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HHA 2016: Best Scare Zone

Nominees: Fiesta De Los Muertos, The Hollow and The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear

The Hollow Scare Zone

Perhaps we were in too big a rush to get to mazes this year, but not many scare zones caught our attention long enough to embed themselves in memory this Halloween. The new Suicide Squad at the Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest was basically the old DC Universe scare zone with the Joker and Harley Quinn – not bad but not a major upgrade, either; though we enjoyed the digital mapping that showed spectacular action taking place on a building, it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of scares.

Fiesta De Los Muertos at Knotts Scary Farm (photograph at top). This is a last-minute nomination, brought on by the realization that, for the years its been in existence, we have never really acknowledged how much we enjoy this scare zone. Its festive atmosphere is well suited to the section of Knotts Scary Farm it inhabits; there are some nice decorations, but most of all we love the makeup and characters, Calacas (skeletons) and La Llorona.

The Hollow at Knotts Scary Farm.  This new addition for Halloween 2016, located in Camp Snoopy, thrilled us with scarecrow-like creatures that imbued the area with an old-school Halloween atmosphere exactly to our liking.

hhn-2016-purge-gauntlet-of-fearThe Purge: Gauntlet of Fear at Halloween Horror Nights. Is it a maze or a scare zone? Maybe it’s a maze-zone? Anyway, Universal Studios listed it as a scare zone on its may of Halloween Horror Nights 2016, so we’re nominating it in this category. We found The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear to be an amazing outdoor labyrinth, filled with skeletons, bodies, and metallic junk to suggest Purge-night pandemonium, enhanced by enthusiastic performances from the masked cast.

The Winner: The Purge – Gauntlet of Fear

We loved the characters in The Hollow, but we thought the scare zone would have benefited from more fog and lighting effects, instead of relying on darkness and shadows; we were also disappointed that, despite pre-release advertising, the Headless Horseman was not really visible in the area (though he was present elsewhere). Fiesta De Los Muertos was enjoyable, too, but in the end, The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear overwhelmed the competition with its novel approach. It combined the best elements of maze and scare zone: a defined path, walled in to prevent easy escape, but with enough room to move freely and at your own pace. On a night when Halloween Horror Nights was far too overcrowded, The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear was a much-needed opportunity to  savor every scare instead of being herded forward and missing half the fun because of bad timing. Hopefully, more scare zones will employ this approach next Halloween.

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.