Monday, November 26, 2012

Classic Monsters Group Art Show at Halloween Town

Halloween Town, also known as my Favorite Store in the World, always has cool art on display in their Parlour Gallery - in the past, they've done tributes to Halloween (the holiday, not the film), Edgar Allan Poe, Disney's Haunted Mansion and more. Now they're set to unveil an all-new show on Saturday, December 1st, and it might be their best yet. The theme? Classic Monsters! In addition to the already impressive roster of artists, including special effects legend Rick Baker, there will be artwork by Rob Zombie (but fanboys and girls, be advised that Mr. Zombie himself will not be in attendance).

The opening night reception runs from 7 to 11pm, with artwork on display through December 30. Halloween Town is located at 2921 Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank, CA, and the Parlour Art Gallery is free to visit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Self-Promotion: Tricks and Treats for All Hallows Eve

Because you have the most Halloween spirit, because you kept the vigil in the most sincere pumpkin patch you could find, I present you with a trio of Halloween tricks and/or treats!

Download "Don't Trick Me, Treat Me Babe," an excellent Halloween compilation from music blog Sincerely, California - 16 tracks of Halloweenie goodness for free! I listened to the whole thing earlier tonight and it's awesome, and I truly am not just saying that because my band is one of the contributors.

...and speaking of compilations that my band contributed to, listen to our Misfits-inspired version of "The Sword of Damocles" on this goth-tinged tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show called (natch) The Gothy Horror Picture Show. Put together by Jack over at Darkest Radio, mp3 versions of all 12 tracks (plus a bonus song) can be yours today for just $10 (in honor of Halloween - normally priced at 13 bones), with a CD version coming soon.

Finally, listen live to Magic Monster Radio tomorrow night from 9-10pm PST. My husband/bandmate, Mr. Spooky, and I will be sharing ghost stories and celebrating our favorite night of the year live on the air. Listen on the website or on iTunes in the Alt Rock category.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Spooky/Bad Spooky: Capsule Reviews

Sinister is the latest movie (that is not part of the Paranormal Activity franchise) from Blumhouse Productions, which has a special place in my heart because a) they have given us some fun scary movies, b) they ended the Saw/torture porn reign of terror that dominated the early aughties, and c) they produced the new Rob Zombie witch movie The Lords of Salem, which is due in 2013. Anyhow, Sinister is sort of like The Shining meets Paranormal Activity: It's about a true crime writer, played by Ethan Hawke, who moves his wife and two children into a house that was the scene of a grisly unsolved crime - a family of four was murdered, and the youngest daughter vanished. He finds a box of extraordinarily disturbing "home movies" in the attic, and begins to lose his grip on reality as it becomes clear that the crime he's investigating was not an isolated incident - and an extremely, well, sinister boogeyman may be to blame. This movie was a little silly in parts, but it was tons of fun. If you liked Insidious, you'll probably enjoy this one too. Extra points for doing a "found footage" movie with a twist: Instead of claiming the movie itself is comprised of found footage, in Sinister a character actually finds and watches the footage, with terrifying consequences.

And speaking of Paranormal Activity 4, what did everybody think? I really enjoy these movies, but even I have to admit that the conceit is getting a little tired at this point. I love the second and third movies - maybe even more than the first one - but this one felt like a retread, and few of the scares surprised me. Not a bad movie, and if you like this kind of thing you may as well check it out, but it won't be a tragedy if you wait for the DVD. I hear a fifth installment is already being planned. Has the franchise run out of go-go juice or are there still scares to be had in the saga of Katie the suburban succubus and her demonic cronies? You decide!

Like I said, PA4 - while flawed - wasn't bad. If you want BAD, I hope you caught NBC's airing of Bryan Fuller's Munsters remake, titled Mockingbird Lane, last Friday. Since the series wasn't picked up for the fall schedule, the network decided to broadcast the pilot as a one-hour Halloween special. (That, or they truly are "tanking NBC," just like Jack Donaghy said on 30 Rock!) I wanted to like this. I did! I'm not opposed to remakes (see: my love of Rob Zombie), and I love what they did with the Addams Family in the 90s. But tonally, this was a complete nightmare...and not the good kind. It lacked charm, it lacked scares and it lacked laughs. Maybe there's some sort of Munsters Curse that has rendered this great piece of classic '60s horror kitsch completely un-remake-able. We have the complete original series on DVD already; maybe this retread will be the last nail in the coffin and the Munster clan will finally be able to rest in peace? Here's hoping!

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta for Halloween Eve

'Twas Halloween Eve and all through the night, the witches and ghosties were hungry for a bite...I just threw together this (relatively) quick and easy pasta dish for Halloween Eve dinner and thought I would share for those of you looking for ideas for a festive feast of your own!

Roasted Pumpkin Penne with Leeks and Goat Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425F for 10 minutes.
2. While oven is heating, cut open a small sugar pie pumpkin and remove the seeds and pumpkin guts. (Save the seeds for roasting, obviously!) Cut the pumpkin into smaller chunks.
3. Spread the pumpkin chunks on a baking sheet with leeks, shallots or onions (I used leeks), also cut into smaller chunks, and sprinkle with 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
4. Combine olive oil (maybe a cup or so?), 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, oregano, sage, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pour over mixture to coat. Add a little more oil if necessary. You don't want it to be super greasy, but you also don't want your pumpkin to dry out!
5. Put in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. When the pumpkin is browned around the edges and fork tender, it's ready!
6. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove skin from pumpkin chunks (should peel right off, or you can scoop the pumpkin out with a spoon) and cut into bite-size pieces, if desired.
7. Serve pumpkin mixture over warm penne pasta. Crumble goat cheese into pasta and stir to combine; cheese will melt into pasta mixture and become extra deeee-licious. (I also added a little havarti cheese.)
8. Plate and top with freshly grated parmesan.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dead Inside? Redefining My Halloween Experience

This has been a hard post for me to write - clearly, since I've waited nearly a full month to write it. It all started when I went to the opening night of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights on September 21st. Haunted attractions (as I prefer to call them, to differentiate from locations that are rumored to be "actually" haunted) like these - and Universal's annual event in particular - have been a huge part of my Halloween experience for at least the last 5-10 years. Of course, I've been going to Knott's Scary Farm on and off since I was a little kid, around 7 years old, and while I always looked forward to it I was never devastated if I missed a year, and I never felt the need to seek out other haunts - Knott's easily filled my yearly quota for mazes and fog machines and actors in rubber masks.

Then I started this blog. At first I envisioned Spooky Little Girl as merely a place where I could talk about the horror movies I was currently watching and/or anticipating, and where I could point like-minded readers to noteworthy spooky events happening in the Los Angeles area. Then I discovered something interesting: There were SO MANY MORE haunted attractions in southern California than just Knott's and Universal. And as a journalist (of sorts), I could often get free passes to these events in order to review them on my blog!

The freaky floodgates opened and I started attending as many haunts as I could possibly fit into my schedule. Basically, I had little time for anything else - my weekends were packed between mid-September and the beginning of November. At first, I was in horror heaven. And then I started to feel a little lackadaisical about the whole thing; I was still excited, but it was hard not to feel like I was seeing the same things year after year. It was hard to ignore the fact that the "monsters" were just actors and the "mazes" were just painted plywood. I used to be incredibly jumpy - one of those people who screams at nearly every turn in the maze. Last year, I started to suspect that I was broken. Nothing scared me anymore. I had lost my scream. I was dead inside.

Last year, I told myself I would take a break from mazes and haunted attractions. At least for a little while.

Yet as the months rolled by and my beloved Halloween haunts started to loom on the horizon, I felt excited again. I couldn't wait to go to Universal and take a ride on the Walking Dead Terror Tram and revisit the La Llorona maze and experience the witch-themed scare zone. September 21st rolled around and Mr. Spooky and I happily headed out to the Valley for our annual dose of scares. Yet something curious happened. Something I had never fully experienced before.

We had just finished the Terror Tram and we paused on the walkway overlooking the backlot. I felt strangely empty. Not scared. Not intrigued. Not thrilled. Looking out at the sound stages and production offices, I felt an ineffable, powerful yearning to be a part of everything - to actually make films instead of just watching them or, at an even further remove, walking through mazes loosely based on them. I turned to Mr. Spooky and said these fateful words:

"I think I'm over haunts."

It was a weird, complicated feeling to finally confess this truth out loud. I felt relieved and sad and like I was finally growing up, but maybe I was a little depressed about growing up, but really I felt excited that I was finally ready to learn about things and maybe make some art instead of just experiencing things that interest me and scare me at a safe remove via an amusement park ride or maze.

I felt ready to experience Halloween in a new way - a way that doesn't involve having people in costumes jump out at me and startle me. Haunts have been such a focal point for me these past few years that the 31st has actually become an afterthought: Sometimes I don't even dress up on the day itself. More than once, Mr. Spooky and I have just stayed at home and watched scary movies instead of planning anything for our favorite night of the year. When people ask me what I have in store for Halloween, I've often felt confused: Halloween is beside the point, right? My objective was to go through as many mazes as possible!

Am I truly over haunted attractions for good? It's hard to say. Maybe in a year or two I'll feel like going to Knott's again, or I'll pine for the Haunted Hayride, or there will be a new haunt that tickles my fancy. I'm certainly not writing them off entirely. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I am over haunts for now.

So where does that leave me for the rest of this Halloween season? It is, after all, still my favorite time of year.

Tuesday is my birthday. I'm going to see an advance screening of Paranormal Activity 4. On the 20th, Mr. Spooky and I are heading to Vegas to tie the knot in a gothic garden wedding ceremony. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure.

I want to see Sinister and V/H/S. I'm still looking forward to the Halloween rerelease at the end of the month. Of course, staying home and watching scary movies on TV will always be a great way to spend any given October night (Hot Tip: TCM is showing a slew of Hammer horror flicks on Wednesday!). But what else?

Here are a few more non-haunt-related Halloweenie activities I'm looking forward to as I start to redefine the holiday for myself:
  • October 24 - Dead Men DO Tell Tales @ the Last Bookstore: An awesomely weird combo of sex ghost lecture/slideshow presentation, films by the Art of Bleeding and performances by Rosemary's Billygoat and a band that does sci-fi theremin music. Sex ghosts?!!
  • October 25-31 - Monster Mansion @ the Magic Castle: If you or someone you know has a Magic Castle membership, you need to go the last week of October. Classic monsters will be roaming the halls, and guests are encouraged to come in costume! The Magic Castle is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I celebrated my birthday here last year and it truly was magical.
  • October 27 & 28 - Victorian Halloween and Mourning Tours @ Heritage Square: Learn about the Spiritualist movement, Victorian funerary customs and mourning etiquette in a gorgeous period-authentic setting. I've always wanted to do this and have never been able to find the time...until now.
  • End of October/beginning of November - Dia de los Muertos events: I would love to experience all of the cool Day of the Dead events offered around L.A. this time of year. Perhaps we'll actually make it out to the always-crazy-crowded Hollywood Forever event on October 27?!
More than anything else, I am finally learning the truth that lies in all those treacly Christmas specials: Halloween isn't something you can buy in a store. Halloween isn't something you can purchase a ticket to, or something you have to venture out to find.

Halloween, my spooky sisters and brothers, is in your heart.

Capsule Movie Reviews: Prince of Darkness, Frankenweenie, From a Whisper to a Scream, Equinox

Sometimes there are movies I want to write about, but it just doesn't feel like I have enough in me to create a "full post." For those moments, I give you...capsule movie reviews. (I actually really love shorter movie reviews, personally. They give you enough to help you determine whether or not you want to watch the movie, but they're usually too brief to give away major plot points.)

Prince of Darkness: This is a John Carpenter movie from the 80s that focuses on the Devil, which is such an 80s horror topic, right?! Satanic cults were a real thing back then. Anyhow, in Prince of Darkness it turns out that, concealed beneath an old church is an unspeakable evil, in the form of green goo that is vaguely reminiscent of You Can't Do That on Television, or the filling of a delicious, delicious Cadbury Screme Egg. Donald Pleasence plays a priest with haunted eyes who says terrifying things about how everyone is doomed. Alice Cooper plays a homeless guy who stabs someone to death with a fucking bicycle. It's on Netflix streaming - check it out! It's not a masterpiece, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

Frankenweenie: Tim Burton (sorta) redeems himself to diehards who want to love him but can't pretend his most recent movies have been good with this supercute black-and-white 3D animated tale about a boy who resurrects his beloved dog, based on his live action short of the same name which you probably watched as an extra on the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD. It has lots of Burtonian atmosphere, a creepy/manic Danny Elfman score, nods to Universal monster movies and Vincent Price and even the voice of Winona Ryder as a Lydia Deetz-ish deadpan goth girl. If any of this sounds even remotely appealing to you, you'll dig this movie.

From a Whisper to a Scream: Another horror anthology currently available via Netflix streaming, this is an 80s movie starring an elderly Vincent Price about the evil that infects the (fictional) town of Oldfield, Tennessee. (Note: For some reason, I thought there would be a murderous scarecrow in this movie. I'm not sure why I thought this, but let me tell you there are no scarecrows whatsoever. You have been warned.) VP plays a classy/creepy old librarian whose serial killer niece has just been executed, and a mysterious lady comes to visit him to learn more about what drove her to murder. What follows is four ghoulish tales covering topics like murderous babies from beyond the grave, voodoo, necrophilia, carnival freakshows and the horrors of the Civil War (no, really!). This movie was kind of brutal, actually - anthologies tend to be a little on the kitschy side (think Tales from the Crypt) and this one had a number of gory moments that took me by surprise. And can I just say that I'm so fucking tired of watching women murdered in movies for rebuffing a man's sexual advances, as if that somehow lends sympathy to the murderer? (Note: This is why we need more women filmmakers, especially in the horror genre!) Apparently Vincent Price hated this movie. It's nothing I would recommend going out of your way to watch, but if you're an anthology fan with a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse. Like, for instance, you could wind up watching...

Equinox: This 1970 movie straddles the line between so bad it's funny and so bad you're kinda pissed that you spent valuable minutes of your life watching it. It's full of annoying characters who do inexplicably stupid things, and I can safely say that I was rooting for absolutely everybody's death. The special effects are abysmal, even for the time, and don't make a lot of sense within the context of the story. Like, why does one of the characters end up battling a large blue caveman? Hmm. It gets points for all of the cool cars and for showcasing L.A. hiking trails that I know for a fact I've been on, including the Bronson Caves in Hollywood. Points taken away for the hyper-annoying casual sexism and the utter idiocy of the plot.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mad Monster Party Group Art Show

Mad Monster Party? is a Rankin-Bass stop-motion TV movie from 1967, which means it is totally nutty and sort of surreal in the way that cartoons from the swingin' sixties/early seventies often are, and it features the vocal talents of both Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller doing that inimitably bizarre Phyllis Diller laugh (RIP Phyllis and her cackle), so you know it's good.

After you drink that in, mark your calendars, because the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks will be paying tribute to the movie's groovy ghoulies with a group art show that opens with a reception on October 13th from 6 to 10pm.

Check out the website for more info. The Van Eaton Galleries are located at 13613 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Friday, September 28, 2012

THIS WEEKEND: Spider Baby & Carnival of Souls

Thanks to Ms. Merricat Blackwood for alerting me to this weekend's amazing double feature of Spider Baby and Carnival of Souls, two black-and-white horror films from the '60s that are screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' "Film-to-Film Festival." Both movies, which are screening Saturday, September 29th (tomorrow!), were recently restored by the Academy from the original negatives, and the Spider Baby screening will have writer-director Jack Hill on hand as a special guest.

If you've never seen Spider Baby - one of my personal favorites - you're doing yourself a serious disservice. It's a groovy weirdo movie about a family that suffers from a terrible curse - a disease that causes them to regress to some sort of bizarre primal state, indulging in their every disturbed, childlike whim. It has a young Sid Haig, an old Lon Chaney, Jr. and two of the creepiest ladies ever to wield knives. Carnival of Souls is subtler and slower, but it's also chilling and eerie, and the perfect kickoff to October.

Spider Baby screens at 7:30pm, and Carnival of Souls at 9:30pm. Tickets are $5 each per feature (so $10 per person to see both).

Screams and moans and bats and bones
Teenage monsters in haunted homes
The ghost on the stair, the vampire's bite
Better beware, there's a full moon tonight!
Cannibal spiders creep and crawl
Boys and ghouls having a ball
Frankenstein, Dracula and even the Mummy
Are sure to end up in somebody's tummy
Take a fresh rodent, some toadstools and weeds
Add an old owl and the young one she breeds
Mix in seven legs of an eight-legged beast
Then you're all set for a cannibal feast
Sit around the fire with the cup of brew
A fiend and a werewolf on each side of you
This cannibal orgy is strange to behold
And the maddest story ever told!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Horror in Store: Movies to Watch

It's almost October, so scary movies are on my mind now more than ever (if that's even possible). From upcoming releases to movies that are just now making their way to DVD/Blu-Ray to recent releases that I somehow managed to overlook when they were in theaters, here are a few films that I'm looking forward to catching in the coming weeks:

Okay, The Cabin in the Woods came out forever ago but it's just coming out on DVD this week. Have you seen it? You really should. It totally deconstructs your favorite predictable horror tropes in a really fun, clever way, and the last 20 minutes or so are completely crazy. Don't read too much about it, just watch.

Beyond the Black Rainbow is another movie that's new to DVD. My understanding is that it's some sort of pseudo-retro weirdo sci-fi movie about mind control, a sinister psychiatrist and the patient he's trying to hold captive. I dig 70s/80s homage movies (see also: The House of the Devil) and I'm thinking this is one, with some bizarre David Cronenberg/David Lynch elements thrown in. Good title too.
I haven't actually heard too much about The Loved Ones, but I saw a capsule review of it that mentioned it was new to DVD (even though Teh Google tells me it's an Australian film from ye olde 2009) and described it as some sort of prom night revenge flick. Specifically, a girl gets all murderously vengeful when the dude she asks to prom turns her down. Shades of Carrie and/or Prom Night? Could be interesting. Plus, the drill on the poster makes me think of Slumber Party Massacre.

I've been dying to see The Pact ever since it first came out earlier this year, but it was only in one theater for like one week, so I missed it. It's about a woman who returns to her childhood home for her mother's funeral and encounters "unsettling" forces. Creepy haunted house movies are my favorite, y'all! And look at that poster. LOVE. Looks like this one will be out on DVD in November.

Perhaps the only thing more delicious than a haunted house movie is a haunted house period piece. So classy, right?! This movie is set in 1920s England, and involves a woman who debunks paranormal phenomena investigating ghost sightings at a boarding school. Although it came out last month here, perhaps there's still a theater near you showing it? Otherwise, you'll probably have to wait until the DVD comes out in March. :(

Ah, found footage horror movies. While others are deriding you as a played-out trend, I'm watching from between my fingers. From Blair Witch to Paranormal Activity, I think found footage movies are invariably scary. And V/H/S, which I believe is still available via OnDemand, combines two of my greatest loves: Found footage and horror anthologies! Also, everything I've heard has been extremely positive. I believe this one will also be in theaters on October 5. 

Hotel Transylvania pros: It's an animated horror film. I love spooky animation, i.e. ParaNorman, Coraline, Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas, Also, the premise is kind of cute: Dracula's castle is a luxury resort for monsters, and Drac is an overprotective dad raising a sheltered teenage daughter who isn't allowed to experience the outside world. Could be good, right? Cons: Adam Sandler is the voice of Dracula. I'm scared. And not in a good way. Catch it in theaters (maybe?) on September 28.

...And speaking of spooky animated movies, here's one that I am whole-hoggedly recommending even though I haven't seen it yet: Tim Burton's Frankenweenie! This is a full-length film based on Tim Burton's live action short of the same name about a boy who resurrects his beloved dog. It's going to be adorable. I can't wait. Hits theaters on October 5.

I don't know a lot about Sinister - sometimes I prefer to avoid a lot of pre-movie hype when it comes to horror, because I think it makes the scares that much more unpredictable - but I do know that it, as the poster says, comes from the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, and that seems like a pretty rad pedigree to me. Also, this is the production company behind L.A.'s Blumhouse of Horrors, my most anticipated haunt this year. I feel like Blumhouse has singlehandedly rescued us from torture porn, and for that I will gladly fork over my cash. Catch Sinister in theaters October 5.

Oh, and don't forget about Paranormal Activity 4, coming out on October 19! Plot details are hard to come by, but this one looks like it focuses on the family that lives next door to Katie's sister circa the action in PA2. I'm pretty sure you already know whether or not you're going to see this movie based on how you felt about the first three, so what else can I say? I'm excited. 

And, finally, a documentary that I'm very much looking forward to will be premiering on the Chiller channel on Sunday, October 28. Titled The American Scream and coming to you from the directing/producing team that gave the world the Troll 2 documentary Best Worst Movie (which I also recommend - it's on Netflix streaming), this one profiles a handful of people who build elaborate haunts in their homes every Halloween. A yard haunts documentary! Definitely setting my DVR for this one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Haunts

It's that time of year: Haunt season is upon us. No more lurking in the shadows and watching horror movies in darkened movie theaters or the privacy of our own homes to get scared - no, friends, it's time to come out of the terror closet and get scared in public!

This October looks to be a busier one than usual for me, since I'm getting married in Vegas on October 20th (!), so I'm not sure how many haunts I'm going to make it out to this year, but I will try my damnedest to see as many as possible. Here's an exhaustive look at the most promising newcomers, as well as what our perennial southern California favorites have in store for 2012, arranged by opening date:


Disneyland's Halloween Time  was the first out of the gate this year, opening on Friday, September 14th. You can read my 2009 review of the park's Halloween festivities here. It looks like the attractions are pretty much the same this year as in year's past: The Haunted Mansion will be transformed into Haunted Mansion Holiday with a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay, Space Mountain becomes Ghost Galaxy, and there will be a Dia de los Muertos celebration in Frontierland. Additionally, you can view the Art of Frankenweenie exhibit over at California Adventure for a look at props and puppets used in the making of the upcoming Tim Burton movie. Halloween Time at Disneyland will probably never make you scream in terror, but it will definitely make you feel like a kid again, in the best possible way.

Tickets to Disneyland are $87 to visit one park for those 10 & up, and $125 for a one-day park hopper ticket to visit both Disneyland and California Adventure. Halloween Time runs through October 31.


Knott's Scary Farm looks to be pulling out all the stops this year in honor of the 40th anniversary of their legendary Halloween Haunt. While the Haunt will always be a favorite, in recent years I've noted that some of the mazes were becoming a little stale. But even if you're an annual visitor, Knott's seems to have a lot of surprises up their collective spooky sleeve for 2012 - starting with their mascot, the Green Witch. YAY WITCHES. There are 13 mazes and themed rides - still more than any other local haunt - including holdovers like the excellent zombie maze Virus Z, the darkly romantic Terror of London and the vibrant Dia de los Muertos maze. There's also a return to form with the gothy vampire maze Dominion of the Dead, an Evil Dead-themed Log Ride and exciting new offerings like homicidal puppet maze Pinocchio Unstrung and the Halloween-themed Trick or Treat. For an additional $60 (for a group of up to 6 guests) you can also experience Trapped, a reservation-only interactive maze that you go through sans crowds for a more intimate (albeit somewhat costly) haunt experience. Unless you're flush with cash, better bring a few friends along for that one so you can split the fee.

Tickets to Knott's Scary Farm start at $36. The Halloween Haunt runs through October 31.

Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights is the other Big Haunt in the LA area, and while it can't match Knott's in terms of seniority or volume of mazes, it has frequently surpassed it in quality of makeup, maze design and fx, and it has the arguable advantage of basing its mazes on actual movies and popular horror franchises, from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th to Halloween and Scream. (Read my previous HHN coverage here.) I mean Jesus, they even have the Psycho house sitting there on the back lot! This year the Terror Tram (which is, in my opinion, the best part of HHN) is based on AMC's The Walking Dead, as is one of the mazes, along with Texas Chainsaw, Silent Hill, La Llorona and a new Alice Cooper maze. There is also a witch-themed scare zone, to which I again say, YAY WITCHES.

Tickets to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights start at $41. HHN runs through October 31.


One of the most intriguing new haunts ('s sort of a haunt, sort of a play) last year was the interactive theater experience Haunted Play presents Delusion. Guests enter a real crumbling old mansion and find themselves immersed in a terrifying plot as they dart from room to room, occasionally performing tasks or trying to escape the clutches of monsters and madmen. This year's attraction, called Haunted Play presents Delusion: The Blood Rite, has an entirely new backstory and promises to be even scarier than last year's. If you're interested in something a little different from the standard maze trudge or you'd like to see unbelievable stunts unfold right before your eyes, I highly recommend this event.

Tickets for Haunted Play presents Delusion: The Blood Rite start at $45, and the play runs through November 10.


Santa Monica's Paranoia Haunted Attraction, new for 2012, is - as far as I know - the first large-scale professional haunt to take place on the Westside. While it's exciting to think about not having to drive out to the Valley or down to Orange County for a little Halloween action, the 3 mazes at Paranoia don't sound terribly innovative in terms of content: There's a clown maze, an asylum/hospital maze and something called "Granny's Manor of Mayhem" which might be evil hillbillies (Pig's Kitchen?) but then again might be Washington Irving-inspired (Headless Horseman?). I am in no way writing off this attraction, mind you - in fact, I'm excited to find out how they fare in their first year. Definitely one to watch.

Tickets to Paranoia start at $24, and the attraction runs through October 31.

Anaheim's The Empty Grave is one of those haunts that I've always heard about, but I've never made it out to visit. Perhaps this year we can remedy that. The back story seems to center on some sort of haunted cemetery where the vengeful spirits of the dead have possessed the graveyard's groundskeeper. I kind of love the fact that there is no demented circus angle, no killer clowns with chainsaws, no slaughterhouse-dwelling inbred freaks...none of the standard haunt mainstays, just a simple cemetery overrun by the evil, evil dead.

Tickets to the Empty Grave are $13 (or two for $20), and the haunt runs through October 31.


Here it is, ghouls: My most anticipated haunt for Halloween 2012, the Blumhouse of Horrors. This is another brand new one. Why am I looking forward to it so much? Three reasons: First, because it takes place in the old Variety Arts Theatre in downtown LA. I love old theatres! They always have such a spooky melancholy about them. Second, because the back story centers around a "twisted dark art magician." I love magic and magicians! The darker the better! And third, because this haunt is brought to you by the producers of the films Insidious, the upcoming Sinister and the Paranormal Activity franchise. I unabashedly love found-footage horror movies, and the movies that finally dethroned Saw at the box office will always have a special place in my heart. I'll take ghost stories over torture porn any day. Bring on the Blumhouse!

Tickets for the Blumhouse of Horrors start at $29, and the haunt runs through November 3.


Ah, the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. Still the only attraction of its kind in LA. I love the Hayride and its haunted carnival vibe. (Read my coverage of LAHHs past here.) This year's theme is "The Congregation," and it looks to be a prequel of sorts to past Hayrides, with a special focus on cults. Ooh, creepy cults! Love it. They also promise a longer ride than in years past, and offer guests a brand new "You will get wet!" caveat. Color me intrigued. The In-Between dark maze (much improved last year) will also be returning. If you're looking for an attraction that evokes something a little more rustic than most LA haunts, I recommend the Hayride.

Tickets for the LA Haunted Hayride start at $29 for the Hayride only, and $37 for the Hayride and the In-Between maze. The LAHH runs through October 31.

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor was a fun surprise when I visited it for the first time back in 2010, and this year will see the addition of a brand new maze, called Deadrise, as well as several new monster mascots based on the ship's ghostly lore and naval history.

Tickets for the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor start at $20 (for early entrance between 7 and 8pm, price not valid after 8pm), and the event runs through October 31.

The Reign of Terror Haunted House in Thousand Oaks is, oddly enough, one I've never experienced with the lights out and monsters roaming the corridors, although what I did see when I took a behind-the-scenes tour back in 2010 was enough to make a hugely favorable impression on me. ROT is an independently owned and operated haunt with a lot of heart and impeccable attention to gory detail. If you're in the area, you're morally obligated to attend, and if you're a little far from Thousand Oaks, believe me when I say it's worth the drive. This year's haunt features four different mazes, from the OG Victorian-style haunted house that started it all to the brand new Miner's Revenge - well worth the almost absurdly low price of admission.

Tickets to Reign of Terror are $15, and the haunted house runs through October 31.

Pasadena's Old Town Haunt is another independent maze that offers a nice alternative to the steep prices and long lines of an amusement park haunt. Taking place in an old bank vault in Old Town Pasadena, this haunt - like the Queen Mary and the Blumhouse of Horrors - boasts a location that is potentially haunted year-round, adding an extra element of creepiness to the proceedings. I've only been once, but the Old Town Haunt was one of my favorites when I went a couple of years ago, and a definite must-do if you've never been. Note: Prepare to get on your hands and knees and conquer that claustrophobia!

Tickets for the Old Town Haunt start at $15, and the event runs through October 31.


The Backwoods Maze in Burbank is one of the best yard haunts I've ever been to, and it's open for business again this year. It's amazing what they can do with such a small space. The maze is free, but donations are accepted, so bring a few bucks to pitch in toward their operating costs.

The Backwoods Maze is open on select nights through October 31.


Another amateur Halloween spectacle that truly must be seen and experienced to be believed, Boney Island was a holiday stalwart in its Sherman Oaks neighborhood for many years before it was closed down due to the complaints of a crotchety neighbor. (Boo!) Luckily, said neighbor moved and last year Boney Island was back in business! The theme of this interactive family-friendly Halloween display (it's not exactly a haunt, since it's not scary in the least) used to be a carnival populated by skeletons, but since its resurrection it's taken on a whimsical skeleton magician theme. If you're feeling at all "grinchy" about Halloween this year, a quick jaunt to Boney Island to see the skeletons in action - and the delighted reactions of spectators both young and old - will put you in the spirit immediately.

Boney Island is free, and will be open on select nights between October 20 and October 31.


Again, not a haunt, but an area tradition nonetheless: The annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at the always delightful Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There may not be Halloween screams, but there will be plenty of opportunity to take joy in the macabre at this always-packed event. If you're planning to go, get there early. And I mean EARLY, because parking will be impossible and the line will be insurmountable if you wait until night falls to get there. Good luck!

Hollywood Forever's Dia de los Muertos celebration will be held this year on October 27, and general admission tickets are $10 (bring exact change).

The Haunted Diary Presents: Haunted Hollow is another brand new haunt this year - at least to me, although it looks as though this isn't their first year in operation. According to the write-up on Hollywood Gothique,
The Haunted Diary promises a “classic, vintage Halloween feel” that will recreate a 1970s small town. Trick-or-Treaters will first pass through cornfields and a swamp on the outskirts. Next, they will enter the village of Paxton and encounter the victims, before proceeding inside the Dent residence and the Paxton School house.
"Classic, vintage Halloween feel," you say? "1970s small town," you say? I'M THERE. This Hollywood yard haunt sounds totally unique and right up my alley.

The Haunted Diary Presents: Haunted Hollow is free, but donations are accepted, and it will operate on the nights of October 27 and October 31.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Spooky Little Delights

So many spooky delights have been tickling my fancy lately that it's hard to decide where to start, so let's just dive right in to the gooey green fondant center, shall we?

Allow me to be a little more specific: CADBURY SCREME EGGS ARE HERE!!! THEY'RE HERE!! For those of you who don't regularly scour the Internet to read about Cadbury treats that are only available in the UK, Europe and Australia, let me provide a little background on these treats: They are HALLOWEEN-THEMED CREME EGGS. If that doesn't mean anything to you because you think Cadbury Creme Eggs are gross or whatever, then move on to the next item, sister. But if you, like me, live for that moment in early March when Creme Eggs first pop up by the register in the grocery store or on drugstore shelves, and if you've often thought the only way they could be improved upon is if they were somehow associated with a more exciting holiday than Easter, behold! I bring you tidings of green joy! For not only are Creme Eggs now available in fall as well as spring, they also: 1) Have a scarier name (Screme Eggs?! eek!), 2) Have a cool purple/black/green wrapper, and 3) Contain goo that is more akin to swamp muck than egg yolks. I swear, they even taste a little better than regular Creme Eggs. I found these at Rite Aid, but they should be everywhere by now. Unless I've already eaten all of them. Tee hee.

I know I'm a little late on this, but have you seen ParaNorman? It came out last month and it rules! It's an animated film ("from the makers of Coraline!" proclaims the poster, and it's similar to that movie in tone and subject matter) about a boy who can talk to the dead and who finds himself as the last line of defense between his town and a zombie apocalypse brought on by a witch's curse. Or was she a witch? Snap! Anyhow, this movie is so cute and fun and spooky.

My current favorite spooky TV show - at least until American Horror Story starts up again on October 17 - is Syfy's Paranormal Witness. Seriously, are you watching this show? If you like ghost stories, you MUST. YOU MUST! Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's really compelling, well-told stuff - similar to that show A Haunting, but with better production values. The episode about the two security guards in the haunted theater was excellent. So spooky. This show kind of makes my Wednesday every single week, and I'll miss it when it goes on hiatus again.

I just started reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I'm only like 50 pages in, but it's so good that I feel compelled to mention it already. If you like mysterious circuses and 19th-century magicians, pick it up.

And, finally, every horror fan should know and love the divine Sharon Needles, my new favorite drag queen since she won last season of RuPaul's Drag Race. When she came out in the first episode wearing a black minidress and a pointy witch's hat, I knew I was a fan. One of her signature moments came when one of the other contestants tried to diss her by bitchily snarking, "Go back to Party City where you belong!" Sharon remarked later, "Party City. Fuck you! I like Party City!" Haha, me too, Sharon! Don't let a bitch drag you down, girl! And it looks like Ms. Needles will have the last laugh when her gig as a horror hostess on Logo starts this fall.

Beginning November 1, Sharon Needles will be hosting FEARce!, which will feature screenings of her favorite horror flicks every Thursday night. To whet your appetite, Logo will be launching the series with a "FEARCEfest" on October 28, and a "Halloween FEARCEFest" on October 31. This may not totally fill the void left by the cancellation of Elvira's rebooted Movie Macabre, but it comes pretty damn close.


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