Monster Kids Review: What You Need to Know
- Except for the Monster Kids overlay, Cemetery Lane remains largely the same.
- The new parking arrangement had advantages and disadvantages.
- The Matcha Monsters Mocktails are great.
- The proffered candy includes no Snickers bars!!!!
Cemetery Lane is back with a new Halloween trick-or-treat experience. This year’s theme is Monster Kids, referring the the generation of horror fans who grew up in the ’50 and ’60s watching old black-and-white horror movies on television, often presented by campy horror hosts such a Zacherley.
Is this reason enough to revisit Cemetery Lane? Do you even need a new reason, or is the attraction’s raison d’etre – gathering candy door to door at the decorated mansions of Heritage Square Museum – more than enough? Read on to find out.
Monster Kids Review: Parking & Arrival
Parking at Heritage Square Museum, the event’s location, has always been difficult to access – a long, narrow dirt lot parallel to a long, narrow street. This year, guests enter from the opposite end of the museum grounds, where a convenient, spacious lot is easy to find, and helpful staff with flashlights point you in the right direction – first to park, then to the path leading tot he museum.
Unfortunately, the rough, dirt path goes on forever with only a few glowing lights to lead the way, and there is no decoration until you reach the check-in area, where you see jokey signs (“Opie’s Bomb Shelters”), a giant skeleton, and a UFO enthusiast hopefully waiting for a close encounter. Another sign advises you to tune to 103.1 to hear DJ Howlin’ Lou, but dont’ worry if you forgot your portable transistor radio at home – the show is broadcast on loudspeakers.
The entrance leads you to the back side of the museum grounds, where a handful of merchants and food tables are set up near the church (again used as a pop merch store) and drug store building, this year adorned with posters for “Black Cat Costume Shop” and used as a dressing room for staff. It’s not the best introduction to the event: it’s a little bit like entering a mansion through the servant’s entrance – the opulence of the main entrance is missing. Moreover, we are not usually in a mood to eat and buy merch upon first entering an event; that comes later.
Monster Kids Review: Pumpkin Patch & Graveyard
Moving past the train car with glowing skeleton passengers leads to the pumpkin patch, which visitors are not allowed to enter this year. However, there is a very nice addition in the form of monstrous animatronic Jack O’Lantern heads that seem to be growing out of the ground. A pumpkin-headed character hands out candy near the arched “entrance,” which leads a few feet to a bench, which serves as a kind of photo op.
Making a return appearance is the delightful graveyard, where trick-or-treaters receive candy from an unseen character seen only as a creepy hand extending through a hole in a tomb. It’s a simple gag that works really well, even when you expect it.
Monster Kids Review: Vampira & Spider House
So far, little beyond Howlin’ Lou’s broadcast has conveyed this season’s theme, but the first historical house you pass on the museum grounds is home to Vampira, the TV horror host from the mid-1950s, one of the great icons of the Monster Kids era. (Note: the first time we passed this house, it was manned by a silent skeleton, so you may have to check back to see Vampira.)
Up next, there is a Halloween Jamboree with a few games at the small barn, and the Spider House opposite is once again infested with webs. This year, those brave enough to make a complete circuit of the house’s veranda will encounter an animatronic victim trapped in the web, glowing red and moaning in agony.
Monster Kids Review: Universal Monsters
After this, Monster Kids leans heavily into classic movie monsters from Universal Pictures. (Though most of these films date from the 1930s and 1940s, they formed the major portion of the Shock Theater package of horror titles syndicated to local television stations in 1957, earning them a new generation of young fans.) The Mummy lurks near a house adorned with Egyptian relics, attempting to steal candy that an archeologist hands out to trick-or-treaters. Next door, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride welcome guests to their home. Across the way, Creature’s Surf Shack offers Matcha Monsters Mocktails in delicious flavors. The Creature from the Black Lagoon may be lurking outside (wearing a Hawaiian shirt!), or you may encounter the Wolf Man howling at the moon.
The final house is hosted by Hollywood power couple Arthur and Agatha Chambers. A dead ringer for Alfred Hitchcock (who hosted his own show during the Monster Kids era), Arthur claims to be the greatest director of horror films ever, and he will ask you to audition for your candy, while his actress wife complains that she has been in some – but not all! – of his films.
After visiting all the candy stops, children can try to find their way through a hay maze, while their parents sip mocktails and watch clips of old Universal horror movies projected nearby. Then it’s time to take the long walk back to the parking lot. (Worth noting: If you use some kind of ride-sharing, the front gate of Heritage Square Museum is unlocked, so you could exit that way, but upon arrival you would still need to check in at the back entrance.)
Monster Kids Review: Conclusion
As monster kids ourselves, we appreciate this year’s Cemetery Lane theme, but we might not have grasped it had we not known of it beforehand. Unless you know the history of the Shock Theatre syndication package, the presence of Universal monsters suggests the ’30s and ’40s more than the ’50s and ’60s, and we almost missed seeing ’50s icon Vampira. For the most part it was up to Howlin’ Lou (a spoof of radio disc jockey Wolfman Jack) to convey the era, broadcasting ’60s novelty songs like “The Monster Mash.” Whether or not the theme is clear, it adds a different flavor to Cemetery Lane: the generic witches and vampires from last year are replaced by iconic characters whose likenesses have adorned Halloween costumes for decades.
Compared to other outdoor seasonal attractions pitched at families, such as Haunt O’ Ween and Nights of the Jack, Cemetery Lane is less elaborate and has a smaller footprint. However, it offers a more authentic Halloween vibe than the former and a more compact feel than the latter. Basically, it transforms Heritage Square Museum into a kid-friendly Halloween neighborhood, where trick-or-treating is safe but spooky, and the only danger is that the Mummy might try to steal your candy.
Cemetery Lane: Monster Kids Rating
1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
Cemetery Lane retains its essential appeal – trick-or-treating among Victorian mansions hosted by friendly monsters. The new entrance makes parking easier but walking more difficult. The Monster Kids theme is not as clear as it might be, but it adds a different flavor.
Cemetery Lane: Monster Kids continues on October 23, 27-30. Hours are 6-9pm on weekdays, 3-9pm on weekends. Heritage Square Museum is located at 3800 Homer Street, but the address for this year’s entrance is 3515 Pasadena Avenue.