Reign of Terror 2019 is an exercise in sheer terror, taking guests through a variety of nightmares across a seemingly endless gauntlet of rooms, putting them at the mercy of a sordid rogues’ gallery of ghouls, ghosts, monsters and madmen. That said, the location of Reign of Terror inside a pristine outdoor shopping center in Thousand Oaks never ceases to amuse. From the Gold’s Gym beneath to the bustling Regal Cinemas to the sadly shuttered Toys ‘R Us, first-time guests would be forgiven for assuming nothing out of the ordinary was happening over their heads.
But, just like every year, Reign of Terror 2019 delivers like no other haunt can, utilizing sheer size and scope rarely seen in California, rivaling mammoth, multi-tiered haunts elsewhere in the country – like Michigan’s Erebus or Ft. Worth’s Cutting Edge.
With something as gargantuan as Reign of Terror, which clocks in this year at 115 rooms and over 25,000 square feet, there’s admittedly only so much that can be added or improved upon in a given season. Return guests will have largely the same experience as usual, fantastic as it always is, with a few exceptions: Widow’s Den is touted as a new experience, replete with webs aplenty and an animatronic spider, while Containment is a new attraction, a “sequel” of sorts to Quarantine found elsewhere in the maze. Not to mention, the haunt’s classic bedroom scene has been transformed into an Exorcist homage, with crosses dangling from the ceiling and a priest flinging holy water at unsuspecting guests in an attempt to purge the evil that is afflicting Reign of Terror’s stand-in for Regan.
Reign of Terror lives and dies on its jaw-dropping decor. Throughout the nine sections which vary in theming, the scenery transforms from a claustrophobic underground tunnel system to a classic haunted house to a colorful and cacophonous fun house. Never once are guests confused as to where they’re supposed to be, nor do they question what one might have to do with the others; these are separate experiences jam-packed into one terrifying tour.
Where Reign of Terror can improve is the timing of its scares. The scare-actors inside the house are phenomenally talented, but it seems that the vast majority of the cast (with the exception of the Fun House crew) spends their scare on the first person in a given group, making some parts of the maze predictable, or worse, spoiling the scares for guests in the middle or back of the group. This wouldn’t be such a problem if Reign of Terror wasn’t such a massive haunt, with a typical walk-through taking anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. Switching up the “victim,” as it were, might make for more surprise scares, and more organic ones, at that.
Reign of Terror is consistently a must-see attraction, especially for brand-new guests. The fact that they offer not only a “Lights On” tour for more squeamish guests, but also a special “Lights Out” tour for more hardcore adrenaline junkies is just icing on the cake. If the timing of its already gifted cast can be tweaked just a bit, and perhaps more new experiences added for the 2020 season, the Thousand Oaks haunt will surely climb even further up the ladder, competing with major players as they always have.
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