Can a Halloween drive-thru in a mall parking lot be any good? Yes, it can!
Haunt ‘O’ Ween, the new pop-up Halloween attraction at the Promenade in Woodland Hills, is a good example of what sounds like bad idea turning out to be really great. A drive-through Halloween Haunt in the parking lot of a shopping mall does not seem particularly auspicious. After all, it’s a parking lot, surrounded by city streets and businesses, not some isolated location that can be transformed into a magical wonderland, right? Wrong!
In fact, Haunt ‘O’ Ween does an excellent job of eclipsing its surroundings, beginning with two tunnels, which create the illusion of entering another world. After that walls and sets block out mundane reality and focus attention on the wealth of seasonal decorations along the twists and turns of the path, through which you drive at a slow but steady pace, passing display after display, the mall and nearby street traffic long forgotten.
Haunt ‘O Ween Review: Driving Through Decorations
Haunt ‘O’ Ween feels bit like driving through a low-tech version the Los Angeles Live Steamer’s Ghost Train – lots of physical props, atmospheric lighting, and seasonal music but without the animatronics and digital effects. Not to worry, the static displays offer plenty of eye candy, and they have been arranged to be clearly visible through your car windows (unlike the drive-through version of Nights of the Jack, you feel as if you are driving through something, not past something).
There is also interactivity along the way, when you are directed to stop and receive a pumpkin. The masked Pumpkin Master (really just a guy in a Covid-safe mask, not a costume) makes an exaggerated show of sterilizing the vegetable before dropping it into your trunk for you to take home and carve. (We had to accept our pumpkin through a back window because we were in a rental car and could not find the button to pop open the trunk.)
Haunt ‘O Ween Review: Trick or Treat Stations
As pleasant as the drive-through is, there is only so much Jack O’Lantern juice one can squeeze from decorations, however colorful. What makes Haunt ‘O’ Ween truly delectable is two rows of trick-or-treat stations at the end. Here, your 5pmh tour comes to a dozen stops, each with a different theme, some suggesting skewed versions of beloved holidays: there’s a Christmas Elf and an Easter Bunny, but mostly there are lots of Halloween characters, culminating in a witch to tie in with director Robert Zemeckis upcoming remake of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, starring Anne Hathaway.
The cast – everything from an alien to a bat-winged fairy - is uniformly excellent, offering amusing banter as they judiciously approach your vehicle, extending long polls with baskets on the end containing candy. The joke is that when you roll down your window, they dump the treats into your lap whether you are ready or not, and this happens over and over at each station, until your vehicle is literally littered with Ring Pops, Milk Duds, Kit Kats, Rolos, and Butterfingers. (Parents should definitely seat their trick-or-treating children on the passenger side, facing the treat stations.)
Haunt ‘O Ween Review: Conclusion
Haunt ‘O’ Ween is a very clever solution to the challenge of presenting a Halloween attraction during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through most of it, visitors drive with windows down, enjoying the seasonal sights and sounds; then socially distanced costumed characters shower passengers with candy while maintaining their distance and avoiding contact. The drive-through portion is enjoyable if not spectacular. The trick-or-treating stations are a guaranteed sugar-rush of fun, making Haunt ‘O’Ween a must-see Halloween event that fills the void left by the absence of Boney Island and the Ghost Train.
This article originally posted on October 9 as a photo gallery. It has been updated to include a review. Feature image by Warren So. Remaining photography by Yuki Tanaka unless otherwise noted.
Haunt 'O' Ween Rating
Haunt ‘O Ween is an excellent trick-or-treat experience for the whole family, especially children – great decorations, entertaining actors, and real candy!
Haunt ‘O’ Ween runs daily through October 31, with entry times from 3pm through 8:30. The Promenade is located at 6100 Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Woodland Hills. For more infor, visit: hauntoweenla.com.