This Halloween, Scream Zone is hitting the road and ready to kill
Scream Zone: Roadkill is a Dirt-Cheap Thrill-Ride. And boy did it kill - the competition that is! After realizing it was not possible to present their traditional trio of haunts because of Covid-19 concerns, the proprietors conceived an idea for a drive-through haunt - a real drive-through haunt (unlike one that shall remain nameless).
Being set in San Diego county, which lacks the stiff competition of Los Angeles, may give Halloween fans the misconception that production values need not be as high. However, Scream Zone's haunt team (the same one that presents The Haunted Hotel in San Diego) does not slack. This is the first true “Drive-Thru Haunt” we’ve experienced this season; it lives up to its name, providing an excellent scare experience.
Drive-Thru Scream Zone Roadkill 2020 Review: Safety
“We reference a proposal set forth in March that addresses issues regarding both patrons safety as well as employee safety using all of the CDC guidelines regarding masks wearing and social distancing. Many other precautions are taken as well, for example: every employee has their temperature taken before being allowed to enter the fairgrounds, etc. Also during the building of the haunt, the same precautions were taken regarding mask wearing, temperature taking and social distancing.” - Scream Zone Haunt Team Statement
You may have heard rumblings about haunts switching to drive-thru experiences this year due to Covid-19. Which also begs the question: What if the driver gets scared, floors the gas pedal, and runs over the sets or - worse - the scare actors? Or, what if the scare actors give me the virus?
Here are the answers.
For The Scare Actors: Actors that come in close contact with you have a mask on or some sort of face covering related to their character. It could be an occupation that requires a mask or someone dressed as Jason Voorhees with a hockey mask. The ones not wearing masks are far away, but not so far as to destroy the experience. They could be on a fake stage or complementing the set piece six to ten feet away. If you are afraid of being exposed, you can roll up your windows.
For You: The Scream Zone implemented a strict three-mile-per hour speed limit. You must stay one car-length behind the car in front of you at all times. Lights must be turned off, or do the best you can since some vehicles have sport lights or daytime running lights that switch on automatically at night. (We were told we had to shut off our vehicle at another “drive-thru” haunt, which was really a drive in theatre show but that’s another story.) Windows may be rolled down if you are wearing a mask; if not, your windows must be up. However, that detracts from the haunt experience. And if you were to get spooked and tried to floor it, you’ll either hit the sets, the solid buildings behind the sets, or the car ahead of you, and we don’t think you’d want to do that! The scare actors are safe since they are never really in front of your vehicle.
What happens if you don’t abide by the rules? Well, you are being heavily surveilled - there are multiple line monitors all along the roads, as well as Sheriffs on standby.
Drive Thru Scream Zone Roadkill 2020 Review: Haunted Neighborhoods
At Scream Zone you drive through several "haunted neighborhoods" - differently themed sections that can be clearly distinguished because each one gets its own row. This is similar to the approach Scream Zone has used for its hayride in the previous years; the drive-thru offers a slightly modified route in order to accommodate the experience, with a new theme around each corner.
Conjuring Row features what appear to be hellish demons including the demonic form of the new Pennywise dangling a kid from one of his limbs. If you escape the demons, you find yourself in an area that features set pieces that are reminiscent of The Conjuring and The Nun.
Dead End Truck Stop reminds us of Radiator Springs gone wrong. You pull into a small town with a local bar, a place to sin, and a business. Residents seem to be trapped. The highlight of this neighborhood is the animatronic jalopy that careens on your left while a scare actor attacks from the right! You may feel as if you are about to exchange insurance information with the great beyond!
Some people have a fear of zombies, and some have a fear of clowns. Well, in Zombie Carnival Row, you get the best of both! So if you have kinemortophobia or coulrophobia, then we hope you’re not behind the wheel. However, if you are willing to embrace your fear like us, you may find one or two of the scare actors to be very interactive - including one that chatted us up, disappeared, and magically popped up the other side of our transport!
Horror Icon Way & Nightmare On Elm Street really delivered the Halloween spirit otherwise lacking this year (for obvious reasons). Immediately, Georgie invites you to play. Of course, Pennywise is lurking nearby. Farther along, Sadako from Ring slowly ascends from her well, reaching for your vehicle. If you escape, your next stop is Haddonfield where Michael Myers stands on the porch to guard his childhood home, daring you to enter. Then comes Annabelle, Ghostface, and Leatherface. Who would’ve thunk they were all neighbors? Next, you encounter Freddy Kruger, who chides people trapped in metal boxes for being pathetic. (When we told him we were sleepy, he replied: “Oh you’ll have some nightmares tonight!”) Of course you can’t call it “Horror Icon Way” without Jason to complete the journey. A beautiful burning building with Freddy’s burnt head sticking out serves as a distraction before Mr. Voorhees pops out.
On the Mine Shaft Trail, you encounter a mine worker inside a shaft tunnel, who might exchange a few pleasantries. (We were asked if we could give him a lift to T.J. so he could bury his friend. When asked if there are drugs hidden in the body, he dodged the question, so we told him to hop in! However, the miner doesn't know how to operate a car door so we told him to hop in through the moonroof, to which he exclaimed: I”m too fat!”) On the way out, there is another scare actor who is equally interactive - you'll recognize him as the big bellied hitchiker!
In Dusk Till Dawn, you drive through sets of what appear to be a castle with dungeons where vampires keep their prey. A victim asks for help before the bloodsuckers kill her. The immersive castle surroundings of this short section lead into Clown Alley, where you are harassed by more than a few clowns. If clowns were to ever take over a fair, this would be what it looked like.
In Fury Road, the sets recall the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max and Imperator Furiosa. If the movie is any indication and art imitates real life, you’ll have to do what it takes to survive to get out of there! Of course the dirt pathways really help achieve the overall feel for this particular area. The set looks like a war-zone from the movie, including a “not true to scale” tanker a.k.a. “The War Rig." (Definitely worth stopping to snap a photo!) And how fitting it is that Scream Zone's Drive-Thru includes a drive though a Mad Max themed set.
Drive-Thru Scream Zone Roadkill 2020 Review: Conclusion
For us, a drive-through haunt should be like a haunted house/maze that you drive through rather than walk through. From what we have seen, there are some haunts marketing themselves as "drive-throughs" that don't live up to our expectation. There’s no fear of that happening at Drive-Thru Scream Zone: Roadkill. Their haunt delivers exactly what it promises: haunted house type scares in an outdoor, drive-through setting.
After our previous visits to Scream Zone, we more or less knew what to expect from the team behind this event. We were always amazed with the life-sized buses and large-scale replicas of Pennywise in their other haunts. They were able to maintain that same standard here with a tram overrun by Clowns and of course the War Rig. Furthermore, they have upped their game with the improv provided by the scare actors. So go experience it, say something witty to them, and see how they respond.
Drive-Thru Scream Zone: Roadkill 2020 Rating
Ninety minutes away from L.A. but completely worth it! The experience and feeling we got during and after the haunt made it feel like Halloween again. For those who have ridden Scream Zone’s hayride in previous years, now you will relish the opportunity to be in control of the wheel. Just make sure you are the one doing the screaming and not the road-killing!
Scream Zone is open Thursdays through Sundays until October 31st at the Del Mar “Scaregrounds.” The address is 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, California 92014. For more information call the fairgrounds at (858) 755-1161 or visit the Scream Zone website here.
Tickets are $45, $55, $60, $70 depending on which night and how many occupants in the vehicle.
Concessions are available before the haunt starts. See if you can spot the 12-foot skeleton(s)!