Tag: Southern California (page 1 of 8)

HAUNT REVIEW: Knott’s Scary Farm 2017

With some chaos Knott’s Scary Farm‘s 45th Halloween Haunt brings back many popular mazes, revamps others, introduces a couple new ones, and gives a final send off to the first Mistress of Haunt.

Well, we decided to forego the early season visit (and our own advice) and went to Knott’s Scary Farm on a mid-October Saturday night. You know, a night when everyone else in Southern California typically visits. Actually we just couldn’t find another time to go this season as we’ve been prioritizing haunts that are offering newer experiences. We also wanted to mix it up a little and report on what it’s like for real-everyday guests (with Fright Lane) and not a press media outlet that has the red carpet rolled out for them,  to which there’s a significant difference in the experiences.

So after 45 years one would think that Knott’s would have it’s haunt operations running smoothly but sadly chaos ensued from the moment we arrived at the front gates. We lucked out a little on parking but even that was a mess (so was our car after paying $20 to park in a dusty lot). The process to get through the turnstile, using their mobile tickets, and getting a Fright Lane wristband was frustratingly slow. It makes no sense as to why they don’t just hand out the fright lane wrist bands to guest who’ve purchased them as they enter the park as the system for the getting the passes at designated stations within the park is aggravatingly slow and disorganized. It completely diminishes  the value of the Fright Lane’s triple admission price and causes a big crowd of confused and angry people form right inside the park’s front gates.

In addition, many employees we encountered seemed clueless as to what they were doing, where things were, and what was going on in general. Line control and crowd flow was confusing and chaotic all over the park. These things matter just as much as having good mazes. The fun spirit of the evening can be quickly killed for guests if they have to endure what seems to be unnecessary frustrations. It nearly killed it for us. Being “sold out” is not an excuse for guests to have a shitty experience.

Perhaps they need to reduce the cap on the number of nightly admissions. Or maybe they need to hire more operations employees and if they’re hiring a lot of seasonal help during haunt they should take the time to properly train ALL of them. This would really make a difference on how efficient everything is ran inside the park. Compared to Universal, Magic Mountain, and Queen Mary,  Knott’s lands in last place for its operations this year… a solid buried skull. Just go onto social media to see the never ending guest rants about this year’s operations.

Now on to the good stuff. While most of it is the same things we’ve all seen and loved before at Knott’s Scary Farm, part of the charm is the Halloween tradition that carries on year-after-year at the park. The new maze themes and the traditional Halloween ambiance that’s showcased across the foggy landscape is actually even more captivating this year with top notch park decorations along with high caliber and some truly scary maze designs. What distinguishes Knott’s in the Southern California theme park market is the originality of their mazes that are not confined to structured movie themes like Universal’s.

In particular, the new Dark Ride maze is probably one of the best themed and designed mazes we’ve ever experienced at  Scary Farm in our past 25 years of visiting! Paranormal Inc. also continues its reign as the most terrifying maze at KSF with Shadowlands, Pumpkin Eater, and Trick or Treat: Lights Out rounding out the slate of our top mazes this year. We’re very happy that they brought back an overlay to the Timber Mountain Log Ride, even if it’s just “family friendly”. Now we hope they can get the Calico Mine Train back on board. Finally, rounding out the festivities, the anything but family friendly Elvira goes out with a (double) bang for her final season at Knott’s… sad so sad.

Now here’s our full Knott’s Scary Farm maze reviews featuring some incredible full maze videos from our friends at Theme Park HD.

 New Mazes and Attractions

DARK RIDE

Journey through an abandoned carnival ride where cruel characters still linger in the shadows in the NEW maze, Dark Ride. The carnival attraction has become a refuge for sideshow freaks and now those shunned performers have created an ominous world where they plan to unleash terror on those who enter.

This is the Scary Farm maze everyone has been screaming for! Dark Ride looked spectacular and is probably one of the most imaginative and well designed mazes we’ve ever seen at Knott’s. Paying tribute to the old school carnival haunted – fun houses, Dark Ride takes guests on a twisted pathway through and behind the scenes of one of the most elaborate mazes in the history of Scary Farm. There are some fun scares but this maze is more about the story and design. It’s almost ironic how a maze based on a simplistic carnival haunted house ride features the most incredible special effects we’ve seen featured in a KSF maze. The scale of the sets, use of animatronics, music, and craftsmanship is definitely Knott’s warning shot back at HHN and others who have tried to run off with the  haunt  maze blueprint that they originated.  A few more scares might have made this maze beyond perfect but we’re almost glad it wasn’t any scarier as we may have then missed seeing the full glory of this awesome maze by trying to cover our eyes (lol). All in all this maze definitely earns the trophy for haunt theme of the year and for the first time in our Knott’s Scary Farm history, it earns our top 666 skull rating for Haunt Design.

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PUMPKIN EATER

Daring guests will attempt to survive the wrath of the murderous 7-foot tall creature that haunts the old woods surrounding The Hollow in this year’s NEW MAZE, Pumpkin Eater. The notorious creature is on the prowl, hidden within the dark confines of the haunted town he once terrorized. To escape the sinister Pumpkin Eater’s wrath all who enter must go on a quest through the silent town of victims, face a cave of crawling insects and solve the labyrinth of thorns that blocks the only way out.

The nursery rhyme of Peter Peter Pumpkin eater is brought to life (and death) in this very imaginative maze concept.  It reminded us of a mix of 1992’s Mother Noose and the more recent Cornstalkers mazes. Just like Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater demonstrates that Knott’s has really graduated up into a new level of immersive maze theming, storytelling, and design. This maze also had quite a few good scares throughout with a high energy cast that really knows how to work within the maze’s long layout. The makeup and costuming were also well done with monstrous  pumpkins and people with carved faces lurking about. There’s also some grotesque scenes but nothing that’s over the top like in the the Red Barn maze. The spiraling journey through the rotted pumpkins that requires guests to push through dripping wet passageways was a highlight of the maze. Due to many of the outdoor sections this maze is much scarier at night but all in all it really is a fun and fright inducing Halloween maze adventure.

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TRICK OR TREAT: LIGHTS OUT

Are you afraid of the dark? You will be. Armed with only a faulty flashlight, explore the creepy house at the end of the street, in the upgraded Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out maze. Face the terrors  of the house in complete darkness as your interactive flashlight reveals the horrors hiding in the shadows.  Featuring new state-of-the-art effects, unexpected scares and other eerie surprises, Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out will terrorize you like never before.

When we first heard about this maze we thought that it was going to just be the same old Trick or Treat maze where all they’ve done now is shut off the lights so that they could promote it as something new. While this is somewhat true, it works really well with the result being more than just a gimmick. ‘Trick or Treat’ actually has never really been a scary maze to us but the “lights out” element adds a new layer of suspense and scariness to the maze this year. Each guest has their own flashlight so the rooms and settings are somewhat illuminated as the groups walk through but now the ghouls and monsters have the full advantage of seeing  you before you get to see them. They also added some fantastic looking new characters and set redresses. Trick or Treat has established itself as one of the most popular Scary Farm mazes that doesn’t seem to get old. With the new lights out Trick we expect it continue to be treating guests for more years to come.

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TIMBER MOUNTAIN LOG RIDE HALLOWEEN HOOTENANNY

This season the Timber Mountain Log Ride becomes the Halloween Hootenanny. This is a family friendly Halloween overlay to our classic Timber Mountain Log Ride. This attraction will be open every day during the Halloween season and features a brand new original song sung by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies.

After a hiatus that lasted for a few years, it’s so good to finally have the haunted log ride back at Scary Farm. For us this was always one of the quintessential and unique haunt experiences. This new version isn’t designed to be an overly scary experience but the upgraded props, effects and soundtrack make it one of the funnest things to do at Scary Farm and a nice break from walking around. We also appreciate that in spite of the stricter OSHA regulations they still managed to get a handful of live monsters to lurk about in the dark corners around the flume.

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Returning Mazes

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HAUNT REVIEW: CREEP LA’s LORE

Creep LA, the masters of haunt experiences in LA, have teamed up with Amazon Prime Video to create a truly unique immersive theater experience this Halloween season.

Past Creep LA experiences have been highly rated  here on The  Scare Zone and this year continues the tradition of the well produced interactive theatrical haunt experience.  Unlike the previous years  (“Creep Los Angeles”, “The Willows”) , this year’s CreepLA is closely tied to an intellectual property. Derived from Aaron Mahnke’s popular podcast, Lore is  an Amazon Prime Exclusive’s new six-episode anthology series that presents the frightening and often disturbing tales based on real people and events that have led to our modern-day myths and legends. Celebrating the origins of the horror genre, Lore explores the real-life tales behind pop culture’s most legendary horror myths, such as vampires, changelings, werewolves, séances and possessed dolls.

Creep LA: Lore takes small groups of eight inside an imagined universe where they’ll travel through a fully engaging, multi-sensory, 1-hour walk-thru experience. At Creep LA: Lore, everyone is part of the experience whether they intend to be or not. To be clear this is not one of those torture and humiliation haunt concepts.  Guests may get touched (or kissed) but it’s all within boundaries.

This year’s show has definitely taken the production to a new level (having the corporate partnership is always a good thing). The size and scope of the venue is huge and each scene is  intricately  designed. The settings create dynamic and diverse environments. The talent is also top notch. Some of the highlighted performances include the nurse that recites a spooky bedtime story to the group and room of disturbed orphans, a woman looking for her son that has disappeared with a rather creepy looking doll,  and a lobotomy doctor with his disembodied assistants.

One of the challenges of performing a haunt show is that the actors do have to rely on the audience actively participating, which can lead to some unpredictable outcomes from show to show. We strongly suggest that you don’t try to hide or act too smug as you will then be the person who is picked on. During the show everyone can expect to be separated from the group at some point.

Being honest, there were a few WTF moments in the show as some of the scenes didn’t seem to flow smoothly or provide a satisfactory finale. Perhaps it’s because we weren’t fully familiar with Lore yet. We remember the previous years having more suspense and scares built into the experiences. Nonetheless, this year’s show is able to compensate with it’s overall higher quality of production and is a high caliber Halloween theatrical haunt experience. Plus, with the themed bar at the end, it’s setup as the perfect Halloween season date, friends, or all to yourself night out.

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DETAILS

Creep LA: Lore is taking place at Mag1ic Box LA in Downtown LA on select dates from October  5th  through November 12th. Creep LA has continuously sold out their previous event series almost immediately upon going on sale. So be sure to get yours quickly or you may just end up reading about it here on The Scare Zone.

Tickets for Creep LA: Lore are for ADULTS ONLY. Ticket prices start at $65. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.CreepLA.com.

Engage with and follow Creep LA on social media at: #creepla @creeplosangeles

ScareLA 2017

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the second Southern California Halloween Convention of the year will be taking place this weekend.

ScareLA is the world’s first summer Halloween convention. Situated in the entertainment capital of the world, the event celebrates the American scare season traditions and the diverse cultural heritage of the Greater Los Angeles region. Featuring hundreds of specialty vendors, education programming, world-class industry presentations, ScareLA draws thousands of professionals, fans and families from the U.S. and abroad to celebrate Halloween early every summer. ScareLA is one of the fastest growing independent fan conventions in the U.S. addressing a $10 billion Halloween industry worldwide.

To celebrate their 5th anniversary, they are making 2017 EXTRA scary with the special appearance of John Kassir, the Cryptkeeper of “Tales from the Crypt,” ScareLA’s 2017 Host! Listen to his iconic voice over the loudspeakers of the entire convention all weekend long as he announces special programming and more surprises right from the ScareLA show floor.

The fun will continue into the night in our Saturday night-party venue: Clifton’s Shadowbox Room (Clifton’s Republic, 648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014). You’ve heard of the famed Tiki Room, Gothic Bar and five stories of incredible themed-entertainment space at this coveted DTLA staple. But did you know that lurking below the ground there is a room called “The Shadowbox”?!? Few have set foot inside and even fewer have ever left! Open only for ScareLA attendees from 8PM-2AM!

This will be a tale you will never forget: August 5-6 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Tickets for the convention are still available for purchase, but all monsters must act now before quantities die out!

For more information, visit www.scarela.com.

 

 

 

 

 

This Weekend: Midsummer Scream 2017

It’s almost time kids, the summer kick off to haunt season is here!

Get your tickets NOW for Midsummer Scream, the Scare Zone’s highly ranked Southern California Haunt Convention!

Returning for a second year Midsummer Scream is a large-scale summer festival celebrating the spirit of Halloween and horror, drawing thousands of guests to Southern California for a weekend of thrills and chills. Featuring a massive show floor of vendors and exhibitors, haunted attractions and experiences, live entertainment and world-class panel presentations, Midsummer Scream is the West Coast’s premier Halloween/horror event, offering something for fans of all ages. More information can be found at MidsummerScream.org.

Featured guests and panelist includes:

  • Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: Appearing as herself. Saturday, July 29 only.
  • Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses

  • LeeAnna Vamp: Appearing at the Girls & Corpses booth all weekend long! “Queen of the Nerds” and the “Ghoul Of Your Dreams.” Globally recognized cosplayer and judge on SyFy’s Cosplay Melee.

  • Kane Hodder: Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” series; Victor Crowley from the “Hatchet” trilogy. Signing at the Savage Productions booth #162/164 on Saturday, July 29 only.
  • Barbara Magnolfi: Olga in “Suspiria.” Signing all weekend long at the Etheria booth, #154.
  • Tony Moran: Michael Myers from “Halloween” (1978). Signing on Saturday, July 29 at the Coffin Girls booth, #205.
  • John Murdy: Creative Director, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Appearing Sunday, July 30.

  • Ed Alonzo: World famous magician.Appearing Sunday, July 30 as part of the Knotts Berry Farm 45 panel.
  • Bela Lugosi, Jr.: Saturday, July 29 only; signing at the Rock Rebel booth.

 

Here’s a look back the the Midsummer Scream highlights from 2016

Midsummer Scream Announces Hall of Shadows 2017 Participants!

Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival, the West Coast’s premier Halloween, haunt, and horror convention returns July 29-30 to the Long Beach Convention Center for a weekend of world-class thrills and chills. One of the stand-out components of Midsummer Scream’s impressive array of entertainment is the Hall of Shadows – a large portion of the convention’s show floor that is shrouded in darkness and filled with billowing fog, and roaming monsters on an unprecedented scale. For 2017, the Hall of Shadows will feature 14 highly-themed “mini haunts” representing professional and home-made attractions that fans can look forward to visiting this Halloween season here in Southern California.

“Hall of Shadows is a substantial component of Midsummer Scream,” says the convention’s Creative Director, Rick West. “Last year, we featured 9 mini haunts within the Hall; this year, we are upping the count to 14. We are thrilled with the diversity of participating groups this year, from extremely popular pro haunts, to some of the greatest home haunts in existence. Add the awesome spectacle of the Decayed Brigade slider team into the mix, and you’ll find that we have a Hall of Shadows experience this year that is truly epic. Hall of Shadows is a cornerstone of Midsummer Scream, as there is nothing that defines Halloween in America more than haunted houses and lurking monsters. It’s going to be a blast, and all of our participants are raring to go!”

A Unique Challenge
Creating the Hall of Shadows is a unique and exciting challenge. Nowhere has any convention featured such a large “dark zone” with so many haunted attractions for guests to experience. Taking up approximately 1/3 of Midsummer Scream’s 92,000 square-foot show floor, installation of the Hall takes careful planning and coordination well before the doors open to the public. For months, haunters plan their attractions and fabricate them off-site; once it’s “GO time”, each group drives onto the show floor of the Long Beach Convention Center and drops off their haunts in pieces before set-up begins. With 14 attractions being installed at the same time, it’s a virtual ballet of large trucks, haunt build crews, and Midsummer Scream staff members all communicating and working in unison for 48 hours leading up to the opening of the show. Each light above the Hall must be manually turned off once the haunts are installed. To make the area even darker, an extremely large black curtain measuring roughly 325 feet in length (almost the length of a football field) is raised more than 20 feet above the show floor, creating an ominous “wall” between the living and the dead!

Hall of Shadows Entry Façade/Portal
This year’s Hall of Shadows entry portal is being designed and built by CalHauntS (California Haunting Society), a group of talented Halloween enthusiasts responsible for creating some of the most elaborate home haunts anywhere. Sleepy Hollow is the inspiration for this year’s entrance to the Hall of Shadows. Guests will transition from the show floor into the Hall of Shadows as they pass underneath a gothic archway into an eerie cemetery, complete with weathered tombstones and macabre scenic elements.

14 Haunted Attraction Experiences in 2017
For 2017, Midsummer Scream offers guests 14 haunted attractions, each measuring roughly 20’ x 20’. All attractions within the Hall of Shadows is included with a Midsummer Scream day or weekend pass. Guests with Front of Line passes to Midsummer Scream will find express queues at each attraction within Hall of Shadows, expediting their wait times.

2017 Hall of Shadows lineup:

  • Hall of Shadows 2017Dead Zone 805
    You are part of a special crime unit sent to investigate the work shed of a suspected killer. Once inside, you discover much more than you ever could have imagined! You think you’ve seen it all? Think again.
  • Gorlesque presents: Peep Show
    The twisted minds behind The Weltschmerz Society return to Midsummer Scream with “GORLESQUE presents: PEEP SHOW” – a bizarre showcase featuring the kind of lovelies Dr. Weltschmerz obsessed over. Because of the event’s multiple options for each presentation, guests are encouraged to return again and again to see them all!
  • Gothic Hills
    Legend tells of an old crypt, hidden away from the rest of the Gothic Hills Cemetery, that holds the remains of Julius Fitzroy, a once powerful and temperamental tycoon whose soul was cursed to be trapped for the rest of eternity inside a crystal skull. Adventurers who disappear into the undergrowth of the cemetery in search of the tomb are never heard from again! In 2017, join us as we go way back and see where it all started on the night Julius died, and how his soul was trapped in the skull by his spurned mistress, Winifred!
  • Hall of Shadows 2017Higgins Manor
    The walls of the Higgins estate have grown cold and silent since the disappearance of William P. Higgins III. But evil still resides inside his crumbling manor. There’s a suspected traitor… and his vicious henchmen are looking for answers.
  • Hyde Street Massacre
    The Hyde Street Massacre Haunted House is what your worst nightmares are made of. Go ahead and take a step through the doors of this nightmare-induced fright house… The only question is, will you survive the massacre? You’ll quickly realize the challenge you have accepted may be your last. You will then be lost within the haunting walls of Otis Hatcher’s killing chambers; a man so obsessed with Halloween, he lost his mind and became an infamous serial killer. It was a very bloody night.
  • Immersive Parties’ MAC: Mutation Analysis Center
    Enter this facility and encounter mutations of the undead. The zombie apocalypse is over, and all that is left are the experimental test subjects that now occupy this bizarre Mutation Analysis Center. Do you dare enter?
  • Hall of Shadows 2017Mable’s 6 Feet Under
    Motel 6 Feet Under “Scream Tests” are happening in the Hall of Shadows… Except this year, our little Mable will be waiting for you! Yes, it’s true – Mable has taken over the motel. And she is ready to squeeze the life out of the party. It’s Mable’s Motel now. Check in. Then get lost.
  • Nightmare Productions presents The Gate
    The Gate is a place of unimaginable horror. Rumored to be a sacred place – a portal between the living and the dead. It is said to have existed since the beginning of time; a dark, brooding place inhabited by the damned and those simply lost along their spiritual journeys. Mortals that venture into The Gate never return. The hellmouth stands open and waiting, its temptation too great for the foolish…
  • Opechee Haunt’s Apparition Adventure: Terror Twins
    Follow in the footsteps of the Specter Inspectors paranormal investigation team as you venture through the historically haunted Edwards Family Home. There are many secrets in this house; some are meant to be left undiscovered…
  • Hall of Shadows 2017Phobia Productions presents: Grimm’s Hallow
    Just when you thought it was safe to read old fairy tales… Come face the fears of the Old World. Monsters, nightmares, and childhood fears wait around every corner. Heed what the storyteller says, or you may never return from Grimm’s Hallow!
  • Pumkin Jack’s Haunted House
    Are you afraid of the dark? Beware of what lurks in the mist of Pumkin Jack’s; you may just find yourself face-to-face with your nightmares. The family that lives there – they can be deceiving, luring you to your final moments of life. You have been warned!
  • The Fleshyard
    It is the year 2320. Welcome aboard the USS Abyssma! As security detail for the Nexus Science Research Station located on Kepler Prime, your journey through interstellar space starts now. Using the Alcubierre warp drive, your trip will take approximately 9 months. 24th century world-class amenities await you, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight!
  • Hall of Shadows 2017The Haunted Rose presents: The Maritime Horror
    The Haunted Rose presents another chapter of H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror. Enter the seaport village of Innsmouth, where something sinister is lurking beyond the shadows. Discover the long-kept secret of the Marsh family, and see if you can escape its lure.
  • Unhallowed presents: The Last of Man
    Gain access to an abandoned facility that once was home to a government project known as “The Last of Man”. It is believed that an airborne virus is still trapped inside…

World-Class Slider Exhibitions
Returning to the Hall of Shadows for their second year is the Decayed Brigade slider team of Southern California. Several times each day, the Brigade will take to their designated “runway” in the middle of the Hall and perform breathtaking feats of strength and agility as they run, slide, jump, and launch themselves through the air with absolute precision.

The Hall of Shadows will be open Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30, during show hours. It is not intended for small children; it is recommended that only guests age 13 years and older venture into the Hall itself. Each haunt will be closed periodically throughout the day for necessary crew breaks.

Tickets are now on sale! Visit MidsummerScream.org 

Fans may sign up on the site for email notifications and announcements, including discounts and other special offers. Be sure to follow Midsummer Scream on social media as well – Twitter/Periscope: @MidsummerScream, Instagram: @MidsummerScream, and Facebook: facebook.com/midsummerscream. Please use #MidsummerScream to tag all social media posts regarding Midsummer Scream 2017. Halloween – It’s not just a season… it’s a lifestyle!

About Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival

Midsummer Scream is a large-scale summer festival celebrating the spirit of Halloween, haunts and horror, drawing thousands of guests to Southern California for a weekend of thrills and chills. Featuring a massive show floor of vendors and exhibitors, haunted attractions and experiences, live entertainment and world-class panel presentations, Midsummer Scream is the West Coast’s premier Halloween/horror event, offering something for fans of all ages. More information can be found at MidsummerScream.org.

Fans can follow Theme Park Adventure via social media on Facebook, Instagram (search our posts with #ThemeParkAdventure), Twitter, and Periscope for live streams of our travels and special events!

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On a brisk October night—well, it was kind of warm, actually—we traveled into the dark of night guided by the light of a full moon, and the oncoming traffic headlights on the 5 freeway, to get to the far reaches of Griffith Park, where the L.A. Haunted Hayride resides.  When we arrived at our destination in the dark side of town, there was a parking lot filled with cars and a long line of people waiting anxiously to get in. From the size of the crowd, it was obvious that the L.A. Haunted Hayride has managed to become one of the more popular haunts in L.A..

It’s been a while since we’ve come here, as the hayride experience had started to become redundant and not very scary to us after going for a couple years in a row. So we decided that this year it would be fun to go back and check it out, since they now have two additional mazes and a new walk-through segment during the hayride itself. They also happen to be only a few miles away from another haunt we really wanted to see, CreepLA.

The atmosphere across the grounds of the hayride, which they call “Purgatory,” feels like a Halloween festival with food vendors, roaming performers, a “Boutique,”  pumpkin carving, light shows, psychic booths, and a “Sacry-Go-Round.”  It’s all well organized and fun. You’ll really feel the spirit of the season after spending a little time here.

We were surprised that they didn’t take credit cards anywhere, not even at the ticket booths, and guests were forced to used portable ATMs in order to get cash if they didn’t bring any. This was a little annoying and inconvenient. It seems that they’re trying to make every last dollar they can by not paying credit card fees and getting kick backs from the rented ATMS. Another interesting thing is all the food served at the venue is vegan, which for us isn’t a problem. In fact, the pumpkin donut holes were delicious.

Of course, before we spent any more time in “Purgatory,” we hit up the hayride and the two mazes.

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride: Secret Society

img_6900This year’s hayride was promoted as being “brand new with the most innovative theme to date”. The story is we’re now part of a Secret Society of Halloween, and they’re going to take us, in our hay-filled cart, down a dark road where we’ll witness scenes of power and sacrifice, all to bring the night of Samhain to life. Before taking this journey, guests get rounded up like cattle in a chain-link fence holding pen and then corralled into the wagon. The wagon isn’t very comfortable, as instead of sitting on comfy bales of hay, you sit in a thin pile of hay that’s spread across the bed of the wagon.

We did notice a few minor changes in the hayride since we last visited but nothing that was truly “innovative”. Most notably is the section where you leave the hay wagon a few minutes into the ride and walk through an outdoor maze that has one or two startling moments. After the maze section, we were quickly crammed back into the wagon and continued on with the tour.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t experience anything else that was particularly scary on the rest of the hayride. There are some interesting and elaborate sets along the route and some talented performers who give it a theatrical edge, but we had a hard time following the storyline and understanding what was happening in some of the scenes. The overall theme was lost on us, as the ride begins with a giant Mayan statue telling us we’re doomed and then finishes in a tent where we get attacked by patriotic Purge-like  goons.

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All in all, the hayride is like a riding though an outdoor Halloween store, where you’ll see some cool costumes, makeup jobs, and props on display. It’s all fun, but we wouldn’t want to wait in a long line to check it out.

Haunt Design: 3-skulls
Theming: 2-skulls
Scare Factor: 1-skull
Overall Rating: 2-skulls

Ouija Origin of Evil: House of Shadows

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This is a true maze composed of black walls in almost complete darkness. From the name, it’s obvious that they’re promoting the new Ouija movie, so they also included a few rooms that feature scenes from the movie.  These scenes are not at the same quality of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights mazes, but they still were fun. In the rest of the maze, you have to find your way through  dark corridors with dead ends and monsters lurking in the shadows. This maze was actually pretty fun, and we found it to be a little scarier than the hayride. Overall, this was a fun attraction, but note that the line can get REALLY long. We suggest hitting this maze early in the night (before the hayride) to avoid the long lines.

Haunt Design: 2-5-skulls
Theming: 3-skulls
Scare Factor: 2-skulls
Overall Rating: 3-skulls

Trick Or Treat

img_6913This has to be one the best maze concepts we’ve experienced this season. This maze takes interactivity to another level, where guests have to walk through a spooky neighborhood and literally go trick-or-treating door to door. Each house has its own personality to match the forbidding residents inside. It’s suspenseful and fun when you walk up to a house and have to ring the doorbell or knock on the door, waiting for an encounter with what’s on the other side. If you’re lucky, the resident will award you with some candy before sending you on your way to your next frightful encounter.

This maze was so much fun. We liked the feeling of not being confined to a path and the ability to pick where were wanted to go to get scared. We also liked the different themed homes, which featured just about every kind of Halloween character you could imagine. Getting candy made the experience all that much more fun. For us grown-up haunt stalkers, this maze allowed us to re-create the nostalgic memory of going door to door on Halloween night and the nightmares we had afterward.

Haunt Design: 4-skulls
Theming: 5-skulls
Scare Factor: 2-5-skulls
Overall Rating:4-5-skulls

 

L.A. Haunted Hayride Overall Fright Value:

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Overall Rating of L.A. Haunted Hayride 2016:

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*Videos courtesy of Theme Park HD

Haunt Review: Sinister Pointe(less) 2016

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During its prime, Sinister Pointe ranked near the very top of our annual haunt ratings list. With themes ranging from Saw to Silent Hill, and an elaborate haunted house with annual Xmas and Valentine’s Day haunts, this was one of the premier haunted attractions in Southern California. The mazes were superbly designed with movie-quality sets, interactive elements, and suspenseful scares that had us screaming to go back year after year. In addition, the talented team behind Sinister Pointe were also the masterminds behind the creation of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and one of our favorite haunts at the Winchester Mystery House Fright Nights. So after they left their permanent location in 2014, we anxiously anticipated their return in 2016.

Earlier this year, Sinister Pointe had a Seance event that we found to be fun. With a few tweaks, it could have been a pretty epic experience. With that said, it seems that public opinion was that the Seance event was a waste of time and money. Making good on their commitment to customer satisfaction, Sinister Pointe sent out special invitations to all the Seance attendees, welcoming us all back as VIP guests to experience their new 2016 haunted maze.

cuypulkuiaaqgys We couldn’t wait to finally return to Sinister Pointe and see the next level of terror and fun they promoted. The maze is themed as a dark journey through a decrepit world where victims must choose different paths to get through four demonic dimensions. Unfortunately, the description is the most exciting part. The maze we went through (3 times) is mainly constructed from black painted plywood walls and hanging sheets.  There were hardly any props and limited effects. There actually was one section of the maze where we got stuck with other guests because we thought that the path through a curtain was taking us out of the maze and behind the scenes. It looked like an emergency exit. However, an actor told us to keep going and called us idiots for not knowing that was the correct path. We’re sorry, but when going through a maze, we’re not used to going behind the walls and walking over light cords, fans, past stacked chairs, and behind the audio speakers. We couldn’t believe it was part of the maze.  We all did feel like idiots for taking the time and paying to go through this maze.

We went through three times and didn’t find any of the paths to be significantly different. Every time we went through, none of the other people in the maze seemed to be impressed either.  It was really disappointing to realize that Sinister Pointe has regressed into being nothing more than an overpriced junior high school haunted house. We think that this was the first time that a haunt has left us feeling depressed, as it had very little redeeming qualities about it.

cuyrqpzueaqmv57What seems to have gone wrong is that the overall set design and talent has fallen far below the quality that Sinister Pointe has spoiled us with before. We give credit to a few scareactors who were giving it their all, but the rest seemed just as lost in the maze as we did. We understand that the haunt business is a tough one and requires haunters to make a big investment to produce a quality maze. Given their tenure and established name in the industry, we expected that Sinister Pointe would have both the creativity and resources to produce another high-end experience. Alas, all we got was a cleverly marketed but ill-conceived haunted house experience.

Our hope is that this year was just a fluke and due to circumstances beyond their control, they weren’t able to produce the haunt they had initially intended to make. However, we can’t make excuses here, and since they’re taking people’s money, we can’t in good conscience give them a good review.  Sad to say that this a a first-class haunt that has gone all the way back to coach. Sinisterly Pointless, indeed.

 

Ratings

Haunt Design: 1-skull        Theming:  1-5-skulls

Scare Factor: half-skull     Fright Value: half-skull 

Overall Rating: 

1-skull

SNEAK PEEK: KNOTT’S SCARY FARM 44TH HAUNT

The event we’ve all been waiting for this year is just about here! The original Halloween Haunt, Knott’s Scary Farm, returns for the 44th year starting on Thursday, September 22nd with more than 1,000 monsters roaming the park and lurking in the fog.

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We consider Knott’s Scary Farm to the best theme park Halloween celebration with a park completely blanketed in fog and crawling with monsters. There’s multiple scare zones, mazes, new virtual reality experiences, shows, rides, and Elvira, “the most popular ride in the park”.

As the terrors of Scary Farm inches closer we think that now is the perfect time for us to take a first peek in the fog to see what they have in store for 2016. As they say “Whatever you’re imagining, It’s here…” 

 

Haunted Attractions (New for 2016)

Four all-new nightmarish haunted attractions will debut this year; each featuring unearthly surprises, ghoulish monsters and frightening legends that come to life as you step inside:

special-ops-infected-logoBlack Ops: Infected: Armed with cutting edge laser guns, brave guests will face off against hordes of zombies in the groundbreaking all-new Black Ops: Infected interactive maze. Small units of guests will battle the zombie apocalypse through blood soaked city streets and an underground sewer system crawling with nearly one hundred ravenous zombies. The high tech innovative experience thrusts guests into the middle of a live-action video game complete with live actors, real time scoring system, kill streak rewards system and interactive targets, including a juggernaut boss zombie. The new attraction is one of the largest mazes ever created in Knott’s Scary Farm history so form your squad and put your zombie apocalypse survival skills to the test in this action packed, one-of-a-kind experience

shadowlands-no-backgroundShadow Lands: A fulfilling life ensures a soul safe passage into eternity, but what happens to the souls of soldiers slain in battle? Enter the hair-raising Shadow Lands maze and fight off demon samurais whose souls are cursed to rot within the depths of purgatory. Guests will embark on a quest through a sacred shrine, an ancient Japanese temple and into the midst of the shadow lands.

the-red-barn-no-backgroundRed Barn: Take a trip to a blood-soaked barn filled with carnivorous animals seeking to prey on human flesh in the Red Barn gore maze. Legend has it the farmer who owns the barn was transformed into a heinous creature that sends his sadistic sons to ensure his legacy. None dare enter the barn, for those who enter never escape.

thehollow-no-backgroundThe Hollow: From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terror in the new scare zone, The Hollow. Guests entering the frightful 6-acre area will be terrorized by the souls of fallen soldiers and local farmers that have escaped their shallow graves.

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FearVR: 5150: New for 2016, enter the mysterious Meadowbrook Institute and witness the abnormal case of a terrifyingly unusual patient named Katie in the groundbreaking virtual reality horror experience Fear VR: 5150. Using Samsung GearVR powered by Oculus and strapped to a hospital wheelchair, come face- to-face with the deadly chaos unraveling around you. Disturbingly vivid sights and sounds invade all of your senses. Encounter the darkness that has taken over the medical staff during your fully immersive hospital stay. Patients beware; it is easier to check in than out.

Standalone Skeleton Key Rooms (New for 2016):

For the first time, Knott’s Scary Farm will feature standalone Skeleton Key Rooms that are independent from mazes. The four Skeleton Key Rooms will each feature a unique story and theme delivering unparalleled scares, interactive secrets and terrifying surprises:

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Slasher: Guests are invited to step into an 80s’ slasher horror film. The masked Angel Maker Killer is on the loose. Every lead has run cold and that’s when you step into the picture. Will you become his next victim?

Prey:Navigate a hay maze full of dead ends with only a faulty lantern as your guide. You are not alone. Mutant beasts are lurking around every corner.

Visions: Guests must investigate the Green Witch Museum in Ghost Town where it is not the building that is haunted, but the various items contained within. Using a Phantom Finder augmented reality device, guests will be able to identify and witness paranormal activity connected to items from the Sarah Marshall Witch Trial.

ZOZO: People from all over the world claim to have been visited by the demon ZOZO after a spirit board session. Is the demonic entity known as ZOZO real or are spirit boards just a myth?

Returning Favorites

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CreepLA Returns To Haunt L.A. Residents Starting Sept. 15th

They’re baaaaack!

Rated by Scare Zone as the best new haunt experience of 2015 in Los Angeles, CreepLA returns with a new installment  that pulls participants into an interactive real-life horror film experience!

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Beginning in September 2016 up through Halloween, CreepLA will once again crack open its doors shining a light into the darkness that CREEPs within us all. With its 2nd installment and in a new location, CreepLA participants will be immersed into a re-imagined world of twisted and intimate terror where the lines of reality and performance art are blurred leaving participants questioning everything.

CreepLA’s sophomore experience and over 12,000 sq./ft. of CREEP space tells a fluid story of a controversial 1970’s artist full of angst and terror trapped in his own dark world. As guests arrive they are escorted into the CreepLA lounge where over beer, wine or signature cocktails they are introduced to the story that is about to unfold. This all-new pre-show lounge sets the tone with a dark and eerie aesthetic and even the bartenders can’t be trusted with reality. In the lounge, small groups (even individuals) are invited by CreepLA characters into hidden scenes, intimate encounters and frightful situations by members of the ensemble.

CreepDoorGroups of 8 are then lead through the doors where the story begins as audiences move through various connected vignettes where the only thing people are certain of is uncertainty itself. “We’re thrilled to bring back CreepLA’s 2nd installment, ENTRY,” said CreepLA Founder, Justin Fix. “From more characters, more space and a stronger storyline inspired by the cinematic styles of Directors David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, this year’s CreepLA is sure to thrill even the most savvy horror fan.”

Each multi-sensory show will last for roughly 45 minutes, but guests are asked to make a 90-minute commitment to the entire experience. With over 12,000 square feet of area, the new CreepLA experience is larger than ever and will feature a cast of 28 actors set in various vignettes that feature notable film and television stage sets all of which work together to tell this year’s CREEP story.

From the twisted mind of CreepLA creator, Justin Fix, CreepLA opened its doors in 2015 with several of Justin’s friends coming together to help create Los Angeles’ most authentic scream experience. “We’re really excited to bring back a new CreepLA show this year in a bigger and better space,” said Fix.  “Our show is a departure from other scream experiences as we fully immerse our guests in the show leaving them questioning what’s real and what’s part of the show. This year, we have some truly diabolical twists and turns for the show.”

CreepLA is also thrilled to announce their collaboration with Crypt TV and their philanthropic partner, The Art of Elysium. A percentage of the proceeds from the CreepLA will benefit The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization that features programs designed to help those in the midst of difficult emotional life challenges through creative exploration and expression. They bring artists into communities of need in Los Angeles, allowing them to share their personal journeys of creativity with individuals of these areas and inspire them to move forward in their own.

Creator/Producer: Justin Fix

Artistic Directors: David Anderson/ Daniel Montgomery

Performance Director: Fiona Rene

Casting Director: Lacy Forrest

Choreographer: Stephanie Turek

Public Relations: Mike Stommel

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CREEPLA is located at 2316 N. San Fernando Rd in Los Angeles.

Performances run from September 15th through Halloween on all weekends with some weeknights available.

Tickets range from $40 – $50 dollars.

Please visit www.CREEPLA.com for more information. @CreepLosangeles #CreepLA #Creepitreal

The Dead Walk On And On At Universal Studios Hollywood

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The story of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by hordes of terrifying flesh-eating walkers is coming back to life at Universal Studios Hollywood this summer in a brand new year-round haunted attraction. After being part of the Horror Nights lineup for many years The Walking Dead will now walk on and on as part of the park’s permanent attraction list. The new attraction is located right near the park’s entrance in a brand new facility built specifically for it. This is a smart move for the park as this kind of attraction should have a high capacity intake that can help alleviate some of the herds of walkers… err tourists that will be attacking the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which entrance is also nearly adjacent to this new attraction.

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From what we’ve heard so far,  this new attraction is bigger, more elaborate, and scarier than any Walking Dead Maze they’ve made as now they have the advantage of utilizing  a dedicated space for the attraction. On the downside for us haunt stalkers and HHN fans, we know that this attraction will now be lazily counted as part of the HHN maze lineup every year as well. What we do hope is that they now move on and use other themes for the Terror Tram and Scare Zones which have been dominated by The Walking Dead in recent years.

This isn’t first year-round haunt at Universal Hollywood. In previous years, in nearly the same location, there has been The Mummy, Van Helsing, and Universal’s House of Horrors attractions. As with these attractions, the challenge Universal will have is keeping it fresh. While the former attractions were anchored in singular story lines the potential benefit of using The Walking Dead is they can modify the scenes and maze as the show continues on; which executive producer Greg Nicotero says is part of the plan for the attraction.

We plan to check out this new haunt this weekend and of course will report back with one of our popular reviews. Good or bad it should provide some great commentary. Stay tuned…

 

Here’s more info from Universal Studios:

Universal Studios Hollywood has worked collaboratively with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for years as a signature “Halloween Horror Nights” maze. This newly enhanced venture will take the highly sought-after experience from a seasonal, limited time offering to an authentic 365 day opportunity, raising the bar for themed walk-through attractions. For a look at what to expect when the attraction opens this summer, please click here.

To further elevate the authenticity of this new attraction, Universal Studios Hollywood is partnering with “The Walking Dead’s” creative team, including visionary executive producer and director, Greg Nicotero and his special effects company, KNB Efx. Greg’s team, responsible for masterfully creating the show’s realistic decaying walkers, will construct prosthetics, utilize original molds and painstakingly apply paint and detailing to the attraction walkers. The integral involvement of the creative team will not only inspire the emotional connection fans experience, it will be among the attraction’s key distinguishing characteristics that will define it as a living version of the show. 

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“The Walking Dead” attraction will create a no-holds-barred experience that significantly intensifies any other iteration previously developed within the theme park. Coupled with authentic walker make-up effects, sophisticated animatronic walkers, substantially more detailed set design and costuming, and highly recognizable props replicated from the series, the attraction will deliver an uncompromised realistic environment that brings guests even further into the most watched show in cable television history. “The Walking Dead’ is a phenomenon that has successfully and consistently affected the psyche of viewers on a global basis, since its debut,” said Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood. “We’re taking its intensity to the next level by collaborating with the show’s award-winning production team to create an authentic living representation of the series that can only be experienced at Universal Studios Hollywood.”

“We’re so grateful for our longstanding partnership with the talented team at Universal Studios Hollywood. We’ve shared a successful three-year partnership at Halloween Horror Nights and now this permanent ‘The Walking Dead’ walk- through attraction takes the relationship and the fan experience to the next level,” said Charlie Collier, President of AMC and SundanceTV. “Along with our great partners at Universal, it means a great deal to us to continue entertaining — and frightening — passionate, loyal fans of ‘The Walking Dead’ for years to come.”

The “The Walking Dead” attraction will be located within an entirely new, custom built structure, situated within an expansive building complex just inside the theme park’s main entry.
The past five years have been a remarkable time for Universal Studios Hollywood as the destination embarked on an unprecedented revitalization that has substantially altered over 75 percent of its familiar footprint to effectively characterize it as an entirely new theme park experience. The introduction of the all-new “The Walking Dead” attraction continues the theme park’s unparalleled investment in an ambitious epic transformation.

Spoiler Alert! Full Attraction video courtesy of our friends at SoCal Attractions 360.

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