There’s some Halloween attractions that have the potential to be great destination haunts but just aren’t there quite yet. That happens to be the case with Paranoia which bills itself as “the first-ever Santa Monica Halloween experience.” It’s put on by the same crew who were behind Shipwreck at Queen Mary.
Paranoia, which is located on the 3rd floor of the newly renovated Santa Monica Place on the 3rd Street Promenade is in a 50,000 sq foot space which looks like it once was a large department store. This played well as far as the ticket booths and queue line went but left the three mazes feeling anything but intimate. Many of them had large and open (some of them unused) spaces which took away from the feel of the environment.
Although they were playing music, because of the mazes not being self-contained, none of them appeared to have a distinct soundtrack. You could also hear the screams and see the lights from each maze, which at times made them seem to blend into one. But, we could see how the environment could get everyone excited for what was to come. There were three different mazes which we’ll take a quick look at.
We think the setting for this maze was a hospital in a prison as much of the maze was filled with iron beds, blood-stained walls and electric chairs. The maze didn’t seem to have a consistent theme or flow though as many of the rooms were too large with nothing or little in them (perhaps they will fill these in as time goes on). We could see there were still quite a few technical difficulties as well because Paranoia crew was busy working on some of the animatronics. The actors seemed to try to make up for what was lacking, trying their best to scare us and actually getting us one or two times.
“Insomniac Clown Playhouse”
We enjoyed this maze more than The Infirmary, but once again there were a lot of open spaces and long hallways. Most of the hallways were covered with cool black-light painted scenes which did give it a dark ride type of feel. The actors were giving it their best in this one as well, although most of the scares consisted of clowns sneaking up behind us and screeching in our ear. They did have a brightly painted, spinning vortex tunnel which was awesome and actually gave us the feeling that we were dizzy.
“Granny’s Manor of Mayhem”
This maze was the best of the three and we loved it. If we had to find a fault, there was only one. Near the beginning of the maze they make you stop for a photo-op. The setting for this maze was a traditional haunted house which very few haunts actually do effectively, if at all anymore. The founder of Golden State Haunts being a paranormal investigator, this was something we really appreciated. It seems like most of the budget was spent on this one attraction as there were tons of props and animatronics. You walk by a ghost-horse driven carriage ridden by a caretaker, past witches brewing a cauldron and into the haunted mansion. You walk room-through-room past creepy paintings, antiques and furniture winding up in the old cemetery. They even have a Bates Motel scene which seemed out of place, but was effective. The highlight was walking through a closet and squeezing through an inflatable (claustrophobic)air tunnel. The actors in this were on point as well, featuring mostly different ghouls and ghosts. One of them even ran past us and into a coffin. He jumped out trying to scare us, which we thought was funny because he knew we saw him. We wish each maze was as entertaining and atmospheric as this one.
Although we don’t think it will be able to “rival the likes of Universal and Queen Mary” as advertised, we do think with some work it can be successful. Two of the things that we found really cool were the wristbands that allow you to go through each maze at your own leisure and the Paranoia Pub at Ozuma which offers a daily Haunted Happy Hour.
What we’d like to see in the future is the use of fog machines to enhance the atmosphere and a soundtrack. We’d also like to see roof covers to make each maze more distinct and separate. Until that time we wouldn’t consider Paranoia a destination attraction, but we would say it’s a must-see if you’re in the area.
Paranoia runs on select nights from September 28 through October 31