Well, it's finally here. The end of the Haunt Season.
As a site, this was our first year covering Halloween and we've had an absolutely blast. Personally, I've gone to more Haunts this year than any other year, and it still was just a drop in the proverbial bucket.
Below are our rankings, this is by no means a complete list of everything that is out there, but if you are planning on getting one last scare in this season, you can't go wrong with any of these.
Best Theme Park Haunt - Knott's Scary Farm
I know a lot of people thought that Knott's had a down year but I thought it was amazing. Maybe it's because I didn't make it to Haunt last year but the great mix of new mazes and returning favorites was amazing.
Small improvements like the Skeleton Key rooms and new effects in mazes made the event seem fresh and the Mine Ride enhancements for The Witch's Keep were awesome.
Knott's Scary Farm is open tonight (Halloween) and Saturday Nov 1st.
Best Non Theme-Park Haunt - Raymond Hill Mortuary
To say we were completely blown away by Raymond Hill Mortuary would be a HUGE understatement. From the talent, the execution, the theme and overall creepiness it was an absolute success in every way imaginable.
The group at Evil Twin Studios put their twisted and creative minds together and brought the world an incredible haunt for 2014. We really can't wait to see what they have in store for next year.
Raymond Hill Mortuary is open tonight (Halloween) and Saturday Nov 1st.
Best Home Haunt - Sherwood Scare
To be honest, we didn't get to as many home haunts this year as we would have liked, but if the few we visited this year were any indication, we are definitely getting to more next year.
We wish we could call this something different than a "home" haunt, because the talent, story line and effects in this maze are nothing short of professional quality.
Sherwood Scare is open tonight (Halloween) and Saturday Nov 1st.
Best Maze - American Werewolf in London - Halloween Horror Nights (Hollywood)
This was EASILY my most anticipated maze of 2014 as it's one of my all time favorite horror movies. And American Werewolf in London didn't disappoint.
Universal is known for their use of movie quality effects, props and locations, but this maze combined all three of those elements into our top maze of 2014.
Halloween Horror Nights is open tonight (Halloween), Saturday Nov 1st and Sunday Nov 2nd.
Best Scare Zones - Fright Fest - Six Flags Magic Mountain
It takes a lot for a park to start competing with the likes of Knott's Scary Farm for best scare zones, but this year Magic Mountain managed to pull it off .
The DC Universe "City Under Seige" is still the biggest and best in the park, but this year the incredibly unique black-light scare zone "Nightmares - A Twisted Fantasy" just pushed them over the top. We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention the 3 great new mazes the park added this year.
Fright Fest is open tonight (Halloween) and Saturday Nov 1st.
Best Talent - Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
This category wasn't even close. The talent at Dark Harbor has so much freedom it's really hard for the other events to compare.
Not tied to any corporate structure they are free to interact with the guests as they see fit, free to do things that other parks would freak out about while still maintaining safety for themselves and guests.
Dark Harbor is open tonight (Halloween), Saturday Nov 1st and Sunday Nov 2nd.
Best New Maze - (tie) Voodoo - Knott's Scary Farm and Red's Revenge - Fright Fest
This was easily the toughest category. This was a Pick 'em between Voodoo and The Tooth Fairy at Knott's and Red's Revenge at Fright Fest.
We decided to end this one in a tie because we just couldn't decide. Voodoo won out because of the incredibly done Skeleton key room, great talent and the uniqueness of the multiple paths. Red's Revenge deserves recognition just because of the sheer quality of this new generation of Fright Fest maze.
Best Returning Maze - Submerged - Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
Hands down the creepiest maze we did this year. I know a lot of people complain about it being old, but if it's not broken, don't fix it.
As we said in our Dark Harbor review, no other event, except maybe Raymond Hill, can compete with the sheer creepiness of the on-ship mazes at Dark Harbor.
So that's going to wrap it up for Haunt Season. We hope you enjoyed reading about all of the events as much as we enjoyed covering them. We are already thinking about next year and how we can do even more coverage of events outside of California.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled website. =)
Over the weekend we had a chance to visit some local haunts, Raymond Hill Mortuary in South Pasadena, Sherwood Scare in Northridge and Backwoods Maze in Burbank.
While Backwoods Maze is a great local amateur haunt that is donation only, I have to resist the urge to refer to Raymond Hill Mortuary and Sherwood Scare as "Amateur" haunts, because they aren't.
The quality of the mazes and the showmanship is as good, if not BETTER than a lot of professional haunts.
We also want to thank our friends at "Is it October Yet" for setting up the schedule for our Haunt night and "Gaming Shogun" for hanging out as well. it was great meeting you and connecting with new friends that are awesome.
We had a great time with great people getting scared. Really doesn't get any better than that.
Our group for the night:
Raymond Hill Mortuary
Since we first heard about Raymond Hill Mortuary and heard how good Evil Twin Studios first year Haunt was last year, this was EASILY the most anticipated Haunt of the year. After we got an exclusive Interview with the creative directors back in September, it just upped our anticipation, so we had some pretty lofty expectations for this event.
And we are happy to say the event EXCEEDED any expectation we had. It is THAT good. This was, hands down the most terrifying event we've done this year.
The fact that the event is held in what used to be a Mortuary sets the tone as to what is coming. Groups of 8 people at a time are allowed through the event that is part show and part maze. There are about 3 or 4 show scenes and everybody in your group has the chance to become a part of the show. So be aware, there are some "physical" elements to the event. But we had two people in our group who have had neck/back issues in the past few years and neither of them had any issues.
The talent in the maze are all volunteers, but don't let that fool you. These scare-actors have such passion for the event and it's totally obvious that the love starts at the top with the creative minds behind the event and trickles down all the way to the talent.
Raymond Hill Mortuary is, HANDS DOWN, the most immersive event we've been to so far in 2014, and considering we aren't getting to any new ones this weekend it's going to keep it's place at the top of our list. If you have ANY WAY to get out to South Pasadena and do this event, you need to. It does sell out every night and lines get up to about 90 minutes.
We aren't fans of waiting in lines, but 90 minutes for this event is TOTALLY worth it. Show up early as it will likely be VERY busy this weekend.
Plus, you know if celebrities have heard about your event it's gonna be good. Derek Hough from Dancing with the Stars was there with his partner and there will be a feature on Raymond Hill Mortuary on the show tonight.
We want to send a special thanks to Scott and Todd for not only putting on an amazing event, but for being cool guys who have an amazing behind the scenes staff. Thanks to Jennifer for setting up our visit and interview last month. Even the front-end staff at the ticket booth was great, friendly and welcoming. Again, you can tell how much everybody loves putting on this event and I'm going to be so proud to wear my new Evil Twin Studios T-shirt ... a LOT!!
For more info about Raymond Hill Mortuary check out their website, and you can save $2 if you buy your tickets online.
Like Raymond Hill Mortuary, Sherwood Scare is in NO WAY an Amateur Haunt. Located in a neighborhood in Northridge you'd never think that a professional haunt of this magnitude would exist here. The story, the technology and the talent in this maze are as good if not better than what you'll see at Universal, Knott's or Fright Fest.
The story revolves around an abandoned movie studio and just has so many small touches that make it great from classic movies to great Shirley Temple inspired movie posters.
The maze itself is a good 5-10 minutes, which for being in a backyard is pretty amazing. The maze is downright scary, creepy, entertaining and engaging and is a must-do for any Haunt fan.
Again, we don't want to spoil anything but for $3 (that goes to Cystic Fibrosis) it's hands down amazing.
Like Raymond Hill, the staff out front is great and only about 9 or 10 people get to go through the maze at a time. So lines can get long, and will likely be long this weekend. We did support their Kickstarter and had front of the line passes but we ended up not using them since most in our group didn't have them.
So there's a VERY good chance we'll end up back at Sherwood Scare this weekend. For more on Sherwood Scare check out their website. They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.
Last week we were invited out to the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, a very cool and unique Halloween event.
The Hayride itself is amazing and is something that can't be matched. Unfortunately the two other sideshow attractions don't quite work, but they are worth checking out nonetheless.
The entry to the Hayride
Once inside, there are very cool directions signs that lead you to the different attractions in the area. On the outside it doesn't look like a very big area, but there's a lot to do.
The entrance to the Hayride itself. The entire experience is probably about 20 minutes and features 9 or 10 different "scenes" with a lot of very talented actors.
We don't think the event is particularly "scary" compared to some other local events, and depending on the child we think this would be perfectly acceptable for kids around 10 years old.
But not everything has to be scary, it just has to be fun. And the Hayride is a LOT of fun.
The media headed for our special hayride. We were able to take pictures and flash, so there will be some flash pictures below, which we normally don't do. But the hayride is VERY dark, so hopefully the pictures will give you a good idea of the fun within.
This was a kind of "circus" theme, but very different from everywhere else.
Sacrifice scene, this was probably the most disturbing part.
Flying stuff, really cool and one of the best parts of the Hayride.
Part of the Hayride features a little game.
Spin the wheel, choose your doom
We have the KTLA reporter to blame for getting us all killed. =)
Awesome pumpkin room.
Attack of the killer pumpkin!
Killer tree. Again, sorry for the flash, it looks so much better under show lighting.
The last scene features a kind of heavy metal demon thing which is great fun all the way around.
Like any good ride, it ends with a gift shop.
The Seven Sins Sideshow ... where to begin.
First off, we'll say that we totally get where they are going with this. It's basically 7 "shows" that are triggered by the audience and a 2-3 minute "act" by one or two actors.
The dedication of the people inside isn't in question here at all, but the execution is a bit off.
We actually found the sideshow comical, not the least bit disturbing which probably isn't what they are going for. In addition, the effects weren't really up to the point you'd normally see in an event of this size.
Again though, we applaud them for wanting to do something other than just another "maze", but this needs some help before next year for sure.
The other Sideshow attraction is "House of the Horsemen" which is basically supposed to be the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Like the Sideshow, we get what they are trying to do here, there are individual show rooms and some audience participation moments. But again, the execution is lacking while we do think the effects in the Horsemen is better than the sideshow.
Maybe they should combine the two and make one great sideshow attraction?
The Backwards Scary-Go-Round is great fun.
In Between is pretty much the only "Maze" at the event, and is a kind of "Blackout" maze that's just unique enough to be great. Other than the Hayride itself, this is the second best thing at the event and shouldn't be missed.
That's going to wrap it up for our look at the LA Haunted Hayride. Despite a couple of "ok" sideshow attractions, the entire event is great fun and the idea of a hayride basically in the middle of LA is a unique and cool thing. Be sure to check out this recommended event prior to the end of it's run.
Details, hours and prices can be found on the LA Haunted Hayride website.