Archive for the ‘Haunt Reviews’ Category

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

TBTW 2

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

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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

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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

Haunt Review: Delusion Masque of Mortality

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

37277916c2ad476d918421baf3642880.image!png.196100.png.delusionprofile.pngDelusion is one of the trendsetters of haunted attractions to combine theatrical performances with movie-quality set designs and dramatic storytelling. During the course of it’s run over the past 2 years Delusion has created new ways to reinvent the traditional haunted house experience. In their haunts guests don’t just walk through pre-deterimined pathways with plywood walls and monsters hiding around the corner. Instead legitimately creepy locations are rigged with the latest Hollywood FX and stunts to create immersive environments for their stories of terror.

Now in its third year, Delusion has relocated from its residence inside a historic turn-of-the-century mansion in the West Adams district of L.A. to the even larger Bethany Presbyterian Church in Silverlake. Upon arrival, this new ominous setting does betray an aura of foreboding. Guests are checked in and then quickly whisked inside for a brief pre-show that features a cryptic audio recording foretelling the evils that lies ahead. Then a cloaked figure guides everyone to a small courtyard in the middle of the grounds where you’re asked to wait for the main show inside of a lounge area stocked with plenty of drinks and treats to buy.

The lounge is decorated with pictures, artifacts and notes that provide clues to the frights that lay ahead. We had fun exploring this area and the meticulously placed props heightened our curiosity of what was to come. However, one problem with this area is that those who are waiting to go in end up mingling with those who have just finished their experience and here we encountered loud talkers inadvertently giving away spoilers to those of us who haven’t gone inside yet.

While we can’t give away all the details, this year’s play takes us back in time to 1930, where there has been an outbreak of the plague. Mysterious figures calling themselves The Doctors have promised a remedy not only to the plague, but of a greater life, free of the oppression of God and human limitations. During the course of this haunted play we encountered different characters some of whom (mis)guided us, and others who wanted to harm us as we try to stop the cult and return to safety.

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Most of the performers are effective in portraying their roles and sustain the suspense throughout the adventure. Yet there were a couple scenes where the actors seemed to get a little carried away with their dramatics, resulting in a few chuckles along the way. The larger location for this year’s haunt show allows for a larger variety of scenes which includes medical offices, small closets, children’s bedrooms and hidden passageways to carnage filled kitchens. Of course there’s also a scene utilizing the church’s large sanctuary. We were very impressed with how well the scenes flowed as we had to travel up and down to different floors of the church. The staging and choreography of this production is well thought out an they successfully manage to keep your group from ever encountering any others, which occurred at the previous location. It’s very impressive knowing that they successfully put it all together in less than a month and with only 6 full rehearsals.

With the larger location there were a few elements that we missed from the previous versions of the show. The stunts used at the former mansion seemed to be much more dramatic and really contributed to some of the biggest scares such as the woman who was pulled up the stairs and down a hallway to her doom. This year it seems the stunts are used more sparingly and a heavier burden to deliver the scares is placed on the actors. There is much more group interactivity required with a higher level of physical participation required by guests. You will have to run, crawl, hide, and maybe even dress up in order survive the wrath of the plaque doctors.

For us the finale of the play is somewhat of a let down and failed to deliver the large scares and level of theatrics we had expected. Especially coming after some more intense scenes. Nonetheless, the production is first rate and sustains an incredibly suspenseful atmosphere with uncertainty on how or when it’s all going to end until you see the doors open back to the lounge.

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Delusion is still one of the must see haunted attractions in Los Angeles. We do honestly feel that the price point has become rather (too) steep especially when you can go to a large scale theme park haunt for the same or nearly half the price and get a full nights of entertainment. With that said Delusion, is not a theme park haunt and even thought it isn’t the cheapest haunt experience it’s one you’ll still be talking about until the next time it comes around and for that you shouldn’t feel as bad about paying so much… at least we didn’t. Plus down the street in Silverlake there’s a great selection of restaurants and bars making it the perfection detestation for a haunted ‘date night’ or ‘night on the town’ with friends.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls
  • Fright Value: 3 skulls

Overall Rating for Delusion Masque of Mortality: 4 skulls

Click here to read about our rating system

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2013

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Dark Harbor

Over the past few years, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor has become a venerable haunt well worth visiting in Southern California. It has established itself as a top-quality, good-value attraction, and we found the 2013 event to be no exception. 

This year, Dark Harbor brought us another new maze, called “Circus,” as well as a Big Top–style theme to the grounds of the event. There was an actual carnival ride (a crazy looking Ferris wheel that spins riders upside down), a mechanical bull, and a zip line. There’s a stage for bands to play, plus several bars and food stands, all with horror/Halloween themes (for example, the “Terror Tavern,” and “Dracula’s pizza,” with extra garlic, of course).  There’s a whole schedule of live entertainment to check out, plus a freak show.

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

Circus (New for 2013)

Circus Dark Harbor

Located inside the dome, this maze replaces one of Scare Zone’s favorites, “The Cage.” 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 and eerie, dirty glow over everything. The entrance is through a clown’s mouth, and from there you encounter typical circus scenes, such as an actual mirror maze you can get lost in, a spinning wheel of daggers, an unfortunate woman who has been sawed in half, and a creepy marionette show. If you’re lucky, you might even find a secret slide you can go down! The scares were pretty good in here, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

Secret Slide

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 4.5 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 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. We found this maze to be pretty scary last year, but as we went through it this year, there seemed to be fewer scares. It’s still an excellent maze, with many dark corners for the actors to hide in. Plus, it’s a ship-themed maze, so can it be any more perfect for Dark Harbor?

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls 

The Village

The village Dark Harbor

This is the longest maze at Dark Harbor, and it has a lot of different scenes and environments. We’ve said in past years that we wish the scenes were more consistent, but as you walk through, you actually do get a sense of traveling through a “village,” and this was evident a bit more this year. The actors in here also always do their best to really create full characters and scare the hell out of you, and the group of girls in front of us screamed like crazy the whole way through.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

Containment

This maze suffers a bit from its changing story line. Originally themed to the ship’s infirmary during a virus outbreak, and then changed in 2012 to follow the story of “Samuel,” who was held in solitary confinement after a violent rampage, evidence of both themes creates a clash that is hard to follow. We encountered some doctor/patient characters in the maze, and then came across a confusing throne of bones and skulls. The scares were weaker this year, but this is one of the mazes with the best natural setting on the ship, with narrow passages, portholes, and stairs that remind you that–oh yeah, I’m on an actual boat.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3 skulls

Submerged

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This maze has a lot of cool animated props and water effects. The ship’s decks are taking on water, and victims are drowning and coming out of the dark at you. The finale of the maze takes place inside the ship’s pool room, which is reported to be truly haunted. In this room, the ghost of the little girl, Scary Mary, sings and runs along the side of the pool as you pass by.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3 skulls

Hellfire

Last year, we complained that this maze had gone a bit downhill. We’re happy to report that it’s made a comeback in 2013, and we found it to be one of the scariest at Dark Harbor this year. The actors were timing the scares perfectly, the fog and lighting effects were all in working order. This just goes to show how subjective haunts can be–if the scareactors are having an “off” night, if an animated prop breaks in a maze, or if a couple of light bulbs go out, the effectiveness of a maze can be greatly dampened. So it’s great to see this maze running on all cylinders again.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

FREAK SHOW

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Step right up to see the freaks. Sneak a peak at the five new freaks of Dark Harbor & experience all new scares never before attempted at Dark Harbor. But Beware. These aren’t just any scares. You will never guess what’s waiting for you inside the containers of freaks – Headless Hannah, Human Crab, Sparky, The White Spirit and the Shadow Spirit. But be on look out for the Twins and The Beast, whom roam freely amongst our Freak Shows. Step right up.

This is a brand new attraction for 2013, and it’s unlike anything we’ve experienced at a haunt. This is actually an up-charge attraction ($5). Each “freak” is located in their own shipping container (some freaks have a maze of containers), and each experience is different. We don’t want to ruin any surprises, but we’ll say that some freak experiences are scary, and some are more comical. Some are very short, and some take longer to walk through. But we did have a lot of fun visiting each freak, and we think the $5 is worth it for this unique type of attraction.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Freak Show Dark Harbor

SUMMARY

We loved the new “Circus” maze this year, and the returning mazes were solid. The scare factor was high in many of the mazes, and we actually found it to be scarier overall than Knott’s or Halloween Horror Nights this year. Of course, Dark Harbor doesn’t have the full detailed sets of HHN or Knott’s, but the dark corners and tight passages of Queen Mary’s mazes made it much easier to startle us.

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

Haunt Review: Knott’s Scary Farm 2013

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

With “Nowhere to Hide” we successfully survived another year of Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt!

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This year solidified Scary Farm’s reinvention with the most highly themed and exceptionally crafted mazes in it’s 41 year history. In comparison to other big SoCal Theme Park Haunts (er, Universal) Knott’s still wins big in creating the perfect feeling of a big Halloween celebration. Knott’s also benefits from having unique mazes themes that are not constrained by the pre-scripted story lines of movies and TV shows, thus allowing for more surprises throughout. The total number of mazes slightly decreased but it wasn’t noticeable given the quality of the mazes they do have (we also appreciate having fewer mazes to write about). We do miss was the haunt layover of the Timber Mountain Log Ride. Even though the ride’s scare factor had declined over the years it still was one of the most unique haunt attractions anywhere (and a nice way to get scared without having to walk).

The caliber of the shows was also increased with production upgrades made to The Hanging and the voluptuous return of Elvira. We did miss the new Possessed show. We had the intention to see it but among the exFRIGHTment of all the other haunt attractions we somehow forgot about it. We blame it on the fact that there wAS no visible signage or barkers to attract people in to see it. It seemed to get lost in it’s location in the back corner of the park, near Pinocchio and Forevermore.

10091544724_aabb76260f_oThey say there’s “Nowhere to Hide” but we didn’t know what we were hiding from as the Scare Zones has less of an impact this year. It  goes without saying that the Ghost Town still sets the scary tone for the entire event but the other zones were far less interesting or memorable this year. The Tricksters from Trick O Treat were roaming the park causing chaos but it was all fun with no scares.  We also noticed that the caliber of the talent in the mazes didn’t match to that of past years or at other haunts we’ve been to recently. Many of the mazes felt understaffed where we would wander through a few consecutive rooms before being scared. We actually encountered more blackouts (maze security) than monsters.  We did notice signs saying that they were still hiring monsters, which isn’t a good sign (no pun intended) . Could it be that the budget trade off  for more elaborately theme mazes took away from the the talent budget? Once they get the talent on par with the new maze designs Knott’s could be the unbeatable ticket in town.

10091613226_1d727d6bec_oWith all this said we did have a great time at Knott’s Scary Farm. Going back always feels like a haunted homecoming for us. When it comes to horror the mazes are a little more mild than Universal’s but there’s still enough visceral eye candy and frights to keep your heart pumping through the night. If you could only pick one haunt to visit, Knott’s does offer a great value with it’s broad mix of mazes, experiences and shows all for very a reasonable price point. Nonetheless, we don’t know why in hell you a would pick just one haunt to go to.

Now here’s what you really want to read, our maze ratings. Since we went on a slow night, we didn’t buy the Fright Lane/Skeleton Key option so we didn’t get to experience the extra Skeleton Key rooms. We do think that this gimmick is great way to add value for those who cough up more money for front of the lines passes. We wish it was possible to just buy the Skeleton Key but we can see how that could cause further line backups. Our fellow Haunt Stalker at ThemeParkHD did manage to capture some great maze videos for us including the Skeleton Key rooms, which we’ll share with our reviews. Just be warned they are full maze spoilers.

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.

NEW MAZES 

Black Magic

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This maze was one of our favorites of the night. We were amazed by the detailed themeing and settings they created around this story. Using magic as backdrop for a maze provided continuous surprises throughout. There was definitely more than rabbits popping out of hats inside of here. The talent in this maze were some of the most impressive of all the mazes with 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. This maze also had a nice blend of light and dark scenes allowing for some good scares as your eyes adjusted with the lighting transitions  If you get the time, we recommend that you go through this maze twice to make sure you get to capture all of the Black Magic inside of this maze.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 5 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls

Forevermore

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The Edgar Allen Poe theme has become more popular at haunts across the country in recent years with both Universal Orlando and Busch Gardens taking a stab at the infamous writer. Knott’s diverts from strictly recreating eerie scenes of Poe’s stories and creates the story line of a serial killer who is 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 incredible. While there was some good eye candy in this maze, it wasn’t always clear what was going on. In one scene it looked like we stumbled into Club Blood. The scares were also far in between. In comparison to Busch Garden’s Nevermore maze this maze has room for improvement. We see it being a good maze for the next year or two but overall this isn’t a theme they’ll need to keep bringing back… “Forevermore”.

Ratings:

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

Mirror, Mirror

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… on the wall, WTH, that is all?  Here, they let small groups into a carnival style mirror maze for a short period of time. We applaud Knott’s for trying to do something new but this maze seemed like it was thrown together at the last minute. While the glass was very clean and the frames were pretty, it was too small inside and the finale is disappointingly anti-climatic. **SPOILER** There really is no exit. You just wander around with a couple masked monsters in chase until they eventually open the maze’s backdoor. This maze had the potential to be better but it would need a much larger footprint, more monsters, and lighting tricks.  The way this maze is setup, it will have the longest lines of all so we highly recommend going to it right at the beginning of the night, using Fright Lane, or skipping it all together.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: .5 Skulls
  • Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls

The Gunslinger’s Grave

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Yeehaw! This maze is the epitome of the Knott’s legacy. 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 making it really feel as if we are out in the old wild west amid the Silver Bullet and Jaguar coasters rolling by overhead. The soundtrack was solid with frenetic Bon Jovi stylized guitar riffs. 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 but it wasn’t overly frightening. The talent was convincing in their roles as they were 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. With a few more characters in more horrific makeup and a slower pace, this maze will be able to hit it the bullseye and we can see it becoming increasingly scary in the coming years.  

Ratings:

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

Dominion of the Damned

This is a new maze? It looked so similar to last year’s Dominion of the Dead to us. This is another maze with a cool soundtrack and superb set design but here the talent was weak and tired. Among the beautiful set pieces we encountered vampires who looked in desperate need of a blood transfusion. There were so many opportunities for big scares but after you walk by them and they’ve said their “boos” it seems that they simply go back to thinking about what they did or didn’t have for dinner. One of the missed opportunities in this maze was to have some of the lavish paintings used for drop panel scares or transparency images (an effect well used at HHN and Dark Harbor this year) , which would of brought about some good and memorable scares.  Dominion is a nice showcase the different reiterations of vampires from the Nosferatu to the Anne Rice versions but it was hard to track the story line, which seemed to be like we were on a tour of The Natural Museum of Vampire History (hmmm that could next year’s vampire maze) . It seems that we’re Dammed to always have a vampire maze at haunt we just want to see one with the energetic and scary kind.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
  • Theming: 3 Skulls 
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 Skulls

RETURNING MAZES

Pinocchio Unstrung 

Pinocchio

Last year this maze set a new bar for all preceding mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. While it’s the same as last year, 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 were consistently scary and high energy. In some scenes they even team up on victims. This is a now a haunt classic and we don’t see Pinocchio getting strung up anytime soon.

Ratings:

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

Trick or Treat 

Trick-or-Treat

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. The scares were turned up slightly over last year but the focus of this maze is more on the fun of Halloween versus the scares.

Ratings:

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

Endgames

Endgames

What does it look like when you combine The Running Man, Mad Max, UFC and the Hunger Games? You get a standard post-apocalyptic, industrial maze with some cool animatronics and an infusion of technical glitz. The fun of this maze comes from the video screens placed throughout showing live feeds of people walking through other parts of the mazes. It’s really hard to know what’s going on in this maze. Even the monsters seemed confused. At one point we were cornered and chased  by characters talking with fake British accents. Did we stumble back into The Terror of London?  We still don’t find this maze to be scary, but the sets are detailed and interesting. We do hope that the end of this game is coming soon.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 Skulls
  • Theming: 1 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls

Delirium 

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The Delirium continues in the maze that is credited for setting a standard for Scary Farm mazes. This maze features some very disturbing scenes completely emerging us inside the minds of the former Asylum maze’s demented patients. Inside, you can expect to encounter people spewing cockroaches, monstrously large flesh-eating maggots, and hideously bloody monsters hiding under the beds. This maze also features some of most interesting lighting effects and large scale props at Scary Farm. We love how the nightmare/dementia theme gets progressively more twisted as we venture further into the maze. This maze has the potential to bring out more craziness for a few more years, and we only hope that in doing so they continue to push the boundaries of Delirium even further.

Ratings:

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

Uncle Willy’s Slaughterhouse

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The meat at Uncle Willy’s continues to stay fresh! The balance of comical and dark horror is sustained throughout the trip through this slaughterhouse. This maze seems like it’s a subtle homage to the campy 80′s horror flick Motel Hell.  Beginning with a fun romp through the local diner soon enough we discover that we’re the secret ingredients to Willy’s popular meat (not sure that was written right).  This was our first maze of the night as it opened earlier than the rest and even with some daylight still creeping in the sets were still suspenseful to walk through with all the heavy machinery grinding around us. The actors here are some of the most menacing of all the Scary Farm mazes and created the kind of scare we’d expected for the rest of the night. It seemed that this is the maze were a lot of the veteran talent works. After going through this maze it’s hard not to think about the fact that there are two Pink’s Hot Dog Stands at Knott’s…mmmmm.

Ratings:

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

EXPERIENCES & SHOWS

Trapped: The New Experiment

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Unfortunately we paid $60 for this maze. Fortunately we were able to get a group of 5 to go in and split the costs. A disappointment compared to last year’s Trapped maze, this year’s version focused more on puzzle solving vs. suspense and scares.  It’s really a scripted scavenger hunt. The sets weren’t very dark and they relied on B-level talent to unnerve us by yelling profanities as loud as they can. In the end we were more unnerved by the feelings of dissatisfaction  from the experience. The designers of this maze need to watch less Fear Factor and see more Scare Tactics.  While the experience has some uniqueness to it, overall we think the only thing that gets trapped here, is your wallet.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
  • Theming: 2 Skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 Skull
  • Overall Rating: 1.5 Skull

The Witch’s Keep (Calico Mine Train)

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The Evil of CAL-OSHA has forever cursed Knott’s once great haunted rides. The log ride was a victim and now the Calico Mine Train is hanging on for dear life. 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 scare.

Ratings:

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

Elvira’s Sinema Seance 

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This show is two handfuls of fun. Of course everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm is Elvira. Her big… return keeps the crowd alive with musical numbers, tongue in cleavge  jokes, and some high grade stage effects. This time around our Mistress of the Dark gets sucked (or is it the other way around) into scenes from classic and contemporary horror movies such as Blair Witch Project, The Birds, and Paranormal Activity. Also, not to ruin the fun but you can only imagine the kind of  booby trap she winds up in during a scene from Saw. Sinema Seance is a good as it gets when it come to Theme Park Halloween shows.  It’s a spooky and kooky Vegas style variety show that fully mounds, er rounds out Knott’s Haunt experience. We also have to give a hand to Elvira as she’s looking great and is back where she belongs during Halloween Season.

  • Overall Rating: 5 Skulls (racked… ranked by Elvira Fans)

 

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