Saturday, October 10, 2015

Halloween countdown post #8: DC picks the most charismatic Southern California haunted house attractions of Halloween season 2015

The Opechee Way Haunt: Doll House of Death (Glendale)
The Opechee Way Haunt is a home haunt located in the hills of Glendale, California. Tucked away in this quiet, cozy neighborhood, Sam Kellman and his spooky cohorts have been creating the home haunt for the past several years. What sets Sam aside from your average haunter is that he’s 12. His team of fellow haunters are also pre-teens that have an incredibly strong sense of staging and production. Opechee Way Haunt isn’t elaborate or over-the-top, as many home haunts are here in Southern California. It’s a lo-fi experience that reminded me of haunted houses I used to create with my own pals when I was a kid. When we went to Glendale to pay Sam and his team a visit, we didn’t know what to expect, honestly. As we pulled up, we noticed the gang in the front of the house, setting up a switchback queue; that’s the first thing that struck me. Going through the haunt, I was floored by the team’s sense of staging and the honest effort they put into it – from the physical sets to the acting; they really poured their hearts and souls into this production and I found myself so incredibly impressed that I must have looked like a grinning fool the entire way through!

Ace Escape Game (Los Angeles)
Ace Escape Game is L.A.’s ultimate escape game experience. This is a live experience unmatched by any video game or simulator. Your situation is real and you have to rely on yourself and your team in order to decode the clues and find your way out of one of our rooms. Ace Escape House features 3 unique themed rooms. Each room has its own backstory but the idea is the same: you’re in a perilous situation and time is running out. Each room has its own set of game rules where participants have 60 minutes to play. The maximum amount of participants per room is eight. Ace Escape game is a one-of-a kind gaming experience where you will be required to piece together the clues during your allowed time slot.

Reign of Terror (Thousand Oaks)
The Reign of Terror is an annual haunted house attraction featuring 65+ rooms of scares! We celebrate our 16th year in 2015 with several design changes, some new scares and the addition of a new maze. Once you make it through our new mining town, you enter the original Reign of Terror haunted house. The Victorian styled dwelling undergoes subtle changes annually to keep guests on the edge of anticipation while preserving the original look and feel that put ROT on the map and continues to captivate fans. When you exit the butcher shed of the haunted house, you will end up in the front yard of granny's home where inside, something revolting has happened. If you continue forward, you will enter Granny's Blood Manor. If you do not wish to observe the gruesomeness for yourself, from the front yard, you will have the option skip this tour and proceed to the next section. You then make your way through some caves until you come up on our new addition for 2015, "Quarantine". After that mess, you proceed to the ROT Asylum where nothing but the best care is provided for the criminally insane. The Asylum is a deranged psychiatric institution staffed with mad scientists, nurses, and a variety of other highly unqualified lunatics. (Also newly expanded for this year!)

House of Horror (Rialto)
A grieving Rialto mother, whose two young boys were killed in a house fire earlier this year, has turned that now-vacant scene of tragedy into a haunted house for Halloween. Many onlookers said it was "creepy" and "bad taste." But the Rialto fire department and police department expressed a different opinion, they said it had been red-tagged, and it was "unsafe", and Friday night, they shut it down. "This is the way I'm coping with the loss of my two kids," said Viviana "Dulce" Delgado, 27. "We used to do Halloween every year. Costumes, candy and fun." On May 29, Mario Cisneros, 5, and his 3-year-old brother, David Cisneros, were overcome by smoke in the burning house where 11 family members once lived. They were found unconscious, along with their puppy. They were taken to the hospital, but they didn't make it. The puppy died, too. The family worked for a week, turning the front yard of the charred home into what looked like any of a million Halloween attractions. But, to those who know the heart-breaking history of this location, it took-on a much different appearance. Delgado, who said she was extremely disappointed by the fire department's action, had been inviting visitors in to walk the halls where her sons once gasped for air. There were classic Halloween decorations all around, including skeletons and tombstones. But, also, there were children's toys, and photographs. As curious onlookers expressed dismay and even repugnance at the scene, Delgado said she was paying tribute to her lost boys, and the Halloweens past when they had so much fun. "My kids would have loved this." she said. "There's nothing I can do to bring them back. This is something I need to do."

CreepLA (Los Angeles)
Creep LA was founded by a group of artists and creative directors looking to bring a new experience to LA. With the popularity of interactive experiences, CreepLA strives to touch upon all forms of fear and horror both with traditional scare tactics and emotional interactions. Guests will make their way through many dark corridors and rooms encountering many personal interactions, distractions and alarming situations. We are not trying to separate ourselves, but to add to an already amazing haunt culture in a very artistic large city. With the ever-changing habits of media consumption, the importance of being present and having a one-on-one connection has diminished. In this case, the lines between watching a performance and being inside a performance will be blurred. Los Angeles has naturally inspired CreepLA. With over 8 million people living in the city, there are a lot of uncertainties and unknowns about your neighbors and the random stranger on the corner. That in itself is terrifying. Through this experience, we want to force people to address that discomfort by having them partake in something that scares them and leaves them feeling the impact long after they’ve left.

Backwoods Maze (Burbank)
The Backwoods Maze is a long running home haunt staged by Jeff and Tyler Gustafson in their backyard. Don’t be fooled by the moniker of “home haunt”, this isn’t your grandfather’s homemade haunt by a long shot. The maze is set in a post apocalyptic world that is over run by eradiated freaks that want to do nothing more than scare you to death. The sets are gorgeous sets and the maze feels enormous due to some creative construction. The actors are top notch and best of all there are a lot of them. It truly feels like there is monster around every corner. This maze is a must see! Best of all it’s free (but I suggest leaving a donation).

Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness (Universal Studios)
Guillermo del Toro Presents Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness” will be unearthed as a three-dimensional living representation of the film, designed to send guests spiraling through the chilling world and in the footsteps of Crimson Peak’s lead character, Edith Cushing, first as they venture from her home in America, then to the decaying and haunted Allerdale Hall mansion in a remote English countryside. With a foreboding “Beware of Crimson Peak” message that echos from Edith’s past, guests will navigate a labyrinth of paranormal tortured souls who have born witness to the estate’s dark history of unspeakable acts …and who continue to reside in vengeful, ghostly forms. “I am a devoted fan of Universal Studios’ ‘Halloween Horror Nights,’ and I am honored to partner with them to create a real-life version of my Gothic Romance, Crimson Peak,” said Guillermo del Toro. “It’s a thrill to work with the movie studio that gave birth to the modern horror movie genre. I can’t wait for movie-goers to enter the haunting world of Crimson Peak as they navigate this haunting maze. I can assure you, I will be first in line to experience the scares of it myself.”

Evil Twin Studios: WARD 13 (South Pasadena)
Evil Twin Studios 2015 haunted attraction will make nightmares come true at a new location in South Pasadena. This Halloween season, sanity comes to die at WARD 13. Since its earliest days, rumors about the Raymond Hill Sanitarium have circulated. Rumors of neglect. Rumors of abuse. And most disturbing of all, rumors of an undocumented area where finding a cure was secondary to exploratory experimentation. This was the one thing patients feared more than death... WARD 13. A 15 minute walk through haunted attraction experience with interactive components designed to scare you to the brink of insanity. To enhance your haunted evening, we only let small groups of patients (oops we mean patrons) into the asylum at a time.

Motel 6 Feet Under (Anaheim)
We would like to introduce you to the MOTEL 6 Feet Under, a new haunted house in Orange County! Located in Anaheim's Business Expo Center, the haunted house is an actual maze, you could have a walk through of twenty minutes….or thirty….or more, depending upon how lost you get! But don’t worry. You won’t be alone. A swarm of animatronic monsters and undead MOTEL staff will be lost with you. With too many surprises to see in one pass through, the haunted MOTEL has come to life!

ALONE [an existential haunting] (Los Angeles)
ALONE is one part interactive theater and one part psychological haunting where you become a part of your own nightmare. It's a thirty minute walkthrough experience, which each participant must do on their own, with no friend to cling to and with only a flashlight to hold. Unlike a traditional haunted house there is no gore, no chainsaws and no pretense that you might be killed by a deranged clown. It is only you, in the dark, with us. Each participant will move and be moved through darkened hallways and rooms, weaving below a fraternal order temple erected for the Odd Fellows in 1942. You will be dislocated, disoriented and disturbed. We are the dark. We are the space. We are the nightmare. ALONE is taking the haunted house experience to a disturbing new level.

Beware the Dark Realm (Saugus)
Revered home haunt Beware The Dark Realm features professional quality work, including a wonderful castle exterior, great sets, and impressive makeup. The two-story castle facade (Medieval rather than Gothic) eclipsed whatever domicile was hiding behind it, creating a wonderful illusion of walking into an authentic environment. The creatures we encountered were as good as any you would see in a pro haunt, including an extraordinarily tall werewolf (on stilts) and a zombified version of the King himself Beware the Dark Realm was more extensive that we would have imagined. It really should be added to everyone’s list of must-see home haunts. It goes far beyond what one expects in a yard haunt.

The Haunted Shack (Torrance)
Another house loaded with scares is the Haunted Shack in Torrance. With his Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - theme, Bob Peitzman is hoping to get some screams. The 39-year-old Torrance resident began hosting haunted houses for Halloween because he loves creating and engineering devices. In fact, his haunts have been so creative that in 2006 one was featured on an HGTV special. For this year's haunt, Peitzman says he concentrates more on tricks of the eye rather than gore. But that doesn't mean it's not scary. He says he has had kids cry and adults scream. Sometimes it's fight or flight with some people running out or hitting the "haunters" hiding throughout the maze. Because of this, he recommends visitors be at least 6 years old. And more timid guests can ask for "ghost repellant" and they will be given a glow-in-the-dark stick that lets workers know not to frighten them.

Urban Death (North Hollywood)
The show – you can’t call it a play – draws upon the Artaudian theory of the grotesque and uses a Grand Guignol-vignette structure to present a shocking hour’s worth of loosely related imagery. “Vignette” is a generous description for many of these lights up/lights down pictures: a gaggle of corpses resurrects to grotesque life, momentarily menacing the audience; a man chambers a shotgun and places it under his chin; a couple screws against the wall until the man stabs the woman and drags out a length of dripping colon to precipitate his orgasm. Some of the moments have more story: there’s a thirty-second dumbshow of Orpheus’s descent to reclaim Eurydice from Hades, and an ongoing bit involving a pair of businessmen in a wanking contest. Penises, anuses, testes; vulvas, breasts, buttocks: all are presented, unadorned, for your horrification, along with lots of prosthetic and makeup effects.

Higgins Manor (Mission Viejo)
Higgins Manor, which has its own Web site, wasn't always the tech-savvy homemade attraction it has become. What began with a seventh-grade boy turning his front yard into a cemetery has evolved into a former Navy aircraft mechanic constructing a twisted maze that wraps around and goes through his home. Set pieces include a coffin, mock electric chair and a blood-splattered bed adorned with decrepit doll parts. Higgins, who has acted and been a stage crafter at Saddleback College, spends at least a month before Halloween each year working on the project. Friends will help, but he does the majority of work on his own. This includes building the framework of the maze, which goes from the front yard, around to the backyard, through the side of the house, into the garage and finally out into the driveway. Creepy visuals — including demented Jackson Pollock-style art and creatures that jump out at people walking through the mansion — are just some of the things that make Higgins Manor spooky when it opens for a private party the night before Halloween, and publicly on Halloween. Every year the maze gets bigger, but that with bigger comes better, creating something that everyone enjoys, said Anne Higgins, Chris's mother. "We had a cemetery in the front ... and junk hanging by the front door," she said, reminiscing about the early days of Higgins Manor. "Every year it got bigger and bigger until he started building additions to my house!"

Paranoia (Santa Monica)
PARANOIA at Santa Monica Place on the 3rd Street Promenade offers terrifying haunted mazes that will rival the Queen Mary and Universal Studios. Many of the common areas of the mall will join in on the fun with the main attraction consuming almost 50,000 square feet of raw space which will consist of three deathly horrifying mazes. "The Paranoia Story". In the days of the coastal yesteryear, Santa Monica played host to Hollywood's elite, but gambling and murder were everyone's treat. Paranoia set in one mysterious day as The Depression made everyone loose their way. The mystery of "who had done who" dreadfully still remains, as spirits of starlets and harlots creepily dwell amongst the maze. So beware of those evil spirits that haunt this space and enter if you dare at Santa Monica Place!! Maze #1 - "The Infirmary". Patients check in, but they don't check out. Beware of the orderly's creeping about. Nurse Whacky will greet you and handle you with care, but only if Doctor Giggles is there. He cares for all of his patients with an electric bedside manner, but beware of his assistant whose face is made of leather! Maze #2 - "Insomniac Clown Playhouse" All the world loves the clown and cannot imagine a fright when one is around. But what when they are awake for countless nights, Insomniac Clowns is what you have running around town, frightening all of those who are around. Beware of the walls for there are tricks to be had, and one clown in particular has gone incredibly mad. So come one and come all for the circus is here and ready to unleash your innermost fears! Maze #3 - "Granny's Manor of Mayhem". Come on over to Granny's House if you dare, where the souls of dead relatives will give you a scare. There's plenty of fixin's right here in Pig's Kitchen, yet beware as the Headless Horseman's spirit's a hitchin'. And if you make it through her abode whether dead or alive, there will be quite the surprise and you won't be able to hide. She twists and she turns and gives you a great fright, for her friend's stuck in the well, and anxiously awaits to haunt you at night!

The 17th Door (Tustin)
The 17th Door is Orange County’s most intense and most terrifying haunted house! Behind its 17 doors is an interactive experience more innovative and shocking than anything that’s been tried before. From inside the replicated walls of a demonic University, all of your senses will be assaulted as you progress from room to room, with each space more intense and more frightening than the last – Over 30 minutes of psychological terror! The 17th Door is designed for mature audiences, preferably 16 years of age and older, and is not recommended for children under the age of 13, as there will be intense thematic material throughout the haunt. This unique, timed haunt experience tells the story of Paula, and how her life falls hard and fast down a spiral of torture and bad decisions. Can you walk in Paula’s shoes through the dissolution of her life, and face her personal demons? Will you be able to withstand what’s behind that final door? Or will you succumb to the fear and have to cry out “Mercy”?

The Curse of the Devil Swamp (Covina)
The forbidden swamp. This expanse of land has not seen visitors for almost two centuries. Alligators, bugs, quicksand and snakes keep intruders at bay. Despite the danger, adventurers have tried to enter the swamp in search for a "bigfoot-like" creature. None have been successful in fear of damaging A/V equipment needed to prove the existence of this monster. Created by Lucas Acosta, a college student and vet of Knott’s Scary Farm, this home haunt has an attention to detail and a dedication that is unrivaled. The fresh, interesting designs of the environment and the monsters that live within are unlike anything I have seen. It makes great use of both audio and performance as well, giving this preview a very polished and completed feel.

Paranormal Inc. (Knotts Scary Farm)
This is THE must see maze of the season. Paranormal Inc, the brainchild of Jon Cooke (Special Ops: Infected), invites guests into a haunted insane asylum during a live taping of the popular Paranormal Inc. reality series. Welcomed into the main lobby of the abandoned asylum, we are told that a large amount of electric energy, when released, will blur the line between the real world and the ethereal realms. Of course, something goes terribly wrong and faster than you can say “shadow people”, we are whisked away to one of two separate paths. One side tells the story of the evil nurse that tortured her patients. The other, of the nefarious doctor. To tell you more about it would be to totally ruin the element of surprise for this attraction so we will leave it at that. The detail is there, but that isn’t what makes something a good maze, much less a compelling experience. What does make a strong walkthrough is a premise or storyline that can be applied to all the levels of attention spans. Here we have that in spades. The idea has to click with everyone. This is the best maze that Knott’s has done in a long time. It is probably going to be the best maze of the entire year at any haunt.

Mystic Motel (Ladera Ranch)
The D’Avanzos have six kids ranging in age from two months to 12 years old, making Mystic Motel a truly family affair. Ashton, 10, is the ride operator, loading all the passengers and reciting the safety spiel. Isabella, the oldest, applies makeup to the faces of the characters in the maze and ride. Emma, 8, plays a waitress in the diner scene, serving hot chocolate and treats to unsuspecting visitors. The rest of the kids - except for the baby - help out with construction to the extent they are able. Set in an abandoned 1955 desert motel along Route 66, Mystic Motel takes visitors through the decrepit interior of a deteriorating motor lodge and into its haunted basement. Along the way you peek into a once bustling casino, explore derelict motel rooms and step into a run-down diner for a refreshment. There's even a TV news broadcast playing on a video screen that explains the haunted history of Mystic Motel. Striving for Disneyland standards, D’Avanzo hopes "motel guests" will set their own pace in the haunted maze, jiggling doorknobs, looking behind shower curtains and hanging out in the eight scenes as long as they want to soak up the elaborate back story and detailed scenery. “We try to take Disney to the nth degree," D’Avanzo said. "We just go all out.” After navigating the maze, visitors arrive at the compact but compelling dark ride parked in the family's attached two-car garage. The 38-second ride manages to pack six scenes into a serpentine route that travels along a 60-foot track. That's a lot of storytelling squeezed into a small amount of space and time. Based on online feedback from last year, D’Avanzo updated every scene in the dark ride, adding LED lighting, pinpoint spotlights, animatronic figures and even video screens. He spent a month working on a fiendish furnace that flings “fireballs” at riders. In total, he’s used 70 pieces of plywood, 90 two-by-fours and six boxes of screws -- getting to know the guys at Home Depot on a first-name basis over the course of the past 16 months. “It’s so much work,” D’Avanzo said. “My neighbors think I’m a nut case.”


p.s. Hey. So, today, this morning in fact, I'm heading off on a shortish plane-requiring trip centered around the screenings of LIKE CATTLE TOWARDS GLOW at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal on October 16th and 17th. While I'm gone, the blog will revert to its usual away schedule, meaning you'll get rerun posts, brief pre-programmed, and a moment therein of newness in the form of your regular monthly escorts post on the 15th. I'll be back here doing and launching new posts again in about a week, on Monday October 19th. Please hang out and comment while I'm gone because I'll catch up with all accumulated comments on the day of my return. Thanks! ** H, Hi. I do know CK Williams' poetry, but not hugely well, and not in a long time. He's someone I should revisit. If you missed it, the great Richard Labonte kindly laid out the short, lustrous history of Amethyst Press and its mastermind Stan Leventhal in the comments yesterday. ** David Ehrenstein, Really terrific writer, Lucia Berlin. A veteran of the important, much missed Black Sparrow Press. Very nice about the Jack Smith thing. I'll pass it along. Everyone, David Ehrenstein has an excellent tip for those of you in the area of NYC. Here he/it is: 'New Yorkers should be alerted to a Jack Smith retro that Anthology Film Archives is running November 13 - December 1. Put together by the intrepid Jerry Tartaglia in consists of rare gems including videos of Jack's performances like "Hamlet in the Rented World."' ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T. You won't be sorry for scoring the Lucia Berlin. Excellent, excellent stylist and even storyteller. ** Jamie McMorrow, Hi, Jamie! Yesterday was too busy/swamped for me to get to dig into your gif work, but I'll have plenty of time starting later today. Oh, man, that English Lit class sounds really old fashioned, if you don't mind me saying so. Like the kind of ELC I might have been put through back in my college era. Strange. But I guess that stuff is some kind of foundation or something. It just seems very old school. I hope you find some jewels that suit your brain in there. Yay about the gang. Your girlfriend is a writer too? That's very cool. Yeah, Zac and I are very happy about showing in that festival. It's a very good one. They're giving us a kind of pass so we can see whatever films we want, but we'll only actually be in Montreal for about 2 1/2 days, so we'll see whatever we can. They're showing the new Philippe Grandeur film while we're there, and we definitely will catch that. What was the play? Was the Sikh temple just a coincidental venue or are the play and it related somehow? Friday was nuts busy, but it all went really well, thanks. Oh, no, I think people read other people's comments all the time. It's totally cool, and I think that's pretty regular or whatever. That's a Scottish term? Interesting. My family's heritage is Scottish, or partly so, so that males sense. Huh. Have a really fine week, and I look forward to hearing what happened on your end and talking again when I get back. ** Liquoredgoat, Hi, man! Yeah, indeed, about those two books. Other recommended short story books of late ... I think my being up early and having to do this quickly without enough coffee will require me to think about that and to attempt to remember to tell you what I remembered when I get back. **  Sypha, 'Childhood' is so great, duh! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, great, I'm really happy that the Barbara Pym lead paid off. Cool, welcome to the Pym cult. She's amazing. ** Richard labonte, Hi, Richard! Always a great joy to see you, sir! And thank you so very, very much for laying out the story of Amethyst and of Stan Leventhal. Everything you said I double and then quadruple, etc. Right, I had totally spaced out about Michelle Karlsberg's involvement. I never dealt with her very much, which is why, I guess, but, yes, for sure! It was such a shame what happened to Amethyst with that rich guy playing with it via his money, and firing Stan as Editor in the process. Under Stan, it had become a press to rival its peers of the day like GPNY, SeaHorse, Gay Sunshine, Alyson, and others. One of the last books Amethyst put out was that anthology I edited, 'Discontents'. It was a big success and sold out its run in about a month, and the owner didn't even care enough to reprint it. Anyway, yeah. And Stan was a really lovely guy. When Amethyst was taken away from him, it really crushed him. Bleah. Anyway, thank you, Richard. I'll be in your country, i.e. Canada, very soon, but, unfortunately, not so close to your neck of the woods to get to visit with you. Take care! ** Steevee, Hi. Yeah, 'State of Siege' is terrific. I highly recommend 'Z' too. It's really something. ** Schlix, Hi, Uli! Ah, shit, yeah, I was reading about the strike last night. I've only seen the Philharmonic building from the window of a tram so far, but the facade is quite crazy. I'm looking for an opportunity to go inside that place. I'm kind of amazed and pleased that S & Co. had 'Mira Corpora'. For a while there, maybe a year or two ago, that store got really good because they had some very savvy young book buyer on staff, but then she or he must have left, and then it reverted to being a home for mostly best sellers and travel books again. But that's good news, so I'll go have a look. Have a really fun weekend here, and, again, sucks that the timing was such that I didn't get to see you! Love, me. ** Okay. I leave you, naturally, with another Halloween post. If you're reading this from Southern California, the world's capitol of Halloween haunted houses, maybe the above guide will be of use. If you're from somewhere else, use it to dream, I guess. I hope all of you have a really good and fun and etc., etc. next weeks. I'll be back to do what I do in this realm a week from this coming Monday. The blog will see you tomorrow, and I will see you just a bit later. Take care.