House at Haunted Hill, Woodland Hills, CA
Fade in... Fade out...
We're back to Halloween things after yesterday's Christmas interlude, but today's update is a good segway back into the world of the spooky. You see, our visit to House at Haunted Hill captures the magic and wonder that Halloween also possesses... the whimsy and fantasy that comes with this autumn holiday... the spooktacular and the eerie, all bundled into a fantastic haunted yard display and show. This haunted attraction is not a maze or walk-through. It is something to be witnessed--a story of love and heartbreak and murder, with a good dose of haunting to go along. And it's an attraction that needs to be seen to properly do justice.
The spectacular creation of Matt Ford, an Emmy-winning lighting designer with multiple hit television show credits to his name, House at Haunted Hill is a multimedia projection show in two parts that tells that tragic tale of one Julietta LaRue, who fell in love with a shady chap named Billy Valentine who had more murderous secrets than he let on. Once his previous wife and daughter make an appearance in spiritual apparition form, the spectral realm seems to break loose, and the ten minute show ends with the ghosts claiming another as their own.
Visitors who come to this sleepy little hillside neighborhood will notice two yard displays on either side of the house. The show's two parts take place in each--first the right side, then the left side. The narration is done by Corey Burton, who Disney fans may recognize as the voice of the Ghost Host in the Haunted Mansion Holiday (not to mention numerous other Disney characters across a variety of cartoons). This is very appropriate. The show retains a very distinct Haunted Mansion feel to it. Although there is a dark and sinister undertone to the plot of the story, the visuals and cadence maintain a sort of innocent charm.
The show itself is incredibly dazzling, much in the same way the beloved Disneyland attraction is. Projections lend a cinematic experience to the show. A jack-o-lantern serves as narrator, while some of the scenes are displayed through almost pepper's ghost style effects through the actual windows of the house. Traditional projections on three dimensional models form complementary characters, and the whole presentation carries a very high quality, Disney-esque feel. It's really an amazing and wonderful experience. And remember how I felt about Opechee Haunt and the high ceiling Sam Kellman has if he wants to pursue this type of creation in the years to come? House at Haunted Hill represents the pinnacle and realization of that potential. All of the lighting, sound mixing, soundtrack, voice talent, and physical set synchronization is spellbinding, and it's no surprise this attraction garners thousands each year to catch the fantastic show.
The haunt was impressive enough that several years ago, Neil Patrick Harris (self-admitted big fan of haunted attractions of all sorts, from traditional park haunts like Knott's Scary Farm to immersive theater like Delusion), caught wind of House at Haunted Hill, visited, and was so blown away and delighted that he asked Matt to be incorporated into the show itself. As a result, NPH appears between acts as a sort of barker character--a fun Easter egg for those who know where to look.
Aside from the stunning technical aspects of the production, House at Haunted Hill also features some wonderful tributes to notable haunts of years past. The most prominent nod goes to The Hallowed Haunting Grounds, a home haunt that is to residential haunted houses what Knott's Scary Farm is to haunted attractions (they even began the same year, in 1973). In the "left" graveyard, a gravestone for the hallowed haunt can be glimpsed, and a floating lantern in the distance is actually the same prop and effect that was a longtime feature of the legendary haunt. This haunt history tribute is very touching and demonstrates the care and appreciation that Matt holds.
House at Haunted Hill is, of course, dark now, since Halloween has passed. This season, it ran only during Halloween weekend, and one would assume that if it returns next year (the state of haunted attractions is always fragile, no matter how venerable they are), it should be the same time period. So mark your calendars in preparation. Even though Woodland Hills is a distant drive for a lot of Southern Californians, House at Haunted Hill is worth it. And with other haunts in Thousand Oaks and the Burbank / Van Nuys area, it can easily be made part of an extended evening of haunts.
House at Haunted Hill is Halloween magic. May it continue to shine that glow upon the haunt community for years to come!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.