Halloween 2014: Last-Minute Recommendations - Theme Parks

Only two days left of Halloween - four, if you count November 1 and 2 - and so many haunts left to visit. What to do? You must prioritize - but which Los Angeles attractions are must-sees, which are worth a visit, and which should be avoided like a pack of starving zombies? Never fear: Hollywood Gothique's offers a series of recommendations for the final days of Halloween 2014: Theme Parks; Haunted Houses & Hayrides; Home Haunts; and Horror Movies & Plays. You probably cannot get to all of them by the end of this weekend, but it never hurts to try. Read on - if you dare!

Note: These lists omit events that are sold out (Delusion Lies Within) or that will extend beyond this weekend (The Wicked Lit Halloween Theatre Festival). We will provide a separate list of events to catch in November, to help stave off the post-Halloween blues.

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FROM DUSK TILL DAWN AT HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS

HHN 2014 From Dusk Till Dawn 2 retouchHollywood Gothique was not overwhelmed by this year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood; however, if you are planning to go, then you must visit From Dusk Till Dawn. This walk-through impressed us by effectively recreating a specific film that had never been exploited by the theme park. The result is fresher and more exciting than anything else at this year's Halloween Horror Nights - for us, the clear stand-out and the one you must see if you visit Universal Studios Hollywood in the next few days.

The exterior offers a passable recreation of the Titty Twister bar from the 1994 film, here renamed "The Twister" to avoid offending delicate sensibilities. Outside, two actors  impersonate the Gecko Brothers; inside, Santanico Pandemonium does her sultry snake dance (with an artificial animal) to the strains of Tito and Tarantula's "After Dark." After that, it's one jump-scare after another. The hiding places are packed closely together, so you never have far to go before encountering a new danger. Also, the frequency of attacks is accelerated compared to previous years and even compared to some of Universal's other mazes this year: miss one sudden, starling encounter, and another follows almost immediately.

Since the vampires vixens sport demonic faces atop alluring figures, there is an attraction-repulsion vibe to the maze. Unlike Knotts Berry Farm's Halloween Haunt, Halloween Horror Nights has been lax at exploiting the erotic allure of vampires. This year, they finally get with the program, and the results are turbo-charged.

Halloween Horror Nights runs on October 30-31 and November 1-2. Hours are 7pm to 2am every night. The address is Universal Studios, Hollywood 100 Universal City Plaza Univeral City, CA 91608. Get more info at the official website.

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KNOTT'S SCARY FARM

VoodooFor the second year in a row, the Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt topped Halloween Horror Nights in the humble opinion of Hollywood Gothique, standing as our favorite Theme Park Halloween Attraction of the season, making it a must-see for any self-respecting Halloween-hunter. Knotts offers great originality and imagination, with a variety of horror experiences that are impossible to top. Along with some impressive holdovers from Halloween 2013, Knotts Scary Farm features two new, must-see events, Voodoo and Special Ops Infected. On top of that, the personalized scares of the Skeleton Key Rooms are unlike anything one expects in a crowded theme park. Not everything is perfect, but the sheer size and number of attractions guarantees that you will sate your appetite on more than enough Halloween horror before the witching hour ends.

Make sure you find your way to the old New Orleans hotel, with eerie projections suggesting the shadows of unseen foliage. Enter the Skeleton Key Room, to be confronted by a priestess who forces you and your companions, one by one, each into his or her own upright coffin. Listen for the spectral voice bellowing a curse, while red light flairs through the cracks of the shaking coffin. Exit out the other side, and enter the maze proper…

Voodoo excels in creating a convincing outdoor swamp setting, illuminated in shades of blue, and inundated with shrouds of fog. The sense of a supernatural atmosphere is almost palpable – so much so that the action contained therein is simply icing on the cake; simply being inside Voodoo is entertaining enough. Fortunately, there is more: the gimmick here is that there are two paths you can take, creating two separate experiences. To get the full effect, you really need to go through twice ((though there is some overlap, you will enjoy the second trip), and the Skeleton Key Room is a must.

Special Ops_InfectedSpecial Ops: Infected is a zombie kill-zone, for which you are equipped with an infra-red “rifle” and given instructions to terminate the walking dead with extreme prejudice. Guided by a squad leader, you will run through Camp Snoopy, which is infested with zombies, dodging and shooting as you go, and ending with a sort of Custer’s Last Stand, as you and your team empty your guns at a final swarm of the undead. The result is an exhilarating adrenalin-rush that will leave you covered in perspiration. It’s unlike anything other Halloween theme parks have to offer, putting you up close to the monsters in a unique way. The sense of participation – of fending off attackers instead of simply screaming and wondering why they don’t lay claws on you – adds a level of excitement that cannot be underestimated.

Knotts Berry Farm is located at 8039 Beach Boulevard, Buena Park, CA 90620. Remaining dates for the Halloween Haunt are October 30, 31, November 1. Hours are 7pm to 1am on Thursday and 7pm to 2am on Friday and Saturday. Ticket information is available at the official website.

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SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN FRIGHT FEST

Total DarknessHollywood Gothique was extremely impressed with this year's Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest. Fright Fest has always been enjoyable, but until this year we never thought it was serious contender for Best Theme Park Halloween Attraction. For Halloween 2014, however, Fright Fest proves itself worthy, with eight entertaining mazes, including a couple of obvious standouts, Willoughby Resurrected and Red's Revenge; there is also a rather unique Total Darkness maze, providing a truly different sort of walk-through experience.

Willoughby Resurrected offers a marvelous haunted house worthy of the name - a simulated trip through a decaying mansion filled with malevolent ghosts that haunt you from all directions, often in tandem. Red's Revenge is a monstrous version of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, with imaginative sets that make you feel as if you have walked into a story book. Total Darkness is not quite totally dark (there is some floor lighting to prevent you from knocking yourself out on a sharp corner or a wall), but you cannot see the monsters lurking over you shoulder as they mock you for stumbling about in the darkness, unable to see them even though they can see you.

The fun-house style of old (simple sets made of painted flats) is almost totally gone, replaced by a series of convincing environments, and the number of scares per square foot is quite impressive, with multiple monsters attacking from different angles. Also gone is the conga-line approach: at least on Sunday evening, when we attended, all the mazes were allowing customers to enter only in groups of a dozen or so, insuring that you never missed a scare because you were at the back of a crowd.We have not been to Fright Fest since 2011, so part of our enthusiasm may simply be due to unfamiliarity, but we enjoyed Six Flags' Halloween horrors more than those at the Queen Mary Dark Harbor or Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. We do not have time for a maze-by-maze review right now, but if you, like us, have always considered Fright Fest to be the also-ran among Halloween theme park attractions, we recommend that you reconsider and get yourself out there this weekend.Fright Fest's remaining dates are on Friday, October  31 and Saturday, November 1. Six Flags Magic Mountain is located at 26101 Magic Mountain  Parkway in Valencia. Tickets are $69.99 for adults; $44.99 for children under 48-inches; and free for children under two; tickets may be purchased online in advance for discounted prices. Your ticket gets you in for the whole day, but you must purchase a wristband for admission to the night-time mazes. <a href="https://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain/special-events/festival/fright-fest-presented-by-snickers" target="_blanck">Click here</a> for the Fright Fest webpage.

The fun-house style of old (simple sets made of painted flats) is almost totally gone, replaced by a series of convincing environments, and the number of scares per square foot is quite impressive. Also gone is the conga-line approach: the mazes allow customers to enter in groups of a dozen or so, insuring that you never missed a scare because you were at the back of a crowd.

To our surprise, we preferred this year's Fright Fest over the Queen Mary Dark Harbor and Halloween Horror Nights, and we recommend that you get yourself out there this weekend.

Fright Fest's remaining dates are on Friday, October  31 and Saturday, November 1. Six Flags Magic Mountain is located at 26101 Magic Mountain  Parkway in Valencia. Tickets are $69.99 for adults; $44.99 for children under 48-inches; and free for children under two; tickets may be purchased online in advance for discounted prices. Your ticket gets you in for the whole day, but you must purchase a wristband for admission to the night-time mazes. Click here for the Fright Fest webpage.

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