The last two weeks for me are a blizzard of brains, blood, and blackouts… here’s a rundown.
Reign of Terror (Thousand Oaks) was extremely well-crafted. Covering 10,000 square feet of space, it’s an approximately 15 minute walk through maze which includes innovative scares, some gore, and beautifully detailed sets. The problem is that once you are done you’ll be hard pressed to find anything else to do at the Janss Marketplace unless you are in the mood for a movie! So, I’d say it’s a must see for locals, or a road trip for super adventurous Angelenos.
House at Haunted Hill (Woodland Hills) is beautiful. Created by special effects experts working in the entertainment industry, these Disney-quality effects are visually stunning! Perfect for all ages. The story starts on the right side of their lawn with a classic Hollywood love story seen through the window of the home. It continues on to the cemetery and ends in the crypt with a ghost played by Neil Patrick Harris. That’s entertainment! Go early or late. This one gets crowded.
Ghost Train (Griffith Park) is delightful. Packed with animatronics, this 25 minute ride on an authentic model train through Griffith Park is fantastic for all ages. Children must be 34 inches to ride. There are aliens, ghostly gangnam style rockers, and tons of skeletons. This is a must see for people with kids. Again, go at opening or after 9. Lines can be long.
Knotts 40th Anniversary Haunt (Buena Park) was uneven. Some mazes were super fun with lots of scares (Trick or Treat, Dominion of the Dead, Delirium), some were boring (Terror of London, Virus Z), and other’s were full of lame farting and vomiting jokes (Uncle Bobo’s Bigtop of the Bizarre). The standout, of course, was the upcharge maze TRAPPED. I didn’t find it particularly frightening, but the challenge of finding our way out of the locked in rooms was thrilling. Well worth the extra money… and here’s a tip… if you don’t have a ticket for TRAPPED, the people working at the maze entrance are great at helping you find a smaller group to team up with. This maze costs $60 and groups of up to six can enter at a time, so groups of four who have already paid for it are typically more than happy to have a couple join them if you pay your way. Just promise not to say the safe word! If anyone says it, the whole group is escorted out!
Boney Island (Studio City) is super fun for all ages! This has been a Halloween tradition for my family for years, and I will be there tonight. The brainchild of a producer from THE SIMPSONS, this yard display includes wise-cracking spiders, a fortune teller (adults look for the guy with the Big Gulp and hidden microphone), and a magician with a watery goo fountain display. Definitely a must see for kids of all ages.
Old Town Haunt (Pasadena) is extremely dark and lots of fun. It’s no surprise that this haunt felt like stepping into an Indiana Jones movie to me! With tons of decaying skeletons and sets that were acquired from film and television productions (House of 1000 Corpses, Power Rangers, Indiana Jones)… as you descend the stairs you feel like you are entering one of Indy’s booby-trapped caves. Walls shift, doors open and close. The look is that of a ruined temple, haunted by spirits who aren’t happy to have you there. Parts of the maze are in complete black out, including one 20 ft section where you crawl on your hands and knees… or take the cowards walk if you don’t want to get down and dirty.
Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary (Long Beach) has added a new maze this year “DeadRise”. From my two visits this year, it’s apparent that they are continuing to work on this and I did see improvement. Set outside with no roof for most of it, there really isn’t enough darkness for hardcore scares, but they have added fog effects which help with the atmosphere. Dark Harbor remains one of the best values for money. With early admission during haunting hour at $20. The mazes on the ship alone are worth it! Submerged, with it’s creepy walk by the (reportedly haunted) swimming pool, remains a standout. And this year for the first time, on Halloween Night they are having two costumed events. Trick of Treating for kids and a Halloween Ball for adults.
Paranoia (Santa Monica) has a lot of potential, but just isn’t dark or complicated enough to provide real scares. With no roof coverings on the mazes and sparse decorations the scareactors have nowhere to hide. I’d rate this one PG13. Of the three mazes, I’d say the Clown Maze has the most fun inside, but nothing you haven’t seen before. The real star of the night was an older woman scaring people in the alley behind the Granny maze. She was not in costume, but she totally creeped out everyone in our group (in a good way). I hope I’m having that much fun when I’m her age!
Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (Universal City) is always fantastic. Every year the mazes allow you to feel like you are really stepping in to your favorite horror franchises. This year the standout mazes for me were the special 3D effects in the Alice Cooper maze, which felt like a raunchy acid trip through Hell, and the Walking Dead maze which included huge set pieces… were they TANKED when they dreamed this up? (hint) The one low point was the Terror Tram which just isn’t scary or interesting. Although, creative director John Murdy says that last tram on Halloween night is brilliant with a special event insiders call “The Walk”… so tonight might be time to find out what that’s all about. Universal remains top on my list of Halloween events, despite the conga line through the mazes. If everyone could space themselves out just a little bit, I think it would improve the event tremendously. I want zombies breathing down my neck, not teenagers!
I also attended screenings for Paranormal Activity 4 (if you like the others in this franchise, you will like this one), Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (gorgeous sets and cool monsters, but felt like a long cut scene so it could be confusing for non-gamers), Sinister (beautifully directed, this one lives up to it’s name, but some viewers might be sensitive to children murdered on camera so it’s not for everyone), Fun Size (cute tween PG13 comedy with some toilet humor, felt a little old school, like a Halloween “Adventures in Babysitting”).
I still recommend The Blumhouse of Horrors, The In Between Maze at Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, and The Backwoods Maze… check sites for each event for dates and times. Some attractions are open past Halloween.
Damn, no wonder I feel like the walking dead…