It seems to us that there were more haunted attractions this year than any other year we can remember. We saw the introduction of Blumhouse of Horrors, Hellbreak, Paranoia and Blackout brought to LA from New York. Knott’s Scary Farm had it’s first ever interactive maze where you had to sign a waiver and make reservations, while Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor had a new maze maze based on the ship’s actual spirits. Some haunts were excellent this year and some have room for improvement. At the time of this writing we had not been to Haunted Play: Blood Rites (we’re going November 9th) and didn’t have the opportunity to do Trapped, so those obviously won’t be included in our decisions. Now, for the 2012 GSHE 2012 Haunted Attraction Awards (drum roll please)….
BEST NEW ATTRACTION
Blumhouse of Horrors – This haunted attraction (from what we heard) is similar to Haunted Play. It’s a walk through the Variety Arts Center with a combination of jump-scares and theatrics. Guests went through all areas of the building even outside and on the stage while being presented with a story that fit in with the environment of the building. We found the sets and actors to be top notch and look forward to seeing this one again next year.
MOST EXTREME HAUNT
Blackout – Straight from New York comes this controversial R-rated interactive attraction where guests have to endure different tasks such as retrieving a key from a vomit-filled toilet, “save” a naked girl who’s chained-up and witness scenes of violence and sex. This one isn’t your typical haunt and may leave you disturbed for quite a while.
BEST ACTORS IN A HAUNT
Los Angeles Haunted Hayride – this one was a tough decision because we saw so many great performances ranging all the way from backyard haunts to major amusement parks. LAHH stood out because we loved how the actors “came to life”, the “congregation scene” which was just awesome and of course the smoking-hot dancers clad in leather. Also, the actors stayed in character even after the tractor pulled away from the scene and this was the only attraction we saw where so many actors were on stilts.
SCARIEST HAUNTED ATTRACTION
Reign of Terror – This may raise a few eyebrows out there as there were many haunts and mazes this year that were scary and some haunt fans might have thought we’d pick Blackout, but ROT is one of the only old-school attractions that makes you feel like you’re actually in a haunted house. We don’t know if the place is actually haunted or if they just do such a good job with the environment (but we asked on more than one occasion if there were actually spirits). Some haunts are known to be in haunted buildings such as Blumhouse and Haunted Play, but ROT isn’t known for that. If that was just something they were able to pull off we find it even that much more amazing.
BEST RETURNING MAZE AT A THEME PARK
La Llorona (Universal Halloween Horror Nights) – This was actually the hardest category for us to choose. There were some many great improvements made on some of the mazes at the theme parks. La Llorona was already a pretty good maze, but this year they included new animatronics that we found to be even better than last year. Uncle Willy’s Slaughter House came in a very close second. This year they had a central theme, more rooms and blood, as well as a central character. Village of the Damned at Dark Harbor came in a close third. They had new additions this year including an all-new hospital scene which we found to be pretty cool.
BEST NEW MAZE AT A THEME PARK
Pinocchio Unstrung (Knott’s Scary Farm) – As much as we wanted to say Deadrise at Dark Harbor, we had to go with this one. Not only did this maze have a few good scares, but it was also a ton of fun. We loved the sets and theme as well as the interesting costumes. Pinocchio Unstrung was able to pull off making one feel as if they were actually inside a twisted version of this well-known story.
MOST IMPROVED HAUNTED ATTRACTION
Sinister Pointe – This was a very close race with Reign of Terror coming in just a little behind. They had a great new theme with their Miner’s Revenge and the best queue line we’ve ever seen (taking you through an old-west ghost town). Sinister Pointe won because we absolutely loved the swamp scene. The falling bridge was great and we haven’t seen an actor jump out of water since the old Spooky House (San Fernando Valley). Depending on which choice you made in this choose-you-own-adventure type of maze we saw one of the greatest build-ups we’ve ever seen. Also, the new effects they had were killer including the hallway that seems to wobble.
Blumhouse of Horrors – We saw a lot of great costumes this year including in Pinocchio Unstrung (Knott’s) and Silent Hill (Universal). But we felt that Blumhouse of Horrors was the easy winner just because they were consistent through the whole haunt and really pulled-off portraying a 1930’s theater. The demon at the end also looked like it could have realistically been conjured up by the “curse”.
BEST HOME HAUNT
The Backwoods (Test Zone) – This backyard maze in Burbank was on par with some of the best theme park mazes and professional haunts. The theme was a post-apocalyptic war zone complete with military equipment, supplies and even a tank. The costumes were professional quality as were the props and the actors really gave it their all. This was one of our favorite mazes anywhere.
BEST HAUNT ENVIRONMENT
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor – Dark Harbor is one of our favorite Halloween Attractions and the only one we know of in Southern California that is on a boat. This isn’t just any boat though, it’s the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary is one of the most historic and haunted ocean liners in history. As paranormal investigators we’ve had our share of supernatural experiences onboard the majestic Queen. The setting of the beautiful, yet intimidating ship on the dark and silent ocean waters with the natural fog and cool breeze makes Dark Harbor our pick for best haunt environment.
BEST OVERALL HAUNTED ATTRACTION
Knott’ Scary Farm – Although we feel they didn’t pull-out all the stops for their 40th Anniversary (giving a Snoopy cup at the buffet instead of a Haunt cup) this was the place that offered the most overall Halloween feel. Their 40th Anniversary included the opening of a Haunt Museum and also the return of the Green Witch who had her own maze (Trick-or-Treat) and hanging. She was also featured as a back story on the mine ride. Trick-or-Treat was a short, but great themed maze that featured the witch and her Tricksters. This was the first time we can remember where the whole park had an overall theme. The Hanging was a little boring this year, but there were a lot of other great shows to keep you entertained, including Blood Drums which was just awesome! Knott’s also presented it’s first ever R-rated interactive maze and the new Pinocchio Unstrung which I’m sure we’ll be seeing for quite a long time. While some of the returning mazes have run their course (Dia de los Muertos and Bobo’s Big Top) others saw huge improvements (Uncle Willy’s Slaughterhouse). While we didn’t see as much fog this year as in years past and this year supposedly you weren’t able to take pictures inside the park with the monsters we felt there was enough of an environment to get one in the Halloween Spirit. Like we’ve said before, to really take everything in at Haunt you need to go more than once. If you’re only able to go once, what you get out of it depends on if you’re a cup half-full or a cup half-empty type of person. We were only able to go once and although we were able to absorb a lot, we would have liked the opportunity to have come back and see the rest.