little I AM LEGEND and 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER thrown in), this amatuer effort cleverly utilizes the concept of a hastily assembled emergency medical facilty set-up at the scene of a viral outbreak; in other words, if the sets do not look perfect, that's just part of the story - because the army supposedly threw this all together on a moment's notice. A great soundtrack enhances the horror, and the overall impact comes close to matching a professional haunt. Get details on our Yard Haunts page, or call (818) 681-5605 for information. October 31 & November 1.
HORROR ON FRANKEL STREET: 2719 Frankel Street Lakewood, California
A nifty little amateur haunt that offers a maze through the back yard and the garage. The sets are not as convicing as those in The Infected, but the maze is densely populated - this haunt probably has more monsters per square foot than most professional efforts. Get info on the haunt here, or check out our review and video. October 31.
Because most yard haunts maintain consistent quality from one Halloween to the next, last year's list of "5 Yard Haunts Not to Be Missed is still a good guide for this kind of thing. However, time and circumstances sometimes intervene, forcing haunts to scale back; for example, neither Jackson Manor nor Ghosts of Halloween will be doing walk-through mazes this year, although their yards will be decorated. And sadly, one of our favorites - Boney Island - has shuffled off its mortal coil and de-materialized into the great Graveyard in the Sky. Here then, are a few recommendations we want to re-emphasize for this year.
HOUSE OF RESTLESS SPIRITS: 1008 Euclid Street Santa Monica, CA
We gave this haunt a second-hand recommendation last year, on the basis of high praise from one of the operators at the late, lamented Hallowed Haunting Grounds. Having seen the haunt in person, we can now attest that it is one of the best Halloween attractions in the Los Angeles area, with some wonderful, professional quality illusions. Read our review of last year's manifestation here. Get details on our Yard Haunts page, or visit their website. October 31 & November 1.
ROTTEN APPLE 907'S WIZARD OF ODZ: 907 N. California Street, Burbank
We have not seen this year's production from Rotten Apple 907 but last year's Malice in Wonderland was wonderful, and we regret not ranking it more highly in our list of recommendations. You can read our review of that huant here, or check out the video here.) Unlike most amateur haunts, which build walls out of black plastic and a few two-by-fours, Rotten Apple features an impressive walk-through maze that takes you through some catacomb-like corridors, an outdoor setting, and a couple of rooms; the basic structure remains consistent from year to year, but the space is redecorated to match the theme. We have always enjoyed the results, but looking back, we think we have not given them quite the credit they deserve. They really do rank among the best amateur efforts. Get details on our Rotten Apple 907 page. October 31 & November 1.
FRIGHT GALLERY'S DEAD OF THE CLASS: 454 South Lamer Street, Burbank
The campy song-and-dance Halloween Haunt known as Fright Gallery has been dormant since its 2005 production of "Twisted" (a take-off on THE WIZARD OF OZ, reviewed here). Instead of simply decorating their yard, or fashioning a walk-through maze, this amateur effort stages a 15-minute musical parody, offering a Halloween spin on a trendy theme (this year spoof's HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL). Get details on our Fright Gallery page, where you can also see our video of "Twisted." October 30-31 & November 1
HORROR FILM FESTS
Perhaps your tired of having ghouls jump out at you in the rotting flesh. Perhaps your prefer cinematic screams to in-person terror. Several horror films festivals are still running, and a couple of new ones start up this week. Here are the highlights
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond Street, El Segundo,
This 1925 silent classic is a bit creeky by modern standards, but Lon Chaney's makeup and performance in the title role make it worth seeing. The film is also screening as part of the Silent Movie Theatre's month-long horror festival, but the Old Town presentation has the advantage of live organ accompaniment in the theatre - just like when PHANTOM was originally released. October 31 through November 2.
AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE HORROR FESTS at the Egyptian and the Aero
Each theatre will screen a few horror films plus an all-night horrorthon. Aero Theatre's all-nighter (starting at 9:30pm on November 1) has a more interesting list of titles (including DEMONS, DEATHDREAM, and LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH), but the Egyptian schedule features some more interesting double bills, beginning on Thursday, October 30 with HORROR OF DRACULA and BRIDES OF DRACULA.
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and CANDYMAN at New Beverly Cinema, 7165 West Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles (323) 938-4038
The New Beverly's horror-filled Halloween schedule includes this great double bill of Clive Barker-based horror. MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN was unceremoniously shuttled off into a contractual obligation release earlier this year (playing in only a few theatres), so this may be your last chance to see it on the big screen. October 29-30.
Lucio Fulci Triple Bill at Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles,
You can never get enough Fulci, is our motto. How could you even dream of passing up a chance to see ZOMBIE, GATES OF HELL, and THE BEYOND all in one sitting? October 27 at 7:30pm.