Scare Zone is working on getting our 2010 Southern California haunt rankings together, and we hope to get those out to you in the next couple of days. We attended a lot of great haunts this year, so it will be a tough decision, to say the least.
In the meantime, here are Haunt World’s national rankings for 2010. After reading this list, Scare Zone realizes something: we have to travel more next year!
Well, it’s getting close…only 2 days left to experience the 2010 haunting season. We hope that you’ve been screaming as much as we have throughout October. If you haven’t made it to a haunt yet, you have only a couple of days left, so get out there!
Here are the Southern California haunts that have topped our (highly subjective) ratings so far in 2010 (presented in alphabetical order):
And even though the official haunting season is coming to an end, Scare Zone will be reporting on haunts throughout the year! So be sure to check in with us often, as we’ll try to bring you any and all news and rumors about haunts as we learn them. If you have the inside scoop, we’d love to hear from you! And keep in mind that haunts sometimes open their doors on special days during the year (for example, this year we went through Molar Manor in January and Blood Manor in February!), so if we hear about special events, we’ll report it here.
Thanks for reading, and let’s make the most of the final weekend!
In a tiny strip mall on the less-glamorous portion of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Theatre 68 seems practically hidden. But it’s worth seeking out, because this little theatre is packed to the rafters with pure terror.
There’s free parking on the roof, but we accidentally zoomed past the small alleyway to the parking area and found easy street parking instead. The theatre is actually the first storefront in the strip mall, but it’s easy to go right past it, so be on the lookout. On the night we went, they had a flashing red light on the outside, so keep your eyes open for that, too.
The dimly-lit waiting area inside the theatre is adorned with pictures of serial killers, and a short back story about the haunt is posted on the wall for you to read while you wait. Essentially, the story is that a theatre group decided to put on a haunt, but one of the actors was a real killer. The back story also gives you a tease of a few of the rooms you’ll be going through. There’s a small video screen in the waiting area, which shows the previous group as they enter the haunt, and the camera focuses on them until they get their first scare. You don’t see the scare; only the guests’ reactions, which was a huge scream. This was a great suspense-building tactic, and it really upped our anxiety before we even entered the haunt.
We feel that the scares in Theatre 68 are very unique, and spoiling them by giving too much detail in this review would be a real shame, so we’re going to keep it pretty general. Suffice it to say, however, that it’s very scary.
The haunt is set up as different rooms that require you to pause to take in the scene and wait for the scare. The waiting part really adds to the suspense and tension. Many of the rooms appear to have dead ends, and it’s sometimes unclear which way to proceed. However, the actors do a remarkable job of remaining in character while directing you to the correct way when you get disoriented. The theatre has also devised truly ingenious ways to use their space and create unique and surprising effects, which include rooms that seem to change shape and scares that seem to come out of nowhere.
Some of the rooms are very small, putting you up close and personal with the actors. This is probably one of the reasons they keep the groups small (ideally, 2 people at a time). The small spaces add a level of unpredictability, and the scares are directed right at you, and they were able to scare us constantly. We screamed like crazy through the entire thing. In addition to the standard “startle” scares, the actors and small rooms make it so that you feel just uncomfortable enough throughout the entire experience that you’re constantly on edge and completely unsure of what might come next.
The sets are highly detailed, and the lighting is excellent. This is a theatre after all, so no doubt they’re experts in this aspect. The actors all do a great job and, as you might expect, are excellent in character. But they certainly don’t overract, either. They’ve really found the perfect balance between theatre and haunt.
Theatre 68 was truly a highlight for us this season. This is actually the 5th year of their haunt, and we can’t believe we’ve let it go 4 years before attending. We found it to be one of the most scary and fun haunts we’ve been to in a very long time. We are definitely going to put this haunt on our must-do list for every year in the future. And at $10 and with free parking, it might be the best dollar-to-scare value out there (and if you bring in a canned good, you get $1 off).
Theatre 68’s Haunted House runs every night from October 22 through 31 and will be open until midnight this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (October 29-31). We highly recommend checking it out.
Reign of Terror began asBruce Stanton‘s humble yard haunt in Thousand Oaks way back 2000, and then somehow made its way inside his house itself. It was pretty much the ultimate yard/home haunt in Southern California. In 2008, it grew too big for any yard or house, and it moved to a city building. Last year, it made its way to the Janss Mall, and it returns this year to the same mall, in a slightly different (and we think better) spot.
Facade from 2009: It’s even more impressive this year!
The haunt is located in the Janss Mall in Thousand Oaks, California, in the upstairs space above Gold’s Gym. After getting our tickets, we followed the signs and entered a nondescript door in the side of the building and proceeded upstairs. There were a couple of monsters to greet us at the top, and they “welcomed” us into the queue area. From the minute we stepped into the queue, we knew that this was no average mall haunt. (It’s really saying a lot when we claim that the line for a hauntis excellent.) The line is sandwiched between the detailed facade of a weathered, Victorian-style house with creepy figures in the windows and on the other side by rows of hay bales with jack-o-lanterns; the line goes right through a decrepit barn with hanging corpses. The queue room is dark, and a flash of lightning every so often completely sets the mood. In addition, some roaming monsters entertain by scaring people in line.
Reign of Terror definitely has the best queue of any haunt we’ve ever been to. However, the line is long and slow. But there’s actually a great reason for this: They let only one party into the haunt at a time. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have the haunt to yourself, which is another reason why the haunt is so awesome. However, if you’re impatient like us, you can always opt for the front-of-the-line pass (an extra $7, which we found to be well worth it). If you don’t want to pay for front of the line, try to get there early. This is a popular attraction, and there will be a line.
Greeting us at the door of the haunt (and you actually do enter the haunted house via a very realistic front door) was an actress dressed as a witch. She bantered with guests and put us in great spirits before we entered.
The haunt itself takes you through many, many rooms of an old house; from the living room through the dining room, through the kitchen, into a bedroom, and so on. There are so many different scenarios that it’s hard to recall every one and impossible to list them all here. But despite the constant movement from room to room, the haunt doesn’t lose its sense of coherence or story. This is definitely an old haunted house, with terrors lurking behind every door and in places you might never expect.
The most striking thing about Reign of Terror is its amazing attention to detail. There is not one bit of plywood wall to be seen. Every inch of the haunt is richly themed, from wallpaper, to carpets, to dishes in the sink, to pictures on the wall. The haunt includes changes in temperature and the use of scents. The lighting is also very well done. My favorite scene in the haunt is a simple one, but something that just completely captures what “haunted house” says to me: a long, narrow hallway, with doors on all sides. As you advance down the hall, the lights behind the doors begin to glow, and the doors start to rattle. A brilliant scene; my favorite of any haunt I’ve ever been to.
This haunt rivals anything at Universal, and in a lot of ways surpasses some of the mazes at Halloween Horror Nights.
Once out of the haunted house, we immediately entered the new attraction for this year: The Asylum. (You go right from one haunt to the next; there is no getting into another line.) Like the house, the Asylum is also well themed. From the inmates who grab at you from behind the small slots in the cell doors to a particularly impressive morgue scene, the Asylum is creepy and scary. Insane asylums are a common theme at haunts (maybe too common), but this is definitely one of the better permutations. If anything, we wish it were just a little bit longer.
And is Reign of Terror scary?? YES! Reign of Terror combines live actors and pneumatic props. But the props are not like anything you might have seen before. They will appear from places you will never expect. And the same can be said for the live actors as well. Beware of everything you pass by, because someone (or something) could be waiting for you. And as mentioned before, they put a lot of effort into line control, so that you’ll be able to experience all the scares without seeing the group before you hit the scares first.
With haunts popping up in nearly every mall and parking lot these days, Reign of Terror truly stands out as one of the best-themed, elaborate, scary, and well-made haunts out there. It’s obvious that Bruce Stanton loves Halloween and his haunt. As we were leaving, Bruce was outside, sincerely asking people what they liked and didn’t like about the haunt. This is the kind of attitude we love to see, and we know that it will only lead to a better haunt every year. Bruce also told us that the location above Gold’s Gym in the Janss Mall is permanent, so we hope this gives him even more freedom to do what he does best: terrifying us!
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 skulls
Reign of Terror is open October 15, 16, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, and 31 from 7 to 10 pm (until 11 pm on Saturdays). Ticket prices are $13 ($20 for front of the line). There will be a special lights-on tour on Sunday, October 24, for $5 (free if you have a child).
MiceChat has posted a great photo update and commentary on many of the Halloween offerings going on in Southern California right now. They’ve got photos from Disneyland, Knott’s, Six Flags, and the Empty Grave. Plus a list of other ongoing haunts in the area.