Tag: Haunted Mansion

What Scares You II: 2018 Horror Trends

In just a little over a week, the gates of haunts across the country will begin to creak open. For frequent haunt stalkers, we’ve seen just about it all when it comes to the array of haunt themes, characters, and storylines. We’ve also shared many of the popular haunt themes here on The Scare Zone over the years, which includes the mainstay characters such as zombies and ghosts to slashers and vampires.

(PRNewsfoto/America Haunts)

This year, America Haunts, an association of the most successful U.S. haunted attractions, has announced their top 3 scare trends for Halloween 2018. De-mystifying what it takes to heighten fear is second nature for America Haunts’ members, given their decades in the business offering high-caliber fear attractions. This year’s AH trends incorporate the mystic, the innately frightful, and raises the undead from cemeteries from another century. Their 2018 trends include:

  • Dragons Magical and mythical. Fiery dragons come to life with technology that makes realistic fire-breathing, and roaring sounds – appearing from the depths of dark, fantasy storytelling.”Dragons will definitely have a big presence this year and do their job to create fear,” said Amber Arnett-Bequeaith, Queen of America Haunts. “They are spell-binding and attack from above while breathing fire that can burn you alive. They’re terrifying.”
  • Killer Bees & the Creepy Crawly Killer bees, spiders and creepy insects tap into our phobias. Inside haunts, the scare is amplified when these creatures touch visitors. “The old days of haunted attractions with scary sets visitors view from behind glass are gone,” Arnett-Bequeaith explained. “Today, all senses are activated. It’s 4D. See, feel, hear and smell inside the haunts. Horror is big because horror is smarter. Guests may hear buzzing sounds and suddenly feel the sensation of killer bees swarming over their face, igniting the phobia of getting stung in a swarm of bees – then discover they are underneath giant hives with killer bee animatronics creating buzzworthy fear.”
  • Graveyards Resurrected Massive realistic graveyards within the haunt attractions create a perfect scene for screams. “It’s human nature to run from death,” said Duane Sandberg, 13th Gate in Baton Rouge. “A staple of the south, our New Orleans-style graveyard has elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums – creating an uneasiness that something is lurking behind the tombs. The smell of death leaches from the coffin and penetrates your nostrils.”

So there we have it America. Dragons, bees, and graveyards! These are very unique trends and we’ll have to keep our eyes out this season to see how many dragon bees in graveyards we encounter. Let us know if you see any too.

What Scares You? A Breakdown of Common Haunt Themes

It’s time to venture into another season of haunts and for all of our Haunt Stalkers to get out there and conquer their worse (and best) fears. After many years of being chased by clowns with chainsaws, stalked by famous horror movie killers, seduced by vampires in billowy gowns, and of course running from countless hordes of zombies, we’ve come to expect some of the same haunt archetypes. The fact that these themes reappear year after year seems to indicate that they’re the most popular and probably considered the scariest by a majority of the public. So, we’ve decided to further break down these themes to explore how they’ve evolved and why they continue to scare us. And we ask you: What scares you the most?

Vampires

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Vampires have been a popular haunt theme for many years. Vampire mazes usually have elaborate sets, lush soundtracks, and scareactors who love to play up the drama. In our opinion, most haunts focus too much on the sets and drama and don’t provide enough menace to their vampires (and we pray never to see a Twilight-based maze). One exception is Freakling Bros. Castle Vampyre, which lured us into a frightening world of sinister bloodsuckers. This year Knott’s Scary once again resurrects some narcissistic nocturnal blood suckers with their revamped Dominion of the Dead. Universal is also taking a big bite out of the genre with mazes based on From Dusk Till Dawn and Dracula Untold. Early reviews seem to indicate that the former offers some new blood to the theme while the latter needs to stay inside a closed coffin.

Slashers and Madmen

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Mazes based on horror movie slashers and madmen can be very popular because the attackers are instantly recognizable by the guests, which gives any scareactor in a killer’s mask a built-in terror factor. Halloween Horror Nights has built their Halloween empire around movie based themes featuring many iconic killers. However, HHN might be running out of slashers they can choose from as in recent years killers have started to become replaced with ghostly apparitions and demonic creatures. Nonetheless, this year HHN Orlando is celebrating the grandfather of slashers, Michael Myers, with a maze based on the original ’78 film. In addition, you can usually find Michael, Jason, Freddy, and other popular psychos making cameos at haunts across the country.

Apocalyptic Chaos 

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What can be scarier than the end of the world? Mazes featuring apocalyptic worlds have been commonplace at haunts for a few decades. This theme can combine zombies, aliens, robots, or just plain crazy people who are ready to enact raging forms of torture on weary post-apocalyptic survivors. The mazes or scare zones usually are enhanced with heavy metal music, strobe lights, cages, tanks, and metal barrels (where do all the barrels come from in the future). The apocalyptic theme has evolved to now also include paintball and laser tag activities making haunt goers really feel as if they have to fight for their lives to get out. Another variation that has become prominent in past year is purging, where acts of random violence are allowed in order to preserve our future existence. Not matter the tactics, haunts always showcase the worse case scenarios for our futures.

Zombies

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It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a post-apocalyptic maze and a zombie maze. The two themes go hand in hand. All things zombie have been very popular for the past several years. This is often a low-budget maze theme because all you need is some makeup and tattered clothes—and voila—you have a zombie! As with vampires, we usually don’t find the zombie mazes to be too scary. Zombies are usually portrayed as slow-moving, drooling creatures. Zombie scareactors usually try to create fear by lunging at you and getting uncomfortably close up into your personal space. For the past 3 years Universal has heavily relied on the zombies from the Walking Dead to dominate their haunt offerings. We think that haunts should work to put a new spin on their zombie mazes if they want to keep it at all interesting and scary.

Aliens 

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Invaders from other worlds can make any Roswell believers uneasy inside of a haunt. Alien mazes often rely on claustrophobic and dark passageways where the nasty beasts can hide and attack unexpectedly. There’s usually elaborate puppetry and costuming involved to bring to life some of the most out of the this world and grotesque creatures you’ll see inside a maze. This year HHN in Orlando and Hollywood have decided that one alien isn’t enough and both feature AVP (Alien Vs. Predator) mazes where you must place your bets on which of the two creatures is the most terrifying in the universe. This begs the other question, who would you rather get killed by, Alien or Predator (we had to ask)

Slaughterhouse (often paired with hillbillies and cannibalism)

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People must really be afraid of being cannibalized, because this is a theme that is found in some variation every year at nearly every haunt. Slaughterhouse and cannibal mazes are usually designed whereas you’ll be forced to touch and push your way through the bloody sets while the monsters taunt you with sharp and blunt objects. These mazes top the list in being  gory and disgusting, often including scents of rotting meat and sprays of blood as you walk past gruesome scenes of dismemberment. They’re usually set in some kind of backwoods area or an abandoned meat factory/butcher’s shop. Of course, 100% of these mazes ends with the obligatory chainsaw chase out. We found that chainsaws and cannibals are popular themes at Vegas’s Fright Dome, which is featuring the king of slaughterhouse cannibalistic hillbillies, Leatherface.

Clowns and Circus

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The technical term for fear of clowns is coulrophobia, and haunts love to exploit this common terror. These mazes can be fun or terrifying, depending on your personal fears. Clown mazes often have a lot of black light and warped and demented soundtracks. This theme usually provides an opportunity to show off 3D effects but the impact is hit or miss depending on the design and performance of the scareactors. In recent years, clowns and their circuses have become increasingly sadistic with the other themes of cannibalism and zombies being mixed in. Universal has such variations of Clowns present in this year’s maze lineup. Now, we’re still waiting for someone to add in the alien quotient and tackle Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Ghosts and Apparitions

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This is a hard theme to pull off in a maze. Effective ghost scares rely on a very precise build up of suspense. Ghosts are usually ethereal and elusive, and how do you turn that into a scare? For this reason, we don’t see many of these haunts, and the most effective have been at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and Universal’s HHN. During Halloween season there’s also a good number of ghost hunting experiences available, and while they may not immediately startle or terrorize you, they can continously haunt you for days after with the lingering notion that you may not be alone.

Haunted Mansions

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We love a good haunted mansion, and yet this theme can fall flat if not done right. Haunted mansions sometimes fall victim to becoming houses for every theme where one room will feature aliens, another slashers, and yet another zombies. Proper haunted mansions let the house tell the story and build up the mystery of how the haunted inhabitants met their demise and then came back. Secret passages, trap doors, and ghostly occurrences are some of the key ingredients of an effectively scary house of horrors.  The best haunted mansions we’ve experienced are usually put on by smaller local haunts with a crew dedicated to extreme detail (for example, Reign of Terror and Sinister Pointe).

Insane Asylums 

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Similar in design to haunted mansions,  asylum mazes  terrorize us with the disturbing combination of slashers, cannibals, and other living and dead crazies trying to escape, and maniacal doctors trying to exploit our darkest phobias. Maybe they are insensitive to those with mental illness, but insane asylums are always creepy and scary. The frenetic and unpredictable nature of the scareactors and the dank sets combine to create that uncomfortable feeling that puts you on edge. The real fear may come from wondering if you may actually belong there yourself.

Pirates/Natical Haunts

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This is one of the newest themes to set sail in recent years. It seems that the number of pirate mazes has jumped considerably since the Pirates of the Caribbean movies hit theaters in the last decade. These ghostly swashbucklers also bring to life our fears of drowning and being eaten alive by sea creatures. Of course, Pirates of Emerson in California is the original pirate maze and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor continues to get more creative with some new and interesting takes on haunted nautical themes.

Friday Fright Links: July 15

We’ve been ASKING for the Disney parks in the U.S. to step up their haunt game and now here’s even more news about how they’re doing it right overseas….

Walt Disney Studios park in Paris will be invaded by Zombies at the Terrorific Night 3 event to be held on October 29-30th this October – DLP.info

Could “Lady Luck” be the HHN Orlando 2011 icon? Our theory – Original rumor via Screamscape

Blood Manor (New York) Gets a New Home for 2011 – Blood Manor.com

Vampires in Vegas? Howl-O-Scream Tampa – Inside the Magic.com

Actual Video Footage of the Hatbox Ghost in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion (MUST WATCH for Disney fans!) – YouTube.com

Midnight Syndicate to release new CD “Carnival Arcane” on August 2 (listen for it in all future circus haunts!) – Midnight Syndicate.com

Ghost Ship to employ ex-CIA members as security; will serve Vampire Wine–plus other juicy details! – Theme Park Adventure

Trip Report: Halloween Time at Disneyland

Last week, Scare Zone made the trip out to Anaheim to visit Disneyland and experience their Halloween Time offerings. As always, it was a magical adventure.

Disney's Halloween Time

Halloween Time really offers only one attraction (Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy) plus a whole bevy of Halloween decorations and special treats for sale. Haunted Mansion Holiday is also open and definitely has the Halloween theme going, but because it’s open until January, we don’t consider it specific to Halloween Time. However, we’ll include it in our trip report. (We did not experience Mickey’s Halloween Party, so you won’t find anything about that here.)

Disney's Halloween Time

We visited after work last Thursday, since it was one of the only weekdays in October that Disneyland was open past 8 pm. (With all the other haunts we’ve been attending, we just didn’t have the time to go on a weekend.) The park was pretty full but not overwhelmingly crowded, with wait times for Haunted Mansion at about 30 minutes and Ghost Galaxy at 50 minutes. We started with Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

The attraction is pretty much the same as in previous years, with a few different details (such as an added effect across the moon in the Doombuggy loading area and a cool new Leota effect). There’s also a strong scent of gingerbread in the ballroom scene, and the gingerbread house is another winner this year. This is really one of our all-time favorite attractions at any theme park (anywhere), and it never disappoints. The holiday overlay is marvelous, and we hope that it comes back year after year.

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Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy

Again, the same as last year. We had heard rumors earlier in the year that they might be adding some new effects, but that didn’t happen. We also wish they’d consider theming the queue to make it a bit more sinister (and also doing away with FastPass, but that’s a different discussion altogether). Nevertheless, it’s still a great attraction with some really cool effects (and a very good soundtrack). Last year, we visited during the day only, so experiencing the lighting effects on the outside was new for us this year. And it’s really pretty impressive.

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The Rest

As always, the decorations throughout the park are fun and evoke the spirit of Halloween. There’s just something so magical about Disneyland at nighttime, and Halloween Time only adds to that. Disneyland is truly the master and the standard by which all other theme parks are judged. We look forward to visiting again soon.

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