Author: Kendra (page 1 of 22)

Terror Tips: Maximizing Your Haunt Experience

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 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 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 Rulesdsc_0023_6

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 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.

Happy Screaming!

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.

Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain Returns With New Scares

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.

Returning Mazes

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. 

Willoughby’s Resurrected

The Willoughby’s Family mansion tale unfolds before your eyes at this once affluent Victorian mansion that has become a haven for evil.

Vault 666

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.

Chupacabra

Come face to face with this elusive blood-thirsty creature as it terrorizes a local Dia de Los Muertos festival.

Red’s Revenge

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

Exile Hill

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.

TERRORtory Twisted

Steam-spewing mechanical beasts relentlessly hunt down their victims.

Demon’s Door

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 the website for more info.

Drunken Devil Presents “Curse of the Jungle Drums”

A couple years ago, Drunken Devil made 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 like HorrorBuzz.

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.

2016: A Haunt Year in Review

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 Hill returned 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’s returned 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.

Happy New Year!

There’s a CHILL in the air….

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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 of Dark 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.

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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.

Haunt Review 2016: Creep LA

creepla-logo

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.

SUMMARY

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.

Ratings

Haunt Design:  5-skulls 

  Theming: 4-5-skulls

Scare Factor: 4-skulls   

Fright Value: 4-5-skulls

Overall Rating: 

4-5-skulls

Haunt Review 2016: Motel 6 Feet Under

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.

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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.

SUMMARY

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.

Ratings

Haunt Design: 3-5-skulls    Theming: 3-25-skulls

Scare Factor: 3-skulls           Fright Value: 3-5-skulls

Overall Rating: 

3-5-skulls

Haunt Review 2016: The 17th Door Haunted Experience

17th-door

Last year, the talk of the Southern California haunt community was the 17th Door in Tustin. At the time, we were intrigued, but our packed haunt schedule in 2015 didn’t leave us time to visit the haunt during its inaugural year. And, in full disclosure, we’re typically not fans of the “extreme haunt” experience, so we didn’t make it a priority. But after great word of mouth, we put this one near the top of our to-do list for 2016.

And we’re sure glad we did.

About the Experience

The 17th Door promotes itself as providing “psychological terror,” and although many people have described it as “extreme,” after experiencing it, we wouldn’t put it in the same category as Blackout or McKamey Manor. We found the 17th Door to be a great mix of a traditional haunt, theatrical haunt, and an extreme haunt experience.  And for those who might be “extreme haunt curious,” the 17th Door could be a great choice.

Despite its location in a homogeneous, boring mall (typical for Orange County), once inside the 17th  Door, everything is elaborately themed. Even the ticketing/queue area is impressively decorated, and victims should remain on their toes because some of the most unsuspected scares may happen before you even get your hand stamped. The haunt does make all customers sign a waiver. Be sure to read it thoroughly to get a preview of what themes and experiences may await you, and some of the subject matter could be disturbing to sensitive people, such as depictions (implied, not graphic) of child sexual abuse, abortion, and infanticide.

The back story of the haunt is a continuation from last year. Our heroine Paula has survived the mental hospital and is back in school at Gluttire University, where she finds herself unfortunately pregnant by her abusive boyfriend.

The haunt is structured such that each room is its own individual experience. You must remain in the room until the light above the door (17 of them) turns green before you can move on. We were particularly  impressed by the fact that each room is very unique but also serves the overall story. Some rooms are simple and involve a typical haunt “boo” scare, whereas others are elaborate setups involving the actors playing out a scene to tell the story or lead into a scare. Other rooms–the most “extreme” ones, obviously–require guests to perform some task before moving on. Some may be easy, some uncomfortable, and still others might be completely unbearable depending on what you’re afraid of.

There’s always the option of yelling “Mercy!” to get out of a performing a task, but we definitely recommend that you push yourself and try to do as much as possible. We don’t want to spoil too much, but we will say that there are a few instances of electric shock, which is probably the worst thing we experienced in the haunt. You won’t have to eat any bugs or have any bugs put on you. You  might have to touch some gross stuff, including butchered animals. You might get sprayed with water or have water lightly spit on you. But most of it was pretty tolerable. The actors will touch the guests, but it was mild and infrequent.

The Haunt

17thdoor

Your journey begins as a psychiatrist discharges you from the mental ward and releases you to the real world and Gluttire University. At least, we think that’s what happened. Our memory may have been erased! The first scene is an excellent introduction to the haunt, and the scares in this room are brilliantly used to set the level of fear for all the guests. We were instantly put on edge, and that feeling remained with us throughout the experience.

We progressed through various scenes, but we won’t describe them all here to avoid spoilers. But some standouts included a disgusting bathroom, a mini escape room experience, the outside of a fraternity house, a laboratory of insects, a McDonald’s “Play Place,” Paula’s dorm room, and the labor and delivery ward. Each room is fully immersive, and the scares and “tasks” build as you progress through the experience. The actors are also some of the best we’ve seen. They did a great job deciding on the fly who would be the best person in the group to pick on in a particular room, and they would also back off that person if they refused to participate, seamlessly moving on to the next “victim.” The actors at 17th Door have a particularly challenging task in striking the balance between psychological terror and fun, and they achieved it easily.

Summary

We loved 17th Door for its great mixture of experiences. It is definitely a step up from the traditional haunted house in terms extreme elements, but we think most of our haunt stalkers would be up for the challenge. If you’re bored of the “monster around the corner” type of scare, you should definitely visit 17th Door to see what the hype is about. It is definitely one of the best themed, unique, and fun haunts in Southern California right now.

Our Ratings

Haunt Design:  5-skulls

Theming:  4-skulls

Scare Factor:  4-skulls

Fright Value:  4-5-skulls

Overall Rating:

4-25-skulls

Choose Your Fate in an All-New Experience at Sinister Pointe

It’s almost the weekend, so that means it’s time to preview a couple more haunted attractions! This weekend, Scare Zone is headed out to Orange County to experience a few of the excellent stand-alone haunts the region has to offer. Of course, the top of our list includes Sinister Pointe, one of the best and most highly rated attractions in all of California.

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As usual, SP is breaking new ground and going beyond the usual conga-line template used by a lot of the bigger haunts. Instead, this year victims will choose their own fate among four different paths in the maze:

Sinister Pointe has opened a portal between our world and the next. Upon multiple experimentations, we have discovered four separate dimensions within this dark and vast oblivion. Enter this world cautiously for the BRANDER lurks beyond the walls. If you are caught in his grasp, you WILL BE MARKED. Once marked, there is no escape! Your path through this dark and decrepit world has been chosen for you. Stray from your chosen path and you will be banished from the world we know for eternity.

We got a small taste of the new maze at Midsummer Scream this year, and we were impressed with some of the dark, demonic imagery.

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Sinister Pointe is known for being “interactive,” and this year looks to be no exception:

Sinister Pointe Haunted Attraction contains interactive elements that may include contact with Ouija boards, tarot cards, crawling, total darkness, tight spaces, and possible moments of being alone. 

If you want to be able to experience all paths of the maze, SP is offering an “all-night” ticket so that you can go through the maze over and over.

We’ll also be checking out 17th Door and Motel 6 Feet Under, so be sure to follow us on Twitter for live updates and photos/videos!

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