HHA 2016: Best Halloween Home Haunt Yard Display

Nominees: Boot Hill, Coffinwood Cemetery, The Haunt with No Name Yet, Haunted by Memories Manor, Haunted Groundz, The House at Haunted Hill

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Halloween Home Haunts are the folk art medium of the 21st century - a means by which anyone can express their love for the season, creating joy for neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Done for love rather than money, each and every one of them deserves some measure of appreciation and respect, but we have room for only a half-dozen here. As always, the Halloween Haunt Awards focuses on yard displays that feature a professional level of quality, preferably with home-made props and decorations.

  • Note: previous winner the Boney Island (2014) not eligible this year.

Boot Hill. Located in Orange County, the Boot Hill Halloween yard display offers a short walk through a decorated yard, with an occasional jump scare provided by the ghost of Jedediah Smith, who “has been known to roam the decaying grounds of Boot Hill, exacting revenge on all who cross his path!” The pathway features professionally lit displays, including animated projections and a video detailing the haunt's back story.

Coffinwood Cemetery (pictured at top). Like Boot Hill, this Valencia home haunt is essentially a yard display with a small walk-through element (not a complete maze) featuring a few scares. As the name hints, Coffinwood Cemetery suggests an old west graveyard; it's loaded with home-made props (except for the animatronics), and after taking visitors through the front yard, the path leads inside a "mausoleum" in the garage, where live monsters lurk on some nights. And let's not forget the giant spider on the roof! Very impressive.

The Haunt with No Name Yet. This perennial favorite in Tarzana grows a little bit every year but always maintains its distinctive, low-key approach. It's quiet and moody, with subtle sounds and effects that create an otherworldly sense of having entered a Halloween equivalent of Shangri-La. And there are always lots of great, hand-carved Jack O'Lanterns. If only they would set up an outdoor cafe, we'd stay here all night, imbibing the atmosphere until the breaking dawn dispelled the spirits.

Haunted by Memories Manor. This very enjoyable Halloween display in South El Monte is augmented by a short walk-through, but the majority of this year's haunt was devoted to the front yard, filled with a marvelous array of monsters - some mannequins but some mechanical as well. A nice surprise regarding the mechanical variety is that some would remain still just long enough to fool visitors into thinking they were mannequins - until they suddenly moved! A delight!

Haunted Groundz. At first this home haunt in Granada Hills looks like a simple yard display with lots of clever decorations, but if you wait and watch long enough, you realize that it's actually a show, with effects synchronized to a soundtrack featuring dialogue and songs. The result is a bit like a mini-version of The House at Haunted Hill. Worth seeing from start to finish, , with some amusing surprises for the big ending.

The House at Haunted Hill. After taking Halloween 2015 off, this high-tech home haunt made a triumphant return this year. If you're reading this post, you probably already know what the House at Haunted Hill offers: mechanical effects, digital mapping, flying ghosts, skeletons on a see-saw, a talking Jack O'Lantern - all orchestrated to a soundtrack telling the tragic tale of a Hollywood starlet trapped in a house haunted by her husband's first wife. Though this year featured only one new effect (the unfortunate bride emerges from the tomb where she is imprisoned), House at Haunted Hill is always worth seeing, again and again.

The Winner: The House at Haunted Hill

house-at-haunted-hill-2016-003Much to our surprise and chagrin, a search through the Halloween Haunt Awards archives reveals that we have never honored the House at Haunted Hill in this category. Have we been high on crack for over a decade? Or was it such an obvious choice that we simply fooled ourselves into thinking it must have won sometime in the past? Either way, 2016 is the year we belatedly recognize greatness of the Halloween Home Haunt Yard Display that sets the standard by which all others are judged. Sorry it took so long!

 

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.