Halloween 2019 Review: Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror Haunted House has, somewhat miraculously, managed to squeeze even more scares into its home above the Gold's Gym in Janss Marketplace. Theoretically, the venue ran out of space a year or two ago, but some clever geometry has allowed for a new section, and a surprising new inhabitant lurks in one of the older sections.

Reign of Terror's 2019 presentation is consistent with what we have seen the past couple seasons: the interstitial spaces between the themed areas have been paved over, figuratively speaking, to make room for more construction. No longer is their a leisurely walk through green laser-fog from the exit of one section to the entrance of another; Reign of Terror is now the haunted house equivalent of a densely packed housing development, with little room to separate one building from another.

This Halloween's nine sections are Miner's Revenge, The Haunted House (a.k.a. The Victorian Mansion), The Asylum, Casa Blood, Inbred, Fun House, Infected, Quarantine, and Containment. The last of these is new for Halloween 2019, forming a sort of triptych with the previous two, which it immediately follows. Infected depicts a civilian area overrun by zombies. Quarantine is secret government scientific center, which could be responsible for the outbreak. Containment is a prison-like facility which seems to be trying - and failing - to contain the outbreak, its cells overrun by crazed inmates.

Reign of Terror 2019 Halloween Review
What happens when you try to jump to the front of the line with only a general admission ticket.

The progression from infection to quarantine to containment is a logical one, but Reign of Terror isn't really into storytelling, so the connection between these three sections is more a matter of feel than narrative. Containment isn't the most memorable area in Reign of Terror, but it does offer a reasonably distinct environment - with so much already packed into the haunt, it's difficult for anything to stand out.

What does stand out is the aggressive enthusiasm of the haunters. There are still stretches of Reign of Terror where guests can soak up the atmosphere of the elaborate environments, but the odds of being interrupted by a screaming banshee have risen exponentially over the past few years. True to its roots as an old-school haunted house, Reign of Terror emphasizes jump scares delivered by a mix of mannequins and live actors, but the scale has been tipping toward the latter recently, with the actors amping up the intensity.

Reign of Terror 2019 Review
Arachnid lurking in Miner's Revenge

Reign of Terror remains at the top of our list of Halloween attractions, but Containment is not a compelling reason for a return visit. We were probably more tickled by the spinnerets of the new inhabitants in Miner's Revenge. One chamber has been transformed into the web-strewn lair of giant spiders, one of whom lunges off the wall. It's a cool addition to one of our favorite sections - a nice surprise that makes something good even better.

Reign of Terror 2019 Rating
85%

Summary

This rating is based solely on the new material in Reign of Terror. The spiders’ lair is great, but it’s only one room. Containment is a little longer, but it’s not up to the level of the haunt’s older sections.

Overall, Reign of Terror remains an excellent combination of convincing environments and enthusiastic scare-actors.

Reign of Terror Haunted House continues at the Janss Marketplace on October 31 and November 2 (the latter is a special lights-out version).  The address is 197 North Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, 91360. Get more information at: rothauntedhouse.com.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.