It was just last year when we wrote about an exciting trend in Halloween entertainment- interactive and immersive events that more than ever before brought the public into the experience with theater elements, shocking imagery, full contact scare actors and thematic realism throughout. Well, thanks to Covid-19 that’s all out the window this year. Social distancing is paramount right now and walking mazes while screaming our lungs out with a bunch of strangers is way too risky.
Everything is canceled (even trick or treating door to door in our own neighborhoods) but that doesn’t mean Halloween has to be, at least not completely. Event promoters have been forced to get creative this year pivoting to drive-thrus and drive-ins to keep the spirit(s) alive.
Staying home this year sound safer? Get haunted at home all month long via streaming TV services, many of which are offering cool creepy new content and scary classics. Here, we spotlight the best of both types of entertainment and events for Halloween 2020.
Screening and streaming:
Is home-streaming horror for wussies? Not at all, but Screamfest is the second festival to forgo going digital in favor of a drive-in presentation (the first was Beyondfest) and there’s no denying the old school way to watch movies adds a touch of eerie excitement. Kicking off tonight with Hulu’s Books of Blood at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, the remainder of the fearsome fest will be at the Regency Plant Drive-In in Van Nuys. The “Sundance of Horror,” as it’s often called, Screamfest has launched some of the genre’s biggest movie-makers and the female-run event (created by Rachel Belofsky) features ten wicked evenings of new feature films and shorts this year.
Special screenings will include Halloween and Halloween II; a 35th anniversary screening of Friday the 13th A New Beginning; L.A. premieres of promising titles including Thirst (a gay Icelandic vampire flick), Sanzaru (a ghost story by filmmaker Xia Magnus) and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, a remake/twist on the Frankenstein fable. Books of Blood, by the way, is based on Clive Barker’s horror anthology and this one is executive produced Seth MacFarlane (Spawn) so we expect some dark and demented moments (it premieres tomorrow on Hulu).
Opening night at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu is sold out. Tickets for remaining Screamfest events, Oct. 6- 15, at Regency Plant Drive-In at the Plant Shopping Center, 7876 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, still available at screamfestla.com/
Speaking of Hulu, the streaming service has wicked watchworthy goodies this month including originals, classics and short films. Our picks? The eight part anthology Monsterland, Helstrom (a Marvel comics-inspired mystery about the son and daughter of a serial killer tracking down “the worst of humanity”) and Bad Hair, an 80s-era story about a young woman whose hair problems go way beyond one bad day.
The service has also grouped all its horror content under the “Huluween” banner, including The Blumhouse series Into the Dark (we’ll be spotlighting Blumhouse’s TV productions here soon). Supplementing this programming, Hulu offers The Screamlands, an online immersive destination inspired by its films, including the “Bad Hair Hellway” and “Huluween Hall,” starting this Thurs., Oct. 8.
And finally, for Los Angeles-based Halloween fans, Hulu is hosting a drive-in theater event, too. Bad Hair will premiere on Oct. 22 and other screenings include Hocus Pocus, Books of Blood, Beetlejuice, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Carrie. DJ D-Nice will open the weekend and close it out.
Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” is back with a month full of scary seasonal films. As always, they’ll air all the classics: The Addams Family, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and Hotel Transylvania 1, 2 and 3. Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas will also run throughout the holiday month. These films were featured at “Freeform’s Halloween Road,” a theatrical drive-thru event last week, and though that part is over now, we’ve gathered other similar events for you to check out here. Keep reading… if you dare!
See Freeform’s full 31 Nights schedule here.
Everyday is Halloween at Shudder, and there’s more to come as Fall progresses. The streaming horror service boasts “61 Days of Halloween” with highlights including The Creepshow Halloween Special, premiering Oct. 26, and frightful new films galore. There’s also a “Ghoul Log,” the service’s answer to the Christmas yule log, with a 24/7 streaming Jack-o’-Lantern (available on demand as a Shudder TV feed) and a “Halloween hotline” every Friday, in which Shudder’s head curator, Samuel Zimmerman offers personalized picks for what to watch by phone chat (long-distance charges may apply). Finally, the channel’s popular movie host Joe Bob, offers Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideaway debuting on Oct. 23, and there’s an in-person drive-in component as well.
In Person Events:
The Haunted Barnyard
With Knotts and Universal forced to scrap their Halloween events, designers and set dressers looked elsewhere to share their talents. The Gentle Barn’s drive-thru event sounds like one of the best. Storyboarded and conceptualized by Jim Hewitt, who designed mazes for both theme parks in the past, this one also touts designers, dressers, painters and special effects artists from Scary Farm. Thematic environments will include “the Funhouse,” a “Zombie Infested Graveyard,” an “Insane Asylum,” “Haunted Woods” and a “Ghostly Maze.”
At the Gentle Barn, 15825 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita; Oct. 22 – Nov. 6 with drive-thrus every 30 minutes starting at 7:30 p.m. and ending at 11 p.m. More info at gentlebarn.org/gdrive/gdrive-california-haunted-barnyard/
Less scares and more sweets will be the focus at this interactive drive-thru from event creators Experiential Supply. The kid-friendly event offers “social-shareable environments, vehicle video ops, and unique interactivity” plus trick or treating door to door from the safety of your car. A Jack-O-Lantern tunnel, mini-maze routes, and a pumpkin patch add to the fun (guests get to take one home in a sanitized plastic bag).
6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. Oct. 9 – 31, 3-9 p.m. $70 per vehicle. Tickets at hauntoweenla.com/
FRIGHT FARMS/NOT SO SPOOKY FARM
Patrons will search for clues throughout the narrative-based “Fright Farms” which, according to its creators was conceived “with COVID-19 in mind” featuring prompts and sounds via car stereo and smart phone. The story concerns the little town of Hilldale where something sinister threatens all who enter.
For those who want a more family-friendly farm experience, the locale also hosts “Not So Spooky Farm,” which puts kids on a mission to uncover candy clues and find a buried treasure.
SilverLakes Athletic Complex, 5555 Hamner Ave, Norco. Fright Farms (ages 13 and older recommended) is $75 per vehicle; tickets at frightfarms.com. Not So Spooky Farm for families; $65 per vehicle; tickets at frightfarms.com/not-so-spooky-farm. (Both events run Oct. 26- Nov. 29, 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
NIGHTS OF THE JACK
Nights of the Jack returns as a contactless drive-thru trail this year with awesome displays featuring thousands of hand-carved Jack O’ Lanterns. The eye-popping visuals should adapt well to the drive-by format and installation set-up promising pumpkin packed fun for all ages.
King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, $69 per vehicle. Oct. 1 – Oct. 25 ( 7 – 11 p.m.) and Oct. 26 – Nov. 1 (6– 11 p.m.) nightsofthejack.com
Flashback to the 80’s and prepare to visit the world of Stranger Things in your automobile. The Stranger Things: The “Drive-Into” Experience is a new kind of “haunted house” aiming to capture The Duffer Brothers hit Netflix show in Downtown L.A. With recreations from the Hawkins, Indiana setting, actors in costume, and special effects, it will feature periodic stops as scenes play out and guided drives to each set roll out in “chapters.” Starcourt Mall, the Russian labs and the Upside Down hangout will all be featured.
More info at www.strangerthingsdriveinto.com.
Griffith Park is inherently spooky and Haunted Hayride was already a drive-thru, so pivoting this event made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the creators couldn’t make the original Los Feliz locale work so they had to find another. Now in San Dimas next to Raging Waters, the in-your-own-car experience aims to recreate the popular L.A. event in a new way. The interactive venture includes a visit to All Hallows Lane and Midnight Falls’ spine-chilling scenic environments, plus a haunted show on a 40′ screen and live actors throughout.
Bonelli Regional Park, 120 Via Verde, San Dimas; now thru Nov. 1. Tickets at losangeleshauntedhayride.com
Descanso Gardens is getting its pumpkin on with a socially-distanced walk-thru event in the most popular parts of its grounds. There will be a pumpkin house, made entirely of real pumpkins, a pumpkin arch inside of the Camellia Forest, scarecrows, lights, mazes, and Jack-o’-Lantern lit imagery throughout. The Kitchen at Descanso will offer Fall-inspired drinks, soups and snacks.
Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily; $4-$15. descansogardens.org.