Tag: Long Beach (page 1 of 2)

MIDSUMMER SCREAM’s HALL OF SHADOWS BIGGER-THAN-EVER

More than 20,000 fans of all things macabre are expected to make their annual pilgrimage to the Long Beach Convention Center in Southern California for the third annual Midsummer Scream, as the Hall of Shadows attraction expands to occupy 80,000 terrifying square feet of the world’s largest Halloween and horror convention.

 Photo Courtesy: Albert Lam

Photo Courtesy: Albert Lam

“Hall of Shadows is a Halloween theme park set up within the convention center where brave guests can step into the darkness and find themselves surrounded by swirling fog and terrifying monsters,” explains Rick West, Creative Director, Midsummer Scream. “Here, visitors will experience over a dozen haunted attractions, live entertainment, and check out exhibitors who are right at home in this dimly-lit environment. Hall of Shadows is a virtual commercial for Halloween in Southern California, and has become a huge, unique feature of Midsummer Scream that isn’t replicated anywhere else.”

Midsummer Scream will feature vendors and exhibitors within the Hall, each one selected to be showcased in the dark due to their particular merchandise or product type. Guests will also enjoy a performance stage where they can watch horror-themed burlesque, magic, and much more throughout the weekend.

Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest will be represented this year in the form of a terrifying scare zone that acts as the gateway to the featured haunted attractions area within the Hall of Shadows; this year marks the first time a major Southern California theme park has participated in such a way at Midsummer Scream.

Three times daily, Midsummer Scream presents the Decayed Brigade within its Hall of Shadows – a high-energy monster performance team made up of some of the best “sliders” in the world. Returning for their third year at Midsummer Scream, the Decayed Brigade is set to wow guests of all ages with their dynamic showmanship, intense physical stunts, and thrilling feats of strength and agility on a runway that stretches more than 100 feet in length among the Hall’s many haunted attractions.

All attractions within the Hall of Shadows are free with paid admission to Midsummer Scream. Those guests with Gold Bat Weekend Passes will receive one-hour early admission each day at 10 a.m. to the vendor show floor as well as Hall of Shadows. During general operating hours, Gold Bat passholders will find Front of Line access available at each haunted attraction within the Hall of Shadows.

Midsummer Scream has established itself as the premier venue for artisans and vendors to sell spooky merchandise, theme parks and film studios to tease their fans with coming attractions, cosplayers to take a walk on the dark side, makeup artists to show off their terrifying talents, professional haunters and industry experts to present world-class panel discussions, seminars, and classes. In addition to the amazing haunted attractions, displays, and exhibitors in the Hall of Shadows, Midsummer Scream features many experiences throughout the entire show, from theatrical productions to escape rooms and other alternate reality entertainment.

More detailed information regarding Hall of Shadows can be found here, on the official Midsummer Scream website at MidsummerScream.org.

About Midsummer Scream

Midsummer Scream is presented by David Markland and Claire Dunlap of Black Cat Orange (formerly CreepyLA Productions), Gary Baker, Johanna Atilano, and Rick West of Theme Park Adventure. Its goal is to showcase the diversity of Southern California’s haunt and horror community as a welcoming beacon for fans around the world to converge on Los Angeles for a weekend of excitement, networking and non-stop spookery! Be sure to follow Midsummer Scream on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope for breaking updates and information.

 

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2016 Feels Lost at Sea

We recently re-posted our 2010 review of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. That year, the event had turned itself around from being a complete “Shipwreck” (consisting of neon 3D-painted plywood walls, cheap masks, and mazes with barely any theme) to an impressive major player on the SoCal haunt scene that smartly put to use its location and history as leverage for a uniquely themed event. For the past 5 years, Queen Mary has been near the top of the haunt pack, serving as a legitimate challenger to Knott’s and Universal. However, we’re a bit sad to say that the 2016 version of Dark Harbor fails to live up to its previous standards and has slipped back into second-rate status.

So what’s changed? First of all, the event has undergone a bit of rearranging this year. Some of the attractions have been pushed out to the periphery (the main stage, the Hex Paintball attraction, Deadrise), and the footprint of the various lounges/bars has been extended. Overall, as we walked the Dark Harbor grounds, we got less of a feel of a coherent haunt event than a big carnival. The large Deadrise facade, which had been an impressive centerpiece in years past, now seems to be an afterthought. Instead, the focus seems to be more on the food and liquor stalls.

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Second, the more disturbing fact is that the new maze (Intrepid) was very weak. This is concerning to us because it’s never a good sign when the brand new maze is the worst of the event. This can be an indication of either decreased budget or change in talent/direction of the creative staff. Neither is good in the long-term, obviously.

So with those initial thoughts, let’s get to the review featuring videos from ThemePark HD.

Mazes

Intrepid (*New for 2016*)

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Sharing the dome space with “Circus” this year is the brand-new maze Intrepid, which features the new character of the “Iron Master.” The backstory involves a Scottish shipyard and a locomotive bound for hell. The steam train entrance to the maze looked promising, and upon entering, groups were immediately split into two paths: some people were directed upstairs while others went through a side passage and remained at ground level. We took the upstairs route. The opening scene was cool, but after exiting the train, there wasn’t a whole lot to look at. The entire maze has an industrial feel, with a lot of chain link fencing , dark passages with black or corrugated metal walls, characters in welding masks, simulated iron pouring into molds, and even metal tubes to crawl through. The maze lacked detail, and the story of the Iron Master didn’t really come through.  There was also a complete lack of scares.

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

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ScareLA versus Midsummer Scream: Who Won the Convention War?

Earlier this year, when we heard Southern California would be getting a second haunt convention, and that it would be taking place just a week before the other one, our reaction, like that of many others, was, “WTF??” Does SoCal really need two haunt conventions back to back? Would there be a big difference between the two? Was it worth attending both, or would one be better than the other? Of course, we’re Scare Zone, so we made it our goal to find out and give you our report.

First of all, we’re still a bit “WTF” about what actually went on behind the scenes to cause two conventions. We’ve heard some crazy rumors about the situation, but we’re unable to independently confirm them.  Surely there’s an interesting story behind it all. At any rate, what really concerns us are two questions: Which convention is better? And is it worth attending both?

The Details

This is not a comprehensive list of all the offerings at the conventions, but we wanted to list the main details here.

midsummer screamMidsummer Scream

When: July 30 and 31, 2016

Where: Long Beach Convention Center

Cost: $30 for Saturday, $25 for Sunday, $45 for the weekend.  Discounts available on various sites.

Saturday night entertainment: Oingo Boingo Dance Party

Panels/Guests/Presentations: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Six Flags Fright Fest, Knott’s Scary Farm, Halloween Horror Nights, Winchester Mystery House, Delusion

Attractions/Experiences: decent sized scare zone, 9 mini-haunts, slider show, performances from Zombie Joe’s , other various offerings

 

scareLA logo

ScareLA

When: August 6 and 7, 2016

Where: Pasadena Convention Center

Cost: $35 Saturday, $30 Sunday, $50 weekend. Discounts available on various sites.

Saturday night entertainment: Costume party

Panels/Guests/Presentations: Convention hosted by Elvira. Knott’s Scary Farm, Halloween Horror Nights, SyFy, Leigh Whannell, group presentation including Delusion, Creep Los Angeles, 17th Door

Attractions/Experiences: One medium-sized haunt, 6 mini-haunts, magic show, escape room, Alone, other various offerings

Head-to-Head Comparison

 

Location: Midsummer Scream wins this one, easily. The Long Beach Convention Center feels like a huge upgrade compared with the Pasadena venue. It’s bigger, with an open and airy feeling. The food inside the venue is better, and there were even 2 food trucks right outside the front doors. The only complaint we had about the Long Beach location was the parking. Many of the lots were already full by 11 am, and there weren’t a lot of great signs about where you could park. However, we did end up finding $5 parking pretty close by, so for this reason, we can’t complain too much.

Cost: This is a tie. The cost is pretty much same, especially if you use a discount code or find a discount on Goldstar, etc.

Tickets/Entrance: We bring this up as a category only because it was annoying to deal with at ScareLA. At Midsummer Scream, there were no issues getting into the convention. ScareLA was a different story. There were long lines outside the venue. There was one line to stand in for will call (whose computer system was down when we arrived). After that, you had to stand in another line to get a wrist band. After that, you moved into yet another line to enter the building. It was a confusing mess, and many people around us were angry at the process.

Saturday night entertainment: Midsummer Scream wins again. The  Oingo Boingo Dance Party convinced a lot of people we know (people who never attend the Saturday night parties) to buy a ticket. We did not actually attend either party, but from the people we talked to who attended both and the reactions we saw online, Midsummer Scream was by far the winner here.

Panels/Guests/Presentations: This is a hard comparison, but in the end, we give the victory to Midsummer Scream. Both conventions had packed schedules, but overall, Midsummer Scream had the more interesting and more essential lineup. ScareLA had several presentations that felt like “filler” (such as “the darkside of VR” and “the science of fear”) that were not close enough to Halloween or haunts for us. Overall, we were more excited about the presentations at Midsummer Scream.

Classes/DIY Workshops: This was another hard category to rate, and we have to call this a tie. We heard from some people that ScareLA had better classes, but then we heard from others that they liked the lineup at Midsummer Scream better. For us, it’s a toss-up. ScareLA does require that you purchase a “Scare Student” pass, which does get a bit pricey. Classes are free at Midsummer Scream, except for the workshops taught by SoCal Valley Haunters.

Attractions/Experiences: Again, we call Midsummer Scream the clear winners here. First of all, the area with the mini-haunts was much better themed. It was darker and filled with fog. The facades at the mini-haunts looked very professional. At ScareLA, light leaked in from the outside doors, and a couple of the mini-haunts had merely plastic/fabric walls that were easily visible because of the lighting. We also loved the scare zone at Midsummer Scream, which was a great transition between the showfloor and the mini-haunt area. It’s details like these that made MS really stand out for us this year.

The Winner?? Midsummer Scream!

Hey, we’re glad there are two haunt conventions in Southern California. But do we really need two? No. If you have the money and time, sure—attend both. But you’ll see quite a bit of overlap in content. But if you can (or want to) attend only one, we definitely recommend Midsummer Scream. We felt that Midsummer Scream was a better run, with better content, vendors, and entertainment. Most importantly, Midsummer Scream was somehow able to capture more of the fun Halloween and haunt spirit.  You can tell that it’s run from a genuine appreciation and love of Halloween and haunted attractions. That goes a long way in making an event great. We can’t wait for next year!

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2015

 

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

 

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

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

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

Lullaby (New for 2015)

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

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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3 skulls

Soul Mate

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Graceful Gale is the main character of “Soul Mate,” which tells the story of Gale’s gruesome search for the perfect dance partner, which seems to involve severing the various body parts of different men to create one perfect mate. The maze begins with a video that tells the story of Gale in a cartoonish sort of way. Although it was a cool idea to provide the backstory, the audio of the video was very bad and we could barely hear that narration. The narrow corridors of the maze were covered with fabrics in an attempt to make them feel more lush and also to cover up all the metal siding that runs throughout this area of the ship, but many of the scenes feel too sparse and lacking in detail. One exception is Gale’s dressing room, which reveals a creepy Gale gazing at herself in the mirror. There’s also a very impressive ballroom scene, where Gale’s men surround the entire perimeter of room…but which man will step forward for the dance? We got a few good scares in this maze this year, and Gale was looking more creepy (and sometimes more manly) than ever.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

B340

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This maze features the story of Samuel the Savage, who was “locked away in room B340 after a violent outburst,” where he was later found torn apart. The maze takes you into the mind of Samuel, where we visit scenes from his past, involving nuns, and also scenes from his insanity, featuring a lot of clocks set to 3:40. They’ve thought a lot about creating a back story here, and it’s interesting and relatively easy to follow. We found this maze to be lacking in monsters this year. Perhaps they didn’t have a full staff on opening night, so we hope more monsters show up for work as the month goes on.


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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

Voodoo Village

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“Voodoo Village” is located on the grounds near the midway. Gypsies and Voodoo practitioners come out from the shadows to assault guests as they wind through this very long maze. The Voodoo theme is a smart use of already existing sets here–interior scenes are easily transformed into voodoo sacrifice altars, and outdoor areas that were already swamp/forest-like settings in previous years now fit the story better. As always, the actors in this maze are some of the strongest and most scary. This continues to be one of our favorites.

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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Circus

This maze is located inside the dome and has been our favorite in past years. Small changes keep this maze fresh. “Circus” is Dark Harbor’s take on an old-fashioned, early 20th century circus, which makes it feel right at home in the overall theme of the event. There’s an aged feel to the sets, and the lighting casts an eerie, dirty glow over everything. The entrance is through a clown’s mouth, and from there you encounter typical but twisted circus scenes, such as an actual mirror maze you can get lost in and a spinning wheel of daggers. A new scene entailing a “ball pit” seemed very problematic to us. When we went through at the beginning of the night, the plastic balls were up to our knees, and it’s easy to lose a flip flop in here. We heard that by the end of the night, the ball pit was reduced to nothing more than a few balls scattered on the floor, so at some point they must have realized the potential for actual danger in here. It was a cool idea, but hard to execute with the level of crowds that come through every night. The scares were good, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 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. This maze presented a few new twists and turns (including a choice of path at one point), and the monster are extremely enthusiastic. We actually found this maze to be the scariest this year, as a few tweaks to the lighting and fog effects had monsters startling us from left and right (and over our heads). This is a simple but excellent maze and one of our favorites this year.

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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls 

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

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

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 1 skull

Side Show: Freaks and Oddities

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

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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2014

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Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor returns for another Halloween season, featuring three all-new mazes, plus the new “Encounters” experience that claims to be a more intense, hands-on experience than your typical maze. The monster midway is back with rides, food, and a hookah lounge. This year, you can also rent a private cabana to have your own little Halloween party among the craziness.

But we know our haunt stalkers care mostly about the mazes, so let’s get to our reviews!

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

Soul Mate (New for 2014)

Graceful Gale gets her own maze this year in “Soul Mate,” which replaces “Containment,” located on the rear of the ship. The maze tells the story of Gale’s gruesome search for the perfect dance partner, which seems to involve severing the various body parts of different men to create one perfect mate. The narrow corridors of the maze have been covered with fabrics in an attempt to make them feel more lush and also to cover up all the metal siding that runs throughout this area of the ship, but many of the scenes feel too sparse and lacking in detail. One exception is Gale’s dressing room, which reveals a creepy Gale gazing at herself in the mirror. There’s also a very impressive ballroom scene, where Gale’s men surround the entire perimeter of room…but which man will step forward for the dance?

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

B340 (New for 2014)

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This maze replaces “Hellfire” at the front of the ship, and features the story of Samuel the Savage, who was “locked away in room B340 after a violent outburst,” where he was later found torn apart. The maze takes you into the mind of Samuel, where we visit scenes from his past, involving nuns, and also scenes from his insanity, featuring a lot of clocks set to 3:40. They’ve thought a lot about creating a back story here, and it’s interesting and relatively easy to follow. However, we didn’t get a lot of scares in here.


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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls

Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls

Voodoo Village (New for 2014)

“Voodoo Village” takes over a previous favorite, Village of the Damned, on the grounds near the midway. Gypsies and Voodoo practitioners come out from the shadows to assault guests as they wind through this very long maze. There’s even a Mardi Gras scene with a gross-out actor who almost vomited on us. The Voodoo theme is a smart use of already existing sets here–interior scenes are easily transformed into voodoo sacrifice altars, and outdoor areas that were already swamp/forest-like settings in previous years now fit the story better. But because this is a long maze and probably hard to decorate, some scenes and corridors lacked scenic detail, but this is something Queen Mary could easily improve on in the following years. The actors here had great timing and got us a good a few times, and many inhibited their roles completely.

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Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls

Encounters (New for 2014)

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Encounters is Queen Mary’s first up-charge “experience,” following in the footsteps of Trapped at Knott’s Scary
Farm, which requires a separate entry fee and timed ticket. Small groups are led through this maze, where  the story is that you’re on a regular old ghost hunt in the depths of the Queen Mary ship…until something goes horribly wrong. Guests are put through a few sticky situations outside the normal maze experience. We don’t want to spoil the surprises in here, but the waiver you’re forced to sign beforehand will give you a hint that you’ll be put into claustrophobic conditions, you will have to crawl, and a bag may or may not be put over your head. Unfortunately, “Encounters” fell completely flat to us. We didn’t find it scary at all, and the setup was hokey and predictable. And it’s certainly not worth the extra $15 it costs to experience this. Although it’s a good idea in theory, the execution just wasn’t there. Perhaps it’s because we attended on opening night–but based on our experience, we’d suggest skipping this.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2 skulls
  • Theming: 1.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1 skull

Overall Rating: 1.5 skulls

Circus

This maze is located inside the dome and was Scare Zone’s favorite at Queen Mary last year. We’re happy to say this maze remains on top as our favorite. Small improvements this year have made the maze even more interesting and scary. 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 an eerie, dirty glow over everything. The entrance is through a clown’s mouth, and from there you encounter typical but twisted circus scenes, such as an actual mirror maze you can get lost in, a spinning wheel of daggers, and a creepy marionette show. The scares were pretty good in here, and they got us good as we were distracted by the awesome sets and detailed props.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 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. This maze hasn’t changed much since last year, but the actors are enthusiastic and the loud noises of the pipes and barrels is pretty startling. It’s still an excellent maze, with many dark corners for the actors to hide in. It remains a solid maze and fits the Dark Harbor theme perfectly.

Ratings:

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

Overall Rating: 4 skulls 

Submerged

This maze returns for another year, but a slight twist: it’s backwards! The maze path has been switched around, so the pool room with Scary Mary is now near the beginning rather than serving as the finale. We’re not sure if this was done for logistical or novel reasons, but overall, it doesn’t serve to change the maze much. Scareactors were a bit sparse in this maze overall, and so the scares weren’t abundant. We also prefer the pool room ending, since it’s such an impressive scene to serve as a finale. Submerged is one maze we expect to sink into the sea next year.

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 2.5 skulls
  • Theming: 2.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 1.5 skulls

Overall Rating: 2 skulls

Freak Show

This is another attraction that’s an extra charge ($5). This made sense last year (it’s debut year), as each “freak” was located in their own shipping container (some freaks have a maze of containers), and each experience was different. That setup required small groups and didn’t work with the typical line of a regular maze. However,  for 2014, “Freak Show” has been converted into a more traditional maze format, and all freaks are contained in one continuous experience. Line control is still important, though, because the freaks require you to get a close-up and personal view of their individual shows. We found it to be a bit better last year, with some actual scares. It’s still an interesting concept, and we do recommend checking it out.

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Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3 skulls

Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

SUMMARY

“Circus” remained as our favorite maze this year, with small improvements that kept it fresh and scary. The addition of three new mazes is also impressive, and each was a solid experience. We hope Dark Harbor can flesh out a few of the empty corridors and scenes next year, as these new mazes mature. “Encounters” was a big disappointment, although we appreciate the concept and effort made to create something new and different. We will definitely try it again next year, if it returns. Overall, the scares weren’t as plentiful as 2013, but Dark Harbor is still a solid choice if you’re looking for a haunt.

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

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Launches 2 New Mazes

Dark-Harbor-2012

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor has announced that there’ll be two new mazes this year replacing the former Hellfire and Containment mazes. However, the full details with the names and themes of these new mazes has yet to be fully revealed.

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, successfully embarking on new journeys of terror with distinctive and scary themes such as last year’s new ‘Circus’ maze, which took a unique approach to the carnival/clown maze with an old-fashioned, early 20th century circus theme. They also expanded their offerings to include a broad array of shows, foods, rides that making it more than just a block of haunt mazes but a fully immersive  Halloween festival. From what they’ve shared so far it sounds like 2014 is going to be yet another improvement on the Dark Harbor legacy and we couldn’t be happier especially with the other major Socal haunts starting to go adrift.

Here’s what we know so far from their press release.

QM_2014DH_Voodoo smallThe Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is surfacing a spectacle of new attractions that include two brand new mazes, the new The Voodoo Village, and an Exclusive Encounter on board the infamous ship. Beloved veteran characters including The Ringmaster and all grotesque spirits of the Queen will make a chilling return for 20 nights of delightful terror amidst freaks, food, and live entertainment.

The two new death-defying mazes will take guests through never before visited areas of the ship and will replace the former Hellfire and Containment mazes. Details of each new terrifying maze will be unveiled in the months leading up to the October 2 Dark Harbor opening. Half Hatch Harry will once again emerge from the Deadrise maze, the infamous Captain will return to haunt the Dark Harbor grounds, and The Ringmaster will host the most frightening show on earth at The Circus, located in the outdoor dome just off the ship.

In addition to new mazes, Dark Harbor will feature the new Voodoo Village with dark magic gypsies that will taunt guests passing by in a setting wrought with shrunken heads, voodoo dolls and the feared Voodoo Queen. Also breaking ground at Dark Harbor in 2014 will be the Exclusive Encounter aboard the Queen Mary ship that will require a signed waiver to participate. This new, exclusive experiment in horror puts guests in an intimate and frightening setting that will leave a lasting impression jarring extreme fear.

The all-new Monster Midway will be where guests, zombies, food, and entertainment intertwine. The Midway will act as the centerpiece of Dark Harbor and welcomes back the Freakshow, exposing even more freaks than ever before including the harrowing Beast. Adventurous guests can chance the Mechanical Monster and check out the newest Dark Harbor ride that is yet to be revealed.

Dark Harbor will also feature stage shows that spotlight timeless characters as well as the fresh presence of the feared Voodoo Queen and her lackeys. LED hula hoopers, live musical entertainment, costume contests, holiday celebrations, and drag shows will enhance the spine-tingling experience.

Dark Harbor brings the real haunted history of The Queen Mary to life, offering an unforgettable, authentically frightening experience. The annual event kicks off October 2 and runs for 20 haunted evenings through November 2 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket prices start at just $20 online, with Fast Fright, VIP Passes, and lodging packages available. Season passes are also an option for optimal adrenaline seekers. For more information, or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

 

DARK HARBOR TO CELEBRATE FRIDAY THE 13TH WITH $13 SALE

 

Dark Harbor

The legendary Queen Mary welcomes the return of a frightful Halloween tradition with their annual Dark Harbor event Oct. 2 through Nov. 1, 2014 for 18 nights of fright.

Tomorrow, on Friday the 13th, the only such Friday to fall on this star-crossed date in 2014, the Queen Mary will offer a limited number of $13 Dark Harbor tickets to their loyal fright fans for 13 hours (11AM to midnight). Guests can enjoy Dark Harbor on any of these four days (Oct. 2, 3, 9, 12) of the annual haunt fest aboard the haunted Queen Mary and save!

Dead Sailor

Sadly, Dark Harbor is STILL 111 days from opening its doors on this hallowed ground. And the wait is absolutely killing us! To pass the time and help you remember last year’s carnage check out this video from Dark Harbor 2013 and our Scare Zone Review . Keep checking back with us as our ghoulish fiends at Dark Harbor promise to have more details about their 2014 voyage of terror very soon!

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 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

Deadrise outside 2

Located in the middle of the Dark Harbor grounds, “Deadrise” is a maze that takes you through an old, rotting ship that appears to be sinking right into the ground. The maze winds through the barracks and bowels of the ship, encountering half-dead sailors who loudly bang on metal barrels with pipes. 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

Submerged-and-Hellfire-signs

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

Freak show Dark Harbor 2

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

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor: New Terrors Come Aboard for 2013

Dark Harbor 2013 logo

Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA) is increasing the fright level of its popular event this year with a brand new maze,  “spirit character,” freak show, and additional circus-themed mini-attractions.

New for 2013 is the appearance of “The Ringmaster,” one of the spirit characters who inhabit the mazes/grounds of the Dark Harbor event and who  will preside over a brand new maze, fittingly called “Circus.” The maze, featuring “a terrifying MAD house will disorient guests’ illusions through fatally horrific magic, paranormal wonders and spirited thrills like never before seen.”

In addition, Dark Harbor will also have a freak show and a “new Coney Island inspired vintage circus ride ‘ferris-squel,’ mini mazes and chilling side shows.” It seems like the event grounds will have an overall circus theme to them this year. Queen Mary has done a great job in recent years of theming the grounds with nautical props and sets, so a refresh with a circus theme will be interesting.

The Circus maze will be located inside The Dome, and will replace “The Cage.” The Cage was one of Scare Zone’s favorite mazes, so we’re sorry to see it go. The Cage had a frenetic, disorienting, and minimalist feel that was unique and actually very scary. We applauded Queen Mary for taking a chance on such an odd maze and successfully pulling it off. We hope that Circus can match the level of the The Cage and not fall into the traps of a generic clown/carnival theme.

So far, at least from the Ringmaster character photo on their web site, it appears that Circus might have an older, more grungy and demented feel to it, rather than resorting to neon colors and cheap 3D effects that permeate so many other circus-themed mazes. This is very promising, and we like that they’ve taken the time to really think about the overall theme of their event, including the era and location, to bring us a circus character that seems to fit in very well with the other characters and mazes. We can’t wait to experience this in person.

Ringmaster

Queen Mary opens October 3.

Haunt Review: Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor

Since 2010, when the Queen Mary completely made over their Halloween event (previously known, appropriately, as “Shipwreck”), Dark Harbor has been one of our top-rated haunts. In 2011, the haunt was very much the same as the year before, adding only small upgrades to the mazes, but not otherwise changing much. So we were glad to hear that they were adding a brand new maze for 2012 as well as replacing their old siren character with new monsters based on the actual stories of ghost sightings aboard the ship. The new maze and the new monsters serve the event well and further help to tie in the extensive nautical theme that permeates the haunt.

 

MAZES

Before we get to the individual mazes, it’s worth mentioning that the elaborate entrance tunnel, which was sort of a maze in itself for the past two of years, has been partially removed. Although we loved the previous entrance, the additional maze and new layout of the grounds seem to be good replacements.

Deadrise (New for 2012!)

The wreckage of Deadrise has once again been called into service by The Captain to escort him and his army of super ghosts and monsters into a battle against the living to reclaim Dark Harbor. As you walk through the carnage of the maze, beware… the undead are ready to fight for your soul.

This maze is located almost right in the middle of the Dark Harbor grounds, and the facade is impressive: an old, rotting ship 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. There are even monsters above you in some of the scenes. This maze had a lot of fog, and the lighting was pretty dark, which augmented the scares. This maze has one of the most intelligent uses of space we’ve seen in a long time. Although from above it looks very compact and short, it’s actually an extremely long maze. The path winds around itself many times, and as we walked on and on, we kept wondering how much longer it could go. They’ve also made very smart use of enclosed and open-air spaces. For example, the sailor’s sleeping quarters are indoors (as they would be on a ship), but the decks of the ship are in the open air. This attention to detail was very impressive. The finale scene was also awesome: As you leave the Deadrise ship and the hell-bound souls behind, you enter a tunnel filled with fog and and blinding bright light that brings to mind an ascent toward heaven. But don’t relax, because you can bet there are a few monsters lurking in that fog who are there to give you the best scare of the night.

 

 

Ratings:

  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4.5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls
Village of the Damned (in the village)
This maze takes you through a variety of environments and scenes, including some rooms in a village house, a maniac’s butcher shop, and a cave/jungle hybrid area. The actors were at the top of their game on the night we went, and they managed to scare us many times. The closed-in spaces and winding paths provide many corners and shadows for monsters to hide in; we just wish the scenes were a bit more consistent and had a slightly more coherent story line. They’ve added a couple of new scenes toward the end of the maze. Also new for this maze is the addition of a “haunt video” you can purchase at the end, which shows your reaction as you go through. It’s an interesting idea and a bit of a change from the standard photo most haunts are taking these days.
Ratings:
  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

The Cage (in the Dome)

The Cage is one of the most unique haunt concepts we’ve ever experienced. There’s no real story to this maze; rather, the entire experience is like taking a crazed stroll through a junkyard while high on bath salts. The maze is almost all in black, white, and silver: the walls are black, the monsters’ masks are white, and a metal fencing surrounds everything. The soundtrack goes perfectly with the feeling of the maze: loud, jarring, and disorienting. The maze begins in a tunnel of lights, the floor shifting beneath you. You then go through a set of black curtains, and you cannot see a single thing. In fact, this part can be tricky to get through at all. We found ourselves turned around several times trying to find our way through, which is a perfect entrance to the rest of the disorienting maze. Lights flash, hands come out of walls, and sparks fly. Sometimes mazes don’t need an elaborate back story to be effective, but the consistent feeling in this maze makes it truly unique and one of our very favorites.

Ratings:
  • Haunt Design: 4.5 skulls
  • Theming: 4.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls
Containment (on the ship)

In previous years, the story of this maze was about a virus breakout on the ship that infected passengers and crew, which was fitting since the maze takes you through the ship’s actual infirmary. This year, they’ve changed up the story a bit, and it’s now about Samuel, an insane shipmate who was put in confinement and later found ripped apart. The maze has an insane asylum type of feel, and the actors go around alternately yelling at you to get out and then pleading for your help. The closed-in spaces of the ship make for some good claustrophobic feelings, but overall we didn’t find this one to be too scary.

Ratings:
  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2.5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3 skulls

Submerged (on the ship)

This maze seemed more or less identical to last year’s version. The ship’s decks are taking on water. Victims are drowning and coming out of the dark and water. The opening scene for this maze is well crafted with real water pouring everywhere and a few well-placed animated props. There were some very zealous monsters in this maze, chasing us through several scenes. 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 we passed, which was a good way to tie in their mascot monsters for this year. Graceful Gale also haunts this maze.

Ratings:
  • Haunt Design: 3.5 skulls
  • Theming: 3.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 3.5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 skulls

Hellfire (on the ship)

Of all the mazes, this one appears to have been the most neglected for 2012. Last year, we noted many cool lighting and fog effects, but unfortunately, they seemed to be missing this year. In addition, there was a lack of monsters during our walk through. This maze is themed to a fire on the ship, but we didn’t feel the theme very strongly, and it looked a bit generic to us this year.

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

SUMMARY

Queen Mary has done a great job this year with their addition of the new maze “Deadrise,” which ties in perfectly with the other mazes and the overall theme. The new monster mascots are also a nice touch. Although we missed the entrance and the Barricades scare zone, they’ve improved the overall layout of the grounds, grouping several food vendors together and adding picnic tables, which we found to be a nice place to sit and catch our breath after screaming in the mazes. There are bars serving alcohol and a stage with live music, so the event holds a lot of activities to fill the night.
Also new this year is the “RIP Lounge,” where you can relax and have a drink and some food . . . for an upcharge, of course. The lounge is a cool place to kick back after you’ve experienced the mazes, but we don’t think that it offers that much additional value, and we wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a lot of money to burn.

Overall Rating of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2012: 4 Skulls

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