This season we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Scare Zone and believe it or not this is post #666! To commemorate these
tombstones milestones we’re taking a look back over our shoulders (like we do inside of haunts) and sharing our favorite “scares of a decade” with the top-rated haunt mazes we’ve experienced each year.
Friday the 13th: Kill Jason Kill (HHN Hollywood): This was ranked as our favorite maze of the year. It was so suspenseful with long open walkways and “ki ki ki ma ma ma” echoing through the wooded settings, in which we knew Jason was coming but we just didn’t know from where and what he was going to do. The Jason scareactors were all big guys with detailed costuming (bald heads with hair patches) who get up and (too) personal when they appeared. There were moments when we forgot that we were just in a maze, and it felt like Jason really wanted to kill us! They also perfected the scare timing and pace of the maze, which had the same energy of the 2009 movie, with Jason’s rampage getting faster and more violent as we ventured through. There also was a face-grinding scene, which is hands down one of the goriest and most disturbing scenes we’ve encountered in a haunt.
Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror (Las Vegas, NV): We were completely blown away by Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror. This was the haunt with mazes so terrifying we had to create the 666 Skull rating. Each attraction was better than the one before it, as we experienced the attractions in the following order: Circus of Horrors, Castle Vampyre, and then Gates of Hell. We were very impressed with the level of detail inside each maze and found the scares to be far more intense and better executed than any other haunt we’ve ever experienced. These attractions were long and truly terrifying. The most exceptional of the three was Castle Vampyre. The monsters came at us from all angles–under the floor, behind the walls, out from the ceiling. The scares really were nonstop. This maze had some unique setups, including a room that had no way out, and then the ceiling started to close in on us. We literally had to crawl our way out of a door that finally opened on its own. This maze also had one of the craziest things we’ve seen in a haunt: a vampire who flies above and then straight through you. We can definitely see why some people were leaving through the Chicken Exit!
Blumhouse of Horrors (L.A., CA): In the heart of Downtown L.A., the creators of Blumhouse of Horrors smartly incorporated history and theater into a haunted attraction, creating a one-of-a-kind, scary haunted house filled with magic and atmosphere. The extensive backstory involved “one of the world’s most twisted dark art magicians,” who, many years ago, performed a disappearing act on stage that ended tragically for his beautiful assistant. As we proceeded through the attraction, the curse of the theater and the elements of dark magic emerged. Each room and passageway was incredibly themed and detailed, and there was an abundance of lighting, sound, and fog/wind effects that really punched up the experience to create a fully immersive environment. In some rooms, actors stopped and interacted with the group, but other parts of the haunt were like a traditional maze, where guests made their way through the scenes while actors hid in the shadows or behind props to jump out and startle. We got several good scares in this haunt, although for us, we enjoyed it most for its incredible atmosphere and elaborate sets.
Prison of the Dead Escape! (Shocktoberfest, PA): This maze also earned a 666 Skull scare factor. Here we had to board a creepy old prison transport bus from the Shocktoberfest main site and ride into the surrounding dark woods, where we arrived at the condemned Willow Glen State Penitentiary, a.k.a Prison of the Dead. “Zombie World” had renovated the facility, and the cells are used to hold Zombies for our viewing pleasure. Of course, the dead can’t be contained, and before we knew it, we were running, crawling, and climbing in extreme nonstop terror to find a way back to safety. We also wore belts with red flags to represent our organs and had to prevent the zombies from attacking and taking out our organs. This massive 50,000 square foot mega haunted house took a long time to get through, which is a lot of terror to endure, but of course we loved every minute of it. This maze is still open today and known as being one of the largest and scariest on the East Coast!
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (HHN Hollywood): This maze (and An American Werewolf in London) had the most detailed sets and high-end effects we had ever seen to date at HHN. We loudly applauded the HHN creative team for bringing the AVP settings and monsters fully to life, to scare us to death. On top of the detailed sets, this maze was just downright terrifying. The Alien and Predator attacks were relentless. Coupled with HHN’s signature lighting and sound scares, every time the extraterrestrial monsters made an appearance, widely swiping and thrashing at us, even the bravest of haunt stalkers were screaming and ducking for cover. This maze cleverly used its spaceship, forest, and suburban house settings to create unique hiding places for the scares. This maze had great diversions and new scare tactics with the Aliens, Predators, and victims appearing from some of the most unexpected places. In addition, many of the live and animatronic scareactors were larger than life, making every encounter with them even more foreboding. There was a lot to see in this maze, and we were glad that they gave it an encore in 2015.
Creep Los Angeles (L.A., CA): For its premier year, we were unsure what to expect from Creep. It certainly was not as intense as “Blackout” or “Alone” (so we’ve heard) but it definitely was more extreme than the standard theme park haunt experience. The actors thought of as the “creeps” were men and women who mostly wore masks that look like they’re from the The Purge. One of the more intense scenes involved hiding from a killer inside a dark box, with peep holes you could look out to see the killer stalking you. Despite the fact that we didn’t gather a distinct story from the experience, we still felt that the scenes had a good flow and connection to them. The overall aesthetic was sparse with the lighting and effects kept to a minimum. Overall, Creep Los Angeles struck a really good balance between something a little more extreme than the typical haunt without being over the top. We felt uncomfortable, but not violated. The haunt was scary, unique, and good for haunt stalkers tired of the typical, “monster around the corner” scare. In the following years, Creep LA has continued to maintain its unique setup while creating more sophisticated and truly impressive sets, stories, and characters. It now stands as one of the best immersive haunt experiences in California.
Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Tour of Terror (N. Hollywood, CA): The outside of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre is a small, compact storefront but the inside has been transformed into a dark labyrinth of nightmares that is unlike any other haunt we’ve ever experienced. Part walk-through maze, and part theatre performance, the Urban Death Tour of Terror is a truly unique experience that presents guests with mesmerizing vignettes of horror while also providing the traditional scares that haunt fans expect from a walk-through attraction. Each year, the exprience begins with a flashlight lit maze where each turn reveals various strange and frightening scenes. After making it through the short “tour,” we enter a small theatre, where the real part of the Urban Death show plays out. The performance involves actors in short scenes of horror-like scenarios with no dialogue, only an onslaught of sights and sounds, and even complete, uncomfortable darkness at some moments. It is a riveting performance, and parts of it are very suspenseful and scary. One of our readers described it as “American Horror Story live,” and we agree that’s a great way to put it. Each year the exprience changes so we highly suggest checking it out.
Into the Black (Pomona, CA): It’s safe to say that Into the Black was one of 2017’s most highly anticipated haunted attractions. Not only because it was created by legend Larry Bones (of Boneyard Effects), but also because of its twist: You must go through alone. Into the Black promised a truly scary experience with an extensive back story and overall theme. We can easily say that not only did it deliver on this promise, but it blasted past our expectations to become our favorite haunt of 2017. The haunt was long, with a labyrinth-like layout that seemed to never end. The scares were thoughtful and well orchestrated, which meant we didn’t always see them coming. An extreme layer of darkness was used to create a sense of dread that permeated the entire walk-through. You never quite knew what you were looking at in the corners and shadows of the rooms. While attempting to gain focus on a barely illuminated scene or prop, the actors used 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 achieved a level of unnerving terror that we haven’t experienced in a long time, like since Freakling Bros. For this reason, we had to give it a well-earned 6 SKULLS for scare factor!
Universal Monster’s (HHN Hollywood): The third time in a decade that a maze from Universal’s HHN made the top of our list! Aptly so as when it comes to theme park haunts they pretty much set the bar these days. Inspired by Universal’s legendary horror films, who would have thought that characters nearly a century old can still be terrifying? This maze was perfection from beginning to end. It was filled with iconic monsters, fantastic sets, and non-stop scares. We naively walked into this maze confident that it wasn’t going to be too scary only to be quickly humbled when unexpectedly a giant Frankenstein’s Monster came lunging at us, creating an instant panic that we carried through the rest of the maze. The terror kept intensifying as we made our way past all the horror legends such as Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man in their classic settings. You can really tell that there was a lot of passion behind creating this maze as the details, costuming, effects, and music (by Slash) were all incredible. This definitely is a great living tribute to the Universal Monsters and everything that a HHN maze should be.
Origins: The Curse of Calico (Knott’s Scary Farm in Buena Park CA): It’s so great to have he original and grandest theme park haunt represented on the list. Throughout the past decade Knotts’ creative team has been on a mission to revitalize Scary Farm and now once again it stands out as one of the top theme park haunts in the country. “Orgins” is the maze that Knott’s has been working to perfect as it serves as a prequel to reveal the true beginnings of the Ghost Town and Halloween Haunt at Knott’s. It unearths the sinister paranormal activity that plagues the town as Sarah Marshall is put on trial for her suspected crimes of witchcraft. All is unveiled when she rises up as the Green Witch and transforms all who have accused her into a wicked horde of malicious creatures. The theming and settings are impressively immersive with fully detailed rooms and superb lighting effects that show the ghostly transformation of Calico from a bustling western town to an eerie Ghost Town. The design and special effects are also top notch surpassing many of the mazes we’ve seen at some of those ‘movie studio theme parks’. The cast was diversely talented with full scripted actors and energetic monsters. Many different types of scare tactics were effectively used for some very startling moments and fun scares. Oh and the legendary Catawampus also makes a cameo!