Category: Haunt Reviews (page 1 of 11)

Krampus is Coming to Halloween Horror Nights

image008-480x600

 

CpIq7ccUAAAn_s5First there was Halloween and Friday the 13th, and now Christmas joins the holiday horror party at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights with an all new KRAMPUS maze based on the 2015 movie. We suspected that this would be one of the new mazes based upon pictures we saw of a facade being built on Hollywood’s backlot that looked identical to the home featured in the movie. This will be another shared property that will be featured at both the Hollywood and Orlando parks.

We’ve loved the Dark Christmas scare zone that was featured at HHN Hollywood the last two years. It seems that similar to what they did with La Llorona, the theme was tested as a scare zone before they fully committed to giving it it’s own maze.  This should be wicked fun as the Krampus movie features some terrifyingly bizarre holiday creatures and monsters that are sure to be as scary as a family Christmas dinner when they’re brought to life by the Universal HHN teams.

tumblr_nuf5n7bxt81rrkahjo2_540

 

The legend of Krampus was also used for a maze theme at least year’s ScareHouse. That maze provided guests with the rare opportunity to admire actual props, costumes, and practical creatures from the film before entering a highly immersive attraction that followed the legacy of Krampus, the iconic figure of dark folklore as old as Christmas itself.

Rsz_screencapture-www-hdmovieswatch-net-bluray-krampus-2015-movie-online-hdm-1457483878672At the Universal parks, the mazes will place guests right in the scenes of the holiday horror movie. The dead of winter will set the stage for the terror that unfolds one cold, dank and dreary Christmas Eve when the fabled anthropomorphic “half-goat, half-demon” horned creature emerges to terrorize those devoid of holiday spirit. In scenes lifted from the film, guests will navigate the dysfunctional Engel family home to encounter the evil ancient spirit of Krampus – the dark shadow of Saint Nicholas – and his band of Dark Elves and sinister Gingerbread Men, who cause the family to fight to see the light of day.

Say no more! We can’t wait to experience this maze. We really feel that this is shaping up to be one of the best years for HHN yet. Now we’re speculating as to what the remaining maze and Terror Tram themes for Hollywood will be. Our guess are attractions based on Universal’s The Purge Election Year, which will be releasing on DVD around that time, and Rob Zombie’s 31, which comes out in theaters this fall.

Additional details about Universal Studios’ “Halloween Horror Nights” will be revealed soon. For more information about Halloween Horror Nights at either Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Orlando Resort, visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.

krump

CreepyLA Announces the 2015 Cadavers (Southern California Haunt Awards)!

11949538_886690714701166_7509676861834623188_n

Even with haunts extending their operation into the weekend after Halloween, this year’s haunt season seemed to have quickly past by. It also felt as if there were not nearly as many haunts operating this season in Southern California. Nonetheless, the mainstay theme parks continued to scare with their ever increasingly popular (and expensive) haunts. There also were some noteworthy newcomers like CreepLA and some others that failed miserably. Alas, for this year’s haunt offerings in L.A. it’s now time to reflect back and rate the best of the season.

For the first time, the haunt reviewers and fans of Southern California have come together to vote for the Cadavers: Southern California Halloween Attraction Awards. These awards were created and organized by our friends at CreepyLA and we’re glad to be able to contribute our votes.

Click their logo or keep reading after the jump to see the full coverage of the Cadavers Awards from CreepyLA. Also, check out their site for more year-round coverage of the supernatural, the scary, and anything Halloween related in the Los Angeles area.

creepyla_throne_header Continue reading

Haunt Review: Creep Los Angeles

! creep

But I’m a creep

I’m a weirdo

What the hell am I doing here?

I don’t belong here.

These are the lyrics to the unsettling, slow choral version of the Radiohead song that plays while you wait your turn for the new Creep Los Angeles haunt. But don’t listen to those words—you do belong here, because Creep Los Angeles is a seriously scary, demented, and innovative new haunt experience that you should definitely put on your list this October.

3cb6315073518f30f7679a320dc091b1.m

Warning: Slight spoilers ahead.

Creep Los Angeles is located in the Arts District, only a couple of miles from another new haunt, Drunken Devil. The location is unassuming and bit deserted at night. The haunt is housed inside an abandoned warehouse, with the only indication there’s a haunt inside being the word “Creep” projected on the outside wall and the line of people on the sidewalk. We were unsure what to expect from this haunt as the website was deliberately vague on details, although it did tell us that we’d be forced to run and crawl. Some of the other people waiting in line with us were hoping the experience would be on the level of “Blackout” or “Alone.” We can report that it’s certainly not as intense as those two haunts, but it’s definitely more extreme than the standard theme park haunt experience. So for us, it’s a nice mixture of something a little more extreme without being too uncomfortable.

This haunt sends groups of six people through at one time, with groups going through every 8 minutes or so. We were forced to sign a waiver to enter the haunt, and we were warned that we’d probably be touched. After signing the form, we were ushered in a small holding area, where an older woman told us we’d meet her “creepy son” inside. Then she proceeded to stare us down for the next uncomfortable 5 or 7 minutes. Suddenly, a “creepy guy” burst out of the darkness and took one of us—alone—into the haunt. Immediately, this was different from most other experiences out there. We don’t really want to give away what happens if you end up being chosen for this “alone” experience, but we’ll say that it’s not too intense, but certainly helps to build suspense. Eventually, the group is reunited, and the haunt proceeds.

Overall, there’s not a very coherent story line behind the haunt; instead, there is a sequence of different scenes featuring actors who put on a bit of a performance where they might warn you about something, and then something scary happens (Bloody Mary, for example). The actors we thought of as the “creeps” are men and women who are mostly wearing masks that look like they’re from the The Purge, with the odd gorilla or scary baby mask thrown in. One of the more intense scenes involves hiding from a killer inside a dark box, with peep holes you can look out to see the killer stalking you.

Despite the fact that we didn’t gather a distinct story from the experience, we still felt that the scenes had a good flow and connection to them. The overall aesthetic is sparse, with an almost black-and-white feeling to the scenes. Some of the rooms have a surreal, “arty” quality. Lighting and effects are kept to a minimum, and the presence of a single actor in the room can sometimes be scarier than any scene full of monsters in a theme park haunt.

As for the running and crawling: yes, you will be doing these things. But no, it’s not that bad. You will most definitely be touched at some point, but it’s not too invasive. The actors occasionally pull people away from the group, but the separation doesn’t last long. Overall, Creep Los Angeles strikes a really good balance between something a little more extreme than the typical haunt without being over the top. You will feel uncomfortable, but not violated.

We definitely recommend that our readers check out Creep Los Angeles. The haunt is scary, unique, and good for haunt stalkers tired of the typical, “monster around the corner” scare. We also feel that the $25-$35 ticket price is a decent value, as the haunt lasted about 20 minutes, and with the small group size, everyone was guaranteed to get scared at least once.

 

Ratings

Haunt Design: 4.5 Skulls
Theming: 3.5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 4.5 Skulls
Fright Value: 4 skulls

Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

Haunt Review: Drunken Devil’s Sinner’s Soirées

1440138019683

Last night we took a haunt crawl through downtown Los Angeles where we ended up on one of the darkest streets in the heart of skid row looking for the promise of a new haunt adventure at Drunken Devil’s Sinner’s Soiree. This new haunt previewed at ScareLA and we were looking forward to it especially since there’s an apparent drought of independent haunt operators in the Los Angeles area this year. Drunken Devil’s unique proposition is to combine a traditional haunted house experience with a venue where patrons can celebrate the spirit of Halloween. The concept really isn’t all that unique as there’s been many haunts in the past that have offered scares topped off with booze but Drunken Devil is one of the few places around this year trying to seduce the drinking dead.

The haunted house portion of Drunken Devil is set up to be a trip through the haunted streets and alleys of New Orleans. On the journey to the Sinner’s Soiree there are “demonic Mardi Gras clowns, scandalous can-can dancers, and sadistic voodoo witch doctors”.

Cutting to the chase, our journey through the dark side of New Orleans wasn’t very good at all. The maze is mostly comprised of black plywood walls with a few decorated scenes. We’ve seen many home haunts with far superior sets and designs. The talent was also limited in quantity and quality. The sparse attempted scares were comprised of the typical tactic of a monster sneaking up from behind, hiding around the corner or behind/in a prop. There also were a couple scenes of theatrics that never really paid off as the actors were hard to understand and their narratives fell flat coming across as pointless.

From the website and reading pre-reviews from other haunt sites that were invited to the open bar media night, the ‘buzz’ around the ‘horrors’ of Drunken Devil was promising. They hyped up Drunken Devil as being a new and ambitious haunt offering a night of scares and drunken debauchery. As supporters of the haunt community we really wanted to like this maze and see it do well but we have to call it when we see it and we just couldn’t find any value this haunt. It just left us feeling ripped off from our money and time.

Starting at $18 a ticket it’s way overpriced for a 4 minute haunted house experience. We paid extra for the front of the line pass, which wasn’t necessary as there was no line when we arrived. To add more to our disappointment, the bar selection was nothing more than a folding table selling beer, wine, and energy drinks whereas the online promotional art features a devil looking down at a martini glass. We know liquor licenses are hard and expensive to secure but when we think of New Orleans bars we think of drinks overflowing with bourbon, rum and other libations.  Even with a burlesque dancer and some Mardi Gras decor, the bar setup really isn’t a place we’d want to spend an evening at. They also charge $5 to park in a dark lot located behind a building across the street, that’s only slightly less sketchy than parking right on the dark streets of skid row.

Unlike haunts where it’s obvious that they are in it for a money grab, the intentions of the folks behind Drunken Devil seem to be more authentic. However, they just aren’t able to properly stage an interesting and scary haunt in a market that has already experienced far more sophisticated venues like Delusion, Blumhouse, this year’s CreepLA, or the Halloween spectacles at the nearby theme parks. We know the haunt business is a tough game and we can only wish them better luck if they try again in the future.

Ratings

Haunt Design: 1 Skull
Theming: 1/2 Skull
Scare Factor: 1/2 Skull
Fright Value: Buried Skull

Overall Rating: 1/2 Skull

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2015

 

voodoo vals-1-3

Standing near the private cabanas, listening to the live show taking place on the main stage and enjoying the eerie red lights glowing from the swings above us and the sudden, atmospheric pulses of fire shooting out from the impressive Deadrise attraction behind us, it struck us how downright enjoyable Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor has become over the years. Each year, we write about the impressive mazes and the well-themed and immersive nature of the entire haunt. But one thing we noticed this year is the fact that Dark Harbor is one of the easiest and most relaxed haunt experiences in the area. The small footprint of the event means there’s not a ton of walking or riding escalators up and down all night. Food, drinks, and cocktails are all within easy reach. There are entertainment and food areas that promote an overall atmosphere of fun, but not in the frenetic, overwhelming way it can sometimes be at say, Halloween Horror Nights. And for this voodoo vals-4-2reason, Queen Mary is always one of our favorite events to kick off the season.

 

voodoo vals-21-2

 

Dark Harbor has a few new offerings this year, as well as several changes to existing attractions. There’s a new maze based on the legend of the little girl who drowned on the ship (“Scary Mary”), the addition of a paintball attraction, and a revamping of the sideshow area. Overall, we felt that the flow of the event was improved this year by the addition of the sideshow area with its own bar, which was the perfect space for lounging and discussing the mazes we had just been through.

Also of note was the addition of some “preshow” elements to the mazes. In Lullaby, the maze begins with a funeral for poor Scary Mary. In Soulmate, a video provides the backstory of Graceful Gale. The queue lines are also peppered with posters that tell the story behind the maze. We definitely love it when haunts really get into storytelling, because it improves the detail and immersive feeling of the mazes. However, the preshow scenes added a lot of wait time to the lines but also helped to give space between groups once inside the maze. Time will tell whether the preshow elements are good or bad for the event.

voodoo vals-5-2

Here are our review of the mazes and attractions for this year.

Lullaby (New for 2015)

Scary Mary heads up her own maze in the space formerly occupied by “Submerged.” The water theme returns, however; after all, she did drown in the ship’s pool. The maze begins with a freaky funeral for Mary given by a scary looking preacher;. Various versions of Mary run around this maze, popping up creepily behind walls of water and around corners. In the pool room, Mary called out to us from across the room, her creepy baby voice echoing off the walls. This is a natural progression from the previous theme of Submerged, but overall, we didn’t find Mary to be too scary.

voodoo vals-13-2

voodoo vals-14-2

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 3 skulls

Soul Mate

voodoo vals-1-4

Graceful Gale is the main character of “Soul Mate,” which 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 maze begins with a video that tells the story of Gale in a cartoonish sort of way. Although it was a cool idea to provide the backstory, the audio of the video was very bad and we could barely hear that narration. The narrow corridors of the maze were 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? We got a few good scares in this maze this year, and Gale was looking more creepy (and sometimes more manly) than ever.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

B340

queen mary-3

This maze 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. We found this maze to be lacking in monsters this year. Perhaps they didn’t have a full staff on opening night, so we hope more monsters show up for work as the month goes on.


untitled-1

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

Voodoo Village

voodoo vals-1-2

“Voodoo Village” is located 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. 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. As always, the actors in this maze are some of the strongest and most scary. This continues to be one of our favorites.

voodoo vals-23-2

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Circus

This maze is located inside the dome and has been our favorite in past years. Small changes keep this maze fresh. “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 and a spinning wheel of daggers. A new scene entailing a “ball pit” seemed very problematic to us. When we went through at the beginning of the night, the plastic balls were up to our knees, and it’s easy to lose a flip flop in here. We heard that by the end of the night, the ball pit was reduced to nothing more than a few balls scattered on the floor, so at some point they must have realized the potential for actual danger in here. It was a cool idea, but hard to execute with the level of crowds that come through every night. The scares were good, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

voodoo vals-9-2

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls

Deadrise

voodoo vals-15-2

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 presented a few new twists and turns (including a choice of path at one point), and the monster are extremely enthusiastic. We actually found this maze to be the scariest this year, as a few tweaks to the lighting and fog effects had monsters startling us from left and right (and over our heads). This is a simple but excellent maze and one of our favorites this year.

voodoo vals-16-2

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls 

The Curse of Anubis: Paintball Adventure (New for 2015)

voodoo vals-25-2

This upcharge attraction features a single room decorated in neon Egyptian style, with a few moving props and—hilariously—some live mummies running around the room. You get only 30 paintballs to shoot, so be careful not to spill your load too quickly. Honestly, we found this attraction to be cheesy and not worth paying extra for. The line also moves very slowly since you have to wait for each group to finish their round.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 1 skulls
  • Theming: 1 skulls
  • Scare Factor: Buried skull

Overall Rating: 1 skull

Side Show: Freaks and Oddities

This is another attraction that’s an extra charge. Once again, the layout has been revamped. Once admitted, you find your way into a sort of courtyard that houses a bar area and small show stage, which is very nice and a great place to relax and have a drink in between mazes. The freaks reside in shipping containers that ring the bar area, and each one has its own entrance and exit. The Shadow Spirit was by far our favorite, as he taunted us from the exit and then scared the shadow out of us once we got inside. 5 skulls to that guy!

queen mary-1-3

voodoo vals-27-2

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

SUMMARY

“Deadrise” rose to the top as our favorite Dark Harbor maze this year, winning almost entirely because of the great talent that scared the pants off of us. The new maze, Lullaby, fell a little flat, and the paintball experience is a throwaway in our opinion. The returning mazes remain solid, although we felt there weren’t a lot of monsters this year (which is concerning, since they are advertising “more monsters” in 2015). We definitely recommend checking out the side show area as well.

We found the lines to be very long on opening night, and the addition of the preshows is probably a contributing factor to this. You can always purchase a front of the line pass to help bypass the lines, but we suggest arriving early to beat some of the crowds.

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Overall Fright Value: 4 Skulls

Overall Rating of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2015: 4 Skulls

It’s Time to Get The Last Laugh at Howl-O-Scream

The first house has been revealed for Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl-O-Scream – Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh.

e49d4b1093fe4e488c030b5fc6421a14_hos15_circus_housegallery00_550x350

Over the past 4 years this house has been terrifying guest with one the scariest shows on earth. It seems that all good things must eventually come to an end but before they do the clowns and freaks are going to do all they can to make sure it’s impossible to survive the terrorizing surprises and startling scares that wait inside Circus of Superstition: The Last Laugh. You may have spent all these years of avoiding black cats and sidewalk cracks, but all those years of bad luck have finally caught up with you!

We experienced the Circus of Superstition the first year it premiered at HOS in 2012 and it definitely was a favorite of ours. Here’s our review:

4912a4371d964f27b05762c0fae4a617_hos15_circus_housegallery02_550x350This maze was fantastic! As all of our haunt stalkers know by now, we find the clown theme to be tired and not scary. However, this maze has cleverly combined the Trickster icon and the park’s 13th anniversary with the theme of thirteen superstitions being showcased inside a circus filled with crazed clowns. Unlike the typical clown mazes where they try to be silly while scaring you, these clowns are sinister and pure evil. Lead by the Trickster who snidely welcomed us inside , we really felt like we were testing our luck in this maze. Inside, we were treated to superstitious fears such as opened umbrellas, broken mirrors  black cats, hat on a bed, spilling salt, and cracked sidewalks. The clowns attacked from all directions and some, on bungee cords, sprung out and got extremely close to us. On top of all that, this maze was in 3D bringing a whole new dimension of fear with the dramatic transitions from florescent bright rooms to dark passages, causing a very disorienting effect . The finale of the maze was one of the most suspenseful and heart pounding scares of the night with a walkway surrounded by ax wielding clowns. Seems we were pretty lucky to get out in one piece. 

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating*: 4.5 skulls 

Step right up for the one of the scariest circus shows you’ll ever seen.

Insidious 4D Experience: Just Step Away ‘Further’ Back

insidious-insidious-24669375-1280-536

We are very disappointed to share that our experience at Insidious 4D here in Los Angeles did not happen due to the people running it being disorganized, disingenuous, and rude. We pride ourselves at Scare Zone in representing the experience everyday people will have when going to haunts so we don’t push to get special press access, treatment, or freebies as we want to report on the haunt experiences as they really are and not biased with VIP access.

Insidious 4D is a very simple marketing promotion, using virtual reality goggles and some film props set up inside of two connected trucks, designed to promote the upcoming movie Insidious 3. During the stop in L.A. guests can RSVP for a reserved time or just show up and wait in line. All the RSVP times required codes provided by various press partners and all seemed impossible for us to use on the event’s website. Nonetheless, the event was listed on the website as opening at 3pm today (Saturday 5/16) so we went at 2:30 to begin our wait in line and hopefully beat some of the crowds. However, upon our arrival we were told that they don’t open until 6:30p (?). Others had also arrived early to get in line and like us had traveled some distance to attend and were also dismayed to be told they now needed to come back 3.5 hours later. When we checked on our phones the website still had the opening time listed as 3pm so this was a critical error on their part.

IMG_1956

The Public relations (PR) woman who was running the check in line appeared to be nice at first but in a very backhanded and patronizing manner she was also trying to act as if it was our faults for showing up at the time listed on the website; as if we should have known they didn’t have their shit together. She “offered” to “try to” accommodate us if we waited to go in. Meanwhile there was nobody, press or otherwise waiting to go in. However, literally a minute before our other writer showed up, a group of “PR” people (9 total) arrived. I was then told by this Insidious PR woman that “she tried to get us in but since our friend wasn’t there, there’s nothing she can do.” I told her we can still wait, as we came expecting to wait, but to be clear the website stated that they opened at 3 and not 6:30.” The Insidious PR woman then randomly snapped at me and said that she was trying to be nice but my tone is rude (which it was not, I only stated the facts) and I should try at 6:30 and she stormed off. It was a very odd moment. A second later her bipolar disorder kicked in again as she came back over to me and said she’ll see what she can do and then walked off again (WTF?).

Our other writer showed up seconds later and other visitors started to show up as well. The Insidious PR woman started telling them that it wasn’t open until 6:30 and they all looked puzzled since the website said 3pm. She told them it was only open for press. One of us then went over to the group she was telling to leave to validate they weren’t crazy and that the website does say they open at 3pm and can accommodate general admission without a “reservation” time. This is when the Insidious PR woman physically grabbed her and pushed her aside. It was unreal! We told her that it wasn’t necessary to push and the Insidious PR woman harshly said “I told your friend I was trying to make it work for you so why don’t you talk to each and stay out of this.” At this point we were so shocked at the nature of the behavior of this Insidious PR woman we were finished and knew that this experience was not worth it at all. The only scary thing here was is this second class nut job woman who was struggling through her mental issues in public. She actually could have been arrested for assault had we decided to call the police.

We did ask who was in charge and spoke with some other guy “in charge”. He seemed nice enough and seemed to agree what had transpired was uncalled for, but also wasn’t proactive in correcting the situation. While speaking with him, the crazy Insidious PR woman came back and over to us and tried to do more condescending verbal assaults as she apparently was the victim of this situation. Then the guy started to argue with her as well so we were finished with this whole shit show and left.

This is a problem we’ve experienced over the years in the haunt industry. Dealing with the companies, movie studios, and individuals who try to capitalize off of the haunt experience. All these entities do not have the integrity nor the soul to deliver a haunt experience with any real intention to provide people with a good time and scares. They simply want to promote their upcoming moving, sell some goods, and make a fast buck off of dedicated haunters, horror fans, and the general public. It’s really disgusting to think that they’ll be so rude and condensending to the very people who are going to be watching their movies and buying the products that pay their checks. They obviously only have a myopic view of the world in which everyone should simply go along with the rules that they keep changing while they keeping playing games. They don’t see the big picture and know that once the word gets out that their event/haunt is crap, they’ve lost the trust and support of the haunt community, fans, and public.

FullSizeRenderAgain, we want our fellow Haunt Stalkers, Haunters and friends to be treated with respect. No one should ever be verbally assaulted, spoken to in a condescending tone, or physically pushed. It is disgusting to know that the Insidious 4D experience is being carried out by a bunch of emotionally distraught and crooked individuals. Sadly this also taints the overall view and experience of the Insidious brand and studios behind it.

Haunt Review: Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2014

IMG_0407

With an eclectic mix of themes ranging from popular TV series, classic movie properties, and sadistic original themes, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) 2014 fired on all cylinders. Not since 2009, had we experienced such a full line up of terrifying mazes at HHN. The HHN team of John Murdy and Chris Williams managed to create some of the most intricate horror maze designs and effects we’ve seen… anywhere! While other Theme Park haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm celebrate the spirit of the Halloween season with creepy and spooky styled themes, HHN differentiates itself as being a true Horror Show. Here we take on the leading roles encountering monsters, zombies, and psychos inside a the vast landscape of Hollywood’s top horror settings.

The park operations, which has been a nightmare in the past, were running smoothly in the night of our visit; with great line control, calm crowds, and helpful employees. Everything that has exasperated us in our past visits to HHN were non-issues this year. Even without a front of the line pass, we made it through 6 of the 7 mazes and experienced The Terror Tram with our longest wait being only 35 minutes. The only minor complaint we have is the amount of walking guests had to do with the walk from the front gate down to the backlot mazes being 1.2 miles (we checked on Google Maps) each way. By the end of the night we felt like the Walking Dead ourselves. On the positive side, the spread did help to keep the crowds fairly dispersed throughout the park, especially earlier in the evening. Universal did a good job at making the walk to backlot an entertaining and scary experience with an army of zombies from the “The Walking Dead” populating the walkways themed as the journey to ‘Terminus”.

IMG_0413 IMG_0414

We’ll now take you through our maze and scare zone reviews with highlights and opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

** Videos are from our friends at ThemeParkHD see more of their awesome theme park and haunt videos here. **

Mazes

IMG_0416

The Walking Dead: End of the Line 

This is where we follow in the footsteps of the human survivors on the show as we flee the overrun prison and enter a nightmarish landscape searching for a promised new safe haven (Terminus) that may not be all that it seems. After escaping the dark and murky prison sets that were featured in last year’s Walking Dead maze, we find ourselves fighting through even larger hordes of walkers in new scenes inspired from the show’s 4th season.

This year was the best reincarnation of the Walking Dead with the Walkers getting uncomfortably close to us. The makeup on the Walkers was on par with what you’d actually see in the show. Seeing the Walkers in their various stages of decay was very unnerving as the zombie makeup was a little more than realistic. Being in the scenes from the show also created an odd sensation mixed of fear and nostalgia. The infamous scene from the series where the store ceiling is collapsed by the zombies was just as awe inspiring as it was scary. We liked that the walkers were actually running at us and there were quite a few surprise scares that took us off guard, providing some pretty terrifying moments. Towards the middle of the maze we were starting to hope that Rick and Michonne would show up to protect us and guide us to safety. Yet no luck, and we had to bravely make our own way through the zombie infested scenes in a failed attempt to get to the safety of Terminus. 

With a maze of this caliber we won’t necessarily balk at HHN for continuing to bring out the dead, but we also feel that all good things should come to and end and perhaps after 3 years it’s time for HHN let the dead rest in peace.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls

 

IMG_0421

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator

Two rival alien species fight to the death with Earth as their battleground. In this menacing maze guest uncover a dangerous alien spaceship carrying a race of hunter aliens known as Predators and a threatening new alien life form that uses human hosts to propagate its species. After crash landing in a remote section of America and escaping to the countryside, the alien and predator become hunter and prey with guests caught in the crossfire.

HHN14_AVP-1-300x240This maze (and an American Werewolf in London) had the most detailed sets and high-end effects we’ve ever seen at HHN. We have to loudly applaud the HHN creative team for bringing the AVP settings and monsters fully to life, to scare us to death. On top of the detailed sets, this maze was just downright terrifying. The Alien and Predator attacks were relentless. Coupled with HHN’s signature lighting and sound scares, every time the extraterrestrial monsters made an appearance, widely swiping and thrashing at us, even the bravest of haunt stalkers were screaming and ducking for cover.

This maze cleverly used it’s spaceship, forest, and suburban house settings to create unique hiding places for the scares. This maze  had diversion and new scare tactics having the Aliens, Predators, and victims appear from some of the most unexpected places. In addition, many of the live and animatronic scareactors were larger than life making every encounter with them even more foreboding. There was a lot to see in this maze and we wish we had time (and nerves) to go through it more than once. If anything, this is one maze we definitly would not mind seeing come back for a second year.


Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 skulls

 

IMG_0422

From Dusk Till Dawn

We can’t believe that original movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn” came out 18 years ago (in 1996) and now it has been transformed into a TV series on the the El Rey Network that has become a maze. HHN fans have expressed interest in a maze based on this movie for many years so it seems that the timing is now perfect for this theme as it not only utilizes a very popular horror movie that has a unique spin on the vampire lore; but it also has themes of hispanic folklore (Mesoamerican) that Universal has been exploiting… err exploring, over the past few years (La Llorona and El Cucuy) and it helps to promote the new series. A win-win all around.

This maze was fun and worth seeing but it wasn’t one of the best for 2014. The scareactor makeup was top-notch with the vampire demons looking relastic from head to toe. The sets were also well detailed to look like the forbbidden lair of the blood sucking demons but since the maze tried follow the linear story of the movie/TV show there were a few scenes that were repeated so it started to feel redundant was we went further through. There were a few good scares but the layout with wide open rooms allowed too much time for us to scan and scope out the potential scareactor hiding places.

It was good and fun to finally have a From Dusk Till Dawn maze but it didn’t fully meet our expectations.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 2.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skull
  • Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

IMG_0432

An American Werewolf in London

After year’s and year’s of begging, this maze was finally unleashed upon HHN guests in Hollywood. This maze recreated all the legendary scenes from movie using gruesomely convincing props, chillingly authentic music and mind-blowing special effects. Throughout this maze it was hard to tell who was howling louder, us or the wolves.

HHN14_American-Werewolf-4-Copy-300x240In this maze the horrifying journey begins in “The Slaughtered Lamb,” the English countryside pub introduced in the beginning of the movie. After venturing through the overgrown wasteland known as the “Moors,” maze-goers are forced to traverse through dense fog amidst sounds of savage growls and unknown peril ahead. Before long we find ourselves face to jaws of the larger than life werewolves who are fully built animatronic beasts that bite and claw at us from unexpected darkness and corners. In addition to the werewolves, we are further terrorized by the nightmarish zombie nazi soldiers who ambushed us in a forcibly convincing machine gun attack.

Just like AVP, this maze featured the best sets and effects we’ve ever seen at a haunt. With the diversity of sets ranging from the wooded countryside to the underground tube station it’s obvious that no expense was spared in designing this maze. The makeup was also phenomenal as they even included a transformation scene that stopped people in their tracks as they watched David’s painful transformation from a man to lycan. For fans of the movie this maze accurately depicted everything they love about it, scene by scene, making it really feel as if we were being stalked by the wolves all the way from the English country side to London’s red light district.  This maze fully reflects everything HHN Hollywood is about in bringing the movies to life.


Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 skulls

IMG_0430

Clowns 3D Music by SLASH

This maze was no laughing matter as it seemed to unmask the psychological disorder known as Coulrophobia, a disturbing condition affecting those with an extreme and irrational fear of clowns. The psychedelic 3D maze featured sadistic clowns taunting and tempting victims with terror and treats as they parade through “Sweet Licks Frozen Clown Pops Family Amusement Center” (that’s a real mouthful).

HHN14_Clowns-5-300x200As we all know the killer clown theme is not a unique find at a haunt. Even HHN has featured different variations of killer clowns throughout the years. The uniqueness of this maze was the soundtrack written Slash from Guns & Roses fame. Along with his screaming guitar riffs, his likeness was also featured throughout this dilapidated ice cream factory run by the deranged clown Sweet Licks. The story is Sweet Licks has lured us to his factory only with the intentions to use us as the key ingredients in his ice cream concoction.

The clown makeup was very sinister and widely creative. Perhaps the clowns looked a little too monstrous thus detaching them from the actual fears people have of the traditional looking clowns of days past. These monster clowns were very high strung delivering some of the most energetic performances we saw the whole night. The thing with this maze though, is the fact that it reused a lot of sets and scare tactics we had seen in previous HHN mazes such as House of 1,000 Corpses and Black Sabbath. All in all it was a fun maze but it was pretty typcial as far as clown themed mazes go. We do give thumbs up to Universal for not reducing itself to charge guests $1 for the glasses, which is the practice at other parks (looking at Knott’s).


Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3 skulls

IMG_0493

Face Off: In the Flesh

This is the last maze that will ever be featured inside the former House of Horrors attraction. This venue has never featured the scariest or best HHN mazes as it has a prefixed set-up that doesn’t allow for much change year over year aside from having new characters running around. However, the Face Off creations were a real nice addition to this maze that usually features Universal’s classic horror monsters.

Some of the Face Off creatures we encountered included insect-human hybrids and creatures from Alice in Zombieland. While we’ve usually been big critics of this maze and its disjointed layovers, we could tell that HHN really went all out to give this maze a final layover that sends off the attraction in gruesome style. Not only were the costumes and makeup incredible, the maze was packed with Face-Off monsters who were very talented at utilizing the tight spaces of the maze to surprise us with new scares we didn’t expect, after going through this maze over and over during the past decade. We were genuinely scared and after the first few scenes it was clear that they were determined to scare the shit out of us and were not going to hold back. The intensity seemed to build as we made our way through the familiar pathways and when it was all over we couldn’t believe that they “got us” so many times. As hard as it may be for for us to admit, we may now actually miss The House of Horrors.

Oh, for you dubstep fans, have no fear as house music DJ Figure was back again to provide the soundtrack for this maze.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 2 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3 skulls

 

IMG_0442

Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead

Like last year, the 2013 Terror Tram features The Walking Dead and covers the same ground as all years before. As you exit the tram, a line of chainsaws greets you, ushering you up the path toward the Bates Motel. Walkers stumble around, attempting to scare but moving just too slowly to really cause anyone alarm. The trail takes you past the Bates house, through some zombie sets, through the War of the Worlds sets, and back onto the Tram. There is nothing really new this year, and we suggest that if you’re running out of time in your evening, this is the attraction to skip.

 

 

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 skull
  • Theming: 2 skull
  • Scare Factor: 2 skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 skull

Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood

dracula-550x304

Unfortunately we ran out of time to experience this maze. Perhaps we should have skipped the Terror Tram but it was hard to pass the opportunity to sit for 15 minutes while riding the tram up and down the hill. The line for this maze was listed as the longest of the night, which probably had to due with it’s location near the entrance plaza. Early reviews we heard said that this maze was not a hit. The movie wasn’t very good and so we didn’t feel too bad about not being able to experience it.

Here’s how Universal described it: Guests will witness the harrowing transformation of Vlad the Impaler to the monstrous Dracula. We know how the story ends, but what terrifying blood drenched journey brought Vlad into the darkness that is Dracula? This is it — every visceral and feral scare will grab guests by the jugular.

Scare Zones

The Purge: Survive the Night This year, the main entrance into HHN is taken over by The Purge scare zone. This was a fantastic use of a movie as a scare zone, as its placement is perfect at the beginning of the park, where most of the mayhem and disorder take place. This area is always the most chaotic, so The Purge is a great setting for that. The opening “Scare-amonies” feature a line of sinister-looking folks (“purgers”?) with chainsaws, wearing those creepy expression-less masks from the movie. There’s also an actor portraying the “Polite Leader” at the head of the scare zone, and one of these actors looked so much like the guy in the movie, we had to watch him for several minutes to decide whether or not the real actor had joined the ranks of HHN this year. 4 skulls

IMG_0413

The Walking Dead: Welcome to Terminus  With no end in sight for the zombie apocalypse, the only hope for survival lies in taking the road to Terminus, a rumored sanctuary for the living. There may be hope, but it’s a journey fraught with unimaginable horrors as you make your way through a gauntlet of flesh-hungry walkers. This scare zone was a creative way to distract us from the fact that we’re walking over a quarter mile across the backlot. The path is loaded with walkers, show set pieces, lighting and fog effects. It even includes a tunnel where walkers blend in with the crowd and get very close with guests. 4 Skulls 

IMG_0466

Mask-a-Raid featured hordes of blood thirsty cannibals masquerading as French aristocrats. This was a fun scare zone with some great looking set pieces and costuming. The masquerading monsters were very in your face aggressive as well. Worth a stroll through this area, just watch your back. 4 skulls 

IMG_0458

Dark Christmas a Pagan-themed area where demonic creatures hunt disobedient children and drag them to hell. We loved this scare zone! Forget The Nightmare Before Christmas, this is truly the place where holidays collide. Going through this scare zone made us wish for a real Krampus movie or other X-Mas themed horror flick, that is NOT Silent Night Deadly Night.  5 Skulls

Skullz based on the Native American legend of Wendigo, a malevolent supernatural half-beast monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. It’s hard quantify this as a scare zone as all we saw were 2-3 scareactors on stilts walking around in the area between The Mummy ride and Jurassic Park. There was no supporting set pieces or anything to further distingiush this as a real scare zone. The stilt walkers did their best an interact with the crowd but there was nothing overtly scary about them. 1.5 Skull

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Overall Fright Value: 4.5 Skulls

Overall Rating of HHN Hollywood 2014: 5 Skulls

Haunt Review – NIGHTMARE: NEW YORK

secondbest-690x260

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

IMG_0261

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

IMG_0290

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

IMG_0295IMG_0296

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

10517243_586350994804958_5723185588829040106_o-2

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

IMG_0288

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

10679807_603467476426643_5218691391867900657_o

 

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

10091575335_99e3e5a55c_o

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

1548160_603440479762676_2907040142247009124_o

 

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

maxresdefault

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

10504898_590832454356812_1245765446317830453_o

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

IMG_0268

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

IMG_0275

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

Older posts

© 2016 Scare Zone

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑