If you had told me back in March that we would still be dealing with the devasting effects of COVID-19 through October, I would have never believed you; but alas, here we are. As the months crept closer to our holy Halloween season, the reality of the situation began to sorrowfully set in. With social distancing and mask-wearing in effect, rightfully so, many wondered how haunts would operate. In the case of LA Haunted Hayride, they took on the challenge by creating a Drive-In/Thru experience that combined creepy haunt elements with that of a Drive-In Film Festival.
Instead of taking place at its former location in Griffith Park, this year’s event took place at Bonelli Regional Park, in Sam Dimas, CA. Upon arrival, a masked attendant confirms your ticket and depending on if you’re general admission or VIP, you will go in that corresponding lane, with VIP being faster. Once your ticket has been officially scanned and your designated time arrives, your car, along with a slew of other vehicles, will head down a dark road where you’ll eventually be greeted by the iconic LA Haunted Hayride pumpkin tree design. From there, you’ll continue to drive down the road which is outfitted with set pieces from last year’s introduction of the “Midnight Falls” theme. Though there are no scare actors present, it was nice to be reminded of the previous year (which you can read more about here). My only concern during this portion of the event was to make sure that I, or someone else, didn’t bump into the car in front due to both the fog as well as the need to stop and take pictures of the surroundings. Luckily, at least from what I could see, each car was giving the next one enough space to do their thing, respecting the need for everyone to experience some Halloween cheer.
Eventually, you’ll come to a stop for about 10 minutes where you’ll wait until the previous show’s guests leave. But unlike when you arrived, they’ll be some entertainment to pass the time from the one-and-only Monte Revolta, entertainer and lead singer of Monte Revolta And His Band Of The Living Dead, as he spouts off the rules and regulations for the Drive-In portion of the event. Once the area is cleared, someone in a mask directs you to your designated lane to get situated for the show. Side Note: For this event, we were given a VIP Media ticket, which was the second row, so our review will reflect that.
Here’s where things got a little confusing. I had originally thought that we were experiencing more of a drive-thru haunt and a small stage performance at the end. So when we arrived to park our cars, we thought this was the opening act before the haunt would start. In actuality, the “drive-thru haunt” portion is what I described above, in regards to driving past the set pieces from “Midnight Falls”, and the main event was this Drive-In Film Festival, which featured pre-recorded musical performances in-between the short films while masked scare actors roam about. Even though it wasn’t what I initially expected, I still had a blast. Monte was great as our vaudeville host, allowing for a fun atmosphere to take place in-between the sounds of revving chainsaws and screams from guests being surprised by all the ghouls. The mini-film festival was catered by CryptTV and featured three spine-tingling tales to get you in the mood for Halloween. My only issue was I wished Monte’s songs related to the short films as that would have allowed for a more consistent storyline between the two mediums.
As for the presentation of the event, I absolutely loved it. Regardless of what people think of this even as a whole, LA Haunted Hayride did the best they could for haunt fans during an unprecedented time and for that, I give them all the credit. I can’t imagine this was an easy feat but the folks over at 13th Floor Entertainment Group took the challenge head-on. Just like last year’s event, this still had an immersive quality to it only this time we were self-driving past the set pieces, instead of a tractor pulling the hayride, while the fog drifted in tendrils around each vehicle. Once the actual Drive-In show starts, guests encounter an impressive display of visuals and sounds that allow for an optimal, all-encompassing multimedia experience. For those curious about parking further in the back, don’t be too concerned as there are additional large screens so that guests situated there can see everything clearly. That said, I have heard from guests that there weren’t a lot of interactions with scare actors in the back rows and if that’s the case, that’s something I would suggest LA Haunted Hayride works on so that all guests can enjoy some thrills and chills.
As for those who might be nervous to attend due to the ongoing pandemic, I’m happy to report that the overall experience felt incredibly safe. I am high-risk so safety is my number one concern and this was an event where I felt safe the entire time. I felt very secure situated in my car with the windows down (while wearing a mask) and even when I did see people walking about, everyone was in masks. Security also made sure that individuals were being socially distant at all times and all those that were working at the event were in masks. There was even a scare actor that would walk around and spray down each car with “Butter Flavor” aka sanitizer. This might be one of the few experience during the pandemic in which everyone I saw seemed to be following the posted rules which greatly helped in alleviating my anxieties.
Overall, this year’s LA Haunted Hayride had some bumps but it’s expected when going through something so unprecedented. It’s been a bleak year for MANY but this experience definitely helped in bringing back the Halloween spirit that we all desperately need right now. I think it’s important to remember that this is not a haunt and more of a drive-in experience that has a few scare elements, so make sure to keep your expectations tempered. The entire experience, from the moment you arrive at Bonelli Regional Park until you exit is about 60 minutes. LA Haunted Hayride: Live Drive-Up Experience will take place on select nights from now until November 1st and tickets range from $199.99 to $49.99 per car. Tickets are expected to sell out so you’ll want to snatch them now before they vanish forever into the fog. For more info on LA Haunted Hayride: Live Drive-Up Experience visit losangeleshauntedhayride.com.