Halloween Review: Motel 6 Feet Under 2016

Motel 6 Feet Under will have you dying to check out – if you can find your way out.
motel 6 fee under
Ghouls welcome guests.

Motel 6 Feet Under made a solid if unspectacular debut when it opened for business in Halloween 2015. Though not as elaborate as some of the more famous and well established Halloween mazes and rides, the motel featured nice settings, props, and effects enhanced with clever touches and wrapped up in a memorable theme. For 2016, the motel upgrades to four-star status, and the funny thing is: not that much is different. Guests who check in for a second stay this year will see many of the same amenities, but their experience will not be a simple replay of last Halloween’s vacation. The architects have redesigned the floor plan to create more than a few surprises, and what worked before has been strategically rearranged to create a much more memorable stay, one that will have you dying to check out – if you can find your way out…

As before, there are a few spectacular mechanical effects to punctuate the action, but Motel 6 Feet Under relies mostly on moody lighting and atmospheric settings to submerge visitors into its haunted world. The cast is creepy rather than aggressive, lurking in shadows and delivering jump-scares at judiciously timed intervals. The sets are not as elaborate as those in the Reign of Terror Haunted House, but they do a far better job of simulating an environment than the mazes in the Dome at Queen Mary Dark Harbor.

The experience begins in the reception area: a maid drifts about silently, dusting furniture and guests waiting to check in, while the receptionist extols the virtues of the establishment and points out the haunted items on display, including a chair that rocks by itself. (Sadly, one effect was not quite as visible this year: a television with a face that presses out from the screen. The angle and the lighting made it difficult to see; hopefully, that will be fixed.) Then a bellhop arrives to lead you inside…to your doom.

motel 6 feet under
A monster from Blackthorn Screamfest visits the motel.

Once inside, the changes to Motel 6 Feet Under become immediately apparent. The walk-through no longer begins with a (literal) maze. This sounds like a small change, but it is incredibly effective. Last year, you had to wander for a few minutes before finding your way into the main body of the haunt, where most of the ghosts appeared. Now, the haunting gets off to a faster start, and the maze has been relocated near the end, where it works much better because it follows a little trick that creates a sense of feeling lost: a dead-end leaves you wondering whether you made a wrong turn; while trying to retrace your steps, you find yourself lost in the labyrinth. This leads to additional fun when you encounter previous groups who cannot find their way out. Normally, increased numbers cause decreased scares, but roving through intertwining corridors while bumping into people who have been lost longer than you creates a dynamic all its own. It doesn’t help that you are being pursued by mocking ghouls who misdirect you until they grow tired of their sport and send you on your way…

There are two completely new scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end. We don’t want to spoil too much, but the first is a familiar gag; fortunately, this variation features a clever enhancement not usually seen. (Think of the opening room in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, and you’ll have a vague notion what we mean.) The second addition provides a climactic final jump-scare that will send you packing – or, more likely, running for you car without bothering to pack.

Is Motel 6 Feet Under worth a second stay? Though additions are few, the revised floor plan makes the familiar scares seem new and unexpected. With scenes and effects reordered, the haunt sustains itself more effectively and builds to a better climax. We don’t want to oversell this mini-Overlook to fans seeking the glitz and gloss of over-priced brand-name attractions, but Los Angeles haunt-enthusiasts seeking to explore the terrors available on less traveled highways and byways are advised to add this stop to their Halloween itinerary. Traditional comforts may be minimal, but the staff is so attentive that we’re sure you will enjoy your stay – though we’re not sure you will live to tell about it.

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.