The world’s entertainment capital is scary good at its favorite holiday. The people who make horror films know what they’re doing when it comes to Halloween.
Halloween is the day when all of Hollywood’s most gruesome memories come back to life.
That’s a good thing.
The city that invented horror movies is the spiritual home of fiends and foes from Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to the razor-fingered Freddy Kruger and the 21st century’s ever-breeding throngs of zombies.
At the same time, it’s the actual home of the Hollywood professionals who bring them to life on screen.
At Halloween, the two come together, and horror art blurs into life.
The autumn celebration of ghouls and ghosts has its roots in Christian holidays honoring the dead. In modern US culture, the festival’s spooky roots set the scene for an all-ages fancy dress party that spills over into much of the month of October.
That combination of atmospherics and dress-up is Hollywood all over, said Sue Cabral-Ebert, president of the industry’s makeup artists’ and hair stylists’ guild and herself a movie professional.
“Hollywood is synonymous with Halloween,” she said.
When the creators of movies that send shivers down the spine turn their talents to the holiday that brings them to the streets, she said, the results are appropriately chilling.
“These are the guys who did the Walking Dead, who did American Horror Story,” she said, referring to popular horror film and TV series. “They know what they’re doing.”
At a recent pre-holiday party, “one of our guys made himself up as Chucky,” she told dpa, referring to the evil toy villain of the 1980s horror film franchise Child’s Play. “It’s still haunting me, it was so creepy.”
Halloween is “definitely not just a kid thing” in Hollywood, said Steve Biodrowski, founder of the Halloween-review website Hollywood Gothique.
Hollywood is “the dream factory – and everybody wants to be a movie star,” he said. That makes for over-the-top holiday fun, and a chance to bring scary movies to life.
The traditional Halloween visit to a haunted house, forest or maze – staged seasonal attractions designed to give visitors a spooky scare – is all the spookier when it gets the Hollywood treatment.
“The concept is, we’re going to put you inside a horror movie,” Biodrowski told dpa in a phone interview.
Universal Studios’ theme park Horror Nights features professional actors haunting scenes drawn from its hit horror films including The Walking Dead, Halloween and Alien vs Predator.
Former Simpsons animation producer Rick Polizzi has for more than a decade mounted his own spooky skeleton theme park, Boney Island.
Reality-TV lighting designer Matt Ford’s Halloween installation The House at Haunted Hill has featured award-winning screenwriters and set designers, and for a time, a costumed guest appearance by Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris.
Non-professionals get in on the game too, constructing elaborate Halloween haunts that at times have opened doors to the film industry.
The towering ghostly pirate ship artist Duane Aamot built around his bungalow one year drew 10,000 visitors, and a job offer from a prestigious Hollywood film school teaching set design to aspiring filmmakers, he told dpa.
Hollywood’s Halloween parties are legendary, where a holiday devoted to costumes and make-believe meets an entire industry of people for whom they are a part of daily life.
Actress Kate Hudson throws one of Hollywood’s favorite annual spooky bashes.
In 2014, paparazzi photos showed singer Gwen Stefani and actress Courteney Cox disguised as vampires. Actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba stretched the definition of scary to include dressing as Guns’n’Roses singer Axl Rose, while singer Katy Perry drew laughs costumed as a giant Cheetos corn crisp.
German model and television personality Heidi Klum told People magazine in 2011 it’s Halloween at her Los Angeles home “all year ’round.”
After noticing friends in New York didn’t like to dress up, the Project Runway and Germany’s Next Top Model host started throwing annual Hollywood-style fancy-dress parties at which “costumes [are] not optional.”
“I think dressing up changes people, lets their imagination run wild,” she told dpa.
In recent years Klum has appeared as a rhinestone-visaged Cleopatra, a 2.3-metre robotic superhero, and a skinless corpse.
Creepy costumes are to be found not only on the streets, but on the city’s movie screens. On Halloween, Hollywood’s historic cinemas turn on the screams with classic horror films made right in town, from the 1978 zombie flick Dawn of the Dead to the 1973 demonic possession film The Exorcist.
There’s even an outdoor movie screening at Hollywood’s cemetery, where Halloween revelers will gather for a screening of the 1975 cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Costumes, the organizers say, are required.