Spirits are ready to CHILL at the Queen Mary

While we long for the breezy fall nights full of monsters and mazes, spirits and treats continue to materialize at the all-new Queen Mary CHILL

This year, the world-famous Queen Mary invites guests to embark on an international expedition this winter with the unveiling of the all-new CHILL, open December 13, 2017 through January 7, 2018. Featuring the first-ever Ice Adventure Park in the U.S., the newly-inspired CHILL will tempt your taste buds with international dining experiences and savory opportunities from six different regions around the globe. From German pretzels and Dutch pancakes, to Russian potato dumplings and Swiss Meatballs, CHILL offers a one-of-a-kind worldly experience for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season.

Experience the 38,000-square foot ice park honoring international holiday celebrations with authentic beverages and bites from Germany, Switzerland, China, Russia, Holland, and the fabled North Pole. Start your foodie expedition at Germany’s Twisted Pretzel Pub & Tasting Room featuring family owned 200-year-old German beer flights for adults and samplings of ginger beer, butter beer, and root beer for the wee ones. Delight in traditional German dishes at CHILL’s Brat Haus with cuisines provided by Long Beach’s own Rasselbock Kitchen and Beer Garden, offering Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Kraut, and more authentic fresh German fare.

Families can cozy up in Switzerland’s Alpine Patio by roasting marshmallows and building gooey s’mores at the toasty fire pit. Dine in the lower level of the two-story Alpine Lodge at Alpine Cafe, open nightly, serving traditional Swiss bites. Then splurge for festive cocktails in the exclusive Pinnacle Chalet Bar, on the second floor, overlooking Matterhorn Mountain’s two-story, six-lane, ice tubing slide. Delight in the Fondue Pot in Alpine Square for the holiday tradition of Swiss cheese and chocolate fondue, and enjoy mouthwatering sweets provided by Long Beach’s own Romeo Chocolates at the Swiss Chocolatier. The Village Coffee offers gourmet selections and Zurich Deli highlights including Swiss charcuterie and fresh baked specialty breads daily.

Stroll down Lantern Lane for an Eastern ice cream treat and visit Bamboo Forest for China’s Zen Teahouse where guests can meet the welcoming Tea Hostess for a traditional Chinese tea service. Excite your taste buds at Dim Sum Delight with China’s traditional winter feast of dumplings, provided by the LA-based Bling Bling Dumpling. Wander into the Northern Lights Experience for a festive martini or stargaze with a flute of champagne at Star Bar.

 

Warm up with traditional Russian fare including Stroganoff and a variety of Potato Dumplings at Pierogi Paradise. Make it a date night and chill in the 12 Degree Pinnacle Cathedral Ice Bar fashioned like Moscow’s Basil Cathedral and featuring vodka flights from a selection of over 20 different flavors and brands from around the globe.

For the child at heart, Holland offers guests the opportunity to indulge in breakfast for dinner with the gift bearers of each nation at Windmill Waffle House’s breakfast buffet. No time to stop and dine? Walk up to the Breakfast Bar window to sip on unique hand-made breakfast cocktails like the Mistletoe Fizz with gin (a product of Holland), champagne, cranberry, lime, and sugared rosemary, stirred, served over ice and garnished with beautiful rosemary. Or kick-back and relax with a bacon infused Siracha Bloody Mary.

CHILL invites the entire family to enjoy a cornucopia of dishes from around the world along with hand-crafted cocktails, authentic savory bites, and the sweetest of treats.

CHILL pricing starts at $29.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $19.00 for kids. VIP Ultimate Expedition tickets are also available starting at $79.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $69.00 for kids. CHILL will run Dec. 13, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018, excluding Dec. 31, 2017. For more information, including food and beverages offered, hours of operation and to purchase tickets online, visit http://queenmary.com/chill/

The Pyramid: Escape Room L.A.’s Exicting New Room

Escape Room L.A., Southern California’s largest escape room experience, adds yet another adventure to their already exciting roster of four escape rooms with The Pyramid, inspired by the secrets and rituals of the ancient Mayans. The Pyramid offers participants a fully-immersive journey through a series of rooms as they solve puzzles, challenges, and even must offer sacrifices to the gods. Upon entering, players realize they have been summoned to save a Mayan civilization by restoring the mask of the jade warrior.

“This game is loosely based on histories and traditions within the Mayan culture. I started by researching the civilization and then taking a few creative liberties to give the game a well-rounded, fully-realized experience,” says creator and founder John Hennessey of Escape Room LA. “We’re combining new technology with ancient and authentic Mayan elements to create a thrilling game full of many surprises!”

The epic adventure takes participants on a journey into an undiscovered Mayan pyramid, where players solve puzzles involving cryptic Aztec calendars, battling the elements, and fighting indigenous creatures—to name a few. The mysteries deepen as players advance to the ultimate challenges in the final tomb. Unlike other puzzle-solving escape rooms, The Pyramid takes players through a multi-sensory journey. The set of the game was designed by Jeff McLaughlin, who has won numerous LA Drama Critics Circle Awards and LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards, accompanied by Industrial Designer Mazin Dajani and Construction Coordinator Kyle Rettinger.

 

The Scare Zone crew was able to preview the new experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The settings are reminiscent of being inside a live version of the the popular Uncharted Game or being able to walk through the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. The puzzles are challenging as this room is rated higher in difficulty. However, the intricate sets and mysterious atmosphere will keep you excited and actively involved throughout the adventure.   There are also a few creepy moments inside the attraction with skeleton filled catacombs and the lingering  threat of an unseen adversary that’ s in pursuit.

Located in Downtown LA, Escape Room L.A. brought over 25,000 people to the neighborhood last year, offering more than 80 games per week. Visitors range from escape room connoisseurs; corporate employees seeking unique team bonding experiences; celebrities like Billy Crystal, Conan O’Brien, Neil Patrick Harris, Seth McFarlane, and Emma Stone; and folks looking for unique and out of the box activities. Prospective players can try their luck at any of the five rooms Tuesday through Friday evenings (every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), and weekend afternoons and evenings (every 30 minutes from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.). Tickets range from $32 to $37, depending on the date and time. For bookings and additional information, visit www.escaperoomla.com, or call 213.689.3229.

 

The Queen Mary Unveils the All-New Ghost and Legends Haunted Experience

The Queen Mary Unveils the All-New Ghost and Legends Haunted Experience. The largest Interactive and Immersive Haunted Attraction in the World

This past weekend the nice and long (but never long enough) haunt season of 2017 has sadly officially ended.  Some of the seasonal highlights included Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. As most of our readers know by now, many of the  Dark Harbor’s mazes settings aboard the ship are reported to actually be haunted.  In fact The Queen Mary is dubbed as one of the top 10 most haunted places on Earth by Time Magazine.

Now that the spirited facades of the Dark Harbor mazes have been put away it’s finally time for the real Ghosts and Legends to come out to play. This Friday, November 10th, The Queen Mary is pleased to unveil the newly-intensified and re-inspired Ghost and Legends!

Offered year-round, thrill seekers and scare enthusiasts are invited to board the haunted RMS Queen Mary to test their fears in the world’s largest interactive and fully immersive haunted attraction. Experience the spirit legends of the Queen Mary first-hand with all-new special effects, cutting-edge technology and, of course, the chance to encounter paranormal activity for a one-of-a-kind, spine-chilling, fun time.

“The new Ghosts and Legends offers guests an entirely different level of the traditional haunted experience. We crafted terrifying original stories and characters based the ship’s well-known paranormal tales and hot-spots onboard the Queen Mary to create a truly thrilling, immersive, and unique encounter,” said Brian Luallen, Director of Entertainment Events, The Queen Mary.

The reimagined Ghost and Legends elevates scares with innovative interactive technology and special effects including a tesla coil firing 3.4 million volt bolts of lightning at a frightfully intimate distance, massive water effects, fog projections with state of the art CGI specters, and a hand-held ghost tracking tablet given to select attendees for the tour. To further enhance the frights, tour groups will also be given a flashlight to guide their way through the dimly lit attraction. Thrill-seekers beware – the flashlights will be controlled by the twisted minds of the Ghost and Legends producers!

Ghost and Legends haunted experience aboard the Queen Mary will open on Friday, November 10th at 11 a.m. The year-round attraction will be open daily and runs every 30 minutes starting at 11 a.m., accommodating up to 30 guests per experience. Tickets are a great deal at just $15 for adults and $12 for children and are available at http://www.queenmary.com/tickets/. For more information, including hours or to purchase tickets online, please visit queenmary.com

 

HAUNT REVIEW: Into the Black

It’s safe to say that Into the Black was one of 2017’s most highly anticipated haunted attractions   Not only because it’s brand new and was created by legend Larry Bones (of Boneyard Effects), but also because of its twist: You must go through alone.  Now, there have been a few haunts with this premise before, most notably, Alone and Blackout. But those are always characterized as “extreme” haunts with a particular tone bordering on torture—or at least focused on making you extremely uncomfortable. But Into the Black promised something else: a truly scary experience with an extensive back story and overall theme. We can easily say that not only did Into the Black deliver on this promise, but it blasted past our expectations to become our favorite haunt this year.

The attraction is split into two different experiences: A virtual reality experience and the walk-through haunted house. We review both here.

The VR Experience

This short VR film provides the back story for the attraction where we learn the origins of the evil inside the Black house. The film is really well done, and a few added “touches” during the experience make it fun and scary. We think it’s definitely worth purchasing the separate ticket for this. However, if you’re on a really tight budget, the film isn’t necessary to enjoy the haunt; it just makes the theme a bit more understandable.

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The Haunted House

First, let’s get this question out of the way: YES, you will be alone the entire time in this haunt. Although people are let in only about 1 minute apart, the actors are superb in making sure you’ll never catch up with the person in front of you. You can try to run, but the demons will find a way to block you. If you hesitate and linger, they will not-so-gently nudge you along. All while terrifying the crap out of you, of course.

The haunt itself takes you through the darkened, decaying rooms of the Black house, the disturbed family we meet in the VR experience. Along the way, there are also long, dark corridors and bricked passageways to break things up. While the rooms of the house are elaborately detailed, the corridors are more sparse, and this is mostly where the demons lurk in the shadows. We liked the way this works to create a true transition between the separate worlds of the living realm and the underworld. All of the actors are demons in some form, with full body suits and impressive masks. Of course, we’d expect no less from Larry Bones, whose studio has been supplying masks and makeup for Halloween Horrors Nights since its return in 2006.  But the facial details of the monsters are even more impressive than we’d anticipated, adding an extra layer to the scares.

The haunt is long, with a labyrinth-like layout that seems to never end. The scares are thoughtful and well orchestrated, which means you don’t always see them coming. There’s an extreme layer of darkness that’s used to create a sense of dread that permeates the entire walk-through. You never quite know what you’re looking at in the corners and shadows of the rooms. While you’re attempting to gain focus on a barely illuminated scene or prop, the actors use the darkness and your distraction as an advantage in their scares. With their howling and snarling vocalizations coming at you from the blackness, the haunt achieves a level of suspense that puts you on edge the entire time.

We were truly scared in this attraction in a way that we haven’t been in a long, long time. For this reason, we’re breaking our usual 5-skull rating and giving Into the Black a well-earned 6 SKULLS for scare factor!

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Final Thoughts

We loved this haunt and have our fingers triple-crossed that it returns next year. It wasn’t particularly busy the night we attended, and we’re worried that the “go it alone” concept is scaring people away. Going through alone does take it to another level, but we feel most haunt fans would be able to handle it. To increase business, they could consider offering a 2-person or group option, maybe only on certain nights. We just think it would be a complete shame if this haunt isn’t successful.

Yes, this haunt is scary, but we wouldn’t characterize it as “extreme.” There’s some light touching by the monsters, but it’s innocuous for the most part. There’s no crawling or eating bugs or any of that. This haunt strikes the perfect balance between suspense, fear, and a good theme. So if it usually takes a lot to scare you and you’re looking for something with a bit more to it than the typical haunted attraction, you should definitely put Into the Black on your list.

Into the Black runs through October 31 and is located at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Tickets are $13 for the VR experience and $29 for the haunted house.

 

Into the Black Overall Fright Value:

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Check our ratings guide for further details

 

HAUNT REVIEW: Knott’s Scary Farm 2017

With some chaos Knott’s Scary Farm‘s 45th Halloween Haunt brings back many popular mazes, revamps others, introduces a couple new ones, and gives a final send off to the first Mistress of Haunt.

Well, we decided to forego the early season visit (and our own advice) and went to Knott’s Scary Farm on a mid-October Saturday night. You know, a night when everyone else in Southern California typically visits. Actually we just couldn’t find another time to go this season as we’ve been prioritizing haunts that are offering newer experiences. We also wanted to mix it up a little and report on what it’s like for real-everyday guests (with Fright Lane) and not a press media outlet that has the red carpet rolled out for them,  to which there’s a significant difference in the experiences.

So after 45 years one would think that Knott’s would have it’s haunt operations running smoothly but sadly chaos ensued from the moment we arrived at the front gates. We lucked out a little on parking but even that was a mess (so was our car after paying $20 to park in a dusty lot). The process to get through the turnstile, using their mobile tickets, and getting a Fright Lane wristband was frustratingly slow. It makes no sense as to why they don’t just hand out the fright lane wrist bands to guest who’ve purchased them as they enter the park as the system for the getting the passes at designated stations within the park is aggravatingly slow and disorganized. It completely diminishes  the value of the Fright Lane’s triple admission price and causes a big crowd of confused and angry people form right inside the park’s front gates.

In addition, many employees we encountered seemed clueless as to what they were doing, where things were, and what was going on in general. Line control and crowd flow was confusing and chaotic all over the park. These things matter just as much as having good mazes. The fun spirit of the evening can be quickly killed for guests if they have to endure what seems to be unnecessary frustrations. It nearly killed it for us. Being “sold out” is not an excuse for guests to have a shitty experience.

Perhaps they need to reduce the cap on the number of nightly admissions. Or maybe they need to hire more operations employees and if they’re hiring a lot of seasonal help during haunt they should take the time to properly train ALL of them. This would really make a difference on how efficient everything is ran inside the park. Compared to Universal, Magic Mountain, and Queen Mary,  Knott’s lands in last place for its operations this year… a solid buried skull. Just go onto social media to see the never ending guest rants about this year’s operations.

Now on to the good stuff. While most of it is the same things we’ve all seen and loved before at Knott’s Scary Farm, part of the charm is the Halloween tradition that carries on year-after-year at the park. The new maze themes and the traditional Halloween ambiance that’s showcased across the foggy landscape is actually even more captivating this year with top notch park decorations along with high caliber and some truly scary maze designs. What distinguishes Knott’s in the Southern California theme park market is the originality of their mazes that are not confined to structured movie themes like Universal’s.

In particular, the new Dark Ride maze is probably one of the best themed and designed mazes we’ve ever experienced at  Scary Farm in our past 25 years of visiting! Paranormal Inc. also continues its reign as the most terrifying maze at KSF with Shadowlands, Pumpkin Eater, and Trick or Treat: Lights Out rounding out the slate of our top mazes this year. We’re very happy that they brought back an overlay to the Timber Mountain Log Ride, even if it’s just “family friendly”. Now we hope they can get the Calico Mine Train back on board. Finally, rounding out the festivities, the anything but family friendly Elvira goes out with a (double) bang for her final season at Knott’s… sad so sad.

Now here’s our full Knott’s Scary Farm maze reviews featuring some incredible full maze videos from our friends at Theme Park HD.

 New Mazes and Attractions

DARK RIDE

Journey through an abandoned carnival ride where cruel characters still linger in the shadows in the NEW maze, Dark Ride. The carnival attraction has become a refuge for sideshow freaks and now those shunned performers have created an ominous world where they plan to unleash terror on those who enter.

This is the Scary Farm maze everyone has been screaming for! Dark Ride looked spectacular and is probably one of the most imaginative and well designed mazes we’ve ever seen at Knott’s. Paying tribute to the old school carnival haunted – fun houses, Dark Ride takes guests on a twisted pathway through and behind the scenes of one of the most elaborate mazes in the history of Scary Farm. There are some fun scares but this maze is more about the story and design. It’s almost ironic how a maze based on a simplistic carnival haunted house ride features the most incredible special effects we’ve seen featured in a KSF maze. The scale of the sets, use of animatronics, music, and craftsmanship is definitely Knott’s warning shot back at HHN and others who have tried to run off with the  haunt  maze blueprint that they originated.  A few more scares might have made this maze beyond perfect but we’re almost glad it wasn’t any scarier as we may have then missed seeing the full glory of this awesome maze by trying to cover our eyes (lol). All in all this maze definitely earns the trophy for haunt theme of the year and for the first time in our Knott’s Scary Farm history, it earns our top 666 skull rating for Haunt Design.

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PUMPKIN EATER

Daring guests will attempt to survive the wrath of the murderous 7-foot tall creature that haunts the old woods surrounding The Hollow in this year’s NEW MAZE, Pumpkin Eater. The notorious creature is on the prowl, hidden within the dark confines of the haunted town he once terrorized. To escape the sinister Pumpkin Eater’s wrath all who enter must go on a quest through the silent town of victims, face a cave of crawling insects and solve the labyrinth of thorns that blocks the only way out.

The nursery rhyme of Peter Peter Pumpkin eater is brought to life (and death) in this very imaginative maze concept.  It reminded us of a mix of 1992’s Mother Noose and the more recent Cornstalkers mazes. Just like Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater demonstrates that Knott’s has really graduated up into a new level of immersive maze theming, storytelling, and design. This maze also had quite a few good scares throughout with a high energy cast that really knows how to work within the maze’s long layout. The makeup and costuming were also well done with monstrous  pumpkins and people with carved faces lurking about. There’s also some grotesque scenes but nothing that’s over the top like in the the Red Barn maze. The spiraling journey through the rotted pumpkins that requires guests to push through dripping wet passageways was a highlight of the maze. Due to many of the outdoor sections this maze is much scarier at night but all in all it really is a fun and fright inducing Halloween maze adventure.

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TRICK OR TREAT: LIGHTS OUT

Are you afraid of the dark? You will be. Armed with only a faulty flashlight, explore the creepy house at the end of the street, in the upgraded Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out maze. Face the terrors  of the house in complete darkness as your interactive flashlight reveals the horrors hiding in the shadows.  Featuring new state-of-the-art effects, unexpected scares and other eerie surprises, Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out will terrorize you like never before.

When we first heard about this maze we thought that it was going to just be the same old Trick or Treat maze where all they’ve done now is shut off the lights so that they could promote it as something new. While this is somewhat true, it works really well with the result being more than just a gimmick. ‘Trick or Treat’ actually has never really been a scary maze to us but the “lights out” element adds a new layer of suspense and scariness to the maze this year. Each guest has their own flashlight so the rooms and settings are somewhat illuminated as the groups walk through but now the ghouls and monsters have the full advantage of seeing  you before you get to see them. They also added some fantastic looking new characters and set redresses. Trick or Treat has established itself as one of the most popular Scary Farm mazes that doesn’t seem to get old. With the new lights out Trick we expect it continue to be treating guests for more years to come.

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TIMBER MOUNTAIN LOG RIDE HALLOWEEN HOOTENANNY

This season the Timber Mountain Log Ride becomes the Halloween Hootenanny. This is a family friendly Halloween overlay to our classic Timber Mountain Log Ride. This attraction will be open every day during the Halloween season and features a brand new original song sung by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies.

After a hiatus that lasted for a few years, it’s so good to finally have the haunted log ride back at Scary Farm. For us this was always one of the quintessential and unique haunt experiences. This new version isn’t designed to be an overly scary experience but the upgraded props, effects and soundtrack make it one of the funnest things to do at Scary Farm and a nice break from walking around. We also appreciate that in spite of the stricter OSHA regulations they still managed to get a handful of live monsters to lurk about in the dark corners around the flume.

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Returning Mazes

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Spend HALLOWEEN with John Carpenter

Legendary Master of Horror John Carpenter has diabolically devised a spooktacular evening for a pair of lucky winners! This is the ULTIMATE auction package for HALLOWEEN fans and it is one-of-a-kind, one night only!

This Scare-package consist of two events in one night – Start off at the Haunted Los Angeles Theatre and watch the Celebrity Orange Carpet hosting Comic-Con favorites from HALLOWEEN, Fear the Walking Dead, SAW and more ….. Then get whisked off in a Towncar to the Hollywood Palladium to meet up with the one, the only John Carpenter for a private meet & greet including memorabilia that is picked just for you – Then get into your VIP seats to watch an amazing musical extravaganza that only Carpenter can bring! After the show, hop back into your Towncar to fly back to the Los Angeles Theatre in time to watch John Carpenters 1978 cult classic ……….. HALLOWEEN!

This is a silent online auction starting Sunday October, 22 @ 6pm to Friday, October 27th @ 12 Midnight – Click here: https://goo.gl/xJSU69 – Place your bid and keep coming back to raise your bid for the WIN!

This is in benefit of the Rock Against MS Foundation, sCare Foundation and Fur & Feather Animal Sanctuary – For more information about the nights events go to www.rockagainstMS.org, www.HelLAHorror.com and www.JohnCarpenter.com

HAUNT REVIEW: Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2017: The Remix Year

Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) 2017 is fun, scary, and still the best haunt in town. But is there a limit to how many different ways they can repackage Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface?

In our HHN review last year, we wondered whether Universal was running out of different ways they could reuse the same properties and still sell their mazes as “new” experiences. Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Saw, the Walking Dead—all of these well-loved and familiar faces have made multiple appearances over the years. And these characters are some of our very favorites, too. But when would the tide turn and see HHN Hollywood bring back more original concepts, like HHN Orlando does? Well, the answer is not 2017.

Once again, HHN Hollywood brought back fan favorites Jason, Freddy, and Leatherface and repackaged them as the “Titans of Terror,” this time combining their stories into a single maze and Terror Tram experience. Jigsaw returns to HHN for the third time in a “best of” maze featuring popular kill scenes (as well as some scenes from the new movie). Blumhouse has a huge returning presence in their mashup maze of three of their movies, as well as an additional standalone maze based on their next installment of the Insidious franchise. Ash vs. Evil Dead reprises some of the themes of the 2013 Evil Dead maze (although most is brand new.) And American Horror Story is back for a second year, in Roanoke form. The only brand new property we hadn’t seen before was Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining maze.

Now, each of these mazes  can definitely be considered “new.” But the properties are getting a little worn and predictable. In fact, we’re already predicting that 2018 will bring back Michael Myers, since he’ll be slashing up the screens in a new movie next October. But if you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience HHN Orlando’s original concept houses, you know how amazing they are, and they usually blow the existing property houses out of the water. We got a glimpse of that in Hollywood with previous mazes such as La Llorona and El Cucuy. So each year, we hold our breath a little bit during the maze announcements in the hope that John Murdy will get a chance to put his amazing creative talent to use on a wholly original maze idea. Because we know what he can do when given the leeway, and it’s brilliant.

But as much as we’d like to see it happen, there are a couple of signs that HHN might not be changing course into more original territory any time soon. A guest survey sent out this season is asking people for their opinions about what they consider to be a “new” maze and whether having a maze return the next year is acceptable or not. In the early years of HHN, this was just standard–a maze would be around for a couple years before being replaced with something new. This happens at all the theme park haunts. But somewhere along the way, HHN began differentiating itself by being “completely new” every year. And that’s hard to sustain if you’re going to base your event solely on existing horror movie properties. So it seems Universal is considering “returning mazes” as an option. We’ll see what happens in 2018.

Now, on to our maze reviews featuring videos from our friends at ThemeParkHD!

Reviews

First, we need to tell you about something that may change your life. Or at least your HHN experience: EARLY ENTRY. If you don’t buy a front of the line pass, you MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY ENTRY.  There is no charge for this. It’s free with your regular ticket. This brilliantly simple solution to the excruciating lines at HHN absolutely made our night and saved us tons of money. Not willing to fork over 200 bucks for the FOL pass, we decided to try out early entry. Here’s the deal: Get there EARLY, duh. On the night we were there, they opened the gates at 4:20 pm, and from what we understand, they closed them again at about 5:15.  Everyone who enters the park in that window gets a wristband. You have to show your wristband to enter the mazes. The mazes in the lower lot (5 of 7 total mazes!) began opening at 5:15. By the time the park officially opened at 7 pm, we had done all 5 of the lower lot mazes, and we never waited longer than 20 minutes. These wait times jumped to 60-90 minutes once the park opened, so you can see what an advantage this is. We pray to the haunt gods that early entry will return next year.

Mazes

Titans of Terror

This maze combines the stories of Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface, but don’t expect to see them interacting with each other. Their stories are completely separated, using swirling colored lights to transition from one horror icon’s section to the other. The opening scene is the outside of a house on Halloween, perhaps a tribute to home haunters. We see a boy’s bedroom decked out in worship to these characters, and the boy himself is watching a triple horror feature on TV. So that’s how they they’re tying these stories together. The scenes for each of the icons are similar to what we’ve seen before: boiler room stuff for Freddy, campground scenes for Jason, and depraved butchery for Leatherface. The Jason sets do change it up a bit by focusing a lot on his “underground lair,” which was a big feature of the 2009 remake film.

These icons return to HHN year after year for a good reason: They’re scary. And the actors didn’t disappoint here. We had some great scares. However, this was the last maze of the night for us, and the longest line, and there were several spots inside where the “conga line” was in full effect.

 

Haunt Design4-skulls
Theming: 4-skulls
Scare Factor: 4-skulls
Overall Rating: 4-skulls

The Horrors of Blumhouse

This is the other maze on the upper lot, and it takes you through scenes from The Purge, Happy Death Day, and Sinister.  The Purge section begins with an outdoor portion that’s very similar to last year’s Purge scare zone. Urban depravity and creepy creeps terrorize from behind barrels, busted police cars, and illuminated American flags. Although not too scary to us, the imagery and lighting is effective.

After a short indoor section of hanging bodies, etc., you leave the Purge and enter a movie theater for “Happy Death Day,” Blumhouse’s horror offering in theaters this October. Because the movie hadn’t even been released yet when we went, we had only vague knowledge of the overall story line. But even so, we found this part of the maze to be scariest, with more suspense and jump scares than the other portions. Freaks in baby masks were coming at us from all sides.  However, the maze didn’t really make us want to see the actual movie, as some of it just reminded us how annoying college students can be.

The Sinister scenes are darker, and there are a couple of well-known moments from the film re-created in disturbing detail. This had a more atmospheric feeling and not a lot of scares for us.

Although we did get one of the best scares of the night in here (involving a projection screen), and although it’s exciting to get three themes for the price of one in this maze, we felt that the overall tones of the films were too different, leading to transitions that were too jarring and not allowing us to get that build up of suspense that makes a maze successful.

Haunt Design: 3-5-skulls
Theming: 3-skulls
Scare Factor: 4-skulls
Overall Rating: 3-5-skulls

Insidious: Beyond the Further

Insidious-Beyond-the-Further Insidious returns to HHN this year, this time featuring scenes from the new movie…which won’t be released until January 2018. But if you’ve seen the other Insidious movies (or have been through the mazes), the general story will be familiar enough. We’ve always enjoyed the Insidious mazes, and this year was another impressive incarnation. With its creepy atmosphere and excellent scareactors, we got quite a few scares in here. The addition of a couple of video screen effects was interesting but felt a little jarring  in a maze with a traditional “haunted house” feel.

Haunt Design: 3-5-skulls
Theming: 4-skulls
Scare Factor: 4-skulls
Overall Rating: 4-skulls

American Horror Story: Roanoke

Full disclosure: We never got through the entire season of Roanoke last year. But it turns out that didn’t matter much, because this maze tops our list as the best HHN maze of 2017! This maze also uses video screens, which seems to be a growing haunt trend this year. But its strengths are in the impressive attention to detail, theming, and well-positioned scares. The maze begins with a stroll through depraved outdoor scenes in the colonial village, followed by an entrance into the house, where we were assaulted by a diverse cast of ghoulish characters. The actors were relentless when we walked through, seemingly coming within centimeters of our faces with their axes and knives. This maze really caught us off guard, maybe because our expectations were somewhat low. But we love the pleasant surprise of an absolutely terrifying and well-done maze.

Haunt Design: 5-skulls
Theming: 5-skulls
Scare Factor: 5-skulls
Overall Rating: 5-skulls

 

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

This was probably the most highly anticipated 2017 maze, as fans have been clamoring for something from Stephen King for years, and The Shining has certainly been on the top of that list. With Stephen King ruling all aspects of the media this year, it was the perfect time for HHN to take advantage of his popularity. This maze was an impressive adaptation of the Kubrick film, representing all the most crucial scenes. Key audio components were re-created, and scents were added. The Jack Nicholson masks were just a tiny bit “off” in their resemblance, but it totally worked in providing an uncanny feeling to the scareactors. Once again, this maze used a few video screens, and this might be our only complaint. The much-touted “Blood Hallway” scene was a complete failure. We were hoping there was just a glitch with the effect during our walk through, but alas, online videos show otherwise. The close-ups of the twins on the video screen completely ruined the illusion of walking through the actual hallway. There are no close cuts in real life; using clips from the movie here was just an instant reminder that you were looking at a video screen. We know this was a highly ambitious maze and appreciate the attempt to incorporate projection technology. But overall, we feel that the projections only detract from the mazes and hope they don’t return next year.

Haunt Design: 3-5-skulls
Theming: 5-skulls
Scare Factor: 4-skulls
Overall Rating:  4-5-skulls

 

Ash Vs. Evil Dead

Ash-Versus-Evil-Dead-Halloween-Horror-NightsWith a lot of sight gags and goofy characters, this maze was a little more fun than scary. You enter the maze through Ash’s trailer, where the evil dead begin attacking immediately. Instead of being scared, we found ourselves consumed by looking at all the crazy details of the scene. After making it past Grandma Dead, the maze opens up to an outdoor scene, followed by an entrance into the notorious cabin. This maze has a lot of standard HHN “door” scares and few dark passageways that also seem to be used more frequently in HHN mazes as transitions between scenes.

Haunt Design:  4-skulls
Theming:  4-skulls
Scare Factor: 3-skulls
Overall Rating: 4-skulls

 

Saw: The Games of Jigsaw

Jigsaw returns to HHN this year in a maze showcasing the best “games” of the series. Since we’ve seen the other iterations of Saw at HHN, much of this maze looked familiar to us, from the pig-faced creeps, to the face traps, to the water torture, to the bathroom scene and the return of its unholy stench. If you’re a fan of Saw, you’ll probably love this maze and its “greatest hits” feeling. Also included is a trap from the new movie, which was probably the best, visually. We didn’t find this maze too scary, but its gore and “ick” factor are enough to put you on edge.

Haunt Design:  4-skulls
Theming:  4-skulls
Scare Factor: 3-skulls
Overall Rating: 3-5-skulls

Titans of Terror Tram

Terror-Tram-Jason-Halloween-Horror-Nights

Chucky is back to hijack the Terror Tram and, of course, promote his new Netflix movie. The tram also features appearances by Jason (Bates Motel scene), Freddy (War of the Worlds set), and Leatherface (sheet maze area).  There’s not a whole lot to say about the tram that hasn’t been said in previous years, but one thing that stood out to us was the fact that there were no chainsaws in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre scenes! We can easily guess this is because of noise complaints from nearby residents in previous years. But chainsaws are used earlier in the tram (which is farther from the homes on the hill), so perhaps they should’ve had Leatherface swinging the chainsaw as you get off the tram rather than Chucky. The tram is fun, but it’s never scary to us. But it’s a good way to get off your feet for a few minutes.

Haunt Design: 2-skulls
Theming: 2-skulls
Scare Factor: 1-5-skulls
Overall Rating: 2-skulls

Final Thoughts

We had a blast at HHN this year, and a lot of that was due to Early Entry. Without having to pay the exorbitant price for Front of the Line, the Fright Value for this event has gone way up this year. The mazes were well done, and some were terrifying. On the downside, the scare zones were scaled back (and not worth a review this year), and the return of several properties (which themselves date back to the 1970s-1980s) made the event feel a bit stale. We hope to see more original concepts next year, but we know that whatever the maze theme, the attention to detail will be unmatched by any other haunt out there.


HHN Hollywood Overall Fright Value:

4-skulls

Overall Rating of HHN Hollywood 2017:

4-5-skulls

 

HAUNT REVIEW: CREEP LA’s LORE

Creep LA, the masters of haunt experiences in LA, have teamed up with Amazon Prime Video to create a truly unique immersive theater experience this Halloween season.

Past Creep LA experiences have been highly rated  here on The  Scare Zone and this year continues the tradition of the well produced interactive theatrical haunt experience.  Unlike the previous years  (“Creep Los Angeles”, “The Willows”) , this year’s CreepLA is closely tied to an intellectual property. Derived from Aaron Mahnke’s popular podcast, Lore is  an Amazon Prime Exclusive’s new six-episode anthology series that presents the frightening and often disturbing tales based on real people and events that have led to our modern-day myths and legends. Celebrating the origins of the horror genre, Lore explores the real-life tales behind pop culture’s most legendary horror myths, such as vampires, changelings, werewolves, séances and possessed dolls.

Creep LA: Lore takes small groups of eight inside an imagined universe where they’ll travel through a fully engaging, multi-sensory, 1-hour walk-thru experience. At Creep LA: Lore, everyone is part of the experience whether they intend to be or not. To be clear this is not one of those torture and humiliation haunt concepts.  Guests may get touched (or kissed) but it’s all within boundaries.

This year’s show has definitely taken the production to a new level (having the corporate partnership is always a good thing). The size and scope of the venue is huge and each scene is  intricately  designed. The settings create dynamic and diverse environments. The talent is also top notch. Some of the highlighted performances include the nurse that recites a spooky bedtime story to the group and room of disturbed orphans, a woman looking for her son that has disappeared with a rather creepy looking doll,  and a lobotomy doctor with his disembodied assistants.

One of the challenges of performing a haunt show is that the actors do have to rely on the audience actively participating, which can lead to some unpredictable outcomes from show to show. We strongly suggest that you don’t try to hide or act too smug as you will then be the person who is picked on. During the show everyone can expect to be separated from the group at some point.

Being honest, there were a few WTF moments in the show as some of the scenes didn’t seem to flow smoothly or provide a satisfactory finale. Perhaps it’s because we weren’t fully familiar with Lore yet. We remember the previous years having more suspense and scares built into the experiences. Nonetheless, this year’s show is able to compensate with it’s overall higher quality of production and is a high caliber Halloween theatrical haunt experience. Plus, with the themed bar at the end, it’s setup as the perfect Halloween season date, friends, or all to yourself night out.

Scare Zone Rating

DETAILS

Creep LA: Lore is taking place at Mag1ic Box LA in Downtown LA on select dates from October  5th  through November 12th. Creep LA has continuously sold out their previous event series almost immediately upon going on sale. So be sure to get yours quickly or you may just end up reading about it here on The Scare Zone.

Tickets for Creep LA: Lore are for ADULTS ONLY. Ticket prices start at $65. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.CreepLA.com.

Engage with and follow Creep LA on social media at: #creepla @creeplosangeles

HAUNT REVIEW: Zombie Joe’s Urban Death – Tour Of Terror Year 5

Unless you’re holding your breath while waiting for a maniacal killer to leave the room you’re hiding in, time goes by fast.

We can’t believe it’s already been 5 years since Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group premiered Urban Death: Tour Of Terror. Since day one this has definitely been one of the most unique and unnerving haunt experiences in Los Angeles.

The number 5 is the most dynamic and energetic of all the single-digit numbers. Just like the ‘Tour of Terror’ it is unpredictable, always in motion and constantly in need of change. Although it is molded from an almost equal mix of masculine and feminine qualities, in general the 5 is slightly more feminine — albeit a daring, tomboyish kind of feminine, with nothing demure or submissive about her.

For its fifth Halloween season the darkened doors of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group have reopened with a production that sustains all the bizarre, frightening , and fun elements that we’ve come to love from ZJU. It also adds in even more freakish mayhem that continues to push the boundaries of terror and morality.

The show begins with a unique and surprisingly long maze through a pitch black corridor. A tiny flashlight provides only a small beam of light that illuminates the depraived creeps lurking about. This grand entrance to the theatre made us both scream, laugh, and cringe.

After surviving the mini-maze the audience settles into the theater and the lights go out again. From here the show classic’s format plays out with unsettling scenes that capture quick horrific slices of life and death. What we appreciate about ‘Tour of Terror’ is that each year they creatively blend previous scenes with new and even more over-the-top sequences that make the show both familiar and fresh. Five years in and it’s still thrilling.

After the show we’re again given flashlights to venture back through the maze, where a new set of creepy performers and haunted surprises materialize. The intensity of this second trip back is even higher than the first.

Zombie Joe’s has some of the most dedicated, bold, and talented performers we’ve seen at a haunt show. While it can appear simplistic, the complexities of the production can’t be overlooked.  They actors’ ability to hit their marks in the darkness and the full reset of multiple scenes in a matter of seconds has us in awe.

We concur that the fifth year is the best yet, as co-directors and creators Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer keep pushing the show to new heights. Just like the number five, it is an unpredictable mix of masculine and feminine qualities. This haunt show is definitely for bold and brave adult audiences. Leave your inhibitions at the door.

 

Scare Zone Rating

 

DETAILS

Urban Death: Tour of Terror Haunted Theater Attraction, ages 16 and up.

WHEN: Friday and Saturday nights, October 6 – October 28, Monday, October 30 and Tuesday, October 31st, 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:45 pm and 11:30 pm. Special Haunters and Press-Performance Thursday, October 6th, 9:00 pm (please reach out to Zombie Joe at ZombieJoes@gmail.com or 818-202-4120 for comp press tickets).

WHERE: Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group: 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601

 

TICKETS: $15, can be purchased at the door, online at: ZombieJoes.Tix.com, or by calling 818-202-4120 (NOTE: Due to the popularity of the show, we highly recommend purchasing tickets early).

WEBSITES: www.ZombieJoes.com and www.UrbanDeath.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/ZJUTheater/

TWITTER: twitter.com/urbandeath_zju

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/urbandeath_zju

17th Door Returns With a New Theme, New Location

Two years ago, 17th Door Haunt Experience stormed the SoCal haunt season and became the most talked about attraction of the year. Brilliantly blending a traditional walk-through haunted house with theatrical and extreme elements, it was on a more intense, but still accessible level for haunt fans who had felt they’d “seen it all.” With an elaborate backstory of a high school (then college student) who endures countless abusive scenarios and ends up in a mental institution, the lengthy haunt’s theme was complemented by interactivity and innovative scares.

17th Door has just announced that they will be returning in 2017 with some changes. First is a new location. They’re moving from a suburban shopping center in Tustin to . . . a suburban shopping center in Fullerton. But shopping center locations can work well for haunts, with ample parking and indoor space. This year, the haunt will be even longer (at 35 minutes).

Most important is the new theme: “Locked Up” will be set in a prison, and although we don’t know the details yet about the backstory, this theme has a lot of potential, especially for a haunt like 17th Door, where the actors are in your face and you’re forced to complete some pretty heinous tasks (unless you beg for “mercy,” of course). We look forward to hearing more about how this theme gets “executed.”

17th Door Haunted Experience opens September 22. Tickets are on sale now and start at $24. They’re sold in specific time windows, so be sure to buy early if you have a specific date and time in mind to visit.

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