Archive for the ‘Haunt Reviews’ Category

Haunt Review – NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

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Last year, we took our first trip to New York’s NIGHTMARE and experienced Killers 2. We found it be a fun and scary trip through a state-of-the art haunted attraction showcasing some of the most notorious real-life killers in American history. NIGHTMARE also topped our 2013 rankings as ‘Most Unique Haunt Experience’ and “Best Scare-Actors/Monsters” earning our top rating of 5 skulls.

IMG_0556This year marks the the 11th season of New York’s NIGHTMARE haunted house and they’ve brought   to life the urban legends and horror stories of NYC’s history with NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK. While there’s not a cohesive storyline, the journey through the haunted house takes ‘victims’ through a horrific timeline spanning from the time when the island was called Manahatta to Cropsey, Gargoyles, alligators in the subways and to new legends of the super rats created by Hurricane Sandy. NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK sets out to remind us that some of the greatest nightmares are in our own backyard.

While their effort continuous to be ambitious we found this year’s NIGHTMARE not to be nearly as frightening as last year’s. There’s a few reasons why we think this is case. First, just like the fast pace of living in New York city, they’re running the groups through the maze rather quickly. This prevented many of the scenes from having the build up and suspense that made Killers so unnerving. The scare-actors also weren’t as convincing with some over performing and others playing it too nonchalant. There also was a section where you get kidnapped by some thugs and have hood placed over your head. They then tell you to grab rope and blindly follow it down a path. The unfortunate thing is after repeatedly bumping into the person in front of you a couple of times you get to the end of the rope and they take the hood off; no scare or surprises just a 1 min walk with a hood on your head. We were most scared of how many people have had the hoods on their head before us (ebola!). It felt as if NIGHTMARE was just a light version of the extreme haunts such as Blackout.

There are a few cool scenes that provided a few good scares and laughs from our group. One being the subway where we encounter a psycho wielding a gun. Another scene we’re in a dark apartment and as the lights flash on and off different ghosts and maniacs would appear with us in the room. The giant alligator lurking in the sewer also gave us all good surprise.

At $30+, the price point for NIGHTMARE is pretty high given that it’s really just one maze providing a 12 minute experience. There are some deals online and for students which we highly suggest you take advantage of to get the most value out of your experience.

We still like NIGHTMARE and will give it a chance in another year but unfortunately this year’s theme just didn’t live up to the experience we had last year. Hopefully, they’ll find some more imaginative things to scare us with in the coming year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls
  • Fright Value: 1.5 skulls

Overall Rating for NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK: 2.5 skulls

 

About Our Rating System
Scare Zone rates attractions using a scale of 1 to 5 skulls:

5 skulls is exceptional/intense scares
4 skulls is exciting/numerous scares
3 skulls is interesting/a few decent scares
2 skulls is fair/minimal scares
1 skull is weak/no scares

Haunt Review: Knott’s Scary Farm 2014

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

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In our 22 years of going to Knott”s Scary Farm we have never seen as many highly crafted mazes as we did this year. The quality of the theming and the technical design of all the mazes finally (re)solidifies Knott’s as a player in the modern world of theme park haunts. Knott’s team of scare designers, Brooke Walters and Daniel Miller, have sliced up some wickedly interesting and unsettling themes this year as the new additions of Voodoo and The Tooth Fairy feature some of the best thematic environments and storytelling in Scary Farm’s 42 year history.

On the flip side, the quality of the performances of the monsters inside the mazes still doesn’t match the quality of the construction. Yes, there were a few mazes that had some great talent who delivered some big scares and performed cohesively with the environments such as The Tooth Fairy, Pinocchio and Trick-Or-Treat. Disappointingly, in some of the other mazes, we encountered lackadaisical ghouls with bad timing or the mazes were  simply understaffed. It’s likely that the scares are hit or miss depending on when one goes into a maze but now that they have the design process locked in it’s time for them to invest in the talent to keep the scares more consistent. This has been a criticism we’ve shared in recent years.

IMG_0264Another element of disappointment is the conservative nature of the current park management who has decided it’s best to hide the haunt as much as possible, which has resulted in some very sparsely decorated scare zones and a diminished feeling of Halloween around the park. Hiding haunt is like Elvira hiding her boobs – people want to see them! Even Disneyland seems to have more spooky decor. If anything they should recognize that after 42 years the general public expects the park to go all out with haunt decorating and those who may be too sensitive during their daytime visits should just be advised not to visit during these months and wait for “Merry Farm”. We know that this “sensitive” population is very insignificant in size especially in comparison to the crowds and revenues brought in by the Haunt goers. Nonetheless, Ghost Town still dominates as one of the hands down best scare zones anywhere with it’s foggy coated streets, skeletons, and other halloween props.

Okay, enough of our pontificating. Here’s what you really want to read, our maze ratings. This year we decided it’s best save some money so we didn’t buy the Skeleton Key room option and skipped Trapped (we hear it improved after last year’s disastrous presentation).

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

Voodoo

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This year Knott’s said it was doing something new but the Voodoo theme isn’t new or unique, in fact Knott’s had the voodoo themed Blood Bayou maze running for many years in the not so distant past. A few of the other local haunts also have had their own voodoo mazes. However, what makes Knott’s Voodoo stand out is the level of detail they’ve put into the design of this maze. This is a maze that even the folks at Universal could be envious of. The awe begins with the outside facade that replicates a mansion from New Orleans’ French Quarter. The craftsmanship placed into building this set piece is impressive as it looks like they transplanted one of the buildings over from New Orleans Square in Disneyland.

Once, you step into the ‘side alley’ you are then faced with another new element of choosing a path. We were disappointed that we couldn’t pick our way as the maze blackouts were insistent on directing people, which took away from the fun. The path we did take lead us through some interesting and spooky scenes starting inside a voodoo shop, then leading out to some cabins on the edge of the bayou, before ending deep inside the swamp. These environments were accented with music that transitioned from jazzy to banjo music as we went deeper into the swamp. Everything in here looked great from the lighting to the prop pieces but the for some reason the scares were sparse, which is something we felt about most of the mazes. They did employ one of Universal’s favorite scare tactics of using stunning sounds and lights to accent some of the scares but that wasn’t enough to sustain our auras of foreboding. Given how great this maze looked we hope that they can improve the level of fright imposed by the possessed voodoo priestess and swamp zombies.

*Video from ThemeParkHD – YouTube
Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

The Tooth Fairy

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This maze was imaginative, unique, grotesque, and scary. This was the first dental themed maze we’ve seen and it reminded us a little bit of the movie Darkness Falls (but scarier). The Tooth Fairy takes over the former residence of Delirium with the beginning of the maze borrowing a lot of scenes and props from the former. The story begins with scenes of children loosing their teeth and once the Tooth Fairy arrives to collect their denture gems, we end up following it deep down inside the nightmarish abyss of a dental torture chamber. The journey to the tooth fairy’s lair is accomplished with an unnerving walk through a dark passageway lined with furry walls.

With some similarity to cannibal and chainsaw mazes; the Tooth Fairy’s lair depicts scenes of depraved root canals, blood soaked coins, monstrous dental apparatus, and deranged nurses. Sounds of drills unnervingly play throughout the maze accompanied by the non-stop screams of patients. What we liked most was how the maze felt as if it was taking us farther and farther away from safety with no chances of getting back. The talent here was aggressive with good timing popping out of some unexpected places. It’s also easy to get distracted by the interesting scenes allowing the the Tooth Fairy and its minions plenty of opportunities to catch you by surprise. This is a maze we can’t wait to experience again. The only downside is that you have to go through Dominion of the Dammed first as these two mazes are connect to each other… talk about dead weight.

*Video from ThemeParkHD – YouTube

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 Skulls

Special Ops: Infected

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Knott’s joins the trend of zombie hunting experiences with Special Ops. This attraction covers the Camp Snoopy section of the park making it rather expansive but we’re just not certain if it’s a good use of space. We applaud their effort to create new and innovative experiences but the overall execution falls short of being anything exceptional and it was actually somewhat corny. The group experience also prevented it from having many scares. The story is simple as we’re recruits of a special military troop who are armed with (laser tag) guns and have to navigate to safety through a zombie infested area. There’s some fun effects and scenes but not a lot of opportunity for everyone to fully engage, especially if you get stuck in the back of the group. In addition, there aren’t enough zombies for people to shoot. After all the hassle there’ also no kind of prize or reward at the end making it very anti-climatic. This maze requires an appointment and it’s best to get your time pass as soon as you arrive in order to get a time you desire. There’s a standby line but we’re not sure how that process is. We think that Special Ops was a nice try but the space can be better used as a scare zone and a couple of mazes.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 Skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

RETURNING MAZES

Black Magic

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Last year we were amazed by the detailed themeing and settings they created around this story. Using magic as backdrop for a maze provides for continuous surprises throughout as there’s more than rabbits popping out of hats inside of here. Unlike last year, sadly this year’s talent was not very magical nor scary as it seemed that most of them had disappeared when we went through. There were a few scary magician’s assistants, victims of tricks gone bad, and an actual magician who did a quick card or handkerchief trick as you passed by. Design wise, this maze had some very interesting set ups such as the water chamber and burning stage (which was sans the flying Houdini when we went through). They also have fantastic lighting effects inside of this maze that create the perfect transitions from light and dark scenes allowing for some good opportuntites for scares (if they were there) as your eyes adjusted. The digital projection on outside of the maze definitely took the facade to the next level  and was entertaining to watch as we waited to go inside. If we had time, we would of gone through this maze twice to make sure we were able to capture back some of Black Magic inside of this maze, but no such luck this year. With such a beautiful maze we hope that next year they increase the scares to match.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4.5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

Forevermore

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Knott’s Edgar Allen Poe maze diverts from strictly recreating eerie scenes of Poe’s stories and creates the story line of a serial killers on a murder spree utilizing murder tactics from Poe’s fables akin to The Following. What we liked about it were some of the clever modernization of Poe’s stories into death scenes. The Pit and the Pendulum scene is still incredible. This is probably the most improved maze as they tightened up the story some and it was more clear as to what was going on. The monsters in this maze were also more menacing as they perfected their timing and were quick in resetting and double scaring victims. We found ourselves getting attacked and scared frequently throughout this maze. Still not the best of what Knott’s has to offer but Forevermore did exceed our expectations this year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls

The Gunslinger’s Grave

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In Gunslinger’s we’re taken through the haunted labyrinths of mine shafts, corrals, and salons. The layout of this maze is mostly outdoors with trails winding in and out of the Ghost Town buildings accented by frenetic guitar music making it really feel as if we are out in the old wild west. It was obvious that the “residents” of this town are less than happy to see us and it wasn’t fully clear but we assume we’re looking for refuge from alive or dead outlaws and towns folks. This maze had a few good startle scares thanks mainly to some of the animatronic set pieces. This was the first maze we went through and it seemed that the talent wasn’t fully in place yet. The ghost town residents were convincing in their roles fully costumed in western attire but for scares they just did a lot of yelling “get outta here” and kept cattle prodding us through the scenes. This was one of our favorites from last year but this year it seems like it’s already headed out to pasture. Since this maze is the epitome of Knott’s legacy we hope they get back in the saddle for next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 3 Skulls

Dominion of the Damned

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Dominion is a visually interesting showcase the different reiterations of vampires from the Nosferatu to the Anne Rice versions but it was hard to track the story line, in this maze, which seems like a tour of The Natural Museum of Vampire History. This is another maze with a rather cool soundtrack and superb set design. We have to give credit as the talent was slightly more energetic than year’s past. While we’re still not overly impressed with the overall theme we have to admit that this year we received a few more good scares than expected. Nonetheless, we still hope that they’ll finally take out he garlic and open the curtains to let the sunlight in to vaporize these vampires for good.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

 

Pinocchio Unstrung

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We credit this maze for setting the bar for all preceding mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. While it’s the same as year’s past, this maze is still one of our favorites. The entire setting feels like walking through a bloody, after hours, version of Disneyland’s Pinocchio ride. Pinocchio successfully twists the popular children’s story in a way that makes its feel as if we were trapped inside a dark storybook nightmare. What’s unsettling about the maze is how the once innocent characters are now placed into scenes of distress, gore, and horror. It’s rather tragic to see Gepetto, Stromboli, and the Blue Fairy meet their fates at the hands of a torturous wooden puppet who instead of becoming a real boy now wants to be a real killer. The monsters in this maze weren’t was high energy as we’ve seen before but they still delivered some surprising scares . This maze is a haunt classic and while they may not string up Pinocchio anytime soon we hope they’ll soon start to think of other fairy tales they can twist and ruin for our childhoods.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

Trick-or-Treat

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This maze recreates a night of Trick O Treating gone bad. Once we enter the front door of the Green Witch’s house the journey cascades through a haunted mansion packed with sinister Halloween decorations and ghostly effects. The infamous Tricksters are also back creating mayhem in the various rooms along the way. This maze is shorter than the others, but it’s also has some of the strongest atmospheric environments and an interestingly theatrical finale. This was the last maze of the night but the scares were amped up with the Tricksters behaving worse than ever before and we mean that in a good way. Trick or Treat isn’t overly terrifying but this maze truly reflects the spirit of the season with more emphasis on the fun of Halloween versus the scares.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 4 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4 Skulls

 

Witch’s Keep

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This is a spooky prop layover on the Calico Mine Train. This used to be a very scary attraction but ever since they haven’t been allowed to have live actors inside it’s become a place where you just sit there and see spooky stuff. There are just a couple of interesting animatronic and visual effects but unfortunately there’s nothing much to see here compared to the regular ride. It really is just as they say, a haunt experience. It’s also good place to sit and rest your legs for 10 minutes but not worth a waiting in a long line for especially if you’re looking for a good scare.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 0 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls

SHOWS

Elvira’s Big Top

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This show is two big pumpkins of fun. Of course everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm is still Elvira. Her big top keeps the crowd alive with musical numbers, tongue in cleavge jokes, and some high level Vegas quality stage production. This time around the Mistress of the Dark brings out some real freakiness with sword swallowing and body contorting which disappointingly isn’t done by Elvira herself… on stage. Elvira does rap and remix some Iggy Azalea songs and frolics on stage with the very talented Academy of Villains dance troop. This is as good as it gets for Halloween shows and seeing Elvira at Knott’s like having the real Santa at your Christmas party with just a little more ho ho ho.

Overall Rating: 5 ‘DD

Knott’s Scary Farm Overall Fright Value: 5 Skulls

Overall Rating of Knott’s Scary Farm 2013: 4 Skulls

Check our ratings guide for further details

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2014

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor returns for another Halloween season, featuring three all-new mazes, plus the new “Encounters” experience that claims to be a more intense, hands-on experience than your typical maze. The monster midway is back with rides, food, and a hookah lounge. This year, you can also rent a private cabana to have your own little Halloween party among the craziness.

But we know our haunt stalkers care mostly about the mazes, so let’s get to our reviews!

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.

MAZES

Soul Mate (New for 2014)

Graceful Gale gets her own maze this year in “Soul Mate,” which replaces “Containment,” located on the rear of the ship. The maze tells the story of Gale’s gruesome search for the perfect dance partner, which seems to involve severing the various body parts of different men to create one perfect mate. The narrow corridors of the maze have been covered with fabrics in an attempt to make them feel more lush and also to cover up all the metal siding that runs throughout this area of the ship, but many of the scenes feel too sparse and lacking in detail. One exception is Gale’s dressing room, which reveals a creepy Gale gazing at herself in the mirror. There’s also a very impressive ballroom scene, where Gale’s men surround the entire perimeter of room…but which man will step forward for the dance?

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

B340 (New for 2014)

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This maze replaces “Hellfire” at the front of the ship, and features the story of Samuel the Savage, who was “locked away in room B340 after a violent outburst,” where he was later found torn apart. The maze takes you into the mind of Samuel, where we visit scenes from his past, involving nuns, and also scenes from his insanity, featuring a lot of clocks set to 3:40. They’ve thought a lot about creating a back story here, and it’s interesting and relatively easy to follow. However, we didn’t get a lot of scares in here.


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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls

Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

Voodoo Village (New for 2014)

“Voodoo Village” takes over a previous favorite, Village of the Damned, on the grounds near the midway. Gypsies and Voodoo practitioners come out from the shadows to assault guests as they wind through this very long maze. There’s even a Mardi Gras scene with a gross-out actor who almost vomited on us. The Voodoo theme is a smart use of already existing sets here–interior scenes are easily transformed into voodoo sacrifice altars, and outdoor areas that were already swamp/forest-like settings in previous years now fit the story better. But because this is a long maze and probably hard to decorate, some scenes and corridors lacked scenic detail, but this is something Queen Mary could easily improve on in the following years. The actors here had great timing and got us a good a few times, and many inhibited their roles completely.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Encounters (New for 2014)

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Encounters is Queen Mary’s first up-charge “experience,” following in the footsteps of Trapped at Knott’s Scary
Farm, which requires a separate entry fee and timed ticket. Small groups are led through this maze, where  the story is that you’re on a regular old ghost hunt in the depths of the Queen Mary ship…until something goes horribly wrong. Guests are put through a few sticky situations outside the normal maze experience. We don’t want to spoil the surprises in here, but the waiver you’re forced to sign beforehand will give you a hint that you’ll be put into claustrophobic conditions, you will have to crawl, and a bag may or may not be put over your head. Unfortunately, “Encounters” fell completely flat to us. We didn’t find it scary at all, and the setup was hokey and predictable. And it’s certainly not worth the extra $15 it costs to experience this. Although it’s a good idea in theory, the execution just wasn’t there. Perhaps it’s because we attended on opening night–but based on our experience, we’d suggest skipping this.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 skulls
  • Theming: 1.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 skull

Overall Rating: 1.5 skulls

Circus

This maze is located inside the dome and was Scare Zone’s favorite at Queen Mary last year. We’re happy to say this maze remains on top as our favorite. Small improvements this year have made the maze even more interesting and scary. There are no clowns with chainsaws in here or 3D glasses to wear. “Circus” is Dark Harbor’s take on an old-fashioned, early 20th century circus, which makes it feel right at home in the overall theme of the event. There’s an aged feel to the sets, and the lighting casts an eerie, dirty glow over everything. The entrance is through a clown’s mouth, and from there you encounter typical but twisted circus scenes, such as an actual mirror maze you can get lost in, a spinning wheel of daggers, and a creepy marionette show. The scares were pretty good in here, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls

Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls

Deadrise

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Located in the middle of the Dark Harbor grounds, “Deadrise” is a maze that takes you through an old, rotting ship that appears to be sinking right into the ground. The maze winds through the barracks and bowels of the ship, encountering half-dead sailors who loudly bang on metal barrels with pipes. This maze hasn’t changed much since last year, but the actors are enthusiastic and the loud noises of the pipes and barrels is pretty startling. It’s still an excellent maze, with many dark corners for the actors to hide in. It remains a solid maze and fits the Dark Harbor theme perfectly.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 4 skulls 

Submerged

This maze returns for another year, but a slight twist: it’s backwards! The maze path has been switched around, so the pool room with Scary Mary is now near the beginning rather than serving as the finale. We’re not sure if this was done for logistical or novel reasons, but overall, it doesn’t serve to change the maze much. Scareactors were a bit sparse in this maze overall, and so the scares weren’t abundant. We also prefer the pool room ending, since it’s such an impressive scene to serve as a finale. Submerged is one maze we expect to sink into the sea next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 skulls
  • Theming: 2.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 2 skulls

Freak Show

This is another attraction that’s an extra charge ($5). This made sense last year (it’s debut year), as each “freak” was located in their own shipping container (some freaks have a maze of containers), and each experience was different. That setup required small groups and didn’t work with the typical line of a regular maze. However,  for 2014, “Freak Show” has been converted into a more traditional maze format, and all freaks are contained in one continuous experience. Line control is still important, though, because the freaks require you to get a close-up and personal view of their individual shows. We found it to be a bit better last year, with some actual scares. It’s still an interesting concept, and we do recommend checking it out.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 skulls

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

SUMMARY

“Circus” remained as our favorite maze this year, with small improvements that kept it fresh and scary. The addition of three new mazes is also impressive, and each was a solid experience. We hope Dark Harbor can flesh out a few of the empty corridors and scenes next year, as these new mazes mature. “Encounters” was a big disappointment, although we appreciate the concept and effort made to create something new and different. We will definitely try it again next year, if it returns. Overall, the scares weren’t as plentiful as 2013, but Dark Harbor is still a solid choice if you’re looking for a haunt.

Lines get long as the night goes on, so we suggest going on an off-peak night or arriving early. There is also the option of a “Fast Fright” pass that will get you to the front of the line. With general admission tickets starting at just $20, it’s a good overall value, and you can count on seeing some great mazes and getting scared.

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Overall Fright Value: 4.5 Skulls

Overall Rating of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2013: 4 Skulls

Zombie Joe’s Triple Threat of Theater Terror Plays this Month

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The king of horror plays, Zombie Joe, has a full line up of new creepy productions playing this month for your viewing pleasure and emotional discomfort. 

We recently were able to catch the widely popular and  long-running ‘Urban Death‘ play. While Urban Death did not have a definitive narrative the play presented various intriguingly creepy scenes depicting life and death within the boundless realms of the material and supernatural. In addition, the stage production and performances were all extremely well executed and drew the entire audience into the disturbingly bizarre worlds of Urban Death. By the time the 3rd scene “appeared” on stage we had to check-in with our seat neighbors to reassure ourselves that what was happening in front of us was  “only a play”. With Urban Death we did not need to suspend the sense of reality as it takes control of your imagination and does it for you.

From this experience we can only imagine that Zombie Joe’s three new groundbreaking horror inspired productions will keep audiences captivated and gripping their armrests. Urban Death along with these three new shows are playing now through the end of June so don’t wait to get your tickets!


HAUNTED WALLS AND APPARITIONSZombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group Proudly Presents the Premiere of their all-new late-night horror-fantasy spectacular, diving-deep into the haunted abyss of spirits, demons and phantasms, raking the delicate human-flesh of love and hate over hot coals, rising as an Ashed-Phoenix through the darkest of underworlds!  Original Musical Score by Kevin Van Cott and Directed by Zombie Joe.

SATURDAYS @ 11pm
MAY 24 – JUNE 28, 2014

TWAS BRILLIG – THE NONSENSE OF LEWIS CARROLL:  Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group proudly presents Steven W. Alloway’s hilarious, fast-paced collage of the colorful works of Lewis Carroll, exploring the realms of fantasy and madness, from the Snark to the Jabberwocky, and beyond! Written & Directed by Steven W. Alloway, Produced by Zombie Joe.
(4) Sunday Evening Performances Only:
SUNDAYS @ 7:00pm
JUNE 8 – 29, 2014

Both shows are playing at

ZJU Theatre Group

4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
Reservations: (818) 202 – 4120
Tickets: $15
Website: www.ZombieJoes.com
Advance Tickets Now Available: www.ZombieJoes.Tix.com
*PRESS TIX NOW AVAILABLE FOR ALL PERFORMANCES.


 

NIGHTMARICOMIOZombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group is proud to premiere our all-new, all-enveloping fantastical production delving into our greatest dreams, nightmares, hopes, fears and ambitions…Celebrating Theatre, Movement, Sound and The Human Spirit! Live Musical Score by Kevin Van Cott, Directed by Zombie Joe & Sebastian Munoz.

(4) THURSDAY Night Perfs. Only – Exclusively at Theatre Asylum for The 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival:

THURSDAY, JUNE 5 @ 8:30pm
THURSDAY, JUNE 12 @ 7:00pm
THURSDAY, JUNE 19 @ 9:00pm
THURSDAY, JUNE 26 @ 8:30pm

THEATRE ASYLUM LAB

6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038

Reservations: (818) 202 – 4120
Tickets: $15
Website: www.ZombieJoes.com
Advance Tickets Now Available: www.ZombieJoes.Tix.com
*PRESS TIX NOW AVAILABLE FOR ALL PERFORMANCES.

The Halloween Experience

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

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The haunt activity is finally beginning to pick back up as we’re now at the halfway point to haunt season 2014. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more news and rumors from the major and local haunts as they begin to slowly reveal their plans to terrorize us for another year with ghoulish delight.

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Until the gates begin to creak back open at your favorite domains of terror, you can go back and revisit some of the top haunts in Southern California in an all new video The Halloween Experience: Volume 1.

One of our favorite Haunt Stalkers, Phil Crain, was cool enough to share a copy of the DVD with us. It was just what the sadistic doctor ordered as we were able to experience the fun and scares of haunts in the comfort of our living room. The series is hosted by ‘Bloody Jenny’ who introduces the featured Southern California favorites; Sinister Pointe, Reign Of Terror, Chambers of The Mausoleum, The Backwoods Maze, The Haunted Hotel, and Fears Gate.

Unlike the haunt countdown shows on Travel Channel, in this series you won’t have to take a POV journey through a maze behind a group of annoying screaming girls. Instead, the video provides a solitary first person POV of the mazes, operating in full show mode. It’s just the viewer and the scareactors. It’s like going through your favorite mazes by yourself. While it may not have the full production value of a Travel Channel series, it actually provides the most authentic and raw haunt walk throughs available.

We recommend that any true haunt fans and stalkers check it out (which should be all of you reading this post) and we can’t wait to see them make more volumes… 2-13. Copies are available on Amazon and The Halloween Experience Website for only $13.

Now, check out the video preview…

Scare Zone’s Golden Skulls 2013

Friday, December 27th, 2013

As we creep out of the clutches of 2013 it’s time for us to reflect back at another year of Haunt Stalking that seems to of had quickly passed away. To close out 2013 here’s our rankings of the best (and worst) haunts we experienced in our 2013 Haunt Stalking adventures. We truly scared it up in 2013, which materialized into being one of our biggest years of fears yet. We visited numerous haunts across the country from California, to Texas, New York, Philadelphia, and beyond. For a list of all the places we visited and to read our full reviews, please click here.

As you all know, haunt experiences can be a highly individual and subjective experience; what may scare one person might not be frightening at all to another, and what scares you one night might fall flat on a return visit. Nonetheless, we are professional Haunt Stalkers and this year the Terrorspondents have combined our votes for Scare Zone’s Golden Skulls: 2013 Haunt Rankings. So these reflect want we found to be the best from our own 2013 Haunt Stalking experiences.

GOLDEN SKULLS

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BEST MAZE DESIGN/EFFECTS: Insidious: Into the Further (HHN Hollywood) 

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Runner ups:
Chambers of the Mausoleum (Corona, CA)
Delusion: Masque of Mortality (Los Angeles, CA)
Prison of the Dead Escape! (Shocktoberfest, PA)

 

 

BEST MAZE THEME: Black Magic (Knott’s Scary Farm)

 

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Runner ups: 
Insidious: Into The Further (HHN Hollywood)
Delusion: Masque of Mortality
Gunslinger’s Grave (Knott’s Scary Farm)

 

 

BEST SCARE TACTIC: 

Prison of the Dead Escape! (Shocktoberfest, PA) – Too many scares to name
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Runner ups: 
Coffin Creek Manor (Corona, CA) –  eyeball in wall distraction
Reign of Terror (Thousand Oaks, CA)  – best use of animated props
Circus (Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor – hall of mirrors, wall of daggers

 

 

BEST SCENE IN A MAZE: 

Delusion: Masque of Mortality – Children’s bedroom scene
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Runner ups:
 The Purge: Fear the Night – Outdoor park scene
Black Magic (Knott’s Scary Farm) – Burning Theatre
Lock Down (Terror Behind the Walls) – Strobe Hallway of Freaks

 

 

BEST MAZE NAME: El Cucuy:  The Boogeyman (HHN Hollywood)

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Runner ups:
Detritus (Terror Behind the Walls)
Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Side Show (Headless Horseman)
Delusion: Masque of Mortality

BEST SCARE-ACTORS/MONSTERS: Nightmare NYC: Killers 2

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Runner ups:
Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Tour of Terror
The Purge: Fear the Night
The Empty Grave

BEST SCARE ZONE: Ghost Town (KSF)

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Runner ups:
Purge: Survive the Night (HHN Hollywood)
Walking Dead: Dead on Arrival (HHN Hollywood)
The Fog (Haunted Hollywood Sports)

MOST UNIQUE HAUNT EXPERIENCE:  Nightmare NYC: Killers 2

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Runner ups:
Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Tour of Terror
The Purge: Fear the Night
Delusion: Masque of Mortality

SCARIEST MAZE: PRISON OF THE DEAD ESCAPE! (Shocktoberfest, PA)

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Runner ups:
Insidious (HHN Hollywood)
Terror Behind the Walls (PA)
Reign of Terror (Thousand Oaks, CA)

BEST OVERALL MAZE OF 2013:  PRISON OF THE DEAD ESCAPE! (Shocktoberfest, PA)

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BEST VALUE HAUNT OF 2013: KNOTT’S SCARY FARM 

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TOP STAND ALONE HAUNT OF 2013: TERROR BEHIND THE WALLS (Eastern State Penitentiary)

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TOP THEME PARK HAUNT OF 2013: (TIE)

UNIVERSAL’S HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS & KNOTT’S SCARY FARM

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*We really don’t like having an uncommitted result but this year it really was a toss up for us between both of these parks. Universal’s mazes were full on sophistcated Horror Shows with some of the best effects, makeup, and talent, but we just didn’t find it to be nearly as scary as years past; mostly due to the park being overcrowded. In addition, the pricing has become too high with diminishing returns on our hard earned dollars. Oppositely, Knott’s is a great value and provides the best Halloween season environments throughout the park with unique themes, but the talent was amateurish (at best) and just like Universal the scare factor felt diminished this year. 

BURIED SKULLS

This is where we load up the cracked and broken skulls (the worse of the worse) and drive them off to the crematory. Of course, being in the world of horror, we’re aptly aware that not everything will die immediately or forever, but until they return here’s our call for the worse of 2013.

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WHO MADE THIS (WORST DESIGN)?

The Bog (Coffin Creek in Corona, CA)

WTF IS GOING ON (WORST THEME)?

The Cutting Edge (Ft. Worth, TX)

DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB (WORST SCARE-ACTOR/MONSTERS)

Phobia (Pure Terror Scream Park)

THIS IS NOT SCARY! 

The Cutting Edge (Ft. Worth TX)

WHAT A RIPPOFF (WORST VALUE)

Pure Terror Scream Park (Monroe, NY)

JUST DIE  ALREADY (WORST MAZE OF 2013)

Phobia (Pure Terror Scream Park)

To understand the ratings please see our ratings guide.

Haunt Review: Pure Terror Screampark 2013

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Pure Terror

Pure Terror Screampark, located in Monroe, New York, bills itself as the “Scariest Haunted House in New York,” but like most haunts given to such hyperbole, it falls vastly short of this claim.

We visited Pure Terror on a Saturday night in the middle of October, when haunt season was in full swing, and the lines were very long. The person manning the ticket booth told us the lines were about 2 hours long, and since our time on the East Coast was limited and we had other haunts to visit that night, we opted for the “Speed Pass” so we could get to the front of the lines. And we were very happy we did so, because these attractions are not worth waiting that long for.

This year, Pure Terror moved to “Museum Village,” which is located in a park-like setting containing 19th-century buildings and historical artifacts. It was a cool setting for a haunt, and we were excited when we first stepped onto the grounds. There were a few vendors selling trinkets and things, and the haunted houses are located near the back of the property, their facades (and long lines) mostly hidden from view until after you pay for your ticket.

All three attractions in the Screampark were billed as “all new” for 2013, and the lines are daisy chained. They do let only small groups in at a time, which is a good practice, but the mazes are very small, so that is really their only option.

MAZES

PT CryptThe Crypt

The Crypt – Our brand new attraction will send you traveling underground with the un-dead into a labyrinth of tight, terrifying passage ways.  Your heart will race as you continue deeper into this dark, putrid hell where the restless souls await you.

Although the props and scenery were sparse and simple in this haunt, this was actually our favorite attraction of the night. Low-hanging, hay-like netting hung from the ceiling, forcing us to crouch in certain areas. The scareactors wore the same kind of netted suits, which helped them blend in with the walls and hide them from view. They got us with a few good scares in here. Naked female torsos also hung from the ceiling, and a couple of actors creeped us out by twisting the nipples on these props as we walked by. We’re not prudes, but this kind of lewd behavior isn’t exactly scary, but more eye-rolling,  and we hope they didn’t do this sort of thing to the younger guests.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 1.5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

PT PhobiaPhobia

Phobia – Another all new attraction where the stench of death is surrounding you before you even enter this macabre den of demise.  Be forewarned, this structure is crawling with creature’s everywhere with no chance of escaping. Phobia will exploit all of your senses and make your worst fears a reality.  

If you have a phobia of urine-scented dark passages, then this maze will terrify you! We don’t know what the hell was going on in this maze, but it smelled worse than a port-a-potty on skid row. We guess this was the “stench of death” promised in the maze description. This was stronger than any of the manufactured “haunt scents” we’ve experienced at high-level attractions. It smelled like the real deal. The halls were dark, the floor was just dirt, and there was a lot of black plastic, making the maze feel more like a home haunt than a professional attraction. There were some generic-type props hanging around as well as generic scenes of clowns, etc. The actors were doing their best to scare us, but the set up here just wasn’t conducive to scares. There was nothing particularly memorable about this maze (aside from the smell, that is), and the extreme darkness had us running into the group in front of us several times, which increased the annoyance factor, not the scare factor.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 0 Skulls
  • Theming: 0 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 0.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 0 Skulls

PT House of TerrorHouse of Terror

All New for 2013:  The House of Terror – Bigger & Scarier than ever before; guaranteed to have you on your hands and knees.

This is the most themed maze at the Screampark, and as the name probably implies, it’s an old-fashioned haunted mansion–type of theme, with the addition of some actors in vampire attire. The first few rooms are well done, with somewhat elaborate sets re-creating the interior of a Victorian-era home that has fallen into spooky disrepair. But the floors in this maze are again just dirt, which really distracts from the feeling of being in an actual house. We know that building plywood floors is probably a huge expense, and maybe there’s something about the historic “Museum Village” that prevents this construction, but fully enclosing the haunt from floor to ceiling would go a long way in elevating the experience. Nevertheless, they did a good job with what they had. The hallways were tight, and there were a few good distractions that the actors used to their full benefit for scaring us. We enjoyed this maze until we came to a part we had to crawl through. The actors direct you into crawling inside a fireplace, which is clever at first, but once inside, it’s pitch black, which left us bumping into the group in front of us while on our hands and knees, Human Centipede style.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 3 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

Overall, we were disappointed with our visit to Pure Terror Screampark. Particularly perplexing is the fact that HauntWorld.com called this haunt “one of the scariest screamparks.” We certainly cannot endorse such a high rating. One thing that does give us hope, though, is the fact that as we were leaving the grounds, one of the scareactors asked us how we liked it and seemed genuinely concerned when we told him about our experience.  The fact that they care about guests’ experiences shows that they are trying to make a good haunt and it’s probably not just a money grab. So we hope to hear that Pure Terror improves its attractions next year, and we think they have a good basis on which to build something worth visiting. But for now, we can’t recommend it.

Overall Fright Value: 0 Skulls

Overall Rating of Pure Terror Screampark 2013: 1 Skull

 

 

Haunt Review: Terror Behind the Walls 2013

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

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This year, Scare Zone took a weekend out of our busy Southern California haunt-stalking schedule to visit some of the biggest haunts in New York and Pennsylvania. On our first night, we experienced one of the most well-known haunts on the East Coast: Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is one of those haunts that are always featured on Travel Channel shows in October, and the danger with these sorts of haunts is that they can be all hype and no substance (see our review of Cutting Edge in Texas, for example). But we can easily say that we found Terror Behind the Walls (TBTW) to live up to its reputation as one of the best and biggest haunts on the East Coast.

It was a drizzly night when we attended, and the foggy atmosphere helped to increase the feeling that it was actually Halloween season. October in California is usually just as hot as summer, so the rainy weather on the East was a welcome change for us (although we did experience the downside to Fall weather the next day, when the rain closed down the several hayrides in the area). The weather might also have kept crowds to a minimum, as the line was only about 20 minutes long. Outside the prison, zombie swat officers terrorized guests as they got in line. We waited in a small line to fill out a “waiver” (the waiver warns guests of unsafe conditions inside the prison), and then entered another line once inside the gates of the prison. More actors were on hand to scare people in line, and they did a really effective job of entertaining people during the wait.

TBTW 1

Once we got to the front of the line, we were told that we had a choice to make: we could be marked with a red “X” on our face (the “monster tracker”), which meant that the actors could touch us, grab us, and possibly separate us from our group, or we could remain “unmarked” and avoid this extra terror. Of course, we opted for the full, “hands-on” experience. This was the first year TBTW employed this tactic, and we hadn’t experienced this type of thing in a haunt, except at “Gates of Hell” at Freakling Bros. (We later found out that this “touching” feature is popular with many haunts on the East Coast.)

TBTW consists of six separate mazes, but they are all daisy-chained, meaning that you go through all mazes consecutively and don’t really line up for each maze individually. For this reason, we won’t present full ratings for each haunt, but rather a general rating for the event at the end of this review.

GauntletThe Gauntlet

The Gauntlet winds through scenes inside the prison and also outside into the prison yard, where prison guards and deranged prisoners lurk behind chain-link fences, abandoned prison buses, and other scenes. This maze has a chaotic mix of lighting and sound, but for the most part wasn’t that scary. The outdoor scenes were too well lit to really hide any actors, but it was a good first maze to get the blood warmed up.

 

Lock downLock Down

This attraction is the full prison experience, going right inside the old, abandoned prison blocks, which in themselves hardly need any set dressing because they are so creepy anyway. Inmates lunge at you from behind the bars, and sometimes even escape their cells to chase you down. Since we were “marked,” we were grabbed a lot in this maze, with actors touching our legs and ankles. This maze also had a lot of fog and strobe effects, and the disorienting darkness made us easy targets for the actors, and we found ourselves screaming a lot in this one.

 

 

InfirmThe Infirmary

As its name implies, this is the prison’s hospital. Scary nurses and doctors assaulted us, and the corridors were filled with stretchers and archaic, rusted instruments of medicine. The whole thing was lit appropriately in a sickly yellow glow. In this maze, our “monster tracker” really caught up with us, and one of us was forced to lie on a table while a maniacal doctor attempted to inject us using a scary needle. This was one of the scariest and most detailed mazes at TBTW.

 

DetritusDetritus

This maze goes through an original 1800s cellblock that has been completely overgrown with plants. So the maze has a greenhouse-type of theme, with even some actors dressed as bushes and plants. The bush monsters scared us a couple of times, but overall, there wasn’t much terror to be found in this jungle.

 

ExperimentThe Experiment! in 3D

Although this maze uses a lot of standard 3D paint techniques we’ve seen in a lot of other haunts, what sets it apart from others we’ve experienced is the way the scares are set up. TBTW has managed to take simple neon dot rooms or splatter paint walls and make the scares actually work. For example, we passed through a neon splatter paint room, and saw what looked like a painting of a head on the wall, which actually turned out to be a cutout in the wall containing a wig head, which was thrust into our faces as we passed. Yeah, the scares in here are a bit silly, but we kept screaming at the silliest stuff. And to us, that’s a huge success for a 3D maze.

 

night WatchNight Watch

The last maze is very dark and in some parts is pitch black. The lack of lighting means there aren’t very detailed sets here, but the darkness is the scare factor. We thought this maze, along with Infirmary, topped the list of the scariest attractions at TBTW.

 

SUMMARY

TBTW is a great value, with six solid attractions that offer a high scare factor. We suggest attending early in the season or any day but Saturday to avoid long lines and get the best ticket deals. The bonus with having a haunt set in an actual abandoned prison is that even when you’re not in one of the mazes, you still feel like you’re inside an attraction, since the prison grounds are creepy themselves. The corridors in between mazes were also filled with scareactors, fog, and strobe lights, providing a totally immersive experience throughout the night. The addition of the “monster tracker” also made the whole experience more fun, so we suggest you go for the full experience and allow yourself to be marked. Overall, we highly recommend checking out Terror Behind the Walls on your next East Coast haunt jaunt.

Terror Behind the Walls Overall Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4.5 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4.5 skulls
  • Fright Value: 5 skulls

Overall Rating of Terror Behind the Walls 2013: 4.5 Skulls

Haunt Review: Headless Horseman Haunted Hayrides 2013

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Our ghost to coast travels recently took us to NY and one of our requisite stops was at the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride. This year marks the 21st anniversary of Headless Horseman and was our 3rd visit to this classic haunt. Located in Ulster Park, NY, about 1.5 hours from NYC in the upstate Hudson Valley region the haunt covers over forty-five acres of property that includes foreboding woods, surreal ponds, fruit orchards and more.

Headless Horseman features 9 different attractions that includes an elaborate one-mile long haunted hayride and corn maze. It’s obvious from the lighting, costume, sound, set design, special effects, and make-up that all of these attractions are designed and built by professionals. In addition to the haunts, they also have the village of Crow Hollow that features different shops and eateries creating a haunt destination that celebrates the Halloween season where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living. On a side note; one question we still have with this rather elaborate set up is why don’t they have decent bathrooms at Crow Hollow instead of the porta potties? They also have some rather tight security and were very strict about pictures making guests leave their cameras at the car. Therefore, this review won’t feature many pictures. Overall the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride is a classic haunted attraction which every haunt stalker should make the trip to NY and experience for themselves. Year after year they add new scares and improve on the traditional ones. The location also adds to the setting offering a full nights worth of haunting fun.

Reviews

Headless Horseman uses the “daisy chain” format where guests first wait in line for the hayride and then they’re dropped off to go though the haunted houses in consecutive order. The Hayride’s theme is the The Foretelling and the haunted houses includes The Lunar Motel, Glutton’s Slaughter House, The Root Cellar, Dark Harvest Corn Maze, Nightshade Greenhouse, Dr. Dark’s Black Spider Sideshow, The Feeding, and Dahlia Blood’s Manor.

Foretelling! Haunted Hayride

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This attraction has nearly perfected the haunted hayride experience. Unlike rides that resides in ‘sue happy’ Southern California, guest are told to sit around the edges of the wagon with their feet dangling over sides. This seating arrangement really made us feel vulnerable. There’s a guide who narrates the ride and interacts with the scenes, similar to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Tram Tour guides. Our particular guide wasn’t very convincing in her role of a gypsy/fortune teller. Her accent was almost comedic and most of her lines were inaudible. Fortunately (no pun intended), this didn’t minimize the impact of the atmosphere with the backwoods winding roads, thick forestry, and elaborate settings. The effects on the hayride are just as good as any you’d fine in a theme park attraction with exploding buildings, shaky bridges, flying monsters and dark tunnels. As the wagon stops in each set, a scene is carried out ending with some scary surprises. In between the scenes they also have monsters lurking in the bushes (some as bushes) and trees who jump out from the dark and drop in from above. Some of these were surprising and others were expected. We were disappointed by the anti-climatic appearance of the ride’s main star, the Headless Horseman. Instead of charging at the wagon he leisurely trotted up and and then stopped. The Hayride didn’t pack quite the same punch as previous years but it’s still one hell of a good time and really places the riders inside of a living Halloween story. Rating: 4 Skulls

Lunar Motel

lunar-motel-2013-bannerIn our last visit in 2010 this was one of the best werewolf themed houses we’ve ever been in. They’ve changed up the story and it wasn’t nearly as frightening as the former. Now it’s about a hotel ran by a sadistic family of killers.  This house uses a lot of animatronics and special props and while these items enhance the scenes we would of liked to see more scareactors inside.  There were a few fun startles with the creatures popping out of beds, busting through walls and floors but it wasn’t scary, We miss the Lycans. 3 Skulls

Glutton’s Slaughterhouse

gluttons-slaughterhouse-2013-bannerRight next door to the Lunar Hotel is Crow Hollow’s world-renowned meat-packing factory. Mr. Glutton has been feuding with the neighbors and it seems that the employee disappearances at the Lunar Hotel could be attributed to the evil doings inside the Slaughterhouse. This maze is connected to the Lunar hotel and at first it was a little hard to tell where one ended and the other started. Nonetheless, the scares were ratcheted up a  level and this is a very intense Slaughter house themed haunt. The monsters didn’t just scare us, they stalked us through the scenes. The props were very gory and there were some the most disturbing and disgusting set pieces we’ve encountered. The mutant pig heads that popped out of the walls were scaring the hell out of everyone. Pushing our way through the meat racks which had wet animal and human carcasses that were unsettling hanging and revolving around us.  4 Skulls

The Root Cellar

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This maze was one of the creepiest and the most claustrophobic. Inside it was filled with scary tree creatures, which we’re told were summoned by foolish kids playing with a Ouija board. The concept is original; not one we can say we’ve seen in many other haunts. The set design was intricate and even though this was one of the shortest mazes, it worked a nice transition between the Slaughterhouse and Corn maze. Rating: 4 Skulls


Evil Reaping

dark-harvest-2013-bannerThe corn maze begins right after guests escape from The Root Cellar. This maze provided some good scares as the creatures and monsters did a good job hiding in the shadows of the cornstalks.  There were some unique scare tactics that got us a couple of  times on the path such as fake outs and double teaming scares. There were also a few impressive animatronics along the way. This maze is lengthy in comparison to the previous houses but rather short for a haunted corn maze. We think there was a little too much light in the maze, but realize that this is hard to control with it being outside. 3.5 Skulls

The Nightshade Greenhouse: Into the Rabbit Hole 

night-shade-nursery-2013-bannerThis maze is bizarre. It’s a mix of Little Shop of Horrors and Alice in Wonderland.  There are flesh eating plants with a hybrid of  reptile genes and vegetation creating some very creative and creepy sets. This house winds through the dimly lit greenhouse where the plants, their victims and the crazy Wonderland creatures are all trying to get us to be the next meal. They had a couple good scares as the setting allowed for some very good hiding places. But this house was more about the atmosfear and sets as opposed to pop out scares; however, it did feature the most memorable monster of the night. 3.5 Skulls

DR. Dark’s Black Spider Side Show

dr-dark-sideshow-banner

The Black Spider Side Show has rolled into Crow Hollow lead by its owner, Dr. Dark. Guests walk by various tents with beautifully painted banners. Each one more extraordinary than the last headlining the stars of the sideshow. There was Zalfiro the fortune teller, professor Larvos and his maggot babies, the man eating chicken, freaks and many more unpleasant spectacles of life. And a new attraction, a first for a sideshow, Dr. Dark proudly presents his demented, demon clowns. The monsters make up was interesting in this maze and this maze did bring down some of the dark intensity from the previous mazes providing almost some comical relief for a journey of terror. The sets were rather basic and the there were no memorable scares.  2 Skulls

 

The Feeding: Flesh They Crave

the-feeding-2013-banner

Here we find ourselves escaping the evil horrors of the experiments of a deranged doctor (aren’t they all?). The test center around reversing the “effects of death” therefore we’re subjected to being apprehended by crazy doctors, zombies, and mutant lab animals. There are some good set illusions accomplished inside of this maze with dramatic transitions from light and dark scenes. Of course a guy with a chainsaw finds his way into the mix as well.  One of the most unique and disturbing scenes involved a  kennel of chimpanzees. We think this is the first time we’ve seen killer monkeys in a haunt maze. The timing of the monsters was off as they seemed to missed in effectively scaring us and people seemed to want to stop and look at the sets but there wasn’t any ushers visible inside to keep things moving which also caused this maze to get backed up. 3.5 Skulls 

The Mansion of Dahlia Blood: The Ripper

dahlia-blood-2013-bannerThe last house takes place inside an elaborate looking Haunted House that is back in the Crow’s Hollow village. This house combines illusions and traditional scares. We really liked the rooms with the rocking walls, the London alleyways and the bar scene. The theme of this house was disjointed as the house has traditional haunted house scenes, then we’re in the streets of London, followed by going out into swamp with the monster plants, werewolves, and chainsaw wielding monsters stalking. In spite of the odd mix, this house is the most fun and is obviously where they put the most amount of budget into. 4 Skulls 

 

 Terror Tips:

We recommend that you plan to get there early as they get really crowded, even on opening night  Also, if you go after it has rained be sure wear old clothes and shoes as the corn maze can be very muddy, which adds to the terror. Nonetheless, this is a haunt that shouldn’t be missed if you live in the NY and Northern NJ areas. We guarantee that you’ll walk away shaking

Headless Horseman Overall Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 skulls
  • Fright Value: 4 skulls

Overall Rating of Headless Horseman Haunted Hayrides 2013: 4 Skulls

Haunt Review: The Purge Fear The Night

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

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Last year we had the opportunity to experience one the most unique Halloween attractions we’ve seen in our 21 years of Haunt Stalking at The Blumhouse of Horrors. The Blumhouse production team smartly incorporated theater and movie quality special effects into a one-of-a-kind, scary haunted house filled with magic and atmosphere. This year the Blumhouse team has returned with a brand-new, immersive horror theatre experience based on Blumhouse’s own movie The Purge.

The first reviews from the opening weekend of THE PURGE: FEAR THE NIGHT were not good, at all. Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook were filled with scathing reviews complaining of it not being worth the price of admission. However, being the consumute scarers they are, the Blumhouse team quickly pressed pause on the production to revamp the format. They made the effort to ratchet up the scares and fine tune the experience to ensure the audience is satisfied. For this we applaud them as there are many haunted attractions out there who only wish to make a quick buck and fool themselves to believe that they can get rich with a low quality attraction.

Due to the changes they wanted to make we could no longer go on the night we had planned to visit,  so we ended up going much later in the season. Nonetheless, we finally made it and we’re glad we did. Upon arriving we went inside the lobby of the Variety Arts Building which was staged as a screening area for us, the “delegates”. After being screened we waited in a brief line to enter the annual convention of the New Founding Fathers, the dystopian governing party of a near-future America, in which all crime is legal once a year for 12 hours. This is the same premise used for the The Purge movie.

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Before we’re able to get inside the main convention hall, there’s a final screening process that each delegate has to go through alone. After making it through the screening process, which has a couple shocking and cheap scares, all the delegates are reunited in the main convention in the presence of the President and first family of New America. The actors were rather convincing in making us feel as if we really were at an official political event with all of the grandeur and political cheesiness. We are then asked to go backstage for a special interview and then quickly discover that not all Americans believe in the Purge, and that the intense opposition can have frightening, even deadly, consequences.

From here the pace picks up with a hectic and at times intesne experience were we’re in the role of hostages who’ve been taken by hostile dissenters. In the previous version delegates had to find their own way through the many levels of the building in order to escape their captures and uncover the mysterious lives of elected officials. In the new version we experienced, we were herded as a group through the New Founding Fathers Headquarters. We still were required to interact with the characters, perform tasks, and subjected to some verbal abuse, but it was all carefully choreographed. There also were a few “monster around the corner’ type scares as we ventured though the rooms and hallways of the Headquarters.

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Blumhouse Productions

Overall, we prefer last year’s Blumhouse of Horror’s, which did a better job at showcasing scenes of horror and scaring us. We honestly think that one of the other Blumhouse film properties such as Sinister or another original storyline would have made a better Halloween show. The content of the The Purge movie itself evokes more feelings an action thriller vs. full fledged horror movie. We had two or three good scares this year, although for us, we enjoyed it much more for design and theming. The Purge: Fear the Night is packed with rooms and passageways that are incredibly themed and detailed with an abundance of lighting and sound effects that really punch up the experience to create a fully immersive environment. The actors are really good as well with most seeming like seasoned performers. We even suspect some of them were moles inside of our group.

While the The Purge: Fear the Night experience was unquestionably intense we didn’t find it to be terrifying, in the spirit of a Halloween haunt. If you’re a big fan of the The Purge or looking for a new type of immersive and theatrical thrill experience, then we recommend that you go check it out. With two years of successful haunting in downtown L.A., we now can’t wait for the Blumhouse team to return to really terrify us next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 skulls
  • Fright Value: 3 skulls

Overall Rating of The Purge: Fear The Night: 3.5 Skulls

Click here to read about our rating system