After beginning our 2009 Halloween Haunt Odyssey - an annual night-time tour of amatuer haunted houses - with a visit to the Forest of Mirrors in Woodland Hills, we moved on to the Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks. This attraction is a bit of an anamoly in the Haunt Odyssey, which focuses on amateur Halloween events open only on October 31. We made the exception because we enjoyed the haunt so much last year, and it was a relatively short freeway drive from our first stop. Located in the Janss Marketplace at 215 North Moorpark Road (which housed the disappointing Thousand Oaks Haunt back in 2005), Reign of Terror is a great example of a successful transition from home haunt to professional haunt. Having outgrown its owner's house in 2007, it moved into the local community center in 2008 before taking up residence in the market place this year, where hopefully it will remain for years to come.
In the manner of the now-defunct Spooky House, Reign of Terror benefits from a convincing facade suggesting that you are walking into a dilapidated dwelling. This perfectly sets the tone for what follows: although there are shocks and a few gruesome tableau, the overall effect is of being inside a haunted house. With so many Halloween events in Los Angeles based on themes of slaughterhouses, asylums, killer klownz, and alien abductions, it is nice to find a traditional approach truly in the spirit of the season.
Many of the old effects are back from 2008 (Reign of Terror employs several mechanical mannequins for pop-up scares), but the haunt also takes advantage of its new, larger location, expanding in length and adding several more rooms. Too many haunts evince the law of diminishing returns when they expand, offering more space but not necessarily more scares, thus diluting the experience; fortunately, that is not the case here. When we first encountered Reign of Terror last year, we confidently predicted that it was capable of compeating head-on with the big boys in the professional haunt leagues; it may sound self-serving, but having visited its new location, we can confidently say that our prediction has been fulfilled.