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Review: Camp Scare Hillside Horrors

Camp Scare Hillside Horrors is the perfect place to send your kids – if you’re the Addams Family!

Burbank Haunted Adventure has been around so long that it’s easy to forget they were ahead of the curve, offering a lengthy “Haunted Adventure Tour” (as it was known in the early days) at a time when most haunted houses lasted a few minutes. Augmenting modest resources with boundless amateur enthusiasm, the community effort (sponsored by Burbank Parks and Recreation) has managed to fill the air with scares at Starlight Bowl for over a quarter-century, entertaining adults and children.

However, it has been two years since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown knocked them out of business. How well does Haunted Adventure’s latest effort, Camp Scare: Hillside Horrors, live up to the legacy? Read on to find out – if you dare!

Camp Scare Hillside Horrors Review: The Tour

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Here are the main things you need to know: There is no block party at the base of the hill this year, just the walkthrough in and around the Bowl. Camp Scare Hillside Horrors revives the previously abandoned practice of presenting Haunted Adventure in the guise of a guided Tour. The new theme is put to clever use. The tongue-in-cheek approach to Halloween horror is more pronounced, and the scares seem milder.

The rural outdoor surroundings (Starlight Bowl is located near Stough Canyon Nature Center), lend an aura of authenticity to Camp Scare, which the haunt milks for ghoulish humor. While the jovial tour guide extolls alleged virtues that should convince parents to send their children to “Camp Stough Scare” (as it is written on the banner over the entrance), we see empty tents and abandoned campfires, suggesting something has gone very wrong. In a sense, the whole event is an extended version of the old joke: “Who are you going to believe – me or your own eyes?” because clearly the only parents who would send their kids to this place are Morticia and Gomez Addams.

The jokes continue inside the backstage area of the Starlight Bowl, where repeated head counts suggest the guide expects to lose a few heads on the way. The interiors have been effectively dressed up to simulate settings such as an infirmary and a mess hall (“Many have eaten hear; few have died”). Most gruesome is the restroom, lit in lurid red light with walls covered in splotchy handprints and mirrors festooned with crime scene banners and biohazard warnings.

The demented characters haunting the premises are more sinister than shocking. A nurse stares silently as you pass. An archery victim calls for help and stumbles to his death before getting too close. While you warily eye a silent man outside a tent, a woman jumps out with a sudden cry. Other, dimly seen characters appear with a shout, but there are few piercing shrieks and little in the way of intense scares.

Of course we more or less expect mild scares mixed with laughter at Haunted Adventure, because they cater to a young audience (ages six and up). Nevertheless, past versions have notched things up closer to a PG-13 level with scenes with multiple maniacs attacking their screaming victims. This Halloween, the monsters seem to attack one at a time and rather briefly.

Camp Scare Hillside Horrors Review: Conclusion

This Halloween, Camp Scare: Hillside Horrors feels more tongue-in-cheek than its predecessors – a fun romp relying on the deadpan delivery of the tour guide, who seems unfazed by and maybe oblivious to the horrors assaulting her guests. It’s still a fun Halloween event for parents to enjoy with their children, but this year it seems geared more to preteens than high school kids.

BHA 2022: Camp Scare Hillside Horrors
This Not So Happy Camper is a highlight of Camp Scare Hillside Horrors.

The best bit is an occupied tent displaying the shadow of someone silencing a fellow camper with a machete. Seen in silhouette, the action is gruesome in implication only, and so abrupt that it provokes a startled guffaw from the audience, especially when the tour guide tries to dismiss it as nothing. It’s a perfect little combo of horror and humor – the kind of thing that makes Haunted Adventure worth visiting.

Our rating of Camp Scare Hillside Horrors

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Camp Scare Hillside Horrors makes effective use of Starlight Bowl and its surrounding rural environs to create a tongue-in-cheek Halloween experience, but the scares seem milder than in years past, geared more toward preteens than high school kids.

Note: There is no block party this year, only the walk through.

Burbank Haunted Adventure’s Camp Scare Hillside Horrors returns for one finale night on October 21, 7-10pm. Tickets are $10 for ages 13 and over, $5 for 12 and under. Stough Canyon Park is located at 1249 Lockhead View Drive in Burbank. For more information, call (818) 238-5440 or visit burbank.gov or  hauntedadventure.info.

Camp Scare Hillside Horrors Review: Photo Gallery

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.