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.
Theming: Scare Factor: Overall Rating:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s haunt season again! Many of the the big theme-park haunts are creaking open their gates this weekend and we’ve carefully assembled some Terror Tips for getting the most screams and bang for your buck out of the night. As you begin your planning and preparation for the season of the witch, this list of tips will help you experience every maze, attraction, maybe even the dumb shows at these mega-haunts. So pay attention, please. We don’t want you or your money to be left behind.
Trust us, we know how to Haunt Stalk.
1. GET THERE EARLY
This is the number one tip. Seriously, if you follow only one recommendation on this page, this should be the one. This will make or break your entire night. TRUST US. Get there before the haunt opens; we recommend at least a half-hour early. Some haunts will actually start letting people in before the posted official opening time. Universal has started opening some haunts as early as 5pm. If you get there early you might be able to go into a maze with almost no one else in it. Other haunts have “opening scare-amonies” that are worth watching. At Knott’s we’ve been able to get into three mazes within the half-hour before the haunt even opens, and we’ve never bought the early entry, “pre-scare dinner” option.
Related to this: Buy your tickets in advance if you can. Waiting in line for tickets wastes valuable time. Why add another queue to your night?
2. Go Early in the Season
Haunts get more crowded the closer it gets to Halloween. They hit their peak on the weekend before Halloween. We suggest attending as close to opening weekend as possible. The actors are also fresh and ready to scare. We’ve witnessed “monster fatigue” when we’ve gone near the end of haunt season, when we’ve noticed monsters talking to each other inside the maze or drinking a soda as they lean against a wall. The only downside with attending early in the season is that some scares might not be completely worked out, and actors might just be finding their groove. The second or third weekend of a haunt is usually the best time to visit.
3. Haunt Stalk on “Off Peak” Nights
From our experiences you’ll find much shorter lines by going to haunts that are open on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Thursdays can be lighter earlier in the season. However, do pay attention to the local school holidays as those can have a significant impact on the crowds sizes during these “off nights” as the haunt will be filled with pre-teen brats who were dropped off by their parents so that the ghost and ghouls can babysit them for the night. The Sunday before Columbus day is especially risky.
4. Consider a Front-of-the-Line Pass on Friday and Saturday Nights
…if you insist on ignoring the previous tip. Perhaps this tip should have been titled “Avoid Friday and Saturday Nights,” but we know that’s not realistic for most people. Work and school get in the way of attending haunts during the week. Sunday night could be a good compromise—lines will be much shorter, and you’ll still be able to arrive early (see tip #1) to avoid more of the crowds (your co-workers are used to seeing you looking hungover on Mondays anyway). But if you absolutely must go on a Friday or Saturday night, we recommend upgrading your ticket to a “Front-of-the-Line” pass (don’t forget to buy in advance!). Time is money, however, we realize that these passes can be pricey, so if you follow these tips, you might be able to bypass the upgraded ticket and still see everything. After all, there are a lot of great haunts to attend, and you don’t want to blow your budget on a single ticket.
5. Bone Up on the Rules
With the terrors of the real world growing rampant, the security measures at many of these haunts has increased significantly. With this increased security comes annoying polices and rules that can make it even more time consuming, difficult, or even preventative for you getting inside; even if you have no intentions of being a haunt evildoer. Therefore, bone up on the rules at the respective haunts before you arrive. You don’t want to be the one who has to go all the way back to your car to return your forbidden camera, spiked jewelry, or switch blade. We also suggest that you travel light as there’s usually express lines for Haunt Stalkers who aren’t trying to enter with purses, bags, clothes (j/k), etc.
6. Eat Before You Get There—Or Wait Until You Leave
Do you really want to wait in line for a crappy hot dog that costs $8? No, you don’t. As part of the “GO EARLY” plan, you should have an early dinner near the park. If you get hungry, grab a snack and eat in line. Don’t waste valuable time queuing up for theme park food. On the other hand, you could also wait and eat afterward. For example, Knott’s usually has a “midnight breakfast buffet” (12 am to 3 am) at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant next to the park that might be a good option.
7. Keep Your Group Small
“The More the Merrier” does not apply to haunts. Hitting all the mazes, scare zones, shows, and rides in a single, crowded night requires coordination, and the more people you have in your group, the less likely it is that consensus will be reached about where to go and what to do. Some people will want to go on the rides first, some will want to hit the mazes, some might be hungry and want food (see #3 above). We recommend keeping your group to no more than 6 people, unless you’re willing to accept that you won’t get to everything.
8. Tackle the Haunts Front to Back
Note: this works only if you’ve arrived early. You might think going straight to the mazes in the back of the park is a good idea, but you’re wrong. Sure, there will be no one in the back when you get there, but when you circle back to the mazes in the front of the park, they’ll be packed. Almost everyone else will be working from front to back, so as long as you’re ahead of the pack (by getting in early, see #1 above), this approach works best. If you’ve arrived late, forget it. You’re screwed, no matter what approach you take.
9. Don’t Loiter in the Scare Zones
… well only if you’re talking about our website. You will most likely pass through the scare zones as you make your way to the mazes. This absolutely adds to the overall experience but don’t get caught up hanging in the scare zones until you’ve already been through all the mazes/houses. As while you’re busy running away from and taking #selfies with a ghoul, the crowds will be surging past you and filling up the #longlines. You can always go back later in the night and leisurely scream through the scare zones.
10. Go On Rides and See Shows Only After You’ve Been in All the Mazes
It’s Halloween season, and mazes/houses are the main attraction. These are open only 5 or 6 weeks at most during the year. You can go back and to get on all the coasters and E-Ticket rides some other time. And let’s face it, most shows at haunts are pretty terrible. Save all of these “dis-ttractions” for last, or at least until after you’ve hit all the mazes you really wanted to go through.
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest is back for another terrifying year, with a full line up of mazes, scare zones, and entertainment. Although they’re sometimes in the shadow of the bigger haunt players in SoCal (like Halloween Horror Nights or Knott’s Scary Farm), they’ve really improved their event over the past decade or so, creating an impressive Halloween event that shouldn’t be overlooked. They also consistently add new stuff and change things each year, and 2017 is no different. So let’s take a look at what’s new for this year:
New Maze: Dead End
Luring you to the darkest edges of the Willoughby’s Estate and then leaving you to fend for yourself in the dark abyss.
This sounds like it could be a “black out” type of maze, but with few details this early, it’s hard to tell.
New Scare Zone: Damned ‘N Disguise (*New for 2017)
Change Before Your Eyes! The City of Metropolis is transformed into a first-ever, right-in-front-of-your-eyes, morphing masquerade.
Also New for 2017:
Club 6-Feet Under (Metro Park Pub)
Party with a deadly DJ spinning hot jams until the wee hours of the night. Enjoy ghoulish grub and grog plus plenty of ghouls and scares.
Hidden Haunts VIP Tour
Visit obscure areas around the park and hear real-life haunting tales. Plus, get your fill of thrills and chills with access to mazes and attractions.
Toyz of Terror in 3D
Wicked wind-ups, freakish stuffed animals, and deranged dolls haunt those who dare to enter the factory.
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising
A renegade faction is threatening to destroy the only livable space with the release of a dangerous toxin.
The Willoughby’s Family mansion tale unfolds before your eyes at this once affluent Victorian mansion that has become a haven for evil.
If you dare to enter, be aware of your surroundings at all times, unknown animal like screams have been heard deep within this unsecured vault.
Come face to face with this elusive blood-thirsty creature as it terrorizes a local Dia de Los Muertos festival.
Over the hill and through the woods to Grandmother’s house you go. Enter the world of Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
Returning Scare Zones
The dead have risen and are looking for new souls to take on this dark and sinister hill.
Nightmares: A Twisted Fantasy
This evil nightmare has never been so edgy as your favorite bedtime stories take on a new and twisted tale.
Steam-spewing mechanical beasts relentlessly hunt down their victims.
Welcome to HELL…be prepared for your mind and body to be completely taken over by the evil spirits that await you.
Suicide Squad: The Six Flags Fright Fest Experience
Darkness and chaos will reign in the park’s DC UNIVERSE as some of DC Comics’ most famous Super-Villains will be roaming.
As usual, several coasters will be running “in the dark” as part of the event. For those who’ve never been to Fright Fest, it works a bit differently from other haunts; instead of a ticket to the Halloween event, a “maze pass” is sold in addition to regular day admission. So the park doesn’t close to change over to the haunt.
Six Flags hasn’t released the maze pass prices yet, but it’s usually around $30. The Hidden Haunts VIP tour will also be a separate charge, and prices are pending on that as well.
Fright Fest begins Saturday, September 16 and runs Fridays through Sundays until Halloween. Check out thewebsitefor more info.
A couple years ago, Drunken Devilmade its entrance into the haunt world with “Sinner’s Soiree,” which was part walk-through haunted house and part nightclub/bar scene. It was a creative idea, but the first-year reviews were mixed at best, and our experience was disappointing. However, Drunken Devil has persevered and found a new niche in creating horror-themed parties and events that revolve around alcohol. (Their name is Drunken Devil, after all.) Their parties have garnered good reviews on sites likeHorrorBuzz.
Their newest incarnation looks like an intriguing Tiki-infused night of fun and terror, which they’re calling “Curse of the Jungle Drums”:
THE DRUMS WILL DRIVE YOU MAD!
Drunken Devil presents an evening of exotica, dance, theatre, and horror in a brand new, one-night-only immersive soireé: Curse of the Jungle Drums.
Find yourself transported to Pele’s Hideaway, a lavish tiki bar in Hollywood, circa 1954. Back from an exotic expedition, a famous explorer has brought a mysterious idol to the bar’s owner as a gift; the idol, however, is cursed, and causes the club-goers to go mad, killing each other. You will arrive moments after the massacre, and, if you choose to, will be able to interact with some of the newly undead patrons, piecing together a horror-fueled narrative throughout the evening.
Partake in an open bar, presented by Lemon Hart & Son Rum, featuring a host of tiki cocktails as well as other spirits, beer, and wine; experience mystifying tarot readings and magic; snap a photo in an interactive photo booth; enjoy live music and steamy, exotica-inspired burlesque acts, and, as per Drunken Devil tradition, dance under the flicker of a disco ball to end the night.
Tickets are $75 and “will increase” as it gets closer to the event. Check out Drunken Devil’s website for more information as it becomes available.
There’s a general consensus out there that 2016 was “the worst.” In many ways, we feel that, too. But on the flip side, 2016 was actually an excellent year for haunts. So cheer up, kiddos, and take a look at our year-end review of the best haunt moments in Southern California this year!
Top 5 Haunt Moments of 2016
5. Walking Dead Year-Round Attraction Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood
At first, we were a bit worried how this new year-round walk-through might affect Halloween Horror Nights in the fall, and we were also concerned that it might be a watered-down, bland version of an HHN maze made more palatable to the masses. But Universal struck an impressive balance in this attraction by maintaining a high scare factor without overdoing the intensity for the average guest. It feels great to be able to experience a maze year round. We’re also hopeful that with The Walking Dead, Universal might be pioneering a trend in theme parks toward including more attractions with darker, scarier elements. We hope the other parks get inspired by this brave move from Universal.
4. Home Haunts Take It to the Next Level During Halloween Season
What a great year for home haunts! Although we don’t typically do full reviews of home haunts, we were lucky to experience a few this year. What blew us away was the fact that many times, these home haunts had better scares than the pros! Rotten Apple 907 terrified us with their “Not So Enchanted Forest,” the Backwoods Maze had another impressive run, and the classic, not-to-be-missed House at Haunted Hillreturned from a hiatus. Home haunters are an essential branch of the haunt industry and are often the most creative folks out there (evidenced by the fact that many haunt prop catalogs brazenly rip off their prop ideas every year–see the Cauldron Creeper and Faceless Spectre, for examples). If you don’t have home haunts on your Halloween to-do list, they’re a must for 2017!
3. Haunted Theater Has Another Strong Year
After being sorely missed due to a hiatus in 2015, Delusion roared back to the afterlife this year with “His Crimson Queen.” Once again, we were impressed with the production and set design work of this beloved attraction. We felt this was one of the best installments of Delusions, with a strong storyline, natural-feeling interactivity, and some real scares.Zombie Joe’sreturned with their “Tour of Terror” and another great year of Urban Death performances. And finally, Creep LA made it near the top of our review list with this year’s “darkness” themed event. The acting and “creep” factor in this attraction was top-notch, and we hope they come back bigger and badder next year.
2. Halloween Convention Wars Heat Up the Summer
How lucky are we in Southern California that we have not one–but TWO–Halloween conventions?? Midsummer Scream and Scare LA duked it out as they offered competing conventions just one week apart. We attended both and felt that Midsummer Scream came out on top, but if you’re a die-hard Halloween fan, attending both is a great option. We can’t wait to see what both events have in store for 2017!
1. Halloween Horror Nights Presents the Best Maze Lineup EVER!
As the maze announcements trickled in over the year for HHN Hollywood 2016, we couldn’t believe our ears. One iconic property after another was announced. Although the big four–Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface–had mazes at HHN before, they’d never been presented together in the same year. And on top of that, we got a delightfully devilish Krampus maze and an impressive incarnation of American Horror Story, a maze fans have been requesting for years. HHN also broke ground with their Purge outdoor walk-through experience, which replaced the standard scare zone format. We had a fantastic time at HHN this year. The bad news is that we can’t imagine how HHN will top that in 2017. It’s going to be a hard act to follow, but if anyone can do it, it’s the creative team at Halloween Horror Nights.
We hope you were able to get out and experience some or all of these great moments. Be sure to check back with Scare Zone throughout 2017 for the latest haunt news, reviews, and in-depth analysis and opinion pieces about the haunt industry.
Hard to believe that only 3 weeks ago we were going through haunts and trick o treating and now it’s time for the truly horrifying time of year… the holidays. Fortunately there are still a few haunted attractions open and many of the popular haunts have transformed into elaborate holiday playgrounds. We have to admit that with the almost never-ending warm weather here, it’s hard to get into the mood to listen to songs like “Let It Snow” or “White Christmas”. But Queen Mary is going to help us cool things down by adding a little ‘Chill’ to the air.
The terrifying spirits ofDark Harbor just sailed away and now the holiday spirit is taking over with the return of CHILL at the Queen Mary. CHILL offers seasonal fun with ice skating, ice tubing, sleigh rides, and visits with Santa. Southern California’s coolest holiday adventure will also unveil a new interactive and immersive experience, Alice in Winterland.
Light up the night and follow the Queen down the rabbit hole this holiday season with Alice in Winterland. The newest attraction at CHILL brings an inspired re-imagination of the classic Lewis Carroll story to life through the magic of an interactive and digitally immersive 14,000-square foot walk-through experience. Guests can unlock the hidden secrets of the adventure with RIFD technology to make each individual visit truly unforgettable. Alice in Winterland features stunning, larger than life lanterns as you follow Alice and her adventure into the Hall of Doors, the White Rabbit’s Kitchen, Mad Hatter’s Work Shop, the proverbial Tea Party, the Hedge Maze and visits from the Caterpillar and the new Queen of Diamonds.
The fifth annual CHILL welcomes back Glacier Glide Ice Tubing with six lanes of glistening ice slides standing two stories tall and 100-feet long. Ice skate under the stars on the 6,000 square-foot ice skating rink with the backdrop of the picturesque Queen Mary ship.
Stroll through the North Pole Village and stop by the Queen Mary Village’s post office to send a letter to Santa. Take a spin on the Swinging Sleigh Ride, the Giant Rocking Horse or play Prancer’s Paintball for holiday thrills. A trip to CHILL is not complete without a stop by the Gingerbread House to make a festive edible creation, and a visit to Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Claus Cottage. The holiday fun is endless.
CHILL runs on select dates from November 23, 2016 through January 8, 2017. Pricing starts at $39.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids (ages 4-11), now available online. Tickets include entrance to Alice in Winterland, Ice Tubing, CHILL Village and access to the Queen Mary ship. Hotel and VIP packages are also available.
About three-quarters of the way through 2016’s incarnation of Creep LA, we wondered, “Is this performance art disguised as a haunt, or is this a haunt themed to a piece of performance art?” And we also wondered, “Does the fact that we’re asking ourselves this question mean that Creep LA has elevated itself to a higher level than a standard haunted attraction?” And the answer is Yes. Yes, it does.
For 2016, Creep has moved from Downtown to Glassell Park, a better location with better parking. The exterior this year is once again a simple warehouse, with the words “CreepLA” projected on the outside of the building serving as the only indication there’s a haunt inside. Tickets are sold by time slots, and our group had only 5 people. When it was our turn, we were taken inside and lined up against the wall, where we met the first few creeps.
In this room, we signed a waiver, were strongly urged to use the restroom, and then were given a bit of the backstory by the actors. This year’s attraction features the story the “controversial artist” Erebus Burwyck who sought to explore “the dark side of humanity.” The first part of the haunt feels part prison, part art gallery, as Burwyck’s art is hung around on the cinder block–style walls. The actors portray creepy hipster artist types, which is perfect fit for this part of town.
The first part of the experience is a stop in a lounge–a medium-sized room containing works of art, couches, tables, and chairs, and different performers wandering around and interacting with the guests. While some might see this as an attempt to grab more dollars by offering alcoholic beverages before the actual haunt begins, we really felt that the lounge was part of the show and helped set the mood and tone. The performers fantastically engage every single waiting guest with their slightly uncomfortable and invasive conversations, all while providing small details of the backstory. We actually wished our stay in the lounge could have been a bit longer, but our group was soon called, and we proceeded to the main attraction.
*Note: Slight spoilers ahead, but we never give too much away.
After receiving a bit more of the backstory and some of the standard pre-haunt warnings (for example, “You’re about to lose your mind, and by the way, don’t touch the creeps although they WILL touch you”), we were led to another warehouse where we entered the first scene. Here we were told to face the wall with our backs to the room. After a minute or so, each of us was led by the hand to a chair, where a lace cloth was placed over our heads. An audio recording of Erebus Burwyck was played while two cult-like Burwyck fans performed a strange ritual in the center of the room. Eventually, the lights go out, and we’re in the darkness. The scene builds suspense, closely follows and elaborates on the backstory, has some freaky performance art to witness, and even manages to get in some traditional scares. It was a very good opening to the attraction.
The rest of the haunt was similarly eerie, interesting, thoughtful, suspenseful, and even scary. We were extensively touched by the actors, and some of it includes very close contact that could make many people uncomfortable, so be warned. However, if you enter with an open mind and don’t take it too seriously, we definitely think you’ll have a good time. Each scene is a small vignette that varies between creepy and uncomfortable. The overall story of being immersed in a piece of performance art really shines through in the way CreepLA has structured the haunt, as each room feels like an individual piece of an “art” show while also serving the overall theme. Additionally, every single person in our group ended up participating in at least one (and for some of us, more) scene. Each person was also led away at some point to be alone with a “creep.” These experiences were unsettling but not overly intense.
We won’t detail each scene, but to give you an idea: we traveled through a demented, impressively choreographed dinner party; a creepy child’s bedroom; a couple of different erotic dance vignettes; a sparse room with a giant pile of sand; and the dressing room of an unhinged beauty queen. The level of detail in each set was different depending on the purpose of the story of the scene, but almost every room felt complete and well thought out.
Over the years, we’ve come to recognize that the mark of a great haunt experience is whether or not you think about the haunt the day after you experience it. If it stays with you, and if your mind rehashes the experience in the following days, that haunt has achieved a rare level. This is definitely the case with Creep LA. We also witnessed a lot of people standing around in the parking lot after they had gone through the haunt, just talking and detailing their experiences, because the attraction will be different for each person. This is what has truly elevated Creep LA from being not just another haunt but rather its very own work of art.
We’re lucky that in Los Angeles, we have the option of a few of these different types of haunt-theater events: Delusion, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, and Creep LA. Each has its own merits and is worthy of a visit. Although Creep LA is not as lush as Delusion, and it doesn’t have the same level of set detailing and stunt work, we think Creep LA is a little bit more interesting and intense. Creep LA feels like Delusion’s dirty little sister: she might not be as pretty or sophisticated, but in a lot of ways, she’s just more fun.
We’re also spoiled in Los Angeles by the level of acting talent here. In some other cities, when a haunt says they have “real actors,” they mean alive human beings rather than animatronics. In L.A., it often means the actors can actually act. There is no way working at Creep is easy, and the actors in the lounge are especially impressive in the improvisational way they interact with guests.
Altogether, we think Creep LA is a unique, demented, special experience that should be on everyone’s list during the Halloween season.
Motel 6 Feet Under is located in a business park in Anaheim, not far from Disneyland, and we included it as a stop on our O.C. haunt itinerary.
The backstory of the haunt focuses on Mabel, a little girl who haunts a motel and “has enlisted the help of the dead and undead motel staff to keep you in her tourist trap.” The haunt begins with a short wait in the hotel lobby, which is lavishly decorated with props to set the scene of an old motel. After a short wait, we were ushered into an elevator “experience” with a demented and funny porter. Once we exited the elevator, we traveled down a dark hallway, where we were accosted a few times by Mabel herself, a seriously creepy little girl. There are interesting animatronics and props along the way, as well as some good scares from the enthusiastic actors.
Everything seemed to be pretty standard at this haunt until we reached a dead end. We hesitated a few moments before turning back to see if there was an alternate path we missed. There wasn’t. Instead, the path of the maze had actually shifted behind us. This unexpected twist in the standard maze scheme was a great surprise and immediately put us on our toes. We encountered a few more instances of changing walls and paths, until we finally made it out into some “outdoor” scenes, including a giant spider and a train.
If you’re going out to Orange County to see one of the other main O.C. haunts (including Sinister Pointe and 17th Door), you should definitely add Motel 6 Feet Under to your touring plans.
It may be a small haunt by some standards, but there’s a lot to see inside. In many ways, it felt like a throwback to some of the more traditional haunted houses of several years ago. These days, a lot of haunts are turning to gimmicks and extreme measures to differentiate themselves from the competition, but by sticking to a more standard formula (with a few tricks thrown in), Motel 6 Feet Under was a refreshing change of pace for us. The theme and backstory have great potential for the haunt as it matures. We definitely got the feeling that the haunt designers are passionate and thoughtful about creating unique experiences and scares. We hope to see the haunt return and grow in the coming years.