Author: Kendra (page 1 of 23)

Haunt Review: HorrorWorld 2018

Into the Black burst onto the Southern California haunt scene in 2017, and it quickly shattered some of the long-running standards we’ve come to expect from haunts. Gone were the conga lines and large groups of people spoiling the scares, because in this maze, you had to walk through alone. And yet, it wasn’t an extreme haunt but rather one that packed plenty of scares but could still appeal to even casual haunt-goers. We were sure Larry Bones had found the right formula for something really unique, and we gave Into the Black a 666 rating last year.

This year, Into the Black makes up just one of three mazes in the newly expanded, multi-haunt event called HorrorWorld, located in the Puente Hills mall in the City of Industry. We were able to experience all three haunts during a media preview event before the official opening. Read on for our reviews.

Location

First of all, a word on the location. The Puente Hills Mall has certainly seen better days. Many stores stand empty, and if you’re so inclined, it would be easy to act out scenes from Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Comet here. Haunts all over the country seem to be taking advantage of the decline in retail, using abandoned stores as locations. Although this might be convenient and cost-effective, the mall setting does detract somewhat from the atmosphere as you wait in line. Gazing into the window of a Foot Locker while 90s music plays overhead just doesn’t get us into the haunt mood.

 

HorrorWorld occupies three storefronts on the second level near Macy’s. The main store houses the ticket booth; spooky vendors selling everything from t-shirts, to Halloween masks, to home decor; and food vendors, such as Morbid Cupcakes and Rad Coffee (try the Cookies and Scream coffee!). It’s also the location of the asylum-themed maze.

Mazes

Psycho Sanitarium

On the night we visited, this maze had its lights on. This actually might be the normal state of things, since it’s located inside the same room as the vendors and ticket booth, and we’re not sure how they could effectively dim the lights enough to work for both the vendors and the maze. Nevertheless, the actors were going full throttle inside. Demented asylum patients assaulted us around every corner and got right up in our faces. However, the overall set design did lack detail, as the walls were mostly just white with plastered papers and smears of blood. It was also a relatively short maze. But it serves as a good warm-up for the others, so if you get the all-access pass, we definitely recommend you check this one out first.

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The Fleshyard

The Fleshyard was previously located in Anaheim, most recently at a pumpkin patch, and over the years it’s earned a reputation as one of the best stand-alone, independent haunts in Orange County. This year, it’s found a perfect home at HorrorWorld. While we waited in line, we saw many groups run out of the exit looking terrified and/or exhilarated. We could tell from the guest reactions alone that this maze is special.

The beginning of the maze was a dark church scene, where a distraught young girl knelt at the altar while the priest provided the backstory of the doomed Kearny family. After hearing what befell the family, we were soon ushered out and began our journey through the Kearny house of horrors. As we traveled through the dilapidated farmhouse, we encountered various family members. Some of the scenes included the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. The maze also includes some “outdoor” scenes.

We found the sets to be impressively detailed with effective lighting and sound to set the frenzied mood. The maze uses unique scare tactics, and although it was a preview night, these actors had the scares down already.  There’s also a narrow hallway section that might have you turning sideways to get through (although there is an alternative, “easy” path for claustrophobic or larger guests). The finale scene was particularly impressive, and it’s what had some guests actually running out of the maze.

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Into the Black

The main attraction at HorrorWorld is still Into the Black. This maze takes up the largest space in the event and still requires guests to go through alone. However, the timed tickets from last year have been abandoned, and instead guests simply wait in line for their turn.

This maze relies heavily on darkness to set the mood. Although they’ve done a good job blocking out most of the mall’s harsh fluorescent lighting, we did find some light leakage coming through the scenes at the very front of the maze. But instead of being a distraction, it actually allowed us to observe the amazing detail in the sets and masks of the actors. However, this affects only a couple of scenes, and as you travel to the back of the maze, the darkness quickly envelops everything once again.

As we made our way through the crumbling Black family home, we encountered truly scary demons lurking around every corner (as well as in many other unexpected places). And these are no average demons…the amazing quality of the Bone Yard Effects masks gives them an extra unsettling, sinister appearance. Additionally, the maze uses a minimalist soundscape to heighten the suspense. The paths near the back of the maze are so disturbingly quiet, that any shuffling sound raises the hairs on your arm and puts you on full alert. The actors exploit this by moving nearly soundlessly until they are right next to you, or they may build the scare first by quietly scraping walls, finally letting out their terrifying shrieking growls right in your ear.

Into the Black remains one of the best mazes in Southern California right now. If you didn’t catch it last year, this should be near the top of your list for 2018.

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Summary

In its inaugural year, HorrorWorld has entered the Southern California haunt scene as major player, and we highly recommend a visit. Although you can buy tickets individually for each maze, the best value is the $45 all-access pass, which allows you to experience all three mazes. There is also a VR experience (we ran out of time and didn’t experience it this year).

HorrorWorld Overall Fright Value:

All-Access Pass

Overall Rating of HorrorWorld 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

HorrorWorld is open Fridays through Sundays in October, as well as October 29-31. Tickets are now on sale 

Experience a variety of Haunted Attractions at Southern California’s Most Anticipated Halloween Event. Not only do we offer the Scariest Haunted Houses, but Horrorworld has partnered with a team of terrifying vendors to create a Truly Frightening Experience.

Terror Tips: Maximizing Your Theme Park Haunt Experience

It’s haunt season again!

Many of 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, and 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. Remember you need to plan time for parking and to get through any security checks so you can queue up to get inside at opening. 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 and set the mood for the night (but skip them if you can get into the mazes ahead of the crowds). At Knott’s Scary Farm 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 or “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 cal_right

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 the 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 the other 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

dsc_0023_6With 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 policies 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 switchblade.  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. Anyway, you’re just going for a night and not moving in… unless the haunts choose you to fill their residency quota.

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 do 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.

As a side, with Universal Hollywood’s unconventional layout they tend to allow early entry for the mazes in the lower lot, at the back of the park, so follow this plan doing the first mazes you encounter on the lower lot and then keep working your way to very back.  You’ll likely get through all those mazes, which is a majority of them,  with a significantly reduced wait time. Just be prepared to wait a little longer for the few on the upper lot.  However, your overall wait time for the night should be reduced with this plan.

9. Don’t Loiter in the Scare Zones 

Scare Zone Fog… 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.

Most Importantly Remain Calm and Happy Screaming!

HorrorWorld 2018: Last Year’s Best Haunted Attraction Makes a Big Return

In 2017, buzz was strong for the freshman haunt Into the Black, which took up residence at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Created and executed by Larry Bones, the venerable owner of the makeup effects giant Bone Yard Effects, this haunt had so much promise. But it’s requirement that all guests go through completely alone was what made it a unique and nail-biting experience for even some of the most experienced haunt enthusiasts. We had high hopes for this haunt, and it did not disappoint.  But we wondered whether the single-person model would be lucrative enough to allow Into the Black to return in 2018.

That’s why we’re thrilled to report that not only is the haunt returning, but it’s expanded into a multi-haunt event called “HorrorWorld.”

For 2018, the event has moved into the Puente Hills Mall in the San Gabriel Valley and will include THREE haunted mazes, a virtual reality experience, a collection of vendors, and a blacklight horror-themed game area.

MAZES

Into the Black

Last year’s hit maze returns, and yes, you still must enter ALONE. (If you’re wondering how intense this is, be sure to read our review from last year.)

Discover the twisted history of the 19th century home belonging to the infamous, devil-worshiping, and occult-following Black family.  Are you brave enough to enter completely ALONE?

Psycho Sanitarium

Step inside the halls of the Psycho Sanitarium, a crumbling reminder of humanity’s ability to neglect and mistreat those deemed “unfit” for society…but what happens when the tormented fight back? Experience the chaos within the newest maze from Bone Yard Effects, Inc.

The Fleshyard

Abraham and Sarah Kearny had it all, a happy marriage, 5 children, and a successful livestock farm. Until they were found brutally murdered and their farm burned to the ground. The spirits of the violently butchered family cannot rest. They continue to haunt their land while they seek vengeance for their untimely demise. Can you survive?

 

HorrorWorld makes its debut on September 28 and runs select nights through Halloween. We highly recommend buying tickets in advance for this event as space is limited each night. For more information, visit their website.

Hunt for Jack the Ripper in New Virtual Reality Experience in Santa Clarita

Over the past few years, we’ve watched virtual reality become a growing part of the haunted attraction industry. From Delusion to Into the Black, more and more haunts are using VR to augment the  guest experience. So it’s only natural that stand-alone VR experiences are tapping into the market by creating horror-themed seasonal experiences to coincide with the haunt season.

The latest entry into this field comes from the award-winning Hollow Studios and their Jack the Ripper–themed virtual haunted house, which can be experienced at Mountasia Family Fun Center in Santa Clarita, CA. This immersive VR experience transports groups of up to 4 people back to 1888, where Jack the Ripper is on the rampage. Guests will have to work together while exploring the mysterious wax house to find clues to solve the mystery of the Ripper’s identity.

Coming this fall for a limited time only: Experience the latest in virtual reality technology in Jack The Ripper Virtual Reality Haunted House at Mountasia Family Fun Center in Santa Clarita, California. The brand new state-of-the-art multi-sensory virtual reality (VR) experience from Hollow Studios invites guests into one of history’s greatest mysteries. Guests in groups of up to four will be transported back in time to 1888, during what the newspapers of the time coined, “The Autumn of Terror”. A time when Jack The Ripper roamed the streets striking fear in the heart of Whitechapel, London. Before suiting up in VR headsets, guests first enter an old dark London alleyway where they are recruited as assistants to a Scotland Yard detective. Media based effects tell the backstories of Jack The Ripper and the mysterious Wax House. Once inside, guests search through the creepy old abandoned wax museum looking for items and clues in hopes of answering the same question that has been on the minds of many for over a century: “Who was Jack the Ripper?”

This multi-sensory virtual experience will be part haunted house and part escape room. Guests will have 30 minutes to explore the VR world, where they will have to search for clues (for example, by picking up and holding objects, opening drawers) with the goal of escaping before they become the Ripper’s next victims.

Jack the Ripper Virtual Reality Haunted House is open NOW through October 31 every Friday through Sunday. To purchase tickets, visit www.HollowZone.com. In the meantime, check out the trailer:

 

All HHN Hollywood Mazes Revealed!

When you run a website, you really have to be careful not to push that “Publish” button too early. Fortunately (for us), someone running the Halloween Horror Nights website had an itchy trigger finger and accidentally revealed the remaining four mazes in Hollywood, before the information was quickly taken down. But an observant reddit user was able to capture a screenshot, and now the world knows what horrors HHN fans will be experiencing in just a little more than a month!

The leaked web image shows the following as the entire 2018 HHN Hollywood lineup:

  • Stranger Things
  • Trick r Treat
  • The First Purge
  • Poltergeist*
  • Halloween 4*
  • Horrors of Blumhouse: Chapter Two*
  • Universal Monsters*
  • Terror Tram: Hollywood Harry’s Dreamtime Stories

(*Not officially announced yet.)

As we reported yesterday, Poltergeist and Halloween 4 appear to be slated for the Orlando “1980’s” lineup, and it seems like Hollywood is also getting versions of these mazes. We’re incredibly excited about Poltergeist, as this movie haunted us as kids and made an entire generation terrified of clown dolls. Halloween 4 is a bit more random, but as serious Michael Myers fans, we’re not complaining.

It remains to be seen what will be covered in Horrors of Blumhouse Chapter Two. Last year, this maze covered the movies The Purge, Sinister, and Happy Death Day. We assume all of these will be replaced by new Blumhouse movies. With the Purge getting its own maze this year, Horrors of Blumhouse  might tap into Truth or Dare, Unfriended, The Belko Experiment, or maybe even the very popular Split.

Universal Monsters has been circulating as a rumored maze for some time, especially given recent construction of a facade sporting a replica of the tower from the Bride of Frankenstein:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We expect to hear more about at least one of these mazes at Scare LA later this month, as John Murdy has promised an in-depth look at a new maze. Given the leaks, though, Universal might decide to announce all mazes sooner than later, and more details might be confirmed soon.

What do you think of 2018’s HHN Hollywood lineup? Let us know in he comments or connect with us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

Scare Zone’s Guide to Midsummer Scream

 

While most of your friends are planning their BBQs and trips to the beach, as a true haunt fan, you’re more likely spending your summer trying to decipher John Murdy’s Twitter hints and studying the line up for Midsummer Scream. Although we’re lucky to have two large Halloween/Horror conventions in Southern California, Midsummer Scream occurs first and is our own personal favorite. It’s truly a must-attend event for any fan of haunted attractions, spooky decor, and horror in general.  The event is jam packed with panels, vendors, mini-haunts, and demos, and it gets bigger each year, making it increasingly difficult to figure out how to see it all. Here, we’ve assembled some tips to help you get the most from your weekend.

Getting the Most From Midsummer Scream: Scare Zone’s Terror Tips

1. GET THERE EARLY (OR WAIT IT OUT)

This event gets more and more popular each year, and you can count on a huge line to get into the convention center for about an hour before it opens. But their staff is well organized, and the line moves fairly quickly. Our advice is to study the event schedule before you go: if there’s a panel or presentation at 11:30 am or noon, plan to get there early and wait in line to ensure you don’t miss it. Otherwise, if you arrive an hour or so after opening, the line will have subsided almost entirely, and you won’t have to wait. Parking, on the other hand, is another matter. The nearby lots fill up extremely quickly, so if you don’t arrive early, be prepared for a bit of walk to the convention center.

You should also buy your tickets in advance online to help shorten your overall wait time.

2. BUY SOMETHING

One of the best things about Midsummer Scream is the huge variety of high-quality vendors in the exhibit hall. Masks, costumes, purses and accessories, comics, amazing sculptures and props are all super cool to look at and completely Instagrammable. But remember: these vendors  aren’t there just for your entertainment. They paid a big chunk of money for their table, and their main goal is to sell. So BUY SOMETHING! Even if all you can afford is a $5 handmade magnet or a $20 t-shirt, plan to buy at least one item from a vendor at the show. Sales are what makes vendors return the next year, so to keep this convention great, budget ahead to spend some cash to support the haunt/horror community.

3. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME AT THE HHN* PANEL

Nothing brings the crowds like the Halloween Horror Nights presentation (which is on Sunday this year). But unless this is your very first time at a SoCal haunt convention or you have a John Murdy poster hanging on your wall that you kiss every night before bed, there’s no real reason to wait in such a crazy long line for this presentation, especially if you’re short on time. Murdy tends to offer the same “behind the scenes” info and stories year after year, so if you’ve attended an HHN panel before, we suggest you skip it and spend your time in the Hall of Shadows or visiting exhibitor booths instead. After all, if a new maze is revealed during the presentation, 100 haunt bloggers will be broadcasting that info live on Twitter within seconds anyway.

But, we do want to note that joining the HHN panel this year will be Mike Aiello from HHN Orlando, which could change things up a bit.

*This advice actually applies to any theme park panel.

4. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE HALL OF SHADOWS

Hall of Shadows Midsummer Scream

Although the Hall of Shadows showcases “mini-haunts,” there’s nothing mini about some of the lines. It can take several hours to see all of the attractions within the space. If you don’t have that kind of time, prioritize the ones you’re most interested in and skip the rest. Also, just because a haunt has a long line doesn’t mean it’s the best.  Long lines typically mean pre-shows or some other feature that causes a bottleneck in queue flow.

But most importantly, be sure to thank the haunt owners/operators for their exhibits! Many of these mini-haunts are from home haunters, not professionals. These haunters have gone above and beyond to bring convention attendees a truly unique and amazing haunt experience. And they didn’t get paid to do it. In fact, it probably cost them a lot of money. We can almost guarantee you they’re frazzled and exhausted from the build. So tell them how great their haunt is and how much you appreciate it.

5. DON’T MISS ZOMBIE JOE

All the cool kids will be at Zombie Joe’s Urban Death. So don’t be uncool. Check out this amazingly creative and creepy show from a great group of performers. Performances are every half hour, so it will be easy to squeeze this into your schedule.

6. BRING THE KIDS

Returning this year is Paranormal Pixie’s Pumpkin Patch, which has crafts, shows, and book readings perfect for the tender lumplings in your family. And kids 10 and under get into the convention for free! However, we do want to warn parents that even though we find the convention to be extremely family friendly, if your kids are very sensitive to monsters or scary images, this convention might not be for them.

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We can’t wait to see what Midsummer Scream 2018 has in store for us! We’ll be covering the event all day Saturday, so be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for pics, videos, and exclusive announcements.

2018 Haunt Season Preview: It’s Gonna Be a BIG Year

Although it’s not officially even summer yet, 2018 haunt news is starting to trickle in. Big reveals are likely to be made closer to the Southern California haunt conventions in July and August, but as haunts start their hiring and building processes, we’re getting some clues about what to expect this year. From major theme parks to new independents, early signs indicate that 2018 is shaping up to be one of the better years in recent memory for haunt goers in SoCal. To keep you in the loop, we’ve gathered some of the rumors and information we’ve learned so far:

Halloween Horror Nights

We’ve already had a couple of official reveals for Halloween Horror Nights mazes.  Stranger Things and Trick r’ Treat are two HUGE intellectual properties to get the maze treatment in both Orlando and Hollywood this year. With a such rabid fans for both of these, creating satisfying experiences is going to be tough, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s HHN. A new scare zone was also announced for Hollywood, called “Holidayz in Hell.” And of course, we’re still curious to see if Michael Myers will return to HHN to coincide with the new Halloween movie released this October.  John Murdy has said there’s not likely to be another maze announcement in June, but there’s usually at least one big reveal at Midsummer Scream (July 28-29). Although we love the movie-based mazes, we keep our fingers crossed every year for an original concept, because those have been some of our favorites over the years (La Llorona, El Cucuy).

Sinister Pointe

The past few years have been a bit tumultuous for Sinister Pointe. We had fun at their off-season Séance and Christmas events, but their 2016 haunt offering seemed like an afterthought and didn’t live up to what these haunt masters are capable of. They were dark in 2017, leaving us worried they might fade away into the fog. That’s why we’re already excited for what they have planned for 2018–although we don’t even know what it will be yet. But they’re promising it will be “the largest Halloween event this side of the Mississippi.” That’s some major hype. All we know for sure so far is that it will be located in Irvine, and scareactor auditions will be held at the end of June.  We expect some sneak peeks at the conventions and will be watching closely for developments.

Horrorworld

Last year’s Into the Black was our favorite haunt  of the year. It was original and (most importantly) very scary, but we were nervous whether it drew enough attendance to make a return in 2018. So we were extremely happy  to hear that Larry Bones is expanding his haunt operation this year with Horrorworld, which is being billed as a “multi-haunt attraction.” The twist with this event is that it looks like each haunt will be run independently, since they were seeking out haunt owners for participation. It will be interesting to see whether the haunts will be matched in caliber and quality, and whether the Into the Black maze returns or is replaced by something new. Although the exact location hasn’t been announced, Asuza was given as the city, and a teaser photo showed what appeared to be an empty grocery store in a strip mall.

Both Horrorworld and Sinister Pointe will have vendor areas, so we wonder how much alike these two events will be overall. Time will tell.

Reign of Terror

ROT typically changes things up a bit each year, but they’re teasing “massive changes” to 2 of their 8 “haunts within a haunt” for 2018. We don’t know which of their attractions will get a makeover, but both Casa Blood and Asylum have been around for a while, so it might be time for a refresh for these. If it were up to us, we would suggest swapping out the Fun House for something a bit darker and more original.  No matter what changes they have planned, this haunt gets better year after year, and it should be on everyone’s must-see list this October.

 

What are you most looking forward to this haunt season? What mazes should stay and what should be replaced? Check back often for the latest news, rumors, and opinion pieces on all things haunt!

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.

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!

Haunt Design: 
Theming: 
Scare Factor:
Overall Rating: 

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:

Overall Rating of Into the Black 2017:

Check our ratings guide for further details

 

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

 

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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