Category: Southern California (page 1 of 35)

Stranger Things “Fun Fair” Takes Over the Santa Monica Pier, June 29-30, 2019

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Film and TV marketing isn’t just for billboards and bus bench ads anymore. Immersive experiences are the new entertainment marketing trend, and ahead of its season 3 premier on July 4, 2019, Stranger Things is time warping the Santa Monica Pier back to the 80s with a free “fun fair” event all weekend long.

The pier will be transformed to make you feel like you stepped into a carnival right in the middle of Hawkins, Indiana (just ignore that little ocean surrounding you on all sides). You’ll be able to visit the Hawkins Bike Shop to enter to win a replica of Max’s bike, play Stranger Things themed carnival games, watch performances by the Hawkins High School Cheerleaders, and grab an ice cream cone from Scoops Ahoy.

But of most interest to haunt fans will be the Curiosity House, which is likely to be filled with Demogorgons.

Admission to the pier is free, although we expect you will still have to pay to ride the permanent pier attractions and play the games. The special event runs June 29 and 30 from 11 am to 9 pm. So put on your most radical 80s attire and check it out.

And if you can’t make it to this event, don’t miss the return of a Stranger Things maze at Halloween Horror Nights this year.

 

Haunt Jobs: Open Hire Season Is Almost Here

As the weather heats up, so does haunt preparation! Theme parks and independent haunts are hard at work building their mazes in preparation for haunt season, which seems to come earlier every year. Although official opening dates for haunts in Southern California are not announced yet, some of these events are beginning to schedule their open hire audition events.

In addition to scare actor jobs, haunts will be hiring construction crews, managers, makeup artists and more.

If you’re on the lookout for a haunt job this year, here are some dates to keep in mind:

Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood: June 21 and 22, 2019

Where: Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City

Auditions are early this year, so don’t miss out!


Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor: July 26 and 27, 2019

Click here to fill out the initial application.

Here’s a video from last year’s auditions:

Knott’s Scary Farm: TBD

Open auditions haven’t been announced yet, but previous employees have been notified of their rehire application dates. Open hire dates are usually near the end of July. We will update when we have more info.

However, they are currently recruiting for a “Scare Zone Cast Leader,” if managing actors is more you style.

 

Check back throughout the summer for more information on haunt job openings and audition dates!

A Spooky Spring: Upcoming Haunt/Horror Events in Southern California

April marks the halfway-point to Halloween season, and if you’re like us, you’re experiencing serious withdrawal from haunts while also starting to get excited for the 2019 season. But Fall is still so far away, so if you just can’t wait, there are a few events in the near future that may help tide you over.

Spring Haunt/Horror Events

April-June 2019

I Like Scary Movies (Miracle Mile, Los Angeles)

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This pop-up “experience” immerses guests into their favorite horror films, including IT, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Beetlejuice, and The Shining. The space boasts 25,000 square feet of Instagram-ready photo ops.

Although there are no scareactors, you’ll be able to pose with Freddy’s glove, sink into the carpet of Overlook Hotel, and pose with maggots in Chinese Food Box (a la Lost Boys). Tickets are $39 for an approximately 90-minute experience.

April 6, 2019

Spook Show 7 (Halloween Club, La Mirada)

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Spook Show started out as a horror “swap meet” of sorts but has quickly grown into a must-attend shopping and entertainment event for any Halloween enthusiast. Put on by Halloween Club (which we’ve all seen on the way to Disneyland), the event includes more than 100 vendors, artists, musicians, and other spooky folks. Halloween Club will also be clearing out a wide array of costumes and props at a great discount. Live music, food, and spook shows by Doctor Zomba’s Ghost Show of Terror round out the event. And the best part? Tickets are free! But you must register ahead of time to guarantee entry.

Spook Show 7 runs from 12-7 pm; costumes are encouraged. To register, visit their website.

April 12, 2019

To Live and Di(n)e in LA (Drunken Devil, Los Angeles)

Dinner-murder-los-angeles

Drunken Devil brings the debauchery back this spring with a new event called “To Live and “Di(n)e in LA.” This event is an immersive dining experience in which guests will encounter the spirits of some of LA’s most notorious criminals and victims, including the Black Dahlia, Charles Manson, and the Night Stalker.

Not only is each course of the meal paired with a themed cocktail, but it also ties in with one of these true crime figures. If you’ve ever wanted to sip some Mezcal next to a serial killer, here’s your chance.

Tickets are $200, which includes the 3-hour show and full-course meal and cocktails. You must be 21 or over to attend.

April 12-13, 2019

All Saints Lunatic Asylum: Rotten Egg Hunt (Apple Valley)

All Saints Lunatic Asylum is one of Southern California’s premier independent haunts, and they consistently put on off-season events worth the drive to Apple Valley. Their annual “Rotten Egg Hunt” returns in 2019, bringing the evil Easter Bunny and friends along with it.

This is the only Easter weekend haunt event in the area, so if you really need a good scare, don’t miss this.

Friday and Saturday, April 12-13, 7:00 to 10 pm. Tickets are $13.

April 12-14, 2019

Monsterpalooza (Pasadena Convention Center)

Before we had the behemoth of Midsummer Scream, Monsterpalooza was the horror convention in Southern California. Although it’s not as big as MSS, it definitely worth attending, because it attracts some serious A-list horror talent, from makeup artists, to sculptors, to film makers and actors (Bruce Campbell!). And of course, John Murdy will be there on Sunday heading up the annual Halloween Horror Nights panel. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Will there be another HHN maze announcement?”

Monsterpalooza runs Friday through Sunday, April 12-14 at the Pasadena Convention Center. Daily tickets are $30 online or $35 at the door.  Be sure to get their early as long lines can form, and there’s a lot to see.

May 24-June 1, 2019

Blood Alley (Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, North Hollywood)

Blood-Alley-Horror-Theatre

If you’ve never experienced a Zombie Joe production, now is the time. This spring, the Underground Theatre presents Blood Alley, an all new horror-theatre spectacular!

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group proudly presents their All-New, Brutal and Razor-Sharp Horror-Theater Spectacular in the great Grand Guignol, Theatre of Cruelty and Butoh-Traditions, centering around the traumatic memoirs of a forgotten street-alley haunted by the longing, beauty and unspeakable events of its cold, diabolical past!

The show opens May 24 and runs on selected dates until June 1, with two performances each night. Tickets are $15, which is an incredible bargain for the theatre experience. Seriously, instead of going to another Disney or Marvel movie, get a ticket to Blood Alley for a night you’ll remember. We know the genie in the live action Aladdin looks frightening, but Will Smith will be no match for the horrors you’ll experience at Zombie Joe’s! Trust us.

Haunt Review: Halloween Horror Nights (Hollywood) 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mazes & Attractions Reviews

Stranger Things

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Haunt Review: LA Haunted Hayride 2018

In 2009, the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride (LAHH) made a somewhat quiet debut at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas as the first large-scale hayride attraction in Southern California. Sure, there were a few local farms offering hayrides, but they just didn’t live up to standards set by the many famous East Coast hayride attractions (such as Headless Horseman or Bates Motel). After earning great reviews in their first year, LAHH moved to a more central LA location: the Old Zoo at Griffith Park. Their dedication to providing an excellent attraction combined with heavy marketing (and promotion of celebrity attendees) made their event one of the top “must-see” Halloween attractions in the area. 10 years later, they are still unchallenged as the only major hayride in California.

In addition to the hayride, the event also includes two walk-through mazes and event grounds (“Purgatory”) populated by roaming scareactors and shows. Now, let’s take a roll in the hay and get to the review!

 

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride: 10 Years

The theme of this year’s hayride is, appropriately, “10 Years.” Instead of a single theme or backstory, this year’s ride plays like a “best of,” featuring scenes and characters from the past decade. This was a smart change in direction, because creating a coherent story line has proven to be difficult for many hayrides, not just LAHH. By abandoning the constraints of a single backstory and instead featuring stand-alone vignettes of horror, the hayride has become a lot more fun as well as more scary. The 10-year theme has also enabled them to feature all their best props, sets, and masks in a way that doesn’t feel forced. This freedom keeps the riders from having any idea of what might be coming next, increasing the suspense and surprise. And if you don’t like one scene, chances are the next one will have something to scare you.

The hayride begins with a journey through the fog. As you leave the grounds of the Haunted Village below, you are quickly bombarded by one scene after another, which vary widely from a spooky church scene, to an amusing  game show of death, to a terrifying tent full of demented clowns. We were struck by how well-choreographed the actors were in each scene, as some effects required very close synchronization to get the effect just right. The actors also used each other as distractions; while one actor terrified guests from the left, another silently snuck up on the other side for a scare. The energy level was high in nearly all scenes, with creatures running after the trailer, jumping on the rails, and leaning far into the crowd as guests scrambled to get away. This was the best group of actors we’ve seen on the LAHH to date.

Although the LAHH tried its best to conceal the actors in the shadows and use surprise tactics to elicit scares, we just didn’t find it to be that scary overall. This might be just us–maybe we find the confines of the twisted hallways of a walk-through attraction to be scarier than sitting in an open trailer. But with a hayride, the actors are limited to jumping on the sides of the trailer, and the suspense that is needed to create an effective scare is just really hard to pull off in this setting. However, the LAHH provides a great spooky, Halloween atmosphere with plenty of eye candy to make it well worth the journey.

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Trick or Treat

Treat or Treat returns this year as one of the most unique walk-through attractions at any Halloween event. Very small groups are let onto the trail, which resembles a rambling path through house-like facades. Guests have to knock on the doors, where they will get a treat (piece of candy) or a trick. The tricks are, of course, the fun part here, and these scares can be really effective. We definitely screamed more on this path than we did on the Hayride. Trick or Treat is not to be missed, and the long lines are a testament to its popularity.

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House of Shadows

This bare-bones walk-through has one unique thing going for it: it’s an actual maze. And you will get lost. The plain black walls and headache-inducing strobe light ensure you’ll be disoriented and begging for the exit before long. Monsters lurk in the shadows and behind walls, and they purposely lead you in the wrong direction. This maze is a fun distraction but is probably not be worth it if there’s a long line.

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SUMMARY

The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride continues to be a solid Halloween offering and is a great choice for anyone looking for something a little bit different than the standard walk-through haunted house. There’s plenty to do to fill up your evening, and the Purgatory grounds are full of Instagrammable spots. The vegan offerings at the food truck are delicious, and there’s plenty of free parking. We attended late on a Sunday evening and found the hayride line to be completely empty, although there was still a healthy line for Trick or Treat. Attending later in the evening or during the week is a good option if you want to avoid the lines and the need to buy a VIP ticket.

Los Angeles Haunted  Hayride Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

 

Overall Rating of Los Angeles Haunted Hayride 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

LA Haunted Hayride is open through October 31. Tickets are now on sale 

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

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

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

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

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

Location and Backstory

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

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

The Experience

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

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

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

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

Is 17th Door Actually Scary?

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

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17th Door Crybaby Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

  

Overall Rating of 17th Door 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

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

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

Haunt Review: Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place

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

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

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

Mazes

Phobias

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

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Evil on 2

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

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The Boogeyman Express

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

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

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

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Other Attractions

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

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

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

Sinister Point’s Scary Place Overall Fright Value:

General Admission/Fright Lane

 

Overall Rating of Sinister Pointe 2018:

Check our ratings guide for further details

Tickets and Dates

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

Be sure to check Groupon for daily deals.

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

Are You Ready To Face Your Fears?

(PRNewsfoto/Warner Bros. Studio Tour)

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

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

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

Mazes & Experiences 

IT Knows What Scares You

Horror Made Here: IT

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Haunt Review: HorrorWorld 2018

Into the Black burst onto the Southern California haunt scene in 2017, and it quickly shattered some of the long-running standards we’ve come to expect from haunts. Gone were the conga lines and large groups of people spoiling the scares, because in this maze, you had to walk through alone. And yet, it wasn’t an extreme haunt but rather one that packed plenty of scares but could still appeal to even casual haunt-goers. We were sure Larry Bones had found the right formula for something really unique, and we gave Into the Black a 666 rating last year.

This year, Into the Black makes up just one of three mazes in the newly expanded, multi-haunt event called HorrorWorld, located in the Puente Hills mall in the City of Industry. We were able to experience all three haunts during a media preview event before the official opening. Read on for our reviews.

Location

First of all, a word on the location. The Puente Hills Mall has certainly seen better days. Many stores stand empty, and if you’re so inclined, it would be easy to act out scenes from Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Comet here. Haunts all over the country seem to be taking advantage of the decline in retail, using abandoned stores as locations. Although this might be convenient and cost-effective, the mall setting does detract somewhat from the atmosphere as you wait in line. Gazing into the window of a Foot Locker while 90s music plays overhead just doesn’t get us into the haunt mood.

 

HorrorWorld occupies three storefronts on the second level near Macy’s. The main store houses the ticket booth; spooky vendors selling everything from t-shirts, to Halloween masks, to home decor; and food vendors, such as Morbid Cupcakes and Rad Coffee (try the Cookies and Scream coffee!). It’s also the location of the asylum-themed maze.

Mazes

Psycho Sanitarium

On the night we visited, this maze had its lights on. This actually might be the normal state of things, since it’s located inside the same room as the vendors and ticket booth, and we’re not sure how they could effectively dim the lights enough to work for both the vendors and the maze. Nevertheless, the actors were going full throttle inside. Demented asylum patients assaulted us around every corner and got right up in our faces. However, the overall set design did lack detail, as the walls were mostly just white with plastered papers and smears of blood. It was also a relatively short maze. But it serves as a good warm-up for the others, so if you get the all-access pass, we definitely recommend you check this one out first.

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The Fleshyard

The Fleshyard was previously located in Anaheim, most recently at a pumpkin patch, and over the years it’s earned a reputation as one of the best stand-alone, independent haunts in Orange County. This year, it’s found a perfect home at HorrorWorld. While we waited in line, we saw many groups run out of the exit looking terrified and/or exhilarated. We could tell from the guest reactions alone that this maze is special.

The beginning of the maze was a dark church scene, where a distraught young girl knelt at the altar while the priest provided the backstory of the doomed Kearny family. After hearing what befell the family, we were soon ushered out and began our journey through the Kearny house of horrors. As we traveled through the dilapidated farmhouse, we encountered various family members. Some of the scenes included the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. The maze also includes some “outdoor” scenes.

We found the sets to be impressively detailed with effective lighting and sound to set the frenzied mood. The maze uses unique scare tactics, and although it was a preview night, these actors had the scares down already.  There’s also a narrow hallway section that might have you turning sideways to get through (although there is an alternative, “easy” path for claustrophobic or larger guests). The finale scene was particularly impressive, and it’s what had some guests actually running out of the maze.

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Into the Black

The main attraction at HorrorWorld is still Into the Black. This maze takes up the largest space in the event and still requires guests to go through alone. However, the timed tickets from last year have been abandoned, and instead guests simply wait in line for their turn.

This maze relies heavily on darkness to set the mood. Although they’ve done a good job blocking out most of the mall’s harsh fluorescent lighting, we did find some light leakage coming through the scenes at the very front of the maze. But instead of being a distraction, it actually allowed us to observe the amazing detail in the sets and masks of the actors. However, this affects only a couple of scenes, and as you travel to the back of the maze, the darkness quickly envelops everything once again.

As we made our way through the crumbling Black family home, we encountered truly scary demons lurking around every corner (as well as in many other unexpected places). And these are no average demons…the amazing quality of the Bone Yard Effects masks gives them an extra unsettling, sinister appearance. Additionally, the maze uses a minimalist soundscape to heighten the suspense. The paths near the back of the maze are so disturbingly quiet, that any shuffling sound raises the hairs on your arm and puts you on full alert. The actors exploit this by moving nearly soundlessly until they are right next to you, or they may build the scare first by quietly scraping walls, finally letting out their terrifying shrieking growls right in your ear.

Into the Black remains one of the best mazes in Southern California right now. If you didn’t catch it last year, this should be near the top of your list for 2018.

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Summary

In its inaugural year, HorrorWorld has entered the Southern California haunt scene as major player, and we highly recommend a visit. Although you can buy tickets individually for each maze, the best value is the $45 all-access pass, which allows you to experience all three mazes. There is also a VR experience (we ran out of time and didn’t experience it this year).

HorrorWorld Overall Fright Value:

All-Access Pass

Overall Rating of HorrorWorld 2018:

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Tickets and Dates

HorrorWorld is open Fridays through Sundays in October, as well as October 29-31. Tickets are now on sale 

Experience a variety of Haunted Attractions at Southern California’s Most Anticipated Halloween Event. Not only do we offer the Scariest Haunted Houses, but Horrorworld has partnered with a team of terrifying vendors to create a Truly Frightening Experience.

HAUNT REVIEW: DARK HARBOR 2018

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

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

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

 

Mazes

LULLABY

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

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

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B340

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

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

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FEAST

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

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

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CIRCUS

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

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

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INTREPID

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

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

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DEADRISE

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

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

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

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