HHA 2016: Best Monster

The Nominees...

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The multitude of monsters haunting Los Angeles every Halloween is far too large to count. There are so many that they can easily bleed together in memory, but for whatever reason, a hand full stand out ever year. Here are a half-dozen that continue to haunt our dreams, earning consideration in the Halloween Haunt Awards category for Best Monster.

Captain Howdy in The Exorcist at Halloween Horror Nights. Alternately glimpsed as a projected image and embodied by live actors, this sinister demonic countenance haunted The Exorcist maze at Halloween Horror Nights in Universal Studios Hollywood. It's hard to do the character justice because, as in the film, the impact is the result of seeing the character only in flashes of an almost subliminal nature. Thus the maze was frequently pitch black, allowing Captain Howdy to appear in a sudden burst of light and then disappear, leaving his face burning on the retina of frightened visitors.

The Dragon at Rotten Apple 907's Not So Enchanted Forest. We simply love dragons! And what could be a better surprise than finding one in a home haunt - not some static puppet but a moving creature? We were gob-smacked - and very happy! - to find this one lurking in a throne room near the end of Rotten Apple 907's Not So Enchanted Forest.

The Headless Horseman at Knotts Scary Farm. To our amazement, this improbable character withstood scrutiny at close range. Sure, we expect Hollywood movies with digital effects to render a convincingly decapitated equestrian - but a live character, right before our eyes? At the very least, we expected the Headless Horseman to keep his distance, galloping through the darkness with trees and foliage blocking the view. Instead, he rode right up to the crowd and, like a celebrity posing for the paparazzi, allowed himself to be photographed and videotaped - a bold move we would not have expected. The illusion was perfect: he really did look exactly like a Headless Horseman (and the horse wasn't bad, either).

Krampus at Halloween Horror Nights. We found the Krampus maze at Universal Studios Hollywood to be beautifully designed but underpopulated. Fortunately, its titular monster was wonderfully rendered.

The Tree Monster at Spooky Hollows. What the hell was this thing? A plant, a tree, some kind of monstrous hybrid? We have no idea. We just know that one of the oldest monster tricks in the book is to remain stationary like a mannequin before springing a scare - and we totally fell for it. The monster design was great, and completely convincing within the darkness of this excellent home haunt walk through.

Scary Mary in Lullaby at Dark Harbor. This creepy little ghost girl haunted us with malevolent persistence as we traversed the darkness of the Queen Mary's Lullaby maze. With the agility of a disembodied ghost, she was always one step ahead, always waiting around the next corner, always poised to deliver another scare - even when we hit the ramp to disembark the ship and return to terra firma. You have to give credit to a character so completely committed to persecuting her victims.

The Winner: Scary Mary
Scary Mary
Scary Mary

As good as the other monsters are, the winner simply must be Scary Mary. Why? Because the other monsters are, for the most part, effective in short duration, delivering jump-scares by suddenly appearing out of the dark and disappearing just as quickly. Even the Headless Horseman and Rotten Apple 907's Dragon, which had the nerve to be viewed at length, didn't do much with their extended time. Scary Mary is the only one in the group who could sustain an extended encounter with her victims, interacting with ghoulish delight from start to finish in the Lullaby maze. If persistence is a virtue, then Scary Mary certainly had more than enough to merit a win the 2016 Halloween Haunt Award in this category.

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.