Nightmare at Scareview Farms is the new Halloween attraction at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, replacing Fearplex (which was sold off after the death of owner Bob Koritzke) Located in the fairgrounds’ Big Red Barn (instead of the stadium that housed Fearplex), Nightmare at Scare View Farms offers three mazes, which benefit from the vast expanse of available space, creating wide open environments quite different from the claustrophobic confines of most walk-through Halloween haunts. The results are not as intense as in some scare factories, but they are frightening in a fun sort of way that should appeal to families as long as their children are not too easily frightened (recommended age is over twelve). Also, Halloween fans looking for something besides the usual chainsaw-killer-in-the-corridor approach will appreciate the distinctive approach.
First off, although the Fairgrounds official address is 1101 W. McKinley Avenue, if you plug that into your GPS, you will end up at the wrong gate (the gate that allowed entrance for Fearplex last year). You want Gate 9, the main parking lot, which leads to the Blue Gate entrance to the Fairgrounds, which leads directly to the Red Barn.
The front of the Barn immediately announces that you are in the right place, with a nice display of skeletons, coffins, and a hearse, enhanced by a fog machine. Many are the screams of the damned that are heard floating on the night air as you approach. The entrance to the mazes is to the right, past booths where you can buy snacks or souvenirs. The line is set up so that you wait in front of a television monitor showing a faux-news piece on Nightmare at Scareview Farms, which consists of workers insisting that it is all fiction, even while bodies are piling up left and right (customers go in, but they don't come out). It's funny concept, but the execution leaves much to be desired, and the Fairgrounds' star monster, a ghostly cannibal farmer named Pitchfork, is too cartoony to be truly frightening.
Fortunately, you wait in line only once: the mazes are back to back; as you exit one, you move immediately to the entrance of the next. Visitors are allowed inside in groups of approximately a dozen, who led by a guide for each maze. This keeps the group together and helps the scare-actors time their attacks to affect everyone, not just the leaders or the stragglers. With the haunt's more expansive layout, there are fewer blind corners from which mosters can surprise you; instead, the strategy is to fill the space with so many motionless mannequins that the actors can fool you by lurking amongst them, standing perfectly still until you walk past - and then they strike!
The Vampire Vault is first. There is some initial confusion: the setting seems military, like a containment zone or quarantine; gradually, it becomes apparent that these vampires are the mutant result of some kind of nuclear accident (even though many of them affect traditional Gothic garb). The layout does a good job of giving the impression that you are walking outside through streets under quarantine, where vampires lurk in the shadows and the occasional soldier warns you to go back for your own safety.
Pirate of the Dead Seas is next, beginning with a walk through some deserted streets haunted by ghostly pirates, followed by an execution area, where both noose and guillotine are in operation. The haunt expands to impressive proportions as you move through a series of large-scale miniature pirate vessels lined up as if for battle, manned by their doomed captains and crew; then th pace changes as reach a "Cannibal Island," with its own particular set of horrors, including some king of bog-monster thing that looks like a walking plant.
The Haunted Cattle Barn wraps up your trip through Nightmare at Scareview Farms. This is another variation on the "slaughterhouse" theme, featuring the Pitchfork character, who shows up in several places, while most of the other actors play victims who plead with your for assistance. There are probably more jump-scares in this maze than in the other two, with several clever hiding places allowing for sudden, unexpected appearances. One flaw on the night we attended: at least one of the Pitchfork actors was eschewing his titular weapon in favor of a chainsaw; unfortunately, the prop was emitting no sound whatsoever, which limited its effectiveness considerably. That's that advantage of pitchforks: they never run out of gas!
Overall, we were most impressed with the scale of Nightmare at Scareview Farms. We were, frankly, afraid of finding a flimsy Halloween attraction, consisting of painted corridors haunted by a handful of ghouls. Instead, we encountered three lengthy mazes, with large-scale sets and lots of actors. Special effects are at a minimum (you won't see a lot of mechanical devices or animatronic monsters), but the haunt feels elaborate anyway. Thanks to its size and scale, it does a solid of simulating the experience of entering into a different world of horror with each maze, and we appreciated the immersive sensation of being surrounded by the horror (instead of simply anticipating it at the end of each corridor. (We also appreciated the absence of Killer Klownz.)
For the hardcore Halloween fanatic, Nightmare at Scareview Farms may be short on screams (except for the cast, who whoop it up big time - yelling, shrieking, and banging on the walls and floors in a manner guaranteed to wrack your nerves). Fortunately, the average haunt-goer - one seeking tricks-and-treats that are not too soft and not too scary - will find a variety of fearful frights that are just right.
Halloween night is your last opportunity to enjoy Nightmare at Scareview Farms, which runs from 6pm to 11pm. Hopefully, the haunt will return to the Fairgrounds next year.