This year’s Halloween Haunt season in Southern California hit full force. With so many patrons and creatives alike dying to get their spooky on with the Halloween spirit this year, this season has been very busy. As a reminder, most haunts last year either kept their doors closed or converted their events to a drive-through experience. LA’s Haunted Hayride last year went the drive-through route but, as restrictions have relaxed for events this year, Haunted Hayride joins many other haunts in Southern California by delivering a full-scale in-person event. Located on a lower portion of Griffith Park this year, Haunted Hayride has brought back the town of Midnight Falls, the haunt equivalent to what I would liken to the popular Nightvale podcast.
There are three parking lots located further up the hill that patrons can make ample use of, though I would encourage rideshare if at all possible for guests. Because of the location of the parking lots, there are shuttles provided to cart guests to and from the actual event space. Trust me when I say that you do not want to be walking to and from the parking lot if you can avoid it. It’s a bit of a trek. Once you are at the entrance, you’ll go through security and that is when you will enter the strange township known as Midnight Falls.
A good thing about us attending this event in the middle of its run is that we can see how the team has acclimated post-opening in terms of flow, energy, and scares. I can easily say that everything seems to be flowing smoothly and, from all the scare actor performances I saw while on-site, I can say that there is no lag when it comes to delivering well-coordinated, energized scares.
SCARE ZONE – MIDNIGHT FALLS
Description: The Town Square of Midnight Falls is the epicenter of the festivities. While guests walk around between attractions or hang out to soak in the atmosFEAR various townsfolk from the Midnight Falls community roam the space interacting with guests and attending to their local business.
Review: The scare zone this year is particularly condensed. Centered right at the entrance and extending a bit towards where the entrance is to the Hayride, it seemed very easy for the scare actors here to get lost in the crowd. Many were engaging with the guests and no one seemed to be out of character. That mini small-town feel of Midnight Falls, whether due to just event space logistics or whatever, seemed to be missing this year. However, what the team was able to accomplish in this scare zone space they had to use that wasn’t designated for food and rest still works. It still provides that Nightvale, quirky vibe that Midnight falls comes to encompass. And, a new addition for this year is a creepy Icecream Man that I refused to take a picture with. A nice monster addition!
RETURNING FAN FAVORITE – TRICK OR TREAT
Description: The neighborhood of Midnight Falls has sprung to life with the magic of Halloween. “It’s a different kind of Halloween” remark the citizens of Midnight Falls. The mayor has announced, “Monte’s Midnight Show is weird, it’s kooky, it’s…REVOLTING!” Yet, outsiders continue to pour in to witness what yours ghouly has brewed up.
Review: Trick Or Treat was our first maze of the night and boy, it was a blast. As an adult, I really miss the chaos that comes with being able to go door to door and ask for candy. In this maze, guests will be able to ring doorbells and meet the various inhabitants of Midnight Falls. However, nothing is as it seems. One note that will be brought up often from me is that the creative direction of Haunted Hayride’s mazes utilizes distraction set-ups extremely well. The eye is drawn to specific things as we zig-zag through this particular maze, which sets up really strong distraction scare moments for the scare actors in this maze. To the lovely scare actor who played an older person with the concerning kitty, you rock!
I do think ending the maze in a fraternity didn’t have quite the impact that I wanted since we were traversing through the neighborhood. As we exit the fraternity, the maze portion just ends. It would have been cool if there was a neighborhood-related transition to maintain that “Midnight Falls” throughline. Other than that nitpickiness from me, still a strong maze.
RETURNING FAN FAVORITE – MIDNIGHT MORTUARY
Description: Dying to drum up more business the local Mortuary is hosting an open house where guests can tour the property to see what offerings await their demise. Guests separated from their tour risk becoming the next customer of the sinister funeral home.
Review: A returning fan favorite, the Midnight Mortuary is a fun, spooky experience to go through. All scare actors were firing on all cylinders during our walkthrough and, given how quickly it got humid in the actual Mortuary portion of the maze, bless them for maintaining that energy. I recall commenting during my walkthrough in 2019 that the story of the maze seemed a bit haphazard. However, the inclusion of the cemetery that was the ending point in 2019’s Hayride portion of the event was a smart move. Incorporating vampires with the overall demonic feel of the Mortuary further sells the unholiness of this place as well as reinforces the different agendas Midnight Falls’ residents have.
Ending the maze with us exiting the Mortuary and circling back in front of the entrance reinforces that throughline that I mentioned seemed a bit missing from the ending of the Trick or Treat maze. Scares abound. A final shoutout to the one vampire in the cemetery section that decided to give guests little leaves. While maybe a last-minute decision, it was a memorable character choice. Props to you!
NEW MAZE – DEAD END DINER
Description: An old 70s rest stop at the edge of town untouched by time has been used as a weary traveler tourist trap, literally. A series of establishments all work to trap and abduct patrons to be used as human meat in the local diner. Driven by the thirst for blood, the maniacal townsfolk have become more brazen and aggressive towards the travelers in this high-intensity cat and mouse style attraction.
Review: Replacing what was the Roadkill Ranch back in 2019, there’s still a bit of a cannibal-vibe going on here. We go to enter a diner, which is clearly sus as all get out. The inhabitants that are still alive in the diner ensure all attendees that we are all on the menu and, internally, we just all got to prepare ourselves for what is to come next. While we do leave the diner, we get a sense of this particular portion of Midnight Falls. On the edge of town, we get to go through a junkyard-style set-up before coming across some hay bales set up as a maze. Distraction scares abound and there are plenty of opportunities for guests to be scared. This is where Haunted Hayride excels, playing up that cat and mouse distraction factor as we try to make our way out of this elaborate maze set-up.
There are elements pulled from previous iterations of the Hayride portion of the event that gets utilized here. The werewolf biker gang that we saw in 2019 sort of resurfaces here a bit in the junkyard portion of the maze. To the scare actors in here with the canine-like faces, thank you for your patience when I kept getting distracted calling you puppies. Because all canines, regardless of scariness, are puppies in my eyes. A head’s up for anyone with photosensitivity/issues with strobe, there is ample strobe/flash effects in this particular maze. And these effects are pretty hard to avoid and turn your gaze from.
Description: Within the foothills of Midnight Falls, the leaves turn brown and the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. The Witch of the Woods has cast her spell to summon the spirits of the underworld to cross over and assimilate into form. The Hayride leads to a thrilling adventure of horrors afflicting the town. Dazed within the spell cast upon them, the Witch commands her army of crops and flesh to seek revenge on the people that have casted her out. The Spirit of Halloween comes to life surrounding helpless victims brave enough to board The Hayride.
Review: Wrapping up our night at LA HAUNTED HAYRIDE, we decided to finally tackle the Hayride portion of this evening. Sitting on a tractor-trailer bed covered with hay, attendees are lured into a false sense of security from the get-go. As we listen to the audio recording that fills us in on the story surrounding the Spirit of Halloween coming to unleash all holy hell on the town. As soon as the climax hits, guests are hit with powerful gusts of air, which generated a lot of screaming in my hayride group. This cat and mouse game of luring attendees into a false sense of security is one that the creative team nail on this ride. As we roll through portions of Griffith Park, we get to see a variety of tableaus hinting at what strange offerings Midnight Falls has to offer. My favorite one was the Midnight Falls lake with blow-up sea monster tentacles surrounding us. While there is less to look at this year in comparison to when I went in 2019, the team still managed to be successful.
There is a bit of a downer, though, towards the end of the Hayride, where a large stretch of undecorated landscape exists. Given the lengthy gap between the last tableau and the final tableau scene, it did have me thinking something should have been put there to fill in that longer-than-expected lull. Other than that, a good time. Head’s up to those with mobility issues, it is a bit tricky to get on and off. If you get stiff easily, getting up to leave will be difficult.
Overall, it’s nice to see the return of an in-person LA HAUNTED HAYRIDE experience. It does seem more spread out, with a lot of space dedicated to attendees so they can eat, rest up, and use the bathroom. From what I could see, if you wanted to stay away from scare actors and just chill there, you very well could. The performances and scares delivered by the actors were great and you could tell that they were all really into delivering their best. For it being the middle of the run, it’s also a good sign that the energy is still going strong from the actors.
Going at opening and equipped with VIP tickets, me and my guest were able to complete everything within an hour and a half. If you wanted to make this event your primary event for the night, you could possibly get away with just acquiring General Admission tickets but, as we get closer to Halloween, I imagine the crowds may pick up rather frighteningly with that end of month rush. So, it’s up to you to gauge how quickly you would want to get things done there.
LA Haunted Hayride is open to the public and is running for select nights through October 31st. So, if you still haven’t gone to a haunt yet this season and want to go frolic around in Midnight Falls, definitely check this out!