Hollywood Gothique
Film Fests & RetrospectivesLA Cinema Gothique

Review: San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights

San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Review:
The screening began with the short subject “Broom-Stick Bunny,”

On Friday, My Valley Pass launched its 2020 edition of San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights with a double bill of Edward Scissorhands and Pet Sematary, and the presentation was everything horror movie fans could have hoped for. Despite the sell-out crowd, parking in the lot of the Westfield Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks was handled with ease and efficiency, and the audio-visual presentation was strong, making it easy to enjoy the movie magic onscreen, in spite of temperatures necessitating nearly continuous automobile air-conditioning. Walk-in cinemas remain closed in Los Angeles, but this pop-up drive in was a more than satisfying substitute.

Obviously, the presentation was no match for a Dolby Atmos screening in a premium theatre, but all things considered, San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights delivered an entertaining evening of big-screen entertainment. The inflatable screen preserved the widescreen aspect ratio of the films, and it was large enough to provide adequate viewing even to viewers parking near the back of the lot. The FM sound came in loud and clear, though of course results will vary according to your auto’s stereo equipment.

San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Review: Losing It at the Movies
San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Review
Edward Scissorhands

The best thing we can say about San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights is that in spite of the drawbacks inherent in a drive-in presentation, we ultimately were able to forget our surroundings and lose ourselves in the wonderful world of Edward Scissorhands, one of our favorite movies but one which we could easily have watched at home via DVD. The colors were maybe not  as bright as we would have liked, but the visual distinction between the monochrome gloom of Edward’s castle on the hill and the artificial pastels of suburbia below registered clearly, and  the notes of Danny Elfman’s score rang true.

Most important is that  Edward Scissorhands is one of Tim Burton’s most emotionally satisfying movies. It’s one step away from being an horror film, with its artificial human wielding knife-like fingers that make Freddy Kruger look inadequate, but ultimately it’s a movie about sympathizing with the strange outsider, even if the world at large will never accept him. This is not the kind of exploitation cinema guaranteed to work in a drive-in, where peak emotions like shock and excitement are usually the order of the day, but in the end we were happy to experience the film in this environment – the first time in many years that we have seen it in a public setting. The emotional connection with a like-minded audience was muted by encapsulation in metal vehicles; nevertheless, it was a great communal event.

San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Review: Conclusion
San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Review:
Pumpkin Patch next to the screening.

Besides good movies presented well, the perks at San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights include a decent menu, brought to the window of your car. You can order from the waiter, who will deliver to you, or you can order remotely if you don’t mind picking up the food yourself. There is also a pumpkin patch (separate entrance) with pony rides. Light from this sideshow is slightly distracting during the screening, but it does add another layer of seasonal atmosphere to the Halloween film series.

With many haunted house attractions shuttered this season due to Covid-19, enjoying Halloween on Screen may be the best option for many fright fans. Late Night Drive-In at the Andaz Hotel offers great perks and a solid lineup of titles, but the audio-visual presentation is not as good as we would have liked. To those seeking a satisfying series of horror and fantasy films that look and sound good when viewed from a car, we would enthusiastically recommend San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights except for one unfortunate fact: the remaining screenings are already sold out. Fortunately, My Valley Pass also presenting a series at the Los Angeles Zoo. Titles include Lake Placid, the animated version of The Addams Family, and the original version of Poltergeist.


San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights Rating
  • Audio-Visual
  • Perks

Bottom Line

Until walk-in cinemas reopen, this Halloween-themed film series may be the best way to enjoy horror films on big screen in Los Angeles. Attendants are friendly and helpful; access and parking are easy; and the audio-visual presentation is not bad.

San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights takes place in the parking lot of the Westfield Fashion Square Mall, 14006 Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks. Get more info at myvalleypass.com.

Find more Halloween Cinema.

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.