Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

Fear Farm Phelan Impresses with Their Passion and Attention to Details

Our car comes to a stop near an electric chair. The silence is broken by the frantic shouting of a man. Suddenly two figures burst into the scene, holding a third who seems to be struggling against them. They throw the man into the electric chair, and rather than protesting he sits defiantly on it like a throne. Crazed and chaotic, the young man mocks his captors even as they pull the lever that sends shocks flying around the set. He flails and screams as we watch helplessly. Then the scene goes dark. The tractor in front of us pulls forward, and we follow toward a large amusement park filled with friendly clowns. fear farm phelan

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Fear Farm Phelan

Fear Farm Phelan is a drive-through haunt in the town of Phelan – about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles. The creators are local haunt enthusiasts who are passionately excited to deliver a high-production but Covid-safe experience. While Phelan is a bit out of the way for most L.A. denizens, it’s well worth the trip, especially en route to experiencing Las Vegas haunts. This is an experience where the parts equal more than the whole, as each part is varied, wonderful, and different; it’s part show (think a Knott’s Wild West shoot-out), part magic show, part haunted house, and part display.

 

This drive-through is a reprise of the walk-through haunt that the team normally runs annually, and it leverages repurposed set pieces from what would have been their contribution to Midsummer Scream. Over about 15-minutes, participants will drive through an elaborate and varied set, stopping occasionally to witness small scenes. Participants can expect minor interaction with scare actors but it’s primarily a passive haunt experienced from the safety of your car. Fear Farm Phelan is the closest any drive-through experience has been able to replicate the feeling of walking through an in-person haunted house.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Tone

Fear Farm uses a handful of loud sound effects and charging scare actors to deliver the fear in their namesake. The small scenes are frighteningly fun and the actors often skulk toward you with dread-inducing stares and shambles, or they appear hard at work at gory or unsettling undertakings from sawing up a body to electrocuting a dissenter to making a woman disappear…forever. Scare actors are happy to interact even while participants are waiting in line and tend to be enthusiastic and sometimes even humorous, chatting with and poking fun at participants or dramatically striking frightening poses. Simultaneously scary and celebratory, there’s something wholesome about the absolute passion poured into this haunt, from elaborate sets to an abundance of community scare actors. This fun and high-energy experience draws a big crowd from longtime fans and out-of-towners alike. It’s an excellent high-production haunt for a group of friends celebrating the Halloween season with some high-quality frights.

 

Thematically, Fear Farm Phelan is a bit of a variety show, following in the footsteps of haunts like Fright Ride, by utilizing the strong sets of previous years to create one long, best-of experience celebrating all the themes that make Halloween so wonderful. To that end, the set seamlessly transforms from a western town to a macabre Victorian mansion to a carnival to a nuclear wasteland. Participants drive through each of these scenes, taking in all of the gorgeous set-work, while keeping an eye out for scare actors. Progression is linear and focused on both the aesthetics of the set and the acting, primarily through small vignettes of scare actor conflict.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Sets

All of the Fear Farm sets are custom built by the immensely talented team. The centerpiece – a massive, three-story Victorian manor that was supposed to be used at Midsummer Scream this year – is a beautiful masterpiece of architecture and gothic aesthetic. Each set piece is carefully crafted to create a specific mood and tone, from a rusted children’s playground to a deranged clown kissing-booth. The actors interact with the sets in highly physical ways as well. There is an incredible attention to detail, with darkly humorous storefront names and strange mannequins that seem to watch you from afar. Fear Farm Phelan has a massive outdoor space to work with and they leverage it to help their experience feel grand in scale. The set-work is a highlight, gorgeous and impressive in its intricacy.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Sound and Lighting

Lighting was used incredibly well in Fear Farm Phelan to shroud certain scenes in shadow while lighting others up to direct your attention to its horrifying detail. Fog rolled through an old western town as men screamed obscenities from balconies. Eerie purple light spilled over a playground where two strange children laughed ominously. The lighting was always theatrical and specific to the scene.

 

Sound effects were also used well, mainly for jump scares. Electricity, gunshots, chainsaws – all the sound effects were striking and frightening. The sound effects were seamlessly woven in with the live acting, which was also loud, energized, and audible from the car. Sound design was seamless and fun, the only thing that was missing was the FM audio track that places like The Bite, Horrorwood Video, Trapped, Haunted Hayride, and others have used to set the mood.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Scare Actors

The actors have a lot of fun with their roles, acting out small skits that you don’t normally find in a haunt. The actors were always energetic and certainly scary at times. Reminiscent of the Knott’s Berry Farm Wild West shoot-outs, one of our favorite scenes was a fight the erupted in the Western town – and the men that fell from second-story buildings to the ground below. It’s these small details that make Fear Farm Phelan more exciting and engaging than your traditional haunted house.

 

Of all the scare actors I’ve encountered, Fright Farm Phelan had some of the most passionate. Improv performances requiring physicality and commitment (the electric chair execution; the balcony shoot-out) added a shock factor and a child-like sense of excitement. The Fear Farm Phelan creators were eager to describe their talented cast to us as family, and that cohesiveness really shines through. They took pleasure in engaging with participants, and nothing in the experience felt mechanical or rushed. While plot and dialogue were minimal, there were skits, vignettes, and taunts that elevated the acting above jump-scares. While the haunt setting doesn’t always feel intimate, especially this year with the drive-through format, Fear Farm Phelan managed to give us personal moments and unsettling interactions.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Passion Project

As I’ve alluded to throughout this review, a highlight of the Fear Farm Phelan experience is the passionate team behind the scenes. The Haunting staff had the opportunity to tour the set during daylight and speak with the team, and we were struck by the level of intention that went into each aspect of the set. Hand-built and beautiful set pieces, improvised and high-energy skits, and bonus scares and laughs while waiting in line are just some of the unique perks Fear Farm Phelan provides. When we left after our drive-through, the winding line down the road as far as the eye can see indicated that the passion the Fear Farm Phelan creative team demonstrated is reflected by their community of fans. The Fear Farm Phelan team referred to their actors as family again and again. This kind of team cohesion is so heartening to see within the haunt community. Fear Farm reminds us that the haunt community is about more than scares. It’s about coming together over a passion for a genre, a hobby, and a creative spirit. Fear Farm Phelan’s passion and enthusiasm was incredibly inspiring.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Final Thoughts

Fear Farm Phelan provides a high-production tour through a variety of frightening scenes, from a ghostly town to a deranged carnival. To see custom sets of such quality designed and built by a relatively small team is truly astounding. With highly physical skits and relative freedom given to scare actors to develop their styles and personalities, the haunt is eclectic, delightful, and often surprising. The team has a chance to showcase some of the work they were creating for Midsummer Scream, and their expertise and skill is clear. Fear Farm Phelan manages to provide a haunt that is suitable for most audiences and yet frightening and graphic enough to engage even a haunt enthusiast. If you’re in the area next year, this is definitely one to check out, as the team has the skill to create a haunt that clearly articulates all the passion, enthusiasm, and creativity that represents the haunt community.

 

Fear Farm Phelan | drive-thru haunt | Halloween 2020

 

Find out more information about Fear Farm Phelan on their Facebook page. Be sure to bookmark our Event Guide to keep up to date on immersive and horror events throughout the year.

 

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