Category: Haunt Reviews (page 1 of 13)

Haunt Review: Halloween Horror Nights (Hollywood) 2018

HHN Hollywood sticks to its formula of cinematic themed mazes with a lineup featuring some of the most popular horror movies and TV series.

For 2018 there’s the unexplained and ghostly phenomenon in the “Stranger Things”, “Poltergeist” and “The Horrors of Blumhouse” mazes. Killers, slashers, and creeps in the “The First Purge”, “Halloween 4”, and “Trick r’ Treat” mazes. You’ll also come face to face with some of horror’s top movie icons in the incredibly fantastic “Universal Monsters” maze. Plus, the tried and true HHN attractions like “The Walking Dead” walk-through attraction, “Terror Tram”, and a few miscellaneous scare zones try their best to also thrill guests.

HHN  is still one of our top Theme Park haunts in SoCal and we continue to rank their mazes highest in overall design, theme, and scare factor. However, the redundancy and predictability are starting to become apparent to those of us who go every year. The pacing and design of all the mazes have become cookie cutter with very little variation in how they’re staged. While there are some great scares, the impact is minimized when the same tactics are used year after year, maze after maze.  This year there also was the increased over reliance on the black curtain transition rooms where a scareactor pops out of the darkness in nearly every maze.

The question we keep asking ourselves as the years go by is how can HHN be further enhanced to raise the bar and stay ahead of the haunt curve, which they’ve set themselves?  Should they remain locked into producing mazes solely tied to movie and TV franchises?

By all means, HHN is still a great time but as the years go on we fear that they may be painting themselves into a bloody corner with limited originality.   We know the team is creative enough to come up with a least a few new tricks every year to keep the HHN experience fresh. Having experienced HHN at Universal Orlando where they have a few unique mazes every year, we think if Hollywood included more original themes into their mix then they would have the perfect collection of mazes in one park. Plus with the successful launch of Warner Bros.’ own studio Haunt right down the street, which owns and now features big horror IPs such as The Conjuring, Pennywise (IT), Freddy, and Jason, Universal will need to do some more updating and diversifying to remain the top ‘final girl’ of Theme Park Haunts.

The overall park experience at HNN is as good as ever. They’ve improved on the operations and the staff was generally helpful. The layout of the park is still unwieldy with the mile-long walk, each way, from the front gate to the mazes at the bottom of the studio lot but we guess there’s no real way they can change that. It would be great if they would open up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section to disperse more of the crowds on the upper lot.

The early entry option is a must for those who purchase general admission as it allows you time to get through all the mazes with significantly reduced wait times. We used it and were able to go through a couple of the mazes twice which was a great bonus.  We wished they had an option where you could buy a one-time one maze front of the line pass. It may not be practical but after getting through all the lower lot mazes and then having to wait over an hour for the upper lot mazes it was something we wished we had at the end of the night.

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

Mazes & Attractions Reviews

Stranger Things

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Haunt Review: The 17th Door Haunted Experience: Crybaby (2018)

Walking up to the 17th Door Haunted Experience, the first thing you’ll notice is the abundance of signage warning you about the attraction. “This is a physically demanding and potentially dangerous attraction,” according to a giant sign on the chain-link fence that surrounds the queue area. “TRIGGER WARNING” shouts another sign, which warns you that you’ll be exposed to sexual assault, infanticide, insects, and small spaces, among other potential horrors. One small relief provided by these signs, however, is that the weapons used inside are only replicas. Phew.

And if that’s not enough, all guests (or victims) must sign a detailed waiver, acknowledging that you could be hurt, shocked with electricity, and even shot with projectiles that may leave welts and bruises.  Oh, and if you die, it’s not their fault.

In reality, these warnings are somewhat truthful, as 17th Door is currently the most extreme haunt in Southern California. But they’re also a clever trick to help amp up the anxiety and anticipation as you wait in line. While we do think 17th Door is suited for more advanced haunt stalkers or those looking for a more physical thrill experience, rather than first-time haunt visitors, overall, it’s not too extreme and can be handled by most people.

Here’s our review of 17th Door’s 2018 incarnation: Crybaby.

Location and Backstory

This year, 17th Door takes up residence in the back of a strip mall, which was actually the location of Sinister Pointe in 2016. This year’s story once again centers on Paula, the hapless young woman who was a raped and then found herself pregnant with a baby she didn’t want to, and couldn’t, care for.  Paula murdered her infant and is now locked up at Perpetuum Penitentiary, where the poor conditions have caused her to sink further into desperate madness as she sits on Death Row. As a new inmate of the penitentiary, you’ll get a first-hand look into Paula’s hell and experience it along with her.

In our opinion, Paula’s story is the most depressing we’ve ever encountered in the haunt world. Although the attraction paints her as “evil” and “perverse,” it’s hard not to feel bad for Paula, who seems to have fallen into her situation undeservedly. Not to mention the fact that the story also features a dead baby, whose face pops up continuously throughout the experience. We’re generally not that sensitive to topics of haunts and feel that almost nothing is really off limits when it comes to haunts, but the backstory here is so miserable that it actually makes the attraction less “scary.” However, it is effective in making you care about Paula as a character, which adds surprising bit of empathetic nuance to such an “extreme” experience.

The Experience

The first scene was (appropriately) the admissions room of the prison. We were given the rules and manhandled by some very good actors.  The attraction supposedly has 17 rooms, and hence 17 doors to go through (but we saw a door numbered “18,” but who’s counting?). Small groups go through the attraction room by room, and each scene is appropriately timed, with doors that can’t be opened until a green light goes on.

As we made our way through the attraction, we interacted with guards, (nearly naked) inmates, prison psychiatrists, and of course, Paula herself.  Paula, who isn’t adjusting well to prison life, carries a small doll that represents her dead son, Lincoln. We see her attempts at art therapy, which turns into a psychotic gallery when the lights go out. Other stand-out rooms include a putrid bathroom, an execution chamber complete with electric chair, the guard’s locker room, and the firing squad gallery.

Nearly every room had its own mini-story,  complete with either a scare or some kind of physical interaction. Despite the large number of rooms and characters, the scenes managed to adhere to the overall story very well. Although prison settings are nothing new in haunted attractions, 17th Door has made Perpetuum Penitentiary a fully immersive experience. We were impressed with the level of set detailing in each room, as well as with the variety of lighting, sound, and fog effects that seemed perfectly timed.

Although we don’t want to give away any of the big surprises, we will let you know about some of the “physically demanding” aspects of the attraction. First of all, if you have serious claustrophobia, this attraction is not for you. There are several moments that require squeezing into small, dark spaces. (However, if you’re a larger guest, don’t worry–they can accommodate you.) There is some mild electricity as well. However, the “surprise” of it is probably worse than the actual shock. They also warn you about insects, but we didn’t see any live insects in the attraction. There was a single scene in which an actor appeared to be throwing insects on guests, but it was dark and we couldn’t see what the objects actually were.

Is 17th Door Actually Scary?

As we drove to 17th Door, we actually found ourselves feeling a bit of dread. Not because we were scared, but because we weren’t exactly looking forward to being physically tortured. We’re actually not fans of extreme haunts. MacKamey Manor, Blackout, Alone–we don’t really consider these to be haunts. But 17th Door straddles the line in a very smart way. Their detailed sets rival some of the best haunts, and they do throw in a good number of jump scares to relieve the tension and elicit some laughs throughout. But the main draw is the physical stunts. Shocks, falls, pushing, getting “shot” at– you can’t do these things at just any haunt. But at the same time, we don’t find these things to be scary. exaxctly  But for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary and want to push their boundaries a bit, The 17th Door is perfect.

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17th Door Crybaby Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

  

Overall Rating of 17th Door 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

17th Door is open through October 31. Tickets are now on sale 

17th Door also offers a VR experience for an extra charge ($13), which we did check out.

Haunt Review: Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place

In the crowded Southern California haunted attraction industry, many haunts come and go from year to year. Besides the old stand-bys of the big theme park events (like Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm), there’s really only one other name that’s synonymous with Halloween in SoCal : Sinister Pointe. They’ve  earned their well-deserved reputation for haunts that are not only very innovative and original, but also truly scary. They’ve also boldly carried out completely new concepts in the haunt space, such as “Dark Markets,” Christmas-themed events, horror-themed parties, spirit lounges, and even a seance show that we loved.

Unfortunately, things seemed a little bumpy for Sinister Pointe over the past couple of years. In 2016, we were disappointed with their Halloween event, which felt put together at the last minute, and we didn’t feel it was up to their own (admittedly high) standards. With no walk-through attraction in 2017, we worried about their future. So when news surfaced this year that they’d be back, and bigger than ever, we put Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place at the top of our most-anticipated haunts list.

For 2018, Sinister Pointe has taken over three levels in an abandoned Macy’s in the Laguna Hills Mall. The event includes three haunted attractions (two walk-through mazes and one dark ride) as well as two scare zones. There are also vendors selling a wide range of horror-themed products, plus food trucks.

Mazes

Phobias

This interactive maze takes victims through representations of common fears and phobias. Each room is a stand-alone scene of a specific fear, and includes things such as dentist’s office, crematory,  a room full of exposed wires, and clowns. To get through the scene, your group will have to face their fears and push buttons, sit in the dentist chair, crawl through an oven, and so on. Our group was split up during this maze and we ended up going through alone during the second half, although this didn’t seem to be the case for everyone. Overall, this maze harkens back to Sinister Pointe’s previous attractions, such as SAW and Fear, but we felt that the scares were milder in comparison. Overall, this was a fun maze with a few good surprises and some really good actors. A solid return of Sinister Pointe’s trademark interactivity.

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Evil on 2

This maze tells the story of a creepy hotel. It started with us being led through the storage room, where we boarded a freight elevator helmed by a demented bellhop, who warned us about the evils on the hotel’s second floor. This was a great use of Macy’s actual freight lift, which was actually creepy enough that it didn’t even need extra lights or music to set the sinister tone. Upon exiting the elevator, we made our way through an abandoned hotel dining room and then through the halls of the evil hotel itself. The sets here were well designed, and we truly felt like we were snaking our way through hotel hallways and rooms. This maze used a good combination of static props and actors, and the effective lighting was distracting enough that it was sometimes hard to tell whether an actor was real or a prop. However, after a while, the scenes became a bit repetitive. The monotony was broken up by a security guard scene and a “behind the walls” path that made things interesting. Overall, though, we felt that a bit more variety in the maze would’ve livened things up a bit.

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The Boogeyman Express

Boogeyman Express is where Sinister Pointe gets truly interesting this year. Once again shattering expectations of what can be done in a haunt, SP has devised a completely unique haunted attraction they bill as a “dark ride.” The entire ride is hidden on the third floor, and you won’t have any idea what to expect before you actually board the vehicle.

This ride takes groups of 4 in a mine car, which is pulled behind a small golf cart-like vehicle. A tour guide takes you through a small town that has been overtaken by an evil presence. The scenes are highly varied, ranging from an old mansion, to a church, to a mine shaft, but the backstory is well crafted and the settings flow together. There are some good scares in here, and the mine car moves along at a good speed (sometimes even surprisingly fast!). We were actually blown away by the fact that this ride achieved a truly spooky feeling on the third floor of a department store.

Boogeyman Express was the true standout of the night, and the long lines reflected that. If you purchase general admission, you will need to obtain a timed ticket for this attraction and be prepared for a long wait. But it’s definitely worth it, and this attraction is not to be missed.

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Other Attractions

In addition to the mazes and dark ride, Scary Place also includes some really cool vendors and games, including a mini escape room (only $1!). A stage near the back of the space showcases live bands and magic shows. There are also plenty of free photo ops (including a free photo station). Two scare zones are fun to wander through while taking photos and videos. Roaming scareactors entertain the crowds and pose for photos.

Sinister Pointe has done a great job creating an atmosphere that makes you want to hang out. We attended on a Saturday night, and although the lines for the mazes were somewhat long (but not crazy), the overall space itself was large enough that it didn’t feel crowded at all. It had a great laid-back, fun vibe. We can’t help but compare Scary Place with HorrorWorld, which is also located in a mall and includes multiple attractions and vendors. While we loved HorrorWorld’s Into the Black attraction, we think Scary Place has the edge in being the event we wanted to spend more time at. We definitely recommend a visit to Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place this year.

We recommend purchasing the all-night VIP pass if possible. You’ll definitely want to go through the mazes and dark ride more than once. It will also help you avoid the long line for Boogeyman Express.

Sinister Point’s Scary Place Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

 

Overall Rating of Sinister Pointe 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place is open Thursdays through Sundays as well as October 31. Tickets are now on sale 

Be sure to check Groupon for daily deals.

HAUNT REVIEW: Warner Bros.’Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights’

Are You Ready To Face Your Fears?

(PRNewsfoto/Warner Bros. Studio Tour)

For a few years in a row, Warner Bros. Studios has been hosting a smaller scale Halloween event on select nights in October using their archive of classic and modern horror movie properties. This year they’re ripping off the little kid’s arm and throwing their bloody clawed glove into the ring with a bigger multi-night Halloween event.  We love that they’re making the commitment to present a new haunt event in Southern California and from the preview night, it’s clear to us that Universal Studios (HHN) is no longer the only haunted movie studio in Hollywood.

“We’re not just a scare factory or a haunted house – as the creator of legendary horror films, what better way to celebrate Halloween than with a party on the Warner Bros. backlot? We’re thrilled to welcome guests who are ready to brave their deepest nightmares,” said Gary Soloff, Director of Marketing, WBSTH. “Due to the overwhelming demand from last year’s event, we’ve extended our nights and hours and made this year’s festival, night tour, and mazes bigger, better, and scarier, so our guests can expect more pulse-pounding terror than ever before.”

As with any new major haunt event, there definitely is room for improvement. Over this haunt season, they will have to climb the learning curve to smooth out some of the event’s operations, staff training, and scare actor presence. Given that the WB Studios doesn’t have the infrastructure of a major theme park they’ve done an incredible job at converting their studio backlot into an intimate small-town style Halloween festival. You really feel as though you’re walking through the streets of Derry Maine, Springwood Ohio, or Monroe Connecticut. Off to an impressive start, WB has successfully created an adult-focused Halloween event that we feel is best suited for more mature haunt fans who are either tired of the chaotic HHN experience, seek a nostalgic horror movie experience, or just want more haunts to go to.

Mazes & Experiences 

IT Knows What Scares You

Horror Made Here: IT

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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.

HAUNT REVIEW: DARK HARBOR 2018

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor charts a course to scare and delight visitors with 6 mazes,  secret bars, and plenty of sideshows and attractions.

With no new mazes this year, Dark Harbor shifts its focus to revamping previous mazes and highlighting its sideshow offerings such as acrobatic performances, carnival rides, and enhanced bar options. While it may be a little unfair to compare the design and theming to other SoCal attractions like HHN, Dark Harbor continues to be a formidable Halloween Haunt thanks to the extremely dedicated scareactors and the naturally creepy aura of the Queen Mary ship. All the mazes benefit from the location and while some may rely a little too heavily on that, they all have unique elements whether it be climbing up ropes, going down slides, or crawling through some of the ship’s passageways.

We recommend that you consider purchasing the “Fast Fright” ticket, as wait times ranged from 60 – 90 minutes during peak hours. All in all, for its affordable price point, the number of mazes, and unique experiences, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is a fun date/friends night out at a haunt worth cruising through.

 

Mazes

LULLABY

It has been long rumored that Mary, the little girl who drowned in the Queen Mary First Class Swimming Pool in 1952, has haunted the dark corners of the luxury liner since her untimely demise. Many experts theorize the haunting derives from Mary’s spirit attaching itself to the little girl’s stuffed toy bear. Perhaps the bear holds the gloomy secrets behind the wicked ghost of Scary Mary and why she still sings her eternal Lullaby.

Our night began at Lullaby, which I can truly say lived up to its name, as the spirit of Scary Mary put me in an eternal sleep. The first section of the maze gives hope that Lullaby will be creepy, as guests have to crawl through a small corridor, which leads to a room pumped with fog and LED lighting, to mimic a swimming pool. This effect was a great tool for scare actors to crawl and jump up at you while you maneuver around the room. But pretty quickly the maze disappoints as guests end up walking down long narrow hallways with sparse actors and predictable scares. Another reason this maze was a letdown, was because the overall story was hard to grab onto. For example, Mary’s teddy bear was supposed to be a big plot point, but there was never any mention of it, and instead, there is an actor dressed up as a monkey following you during parts of the maze. Eventually, you end up exiting to one of Dark Harbor’s secret bars, which makes you wonder if Scary Mary had a fake ID?

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B340

A series of inhuman crimes tormented the Queen Mary passengers during a routine cross-Atlantic voyage in October of 1948. Follow the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the evil truth behind one of the most notorious criminals to ever invade the luxury liner: Samuel the Savage.

Samuel the Savage continues to haunt the Queen Mary and invites guests to enter a well designed and scary journey to discover the fates of his victims. B340 utilized the various victims, such as distorted demons, nuns, and crewmates to give each room a distinct theme. Similar to the other mazes, B340 also had long narrow hallways but managed to still have unique scares, such as actors hanging from the ceilings. Keep a close eye at the beginning for a trap door that leads to a secret bar with a two-way mirror where you can scare other guests.

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FEAST

Chop-chop! It’s time to report for duty as the new line cook on board the world famous Queen Mary. However, all is not what it seems as the kitchens have gone dark and the smell of rank, rotting meat fills the air. From dinner service to the kitchens, the angry spirit of an evil Chef washes back from a watery grave to serve the high-class Queen Mary passengers of 1948. Face the souls of poisoned travelers, gruesome ship staff and of course, the horrific Chef now serving the living to the dead. Let The Feast begin.

For a maze with an overall fun theme of a haunted kitchen, and a cool central character in The Chef, we were disappointed that Feast didn’t take advantage of its potential. While Queen Mary tried to design the maze to feel like a gruesome kitchen, with hanging meat bags, cooking machinery, and a walk-in oven, it was hard not to notice that the maze was actually located in the engineering section of the ship – not quite the proper setting for a “dinner service gone wrong.” Strangely, there was no foul smell anywhere in the maze – which could have been used to create an unsettling environment. Finally, the maze had an awkward ending, with guests having to climb down 3 different flights of stairs, before going through the last room with a single unthreatening character. This is where The Chef could have been utilized, by including him in a big final scare. Also, why not a secret bar in the kitchen themed maze?

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CIRCUS

It’s the night before a dust-covered, rickety old circus opens to the public. Sneak beyond the curtains to unveil the horrors lurking within the shadows of the big top. Hosting a menagerie of monsters and sinister creatures, the one and only Ringmaster returns with unadulterated and unbelievable horrors for all who step inside Circus!

Circus has a unique twist on a classic theme, by showcasing a grim “behind the scenes” look at Circus life. Guests pass through rooms filled with scare actors that are dressed like drunken and tired carnival workers. This maze housed one of the most effective scares of the night, by utilizing a trapeze artist (so don’t forget to look up). However, despite this, the maze overall was lacking on the number of scares. It felt more like you were walking around and enjoying the fun elements such as the vertigo tunnel and mirror maze instead of being scared. All in all, the colorful setting and costumes make it a fun contrast with the dreary elements of Dark Harbor. PS: When you get to the ball pit room, look for a side door that takes you to the next secret bar.

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INTREPID

All Aboard! The Ghost Train Waits…A phantom coach forces the Queen Mary’s original shipbuilder to relive his wicked wrongdoings to shipyard mates, Scottish brethren and plagued family that led to the Iron Hell his soul rots away in. Follow the spine-chilling path to an evil sea witch where a deadly pact was made spawning the horrific half-metal, half-creature known as the Iron Master.

Upon entering the maze, Intrepid grabs your attention thanks to a frightful train car scare, and an awesome exterior setting of Edinburgh Station with falling snow. However, you quickly forget that this maze is supposed to be about going on a ghost train with the Iron Master and learning about his cursed construction of the Queen Mary. Makes you wonder if you missed the train and got left behind. The rest of the maze is filled with hallways covered in rope and mechanical parts, a room with fog/lighting effects to create a body of water like the Lullaby, and characters dressed in raven beaks. These elements seemed better suited for a shipwreck-themed maze. Overall, while the maze had some good scares, it was hard to follow the story of the Iron Master and felt half-finished.

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DEADRISE

The Grey Ghost rises once again, set out on its annual ghastly voyage damned to its eternal battle on the living. With the fearless captain at the helm, guests will walk among the rusted carcass of the Grey Ghost as its full steam ahead into the flames of war. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the ships warpath may either salute the captain or like an anchor, sink to the depths of the watery tombs.

Deadrise is a needed break from the typical walk the same path maze, thanks to its “choose your own adventure” layout. Be prepared to crawl, climb, and go down slides at different parts of this maze. And don’t be discouraged if you end up getting lost, as this maze relies on confusing guests so they are disoriented and easily scared. Deadrise is simple enough with its setup and backstory but is one of the best mazes at Dark Harbor thanks to a great group of actors, and the physical components of getting through the experience.

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Queen Mary”s Dark Harbor continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General Admission ticket prices start at just $20 online with optional limited upgrades to Fast Fright, Evil Express, VIP, Ultimate Scream, Creepy Cabanas, and Private Patios (available while supplies last). For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

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Overall Rating:

Check our ratings guide for further details

HAUNT REVIEW: Knott’s Scary Farm 2018

Knott’s Scary Farm sincerely carries on traditions for it’s 2018  Halloween Haunt. With two new mazes, returning popular mazes, and shows Knott’s will get (keep) you in the Halloween spirit all night long.

We do our best not to spoil the mazes for those who’ve yet to experience them, so we won’t provide scare-by-scare reviews, but we will share highlights and our overall opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

New Mazes and Attractions

THE DEPTHS

A heavy fog drapes over an abandoned port village where ancient creatures lurk inside the pitch-black underground caves hidden below the seaside shores. The Nightwatch Mining Crew has mysteriously disappeared and village rumors point to the eerie tunnels the town sits upon. Myths of the terrifying horrors that lurk within the cave have often been whispered but never confirmed.  Did the crew meet their demise at the hand of vicious creatures that live within the cave? Journey into the ominous caverns and follow the crew’s path into The Depths, discover if the superstition revolving around the cave is true or not. But be warned! All who have entered have never resurfaced.

The Depths is another visually invigorating maze added to this year’s lineup. Similarly to mazes like Shadowlands and Dark Ride, this maze has a very distinct theme that we’ve never seen anywhere else showcasing some stunning scenes, effects, and set pieces. There are also some distinct scares such as a scene with sea creatures jumping out from below the surface of the water as you’re descending underwater, which is effectively pulled off with low lying fog and laser light effects. There’s also massive Kraken monster that rocks the hull of the ship back and forth as you make your way through. One of the final scares features a giant zombified shark whose sharp teeth and jaws get terrifyingly close as you try to pass. The story is a little hard to follow as you somehow start off in a mineshaft going through the barracks of some ill-fated miners and then end up underwater. Nonetheless, we liked this maze and think it’s a solid new entry to the Scary Farm line-up.

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DARK ENTITIES

Teleport beyond earth and into a realm where the darkness is absolute. In the depths of space, a lone station faces terror beyond all imagination. An extraterrestrial mutation has invaded the station, and it’s on the prowl for new hosts. The unearthly inhabitants’ force increases as it feeds on its unwilling victims. Escape the dark entities before its deathly force eliminates all living form aboard the station. There’s nowhere to escape when time is running out!

This maze has so much potential that it never lives up to. Perhaps we went through at the wrong time but there were hardly any monsters or scares inside. The attempted scares it did have were all the predictable “monster around the corner” type. The settings and props were fun and interesting, reminding us of the old school maze Alien Attack (which was far scarier). This maze would be so much more with better lighting, scare timing, and the monster talent. Dark Entities disappointingly failed to make any significant impact and really needs some reworking to make it something worthwhile. They get a solid ‘B’ for effort but it falls far below average for the execution.

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Returning Mazes

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URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR: Haunted Theatre Attraction! Returns for the 2018 Haunt Season.

Our favorite theatrical haunters Zombie Joe and company return for a 6th season of shock and delight with their fun n’ freaky twist on the haunted house.

2017 SZ Haunt Review

Coming off of a critically acclaimed, sell-out run at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the largest performing arts festival in the world — Urban Death returns to their North Hollywood home to once again unleash their monsters upon the world.

“This has been an amazing year for Urban Death,” says Zombie Joe. “We have spread our wings overseas and are now looking forward to returning home with a big sloppy ‘thank you’ kiss to our beloved fan base with our kick-ass haunted house. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been brewing up for your screaming pleasure!”

Created by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer, Urban Death first shocked audiences in 2005, revealing our deepest fears through a series of wordless, non-linear vignettes and intense physical performances.  URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR: Haunted Theatre Attraction! is bold, terrifying, and entirely unique. You are advised to purchase tickets early as this event consistently sells out.

Don’t come alone.

WARNING: Graphic content, trigger warnings, and full nudity.

(Now you really want to go, don’t ya? )

Social Media:  @urbandeath_zju [Instagram] [Twitter] https://www.facebook.com/UrbanDeathZJU/

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

HAUNT REVIEW: Into the Black

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

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

The VR Experience

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

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The Haunted House

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

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

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

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

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Final Thoughts

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

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

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

 

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Check our ratings guide for further details

 

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