Below are short, bite-sized reviews of the fourteen haunts from Midsummer Scream’s 2018 Hall of Shadows. Accompanying this review is a video teaser of seven randomly selected haunts. Read and watch–and then add these haunts to your Halloween Season calendar! Thank you to Taylor Winters for helping with this article, Kevin Hsu for filming the walkthroughs, and Jon Kobryn for editing the video!
Midsummer Scream offers haunt companies, both large and small, the opportunity to bring a taste of upcoming attractions to the public, to beta test it to an eager audience, and adjust as needed for the ever-growing Halloween season. This also offers haunt-goers a sneak peek at some of the most antiticipated haunted attractions (haunts) of the 2018 Halloween season. This year’s Hall of Shadows gave bite-sized looks at fourteen individual haunts, from home ventures like Twisted Minds Productions to large-scale attractions like Fright Fest, and here’s what Haunting thought of the tricks and treats on display:
Donnie Darko – The Opechee Haunt
A tribute to the film, the Donnie Darko solo haunt by The Opechee Haunt – a home haunt in Glendale run by 15-year-old Sam Kellman – incorporated creepy scenes many fans will recognize. Beautiful set design and some fun lighting – like Frank the Rabbit standing at the end of a hallway backlit by a bright light – put individual participants in the uncomfortable role of Donnie. While only a few actors lived in this space, the atmosphere alone was worth the visit. A fun photo op in the classroom at the end provided a wonderful memento from this world.
Hyde Street Massacre – The Bloodshed Brothers
Hyde Street Massacre, from Temecula’s Bloodshed Brothers, was the perfect marriage of vintage Halloween decor with modern scares. With a party setting, complete with an entire hallway lined with lit pumpkin trick-or-treat pails, this haunt was incredibly fun. To set the tone, the actors at the start playfully interacted with us, taking photos and allowing us to knock on the door and ask to come in. We walked through some of the best set designs in the convention, from an unsettling living room to a horrifically gory kitchen set with a glowing and smoking fridge. Hyde Street Massacre amped up the experience by including disturbing scents and great actors, providing one of the best haunts at Midsummer Scream.
Camp Calavera – ScareVentures
Camp Calavera, by San Diego’s haunt rental company ScareVentures, welcomed guests to a summer camp where monsters lurked in the woods and bloody campers warned us of our impending doom. Bunk beds, tents, and a forest set helped elevate the great atmosphere of a haunted campsite. One of the best aspects of Camp Calavera was the use of touch–some of the actors made us feel uncomfortable by lightly grazing the back of our necks or getting in close to elicit fear. Finally, the use of bones and deer heads made this a memorable experience.
#VIRAL – Phobia Productions
Phobia Productions’ #VIRAL found guests victims of the HP18 virus. Brought to a military-grade decontamination site, we went through several chambers of black plastic-lined walls where we waited for various lighting- and fog-driven effects. While we thought the virus would produce some sort of monster/zombie creatures, it felt like we were just generally sick. Some of the actors could have used a bit of work on interacting with the audience, but some stood out in a good way – the military man walking the line out front, the woman behind the intake desk, and the bloody patient who intentionally coughed all over my friends. While it could use some fine-tuning, #VIRAL was nice haunt from the charity-driven Phobia Productions.
Asylum – Shattered Realm
A home haunt from La Verne, Shattered Realm brought guests into a bloody Asylum. Shattered Realm included all the medical accoutrements one would find in a haunted asylum, but had only one or two actors, leaving the scares few and far between. The small and simple sets were covered in blood creating an unsettling feeling, as we waited in anticipation for something to pop out at us. The actor checking us into the Asylum wore an effectively creepy mask, which I enjoyed. With a full cast, the sets and imagination of this haunt could make this one to check out this Halloween season.
Dark Hollow Cemetery – HallowEve Designs
HallowEve Designs creates mobile haunt attractions, and showcased their newest design with their Dark Hollow Cemetery haunt. A pop-up that is ideal for home haunts, the tent is the size of a trash can and inflates to an adjustable space, offering eight different rooms (four on each side of a hallway made for actors to move between rooms) or one large space if opened. Dark Hollow Cemetery was surprisingly large for how it appeared on the outside, had classic music (the theme to Halloween), and was decorated with several moving tombstones and mannequins wearing disturbing costumes. Although no actors were working the haunt, this was more of a tech demo to showcase this innovative new structure and how it could be a successful option for smaller home haunts, with or without actors.
Cold Storage – HallowEve Designs
The second haunt by HallowEve Designs’ was a mobile Terror Truck: Cold Storage. This was the more intense of the two trucks brought to Midsummer Scream. With a human meat locker theme, the space was utilized extremely well, with many tight twists and turns to make the space feel larger. The start revealed multiple bloody bodies hanging from the ceiling, cold temperature, air blasts and water effects. HallowEve also incorporated electric shocks and a compression tunnel to instill dread for the claustrophobic. While Cold Storage sometimes uses an actor for an opening scene, no actor was present at Midsummer, so we went an alternate, but excellently designed, route. Cold Storage was a blast, and a cool way to make your event stand-out this October.
Black Bayou – HallowEve Designs
HallowEve Designs’ other Terror Truck, Black Bayou, was a perfect demo for spooky ambiance. The swamp theme of Black Bayou lent itself to spectacular set designs full of reeds and vines, animals nestled in their foggy environment, a soft mossy floor, green lasers permeating the fog, and a rickety bridge that can shock unsuspecting guests. There was also an actor in a ghillie suit hidden within the reeds in case guests lost their sense of direction in the tight quarters that felt expansive regardless. A simply beautiful addition to the haunt scene, Black Bayou could provide a perfect experience for guests who are a little more timid or not into the gore factor present in Cold Storage – or be made more intense by placing well-hidden actors throughout the space.
Dead Zone 805 is a Ventura-based mobile escape room that brought a haunt to Midsummer Scream. Making effective use of their one-room space, Dead Zone had a handful of guests peeking through a small window into what seemed like a holding room for a monster. Initially chained up, the monster roared and shook the place in fury, translating the scares inside the room through the floorboards below so all guests could feel them. But when the lights went out and came back on, the monster had escaped from his restraints and now was far closer. It was sometimes hard to see what was happening through the window, but the sets and mask used were great, as were the jump scares and feeling of dread when the door protecting us from the monster slowly began to open.
Anneliese – Twisted Minds Productions
Twisted Minds Productions, a team composed entirely of teenagers, presented a short version of their full Anneliese experience. Guests were welcomed into the home of Anneliese Michel, a young girl who has been possessed. Throughout the impeccably designed structure, the use of sound, creepy contortions, blood and attention to details culminated in several brilliant demonic jump scares. Anneliese’s final Exorcist-like effect was innovative and fantastically unsettling. This brief haunt was stellar and memorable by any standards and I can’t wait for the full-length event!
Seance: The Nightmare Begins – The Dreich Society
The Dreich Society, home haunters in Ontario, brought a taste of Seance: The Nightmare Begins. Inviting guests into the haunted Wexler estate catacombs, the spirit hunters of The Dreich Society warn us of the dangers to come if we proceed further into the tombs. The simple ghost story had some great set pieces, like a moving wall, and a claustrophobic rotating elevator that was utilized to brilliantly switch locations. Even though the acting varied through the experience and the story came off slightly cheesy, The Dreich Society had some great ideas with Seance, and can only get better with time.
Trick R Treat – Murder House Productions
Murder House Productions, based out of Thousand Oaks, should be on everyone’s radar because they are easily one of the best home haunts in the country. Taking inspiration from popular movies, MHP produced an Evil Dead-themed maze in 2016 and brought their 2017 Trick R Treat maze to Midsummer Scream for those who missed it. With them-park-production quality, Trick R Treat reveals an entire narrative that spans multiple locations within their small facade. Starting in the woods and encountering a ravenous little Red Riding Hood and wolf, we enter a quaint home–and meet Sam. The beauty of this haunt resides in the details: the sound of shattering glass as a hallway turns dark, props from the movie littering the top of the dresser, the talent of the numerous actors, and a soundtrack that enhances the scares. This haunt is proof of where the future of home haunts is headed.
Fright Fest – 6 Flags Magic Mountain
6 Flags Magic Mountain brought one of my favorite parts of last year’s Fright Fest to Midsummer Scream, The Witches Lair. The neon, black-light illuminated forest set only spanned maybe eighty feet, but it was a nice little taste of what will be expanded in October. The twisted creatures and statues provided a grim and uneasy take on typical fairy tale iconography. Through the fog, guests could make out a man walking on stilts on all fours, while additional actors haunted guests through the dim, hazy lights. It was a wonderful introduction to the darker parts of the Hall of Shadows.
Castle Frankenstein – CalHaunts
Castle Frankenstein, by haunters’ society CalHaunts, adorned the entrance to the Hall of Shadows. While not a proper walk-thru haunt, Castle Frankenstein had absolutely stunning sets and props – including an electrified bed where the Doctor’s creation waited for life – lighting, fog and sounds. With several seasoned actors interacting with the audience, playfully sizing up our body parts for harvesting, the experience was quick but potent. Later in the day, an extra actor was added inside the castle to jump scare passersby. CalHaunts packed a lot of brilliance into a short experience; I would love to see a full haunt by them in the future.
For a full list of haunt attractions coming in October, check out our Event Guide. Happy haunting!
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