NOVEMBER 6, 2007 — Like “scary” movies, Halloween is never scary enough. It’s often tacky, as in the case of store-bought Halloween decorations and anything called a “Spooktacular.” It’s often sweet, as in the case of the gobs of candy that get handed out and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. It’s even often sexy, as in the case of the disturbingly uncreative mass-manufactured Halloween costumes for women. But it’s almost never scary.
This year on Halloween, I went to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in search of something really scary. Every summer, the Cinespia organization runs a summer movie series there, where almost 3,000 cinema fans watch classic films projected on the side of a huge mausoleum as they sit atop the graves of famous film personalities like Mel Blanc, Marion Davies, John Huston, and Cecil B. DeMille. This year, Cinespia decided to show Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining on Halloween night, and I thought the event might help make my Halloween scary.
Even during the summer, seeing a movie at Hollywood Forever is a creepy experience. Before the show, moviegoers wait outside the cemetery’s gates as the sun begins to set. Then, as the gates finally open, they eagerly rush through and walk under towering palm trees lit from beneath toward the mausoleum. Hollywood Forever feels like a place that couldn’t possibly exist in Los Angeles. It’s serene, green, and beautiful. Moviegoers set up blankets, beach chairs (only short ones please!), and gourmet picnics with wine. It feels like a scene from an old movie with a small town where community and simplicity rule. On Halloween night, the scene became even quainter, with couples and families excitedly bustling around in Halloween costumes. During the movie, a group next to me even gave me some candy to celebrate the occasion.
Except it wasn’t scary.
But I didn’t want to give up. A friend told me about a trip she took to a haunted corn maze, and I thought maybe this was the solution to my lack of Halloween fright. For the unacquainted, a haunted corn maze is a network of passages cut into a large corn field, filled with people in scary masks and face paint trying to startle and chase after fright seekers attempting to navigate the maze. She suggested Pierce College’s FrightFair Screampark, a fair with a haunted house and two corn mazes, 30 minutes outside Hollywood. She also suggested that I bring a date and assured me the maze would be scary. “Hold her hand the whole way,” she explained.
I took her advice and invited a date hoping to find some macabre Halloween fun. On the night after Halloween, we took the long drive to the FrightFair, and finally, in the middle of nowhere, arrived on the aptly-named Victory Boulevard. We pulled into the gates and found the place eerily deserted; apparently, the night after Halloween isn’t the most popular for scary attractions.
First, we tackled the “Factory of Nightmares,” a dark, black light-filled jumble of passages and face-painted teens. Monsters jumping out of their hiding places certainly scared my date — she spent a lot of time screaming, holding my hand, and using me as a human shield. Most of the “monsters” were not all that frightening (after getting past the he-startled-me factor), but even I jumped out of my skin a few times when we heard the buzzing of the high-voltage Tesla coil in the center of the house and saw an insane clown running toward us.
Next, we proceeded to the “Creatures of the Corn Haunted Trail,” where in the dark, we followed a web of paths in an enormous corn field, with the stalks well above our heads. Like the haunted house, ghosts and goblins jumped out from strategically-located hiding spots evoking from us more screams and hand-holding. During the maze’s most bloodcurdling moment, a man with a loud chainsaw chased us for a couple minutes as we tried to sprint away.
After exhausting our energy, we continued to another maze, one in the shape of a Native American’s head (assuming, I suppose, such a head were full of narrow corn stalk passages). As we progressed up above the maze’s nose and toward its forehead, we became truly lost — not in the sense that we would never again find civilization, but enough that we didn’t know the exact return route. We reached the maze’s receding hairline, and through the thick corn stalks, I could barely make out a gravel road.
I fought my way through the corn, my date protesting all the way (“This isn’t part of the maze!”), when suddenly we reached a gravel road cutting through the center of the enormous corn field. For miles, we could only see corn stalks and a large spotlight in the far distance, placed there to subdue the darkness.
“We’ve beaten the maze,” I said. “We’ve won!”
“I think this is the real Victory Boulevard,” she said. “I wonder what we do now.”
And then, on Halloween night plus one, in the middle of a vast corn field under a dark night sky, we kissed.
Once again, my Halloween wasn’t all that scary. But I didn’t mind.