Below are short, bite-sized reviews of the eleven haunts from Midsummer Scream’s Hall of Shadows 2019. Read and watch our walk-through videos – and then add these haunts to your Halloween Season calendar! Thank you to Melissa Howland and Taylor Winters for helping with this article, Kevin Hsu for filming the walk-throughs, and Jon Kobryn for editing the video!
This year’s Hall of Shadows was themed Tiki Terror, the entrance designed by CalHaunts. Guests passed a vengeful Tiki god and found themselves wandering deeper into the Midsummer Scream darkness to explore eleven mini-haunts that will pave the way for October. Taking over the entire Convention Center, Midsummer Scream gave a fewer number of haunts more space to work with. With more space, haunts needed more actors, more sets and more jump scares; some rose to the challenge beautifully. Here is a brief recap of the 11 bite-sized haunts hidden within Midsummer Scream’s Hall of Shadows 2019.
Bone Dry – ScareVentures
With stunning, high-quality set designs, San Diego’s haunt rental company ScareVentures brought us Bone Dry, an old-West ghost town inhabited by, well, ghosts! A more family-friendly theme than other haunts, Bone Dry had some wonderful set pieces – like a saloon and a still-wriggling body wrapped in spiders’ webs – and some fun interactivity with the actors within, and even the actress out front who was letting guests inside. Overall, Bone Dry had great production quality and design, and was a fun, non-gory option for those wanting a tamer experience.
Whitewater California’s Desert Decay Manor started off with the actor at the front of the line spinning guests a tale of a house inhabited by a family of ghosts who can never leave. The intricate narrative continued into the first room, where the matron of the house invited us FOR dinner and provided some fun interactivity between the guests and actors. After guests passed through a kitchen full of gore and reeking of cooked meat, they found themselves roaming the rest of the eerily-decorated, ghost-infested manor. With an ominous warning of, “Lucy will be seeing you in October,” Desert Decay Manor seemed like a nice bite-sized preview of the upcoming full haunt.
Die Laughing – Phobia Productions
After taking on a deadly virus last year, Phobia Productions set their sights on sinister carnival attractions with Die Laughing. Guests entered a creepy carnival tent and bore witness to a hall of oddities and freaks, and evil clowns around almost every dark corner. Filled with an impressive number of actors, Die Laughing shifted their scares away from surprise and instead focused on utilizing the characters to elicit fear. These actors were not afraid to move close and interact with guests. A room full of black-lit pool noodles hanging from the ceiling and numerous actors was a fan favorite, with scares coming from all directions. While some more set design would elevate their circus theme further, Phobia Productions concluded with a wonderfully clever, interactive final moment with some mischievous clowns.
Fear Fest ’89 – The Dreich Society
With one of the most impressive facades, The Dreich Society in Ontario, CA, invited guests into an antique theater to star in some of their favorite horror films. Audiences entered to a perfect recreation of Mother’s shrine, complete with Mrs. Voorhees’ shriveled head and tattered sweater – until her son emerged brandishing a large machete to chase audiences into the next room. With a powerful AC emitting chilling blasts of frigid air, the frozen labyrinthine walls hid a Jack who had a little too much work and no play. Utilizing the same elevator mechanic as last year, audiences entered a small, claustrophobic door that spun to reveal a gorgeous, futuristic hallway, complete with a memorable black Alien to swipe at your feet. A final room sucked participants into the television to face the poltergeists within. It’s difficult to try to recreate such iconic horror movie scenes, but The Dreich Society succeeded on all levels – creating one of the most memorable and talked about experiences at Midsummer Scream. We’re excited to step back into the cinema this October.
An unassuming crypt in the center of the Hall of Shadows, Gothic Hills Cemetery proved to be one of the most entertaining haunts of the day. Guests entered the surprisingly lofty crypt with a renovation expert as their guide. Our guide was genial and engaging, putting his all into acting surprised and shocked when the crypt proved larger than originally thought, and revealed mysterious secrets about the fate of the Fitzroy family. The sets were gorgeous and props appropriate. There weren’t jump scares, but rather an unsettling ambiance and storyline. Safe for families, the Gothic Hills Cemetery was capped off by a very well-done mechanical climax, and left me smiling even as I ran out of the crypt to safety.
Hyde Street Massacre – The Bloodshed Brothers
Hyde Street Massacre by Perris, California’s Bloodshed Brothers made its second appearance in Midsummer’s Hall of Shadows. As Hyde Street Massacre was one of my favorites last year, I was excited to see what they had planned for this year. The design was more R-rated in terms of gore and body parts than some of the other haunts, and actors lurked in almost every room, waiting for their unsuspecting victims. The first room, a darkened living room, provided one of the best jump scares of the day, and the props and production design were fully fleshed-out (see what I did there?) and appropriately unsettling for a house full of murderous cannibals.
Joshua Roe St. Pierre’s Reichland Asylum towered over the other haunts, with an imposing two-story mental asylum façade. The twists and turns were elaborately decorated and actors played their parts well, either warning guests about the doctor or praising him. After some fun interaction with the actors, guests found themselves walking through cages and into a spacious room where the nurse presented the unnerving doctor himself. Although there was only one jump scare within the haunt, Reichland Asylum was best suited for teenagers and adults due to the graphic nature of the final scene.
Salem – Twisted Minds Productions
Last year, Highland Park’s Twisted Minds Productions presented Anneliese, which was a novel and very innovative haunt. This year, they took on the Salem witch trials by having guests walk through several scenes presented more like an immersive play than a traditional haunt. The three scenes were well-acted and had some fantastic special effects / stunts, and the ambiance was akin to old buildings in the 1690s. Due to the open-ceiling design of the haunt, and through no fault of their own, it was difficult to hear the actors if a performance was going on right outside. However, praise must be given for the quality of the acting and physicality of the actors.
Scream Queens Tribute – Lights OUT Productions
Scream Queens aired on TV from 2015 to 2016, so it seemed an odd choice to be the theme for a haunt in 2019. Nevertheless, Lights OUT Productions took the property and created more of a tribute to the show than a traditional haunt. The experience welcomed small groups of guests into a scene taken directly from the TV show – a blood oath ritual guided by three actors. Although it wasn’t said in advance, the scene included some light touching between the guests and actors. After some quippy dialogue, the candles mysteriously went out and the Red Devil chased the guests out and back into the Hall of Shadows. While a campy little tribute to Scream Queens, the walk-though focused more on the scene than any sort of scare or production design.
Secrets of the Mist – Sinister Valley
Sinister Valley in Temecula, home to Lake Elsinore’s Field of Screams, brought their impressive Secrets of the Mist to the Hall of Shadows. Their temple façade included copious amounts of fog and a fantastic laser light show projected from a giant cobra’s head mounted on the temple wall. Inside the Secrets of the Mist, the production design was equally impressive, with animatronic snakes and plenty of foliage for actors to hide within. While this haunt only had two actors, we look forward to seeing what they can do with a full cast.
Temple of the Fallen God – Realm of Shadow
Realm of Shadow, a community haunted house in Bellflower, California, brought an impressive, gore-free Temple of the Fallen God to this year’s Midsummer Scream. Another one of my favorites, Temple felt like the longest and most well-designed maze in the Hall of Shadows. Despite Temple being safe for families, it did provide some of the most delightful jump scares, impressive animatronics, and clever actor moments. Guests were primed to enter the temple in search of the gold within by the actor in charge of the line. Making their way through the temple, guests faced giant spiders, mummies, previous travelers that didn’t fare so well, a disorientating light show, some glow-in-the-dark monsters and perhaps an actual demon. Temple of the Fallen God definitely excelled in using all of the space they were given in a very fun and entertaining way.
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