2012 Halloween Recommendations: The Best Horror Shows and Screenings in Los Angeles

"The Halloween Tree' on displays at October Shadows V

Looking for more ways to enjoy Halloween in Los Angeles? For those patrons of the arts with a taste for terror, Hollywood Gothique acts as your creepy curator to the best Sinister Screenings, Macabre Museums, Ghoulish Graveyards, Ghastly Galleries, Terrifying Tours, Perilous Plays & Ectoplasmic Exhibitions. Come along with us…if you dare!

There is more to Halloween than haunted houses and theme parks; Los Angeles also offers a wide variety of other entertainment events, designed to chill your blood in more subtle and artistic ways. The October season is filled with exhibitions of artwork, retrospectives of classic horror films, tours of (allegedly) haunted locations, and live performances of dramatic works. If you have sated your sanguinary thirst for traditional haunted house events but still find yourself yearning for more, consider the following options.

As with our previous 2012 Halloween Recommendations, we have not seen this year’s incarnations; therefore, our assessments are based on consistency of quality in previous years. Also, the categories here are somewhat fluid, because some of these events feature multiple elements.

PERILOUS PLAYS

Susannah Mryvold and Katie Pelensky in Wake Not the Dead. Photo by Daniel Kitayama.

Susannah Mryvold and Katie Pelensky in Wake Not the Dead. Photo by Daniel Kitayama.

WICKED LIT 2012 HALLOWEEN PLAYS: Set in and around an actual mausoleum, Wicked Lit’s productions combine aspects of a play and a tour. The audience follows the cast down marble corridors or through a tombstone-festooned cemetery. This year’s trilogy of terror includes (all for one price of admission) three short dramas based on classic horror stories: Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck; The Dead Smile by F. Marion Crawford; and Count Magnus by M. R. James. (The latter is a particularly nasty piece of work that prefigures our modern approach to the horror story, in which bad things happen to innocent victims for no good reason, and there’s just not much you can do about it.) Wicked Lit’s 2011 productions (reviewed here) were quite impressive, and we have already reserved our tickets for this season. You should do the same. The plays are being staged in the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, 2300 Marengo Avenue, Altadena, CA 91001. Performances take place on October 12-14, 18-21, 25-28, 31, starting at 7:30pm. Website: www.wickedlit.org.

Drama After Dark

DRAMA AFTER DARK 2012: For those who appreciate this sort of living theatre provided by Wicked Lit (i.e., staged on actual locations), the Huntington Library in offers Drama After Dark: A Night of the Macabre with Poe and Gorey 2012. Never having attended, we cannot give this one an actual recommendation, but it does sound intriguingly similar to what Wicked Lit does, and as a matter of fact, Drama After Dark predates Wicked Lit by a couple Halloweens.

Find more Halloween performance events in Los Angeles by clicking here.

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HISTORICAL HALLOWEEN TOURS

Heritage Square9TH ANNUAL HALLOWEEN AND MOURNING TOURS: If you prefer history to horror, there are several cemeteries and museums in Los Angeles that offer tours timed to the Halloween season. Our personal favorite takes place at the Heritage Square Museum on the weekend of October 27 and 28: the Annual Halloween and Mourning Tours use live actors in period costume to portray turn-of-the-century customs regarding funerals and Halloween celebrations, all set within authentic Victorian mansions. For the most part, the tours are not particularly blood-curdling, but they usually include some demonstration of spiritualism, such as spirit photography. Last year’s seance, with invisible rapping in response to questions posed by the medium, achieved subtle frission of fear (reviewed here). Heritage Square Museum is located at 3800 Homer Street, Los Angeles, CA. Website: www.heritagesquare.org

crazy cult leader at strathearn park ghost tourSTRATHEARN PARK GHOST TOUR 2012: If you want even more historical horror (and do not mind a long drive out to Simi Valley), you might consider the Strathearn Park’s annual Ghost Tour, at 136 Strathearn Place. This one is completely kid-safe, featuring the history of Simi Valley as told by its long-dead residents, who are more likely to tickle your funny bone that shiver your skin. We attended last year and quite enjoyed the lengthy waling tour through a series of vignettes (reviewed here). Performances take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, starting October 12. Check out our review or visit their website.

haunted midnights at comedy storeHAUNTED MIDNIGHTS 2012: Speaking of funny bones, Haunted Midnights returns to the Comedy Store in West Hollywood this Halloween. The show consists of first-hand accounts of spooky sightings on the premises, video footage of psychic investigations, and a flashlight tour of rooms where ghosts have allegedly materialized. We have not experienced Haunted Midnights since its debut back in 2010 (reviewed here). There were a few opening night jitters, but overall the show was a good one – definitely not a supernatural con-game trying to convince you of the hauntings, it was more of a historical person account (”This is what we have seen and heard – make of it what you will.”) If Haunted Midnights stays true to form, the supernatural shenanigans will be augmented with actual entertainment, including stand-up comedy and magical illusions. This year, Haunted Midnights take place on Wednesdays at 11pm – on October 10, 17, and 24. Website: click here.

Find more Halloween Horror Shows and Excursions by clicking here.

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EXHIBITIONS OF HALLOWEEN HORROR ARTWORK

caligari vertical posterMASTERWORKS OF EXPRESSIONIST CINEMA: CALIGARI AND METROPOLIS: Currently running at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through March 10, this high-class exhibition avoids using the word “Halloween” in its promo materials; nevertheless,  it is clear to us that the collection of “projected sequences, vintage posters, and set stills” from silent science fiction and horror films is timed to coincide with the Halloween season. Expressionism, as seen in German films of the 1920s, was all about using distorted and disorienting film techniques to create an unreal, phantasmagorical world on screen; its influence is seen in early Hollywood horror films, such as 1939’s The Son of Frankenstein.Besides posters and stills, Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema includes presentations of four feature films in the Expressionistic style: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Waxworks at 7:30pm on October 12; Faust and Metropolis at 5:00pm on October 13. LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Website: www.lacma.org

Universal Legacy vertical copyA MONSTROUS CENTENNIAL: UNIVERSAL’S LEGACY OF HORROR: This series offers an excellent counterpoint to LACMA’s Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema exhibition and screenings. Whereas the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts’ series focuses on German films from the silent era, with the art-house cache that implies, the AMPAS event offers old-fashioned Hollywood popular entertainment that should please Los Angeles Halloween fans looking for vintage thrills of the creepy kind. Rare posters, stills and other artifacts from Universal Studios’ horror films will be on display in the lobby of the Samuel Goldwyn Theater from October 2 through 30. A Monstrous Centennial: Universal’s Legacy of Horror includes a series of Terrifying Tuesday double bills, plus a few other screenings toward the end of the month. We recommend that you watch out for: The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Invisible Man at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on October 16; The Incredible Shrinking Man and Tarantula at Oscars Outdoors on October 27; The Birds at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on October 23. Most screenings take place at 7:30pm on Tuesdays in the Goldywin Theatre (8949 Wilshire Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90211); there are exceptions, however, so check the website to be safe.

"The Halloween Tree' on displays at October Shadows V

"The Halloween Tree' on display at October Shadows V

OCTOBER SHADOWS V: The annual display of Halloween art returns to Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery for Halloween 2012October Shadows always features a rapacious rogue’s gallery of horrifying Halloween art, from such extremely spooky visionaries as Rick Baker, William Stout, Stephen Chiodo, and Peter Von Sholly. By “artwork,” we are referring not only to paintings but also to scary sculptures, monstrous masks, and other three-dimensional displays and dioramas. All of this is situated with a setting that is absolutely perfect (if you don’t believe us, you can click here and see for yourselves in our October Shadows IV: Review and Video). All that’s missing is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition booming in the background. October Shadows V is set in the same location in which Wicked Lit stages its place, so if you coordinate your schedule, you can get a double dose of delirum: art in the afternoon, drama by night. This Halloween, October Shadows runs on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning October 7.

Find more exhibitions of Halloween artwork by clicking here.

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HALLOWEEN HORROR SCREENINGS

As noted above, several Halloween screenings are taking place as part of month-long exhibitions of artwork. There are also many other spooky series events and one-shot screenings.

DRACULA 1931 Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler2012 HALLOWEEN HORROR SCREENINGS AT THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE: From October 6 through 31, the American Cinematheque offers a plethora of classic horror movies, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica – everything from silent short subjects to a marathon of Mummy movies. We would particularly recommend the following: The Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie at the Aero on October 8; Psycho and Dressed to Kill at 7:30pm on at Aero on October 20; Ghostbusters at the Egyptian Theatre on October 26 & 27; 7th Annual Dusk-to Dawn Horrorthon with Hellraiser and The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue on October 27 at Aero; Dracula and Horror of Dracula at Aero Theatre on October 29 at 7:30pm. The Aero Theatre is at 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403; the Egyptian Theatre is at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. Most screenings are at 7:30pm, but there are exceptions so check the official website to be safe.

Vampyr with music by Steven SeverinCINEFAMILY HALLOWEEN SCREENINGS: The Cinefamily offers two series of horror screenings for Halloween: Nightmare City: A Video Nasties Celebration and Nightmare City: Universal Horror B-Sides. A Video Nasties Celebration features exploitation and horror films that were banned in Britain back in the 1980s. Universal Horror B-Sides offers up some lesser known – but still classic – films from Universal Studios. The Cinefamily also has one or two other screenings that they someone could not quite slot into a series. We recommend: Inferno on October 6 at midnight; Vampyre on October 11 at 7:45pm and 10pm, with live musical accompaniment by Steven Severin; Possession on October 14 at midnight; The Raven (1935) and House of Horrors on October 20 at 4:45pm. All screenings take place at The Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036. The official website is www.cinefamily.org.

Finally, here are a handful of other Halloween horror screenings worth perusing at Los Angeles Cinemas this October:

nightmare before christmas poster 4dTIM BURTON’S FRANKENSWEENIE AND THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS AT EL CAPITAN THEATRE. Frankenweenie - the first black-and-white 3-D stop-motion film -barks its way into theatres nationwide on October 5, including a three-week run at the wonderful El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Watch the trailer here. Later in the month, Tim Burton’s new stop-motion film film makes way for Tim Burton’s old stop-motion film, because it just would not be Halloween in Los Angeles without the annual revival of The Nightmare Before Christmas at El Capitan. This year’s presentation claims to be in 4-D: not only will you see the excellent 3-D conversion from a fear years ago; you will also experience live, in-theatre effects such as fog and snow. There are options for a Pumpkin King DInner at the Disney Soda Fountain next door to the theatre, and you can even arrange a Nightmare Before Christmas Birthday Party (if you should be so lucky as to have an October birth date). The Nightmare Before Christmas runs for one week, from October 26  through November 1. El Capitan Theatre is located at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA. Website: Click here

Frankenstein_(1931)FRANKENSTEIN (1931) AND THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) AT VARIOUS THEATRES: This double bill of classic black-and-white horror screen at various theatres on October 25 at 7pm. This is a nationwide event presented by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. 1931’s Frankenstein is one of the classics that endures decades after its release. The iconic makeup by Jack Pierce, animated by Boris Karloff’s moving performance – by turns terrifying and sympathetic – combine with atmospheric sets and elaborate special effects, all under the control of director James Whale, to create one of the world’s greatest horror films. It’s not just a museum piece; it’s a good movie.This is not your only opportunity to see The Bride of Frankenstein this Halloween; the 1935 sequel is also screening (on a double bill with Dracula) as part of A Monstrous Centennial: Universal’s Legacy of Horror; however, the pairing with Frankenstein is too good to miss.  Though the continuity is far from seamless, the sequel compliments and exceeds the original, creating what many consider to be the finest cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelly’s oft-filmed story. You can find a list of Los Angeles theatres screening the films hereClick here for a complete list of theatres nationwide.

Mary Philbin and Lon Chaney

Mary Philbin and Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA AT OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL: This 1925 black-and-white silent film screens at Old Town Music Hall on October 26, 27, and 28. Starring Lon Chaney as the mysterious masked man haunting the Paris Opera house, The Phantom of the Opera is a perennial at Los Angeles revival theatres during the Halloween season, showing up on several screens every October. We have picked this particular venue for special attention, because the screening includes live accompaniment on the Music Hall’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ – truly impressive instrument that (judging from our past visit to see the silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) truly helps bring those old movies to life. Get more information here, or visit the official website.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) posterWHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? AT ARCLIGHT CINEMAS HOLLYWOOD. Robert Aldrich’s 1962 melodrama screens at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood on Halloween night at 8:00pm.  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is actually a fairly far cry from a traditional Halloween horror movie, but it’s sordid story of aging sisters (played by Joan Craword and Bette Davis) engaged in the most dysfunctional of family relationships, edges into psycho-horror territory. The address for the Arclight Hollywood is 6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.  Click here for website information.

Find more Halloween screenings by clicking here.

Still seeking more ways to enjoy Halloween in Los Angeles? Click here for an alphabetical list of Halloween Haunts in Los Angeles.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Steve Biodrowski owns and operates Hollywood Gothique. Since graduating from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema, Steve has worked as a film critic, script analyst, journalist, and interviewer. As a film journalist, his work has appeared in Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage (in France) and The Dark Side (in England). He served as the West Coast Editor of Cinefantastique magazine in the 1990s, then worked as the Vice President of Editorial Content at Fandom.com and, more recently, as the Executive Editor at Cinescape Online. He is currently the Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online, the website incarnation of Cinefantastique magazine.

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