The most immersive and engaging Halloween event we’ve seen is unquestionably Los Angeles’ next big thing.
It’s a bold move to launch a brand new grand scale Halloween event in the already saturated Southern California market, but what if the new kid on the block could be better than everything that came before it? Well, there’s no need for a hypothetical, because that’s exactly what Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood managed to achieve. Technically in its third year, 2018 marks the first time Horror Made Here will operate as a truly full scale, month long event with multiple full-length haunts and attractions. With modest beginnings dating back to 2016 as a seasonal overlay to the Studio Tour’s existing offerings, the event grew in 2017 to include more entertainment and a few short haunted attractions – a sort of appetizer for things to come. But in 2018, a sleeping giant awoke with a full scale event instantly on – and in many cases above – the caliber of the world-renowned attractions that have existed all around it for decades.
Horror Made Here, located on the world famous Warner Bros. Studio Backlot, is a separately ticketed event that runs thirteen select nights between October 5, 2018 and October 28, 2018, including Fridays and Saturdays for its first two weeks then Thursday through Sunday for the remainder of its run. In its 3rd year, Horror Made Here features five different highly immersive haunted attractions, one carnival drop ride, access to a prop warehouse full of iconic costumes from your favorite films, a park-wide scare zone and more.
IT knows what scares you
Pennywise is back and is looking forward to seeing you float in the Neibolt House. IT knows what scares you and is waiting with more scares and surprises at every turn.
The story of IT begins long before even stepping foot inside the haunt. First, brave Losers’ Club initiates must pass by the foreboding facade of the dilapidated Neibolt House – but that’s far from the most terrifying thing that lies ahead. Down the street, into what is in actuality the queue for the haunt, trees and lamp posts are plastered with missing children posters. A whole lot of missing children posters. Why did we think it was a good idea to visit Derry, ME again?
Once inside, IT unfolds in pure cinematic fashion, teasing the arrival of Pennywise before he finally make an appears in the pasty-white flesh to stalk us personally. This is not just a passive “book report”-esque experience by any means. IT Knows What Scares You allows the characters to jump off the silver screen and draw you into their world in a way that engages the guests directly, making them part of the horrific action. Naturally, as honorary members of the Losers’ Club, we join the hunt for Georgie, while avoiding Henry Bowers and the other bullies before facing the supernatural wrath of Pennywise himself.
But don’t worry – in the end, we all float too.
Beginning well before even stepping foot in the queue, we’re faced with the towering multi-story facade of the dilapidated, abandoned old house at 28 Neibolt Street. From there, down a road littered with missing children posters, we enter another full scale facade to find ourselves inside the living room of Bill and Georgie’s house, with its TV set glitching between regular programming and Pennywise’s “KILL THEM ALL” brainwashing video.
It’s here that we get our first taste of the grandiose scale that will become commonplace from scene to scene all across Horror Made Here; Fully dimensional, intricately detailed sets take us through completely furnished rooms of the house and beyond. Shadow projections of Pennywise lurking at the top of the stairs gives the instant impression that there’s no where to hide.
In and out of neighborhood houses, each with its own fully dimensional exterior facade, IT Knows What Scares You is as much a movie set as it is a haunted attraction. And naturally, it’s all building to a trip down into the sewers in hopes of saving Georgie… before a chilling face to face encounter with Pennywise the clown.
IT Knows What Scares You sets the tone for a much more immersive Halloween event. Don’t expect simple “boo!” scares here; to the contrary, every actor remains fully in character, true to their respective roles in the film. From Beverly’s panicked bloody vision in her bathroom to Henry Bowers chasing you between houses calling you a loser, the cinematic world of IT truly comes to life in this haunt.
Further in, guests are given a branching decision to choose their path between one of three doors – NOT AT ALL SCARY, SCARY or VERY SCARY. Picking the right one allows you to proceed – but not without certain peril awaiting beyond it. The action of actually choosing, and physically turning a doorknob to open it further proves the dedication to creating an intimate, boutique flavored experience you just won’t find in many of the giant, corporate non-stop “conga line” haunts out there.
Even Pennywise himself, though certainly frightening and clearly dangerous, is far more sophisticated in his presentation than simply jumping out in hopes of getting an easy scare. Instead, he lurks, outwardly playful, while clearly hoping to lure you into his trap. This fully in-character treatment creates one of the most immersive haunts we’ve seen.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of IT, this haunt has everything you’re looking for.
escape from Arkham asylum
In one of the most story-driven immersive haunts we’ve ever seen, we find ourselves as innocent citizens of Gotham City, caught in the middle of the latest “all hell breaks loose” catastrophe caused by some of the most infamous villains Batman has ever locked away. But this time it’s different; Batman is no where to be found, and with The Joker running the show, he’s appointed himself judge, jury and quite possibly executioner. Presiding over your make-shift court hearing personally, he finds you guilty (of being too sane) and sentences you to an eternity of confinement locked away in Arkham.
Despite its top-notch security, and the Batmobile parked out front, the guards have been completely overcome and the inmates of Arkham Asylum are loose. All of the inmates. The Joker. Harley Quinn. The Riddler. The Penguin. Poison Ivy. Two-Face. The Scarecrow. They’re all free, and each one of them is staking out their own territory in the latest attempt to take over Gotham – leaving you with one of two choices: join them or Escape From Arkham Asylum!
Beginning outside the cast iron gates of Arkham Asylum, we’re given a small (false) sense of security upon finding the Batmobile parked in the shadows. Surely with Batman nearby, we’re safe, right? Think again.
Moments after physically swinging open the giant gate outside and climbing the steps into Arkham’s lobby, we realize something isn’t quite right. Beyond the chaotic noise that lies ahead, every single portrait of the dignified heads of this asylum has been defaced – spray-painted over with a very familiar clown-faced graffiti pattern. And mere seconds after realizing The Joker is now in charge, we find ourselves face to face with him inside a make-shift court room. Desks piled several high form the judge’s bench, with The Joker himself serving over our trial.
Sentenced to life in Arkham, we’re processed into the facility by Dr. Harleen Quinzel, before boarding an elevator to take us down into the depths of this evil place.
Upon reaching our floor, we exit to find that in true comic book fashion, sections of the facility have been over-taken by nefarious Batman villains, each with their own penchant for decor. A medical examiners room full of glowing fog – fear toxin – is home to The Scarecrow. A double-sided cell marked LOVE and HATE is befitting of Two-Face’s split personalities. Perhaps most impressively, a rotating wall allows for a complete change of scenes between Poison Ivy’s over-grown plants and The Penguin’s underground arms dealings – depending on which actor happens to be present.
But naturally it all builds to another, even more intimate encounter with The Joker himself, inside his glowing make-shift fun house – with splitting paths that separate groups during their hopes of escape.
Escape from Arkham Asylum takes a genuinely unique – and incredibly effective – approach to haunted house scares. In the traditional sense – there are none. But by no means should you take that as a negative point; to the contrary, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood took what could be a great house and turned it into one of the best we’ve ever seen by making each and every character you encounter a strong improvisational actor – each with their own completely in-world story to tell. No where along your adventure will you encounter a standard “boo!” jump scare. Instead, every single second of Escape from Arkham Asylum tells a solid and compelling story – and with Batman no where to be found – guests are cast into the starring role.
Intimate vignettes with some of Gotham’s most sinister villains await, beginning with your trial before The Joker himself. Sitting high atop his hobbled-together judge’s bench, the Clown Prince of Crime dons a traditional white curly wig and robe as he swings his gavel wildly, finding you guilty of being sane, and instantly setting the tone for a truly new and innovative style of haunted attraction.
The Riddler taunts you with his intelligence as he tries to trick you with one of his patented brain teasers. The Scarecrow lurks in the foggy shadows, grabbing at you with his out-stretched needle-tipped fingers. A central cell finds Harvey Dent in side profile, speaking calmly before guests turn a corner to approach him from the other side to encounter Two-Face, swinging wildly at them from inside. Poison Ivy blows a toxic kiss, while The Penguin tries to convince the innocent citizens of Gotham to join his arm of goons in an underground arms deal.
And then it’s back to the demented man of the hour – The Joker himself awaits in his fun house, where he taunts guests as he intentionally separates their groups down branching paths. Those brave enough to pass through them may just get some one on one time with his puddin’, Harley Quinn before a special gift with a distinct bat-emblazoned insignia blasts a whole in the very wall of Arkham itself to break us free. And naturally, just outside its gates, the Bat Signal shines a sense of hope brightly into the night’s sky.
Escape from Arkham Asylum is far more immersive theater than “just another haunt,” and simply put, it sets a new standard for what a Halloween event can be. This is interactive storytelling at its very best.
the conjuring universe
Explore and investigate the most famous paranormal cases while trying to escape the demonic spirits that are lurking in the shadows. Be sure not to disrupt anything on your journey and fall victim to Annabelle’s devious games, for everything in this maze is possessed.
Set within The Conjuring’s cinematic universe, we find ourselves in the middle of an active haunting at the home of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Our tour begins in a storage room, where, at least by the original plan, we’d get a chance to actually see the nefariously possessed doll, Annabelle. Unfortunately, the doll is gone — or, perhaps more accurately, loose. And with Annabelle free from her containment, it doesn’t take long for all hell to be unleashed around us.
Luckily for us, “procedures are in place” to protect tour groups from this type of breech. Unluckily for us, as we’re about to learn, those procedures will do nothing to stop the types of evil this wicked doll has unleashed upon us.
The Conjuring Universe is a small taste of grand scale immersive theater, readily available to every guest of Horror Made Here. This attraction is far more than “another haunt,” and far more actor and story-driven than anything you might expect to find within the gates of a Halloween event.
Beginning in the home of the Warrens, renowned paranormal investigators made famous from The Conjuring series of films, we instantly get the feeling that this is a very real place. Outside, the queue stretches through the yard and conveniently adjacent cemetery before climbing the steps of a full scale home’s facade. Across the porch and inside, the space spans multiple floors (although we remain on its first) and is full of completely fleshed out rooms.
The action begins in a storage room full of supernatural artifacts collected by the Warrnes over the course of their investigations, including the pièce de résistance, their most evil object, the actual Annabelle doll. Unfortunately for us, that doll is not only missing, but it’s out to cause us a whole lot of problems, sending us out of the house and into the hopeful respite of a safe space established in a neighboring home next door.
Except things are even worse off there, with a nursery of demonic dolls, naturally now home to Annabelle herself as well, watching over us as if to enjoy the terror she’s spawned. Supernatural entities begin to take physical form, leaving entire rooms in shambles while moving objects all around us. And once things seemingly get back under control, what awaits in one of the most chilling haunt encounters we’ve ever seen before literally running out the front door to freedom.
The Conjuring Universe is a pure example of well-staged immersive theater surprisingly set right in the middle of a grand scale Halloween event. An epic mix of storytelling, character acting, jump scares, physical effects and high energy transitions from room to room make this experience far more theatrical than anything you’ve come to expect from a quote “theme park haunt.”
Much like some of the best experiences of immersive theater we’ve seen, guests are guided from room to room by a series of actors who journey with them further into the storyworld. As things become more chaotic, one guide passes you to the next who is better equipped to get you to safety. In doing so, a clear sense of urgency is created, with some moments where one may even be inspired to literally run to the next room.
As the haunting of the Warren house becomes more powerful, doors and cabinets physically shake around you, with some objects actually falling (or being thrown?) from their otherwise peaceful resting places by angry spirits. Sudden action such as this is sure to chill even the bravest of your group of seasoned paranormal investigators.
Disturbing shadows dance around Annabelle, literally trying to pluck a sleeping baby from her crib. The mood is so real that it’s impossible to not become immersed into the story.
And it all builds to what is one of the most surprising – and frightening – scares we’ve ever seen in a haunted attraction. Shadows literally come to life, as The Nun herself reaches out of her portrait and materializes in physical form right before you – or, perhaps more accurately, right at you. Even understanding exactly how this effect works doesn’t lessen the impact it has on repeat visits.
nightmare on camp crystal lake
Far from the lot that houses our Festival of Frights, we must board trams to transport us to Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake. In doing so, we actually experience an abbreviated version of the guided daytime Studio Tour, with a much greater focus on horror films, of course – narrated by a quick witted guide full of some snarky and genuinely funny puns. It’s perfectly catered to the “haunt” audience, and truly feels like a suitable compliment to everything else on the evening’s agenda.
But once dropped off, we’re immediately in the center of another of Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood’s masterfully crafted storyworlds – this time, leaving us – alone – at Camp Crystal Lake. At night. On Friday the 13th. Oh, and Freddy Krueger is here too. Yeah, we’re pretty much screwed.
**It’s important to note that Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake closes nightly at 10:15pm, well ahead of the rest of the haunts at Horror Made Here. Be sure to get to this one early!
Let’s address the bloody elephant in the room — we’ve seen a lot of Freddy and/or Jason haunts over the years, including a few that pair them together as this one does. But of those high budget haunted attractions, none even come close to the execution of Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake. You actually go to Crystal Lake. There’s literally a lake, lit by by the moonlight, its dock splattered with the blood of Jason’s latest kill, while you watch. (What? We’re not weird. It’s Halloween!)
Traveling by foot through the actual forest it’s towering trees fully grown in to hide each and every turn (and terror) that lies ahead, we eventually find ourselves at the Camp. It’s here that we venture into the various cabins, through sleeping quarters jammed with bunk beds and each full of camper’s belongings left behind before they were, you know, hacked to pieces.
There’s no question that this is really Camp Crystal Lake, and there’s no question that this is absolutely Friday the 13th. And there’s no question that we’re in serious danger.
A bit more “traditional haunt” in its scare approach, Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake still does so exceptionally well over the course of its long journey. Jason is here for the campers, and if we’re lucky, we might just get to sneak past (or stop to watch one of several artfully framed kills between the trees under the shimmering moonlight.) The surviving campers – surviving for now, anyway – desperately hide under beds and in closets hoping to not get caught, begging us for help.
And then there’s Freddy Krueger. Freddy, here, is used in a rather unexpected, and honestly incredibly impactful manner: he’s comic relief. Let’s face it, A Nightmare on Elm Street was always as much a hokey horror comedy as it was a straight slasher flick – and much of that was due to Freddy’s puns and well-placed sarcasm. Utilizing him in this manner within Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake is honestly a brilliant way to lighten the mood of an otherwise entirely dark and bloody affair. Who said brutal murder can’t be fun?!
The exorcist: Forbidden Screening
Let’s come right out and say it — on paper, The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening was the attraction we were least excited to see. A ten minute long clip show screening of The Exorcist? How is that a haunt?
Well thankfully, this attraction doesn’t exist on paper – but rather it’s forbidden within the halls of a cursed old church – and it’s far more than just a simple film festival. In short, The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening ended up being one of the coolest things we saw at Horror Made Here!
As we approach the church, we’re invited inside for a screening of content so vile, so sinister, so evil, that officially, it has been forbidden by the holy institution. But come on, you didn’t really think that would stop a large assembly of heathens such as us, did you?
Despite clear warnings from one of the church’s parishioners, we begin our Forbidden Screening, and very quickly realize just why it was forbidden in the first place. That realization, however, comes far too late.
From outside, guests are greeted by a full scale church facade, ominously glowing red. Church bells ring as its time for the next screening to begin, ushering us up the stairs and inside. It’s here that we realize this was far more than just a cleverly themed exterior – as inside is a fully functional, quaint old church. Aisles and aisles of pews sit before a pulpit, behind which hangs a projection screen for this evening’s Forbidden Screening.
Walls lined with holy items – including far more crucifixes than one might logically expect – give way to the apprehension that perhaps they know something we don’t about what we’re about to experience. Statues of angels and the Virgin Mary overlook the congregation, but are they keeping us safe, or keeping us in their sights?
As we’re about to discover, the physical sets around us are as much apart of the scares as any of the actors in The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening.
Prior to our screening, we’re firmly warned by the church’s parishioner that what we’re about to do has been forbidden, and for good reason. She warns us that this screening could very well damn us all, and release an evil the likes of which we’re not prepared to encounter.
So let’s begin, shall we?
As the projector reels begin to spin, The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening starts off as slow as one might expect on paper – it really is just a clip show from the movie. At first.
But, as we witness footage of poor Regan becoming more and more violently possessed by a demon on screen, the physical church itself begins to react. The innocent eyes of the blessed Virgin Mary, once watching over us as a silent protector begin to glow intensely red. Crucifixes physically fall from the wall, crashing onto the ground without so much as ever being touched. Massive chandler fixtures above us being to swing violently.
And then, as the action on film begins to match the evil that’s festering around us, Regan herself, fully possessed seemingly leaps from the screen, into the church and terrorizes the gathered congregation who are, in effect, trapped still seated in their pews.
The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening carries the flavor of some of the great immersive theme park shows we’ve seen in years past, giving a distinctly unique spin on a haunted attraction the likes of which we would have never expected.
sTAGE 48: sCRIPT TO sCREAM
Among perpetual favorite year round exhibits like the Friends set, props from Harry Potter, Batman and countless other classic films, Script to Scream adds a decidedly horror focus with new exhibits dedicated to spooky classics like Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride, Mars Attacks! and Sweeney Todd. Costumes, props, and film-used models are on display in this go-at-your-own-pace self-guided tour.
While Stage 48: Script to Scream is not at all a haunted attraction, it’s a wonderful compliment to Horror Made Here’s other offerings, and offers a welcome respite from the non-stop terror. This attraction can be accessed at any point throughout the evening, and also serves as the exit point for the Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake tram drop-off.
Although not at all a “haunted attraction,” Devil’s Drop adds a certain energy to the overall atmosphere of the Warner Bros. backlot throughout this event – not to mention some breath-taking views of the terror from high above it!
A 90′ tall free fall tower, Devil’s Drop is brightly lit with flashing, color changing lights that cast an eerie glow across the nearby building facades.
And of course, the constant screams of its riders add a clear spirited presence that echos throughout Horror Made Here’s outdoor areas.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood takes an entirely new approach to Halloween events, wherein each haunt is far less about “boo!” scares and much more its own self-contained mini immersive theater attraction. Every single second of this event tells a clear and compelling story. Every single actor feels much more like they belong in a movie than in a latex mask after high school gets out for the day.
Embracing its roots as a working movie studio, it’s not at all uncommon to find characters from the various haunted attractions wondering the backlot streets as they venture to and from their respective sets. At any given time, you may find Pennywise, The Joker or The Nun passing by you outside the sanctuary of their own haunts – and given the environment, it couldn’t possibly feel more natural. In fact, at one point, Henry Bowers chased us down the street, harassing us about what losers we were after seeing the Losers’ Club VIP lanyards around our necks. How cool is that?!
Although produced by one of the biggest movie studios in the industry, Horror Made Here manages to carry a neighborhood feel. Attention to detail feels truly personal, and the passion of its staff and actors are clear at every turn. Unlike other big events that feel like they’re more a corporate machine than true entertainment, Horror Made Here feels intimate and special.
Everything about Horror Made Here feels like the classier alternative to a Halloween event. It’s upscale. It’s boutique. It’s everything we look for. It’s what a haunt should be.
Los Angeles, this is the next big thing. Meet your new king of Halloween!
You can find an extended photo gallery from our night at Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood’s Horror Made Here event in this exclusive album on the Escape Authority Facebook page! While there, why not give us a “LIKE” if you haven’t already? We’ll give you candy!
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Dates: Select Nights October 5th – October 28th
Hours: 7pm – 1am
We thank Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood for inviting us to experience this haunt. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.