Review: Haunt of Halloween

Haunt of Halloween is a new attraction with a pedigree that provides some clues about what to expect. Produced by the team behind the Long Beach Zombie Fest, the newcomer shares enough elements with its predecessor to suggest it might be the same event rebranded, but that is not the case. Long Beach Zombie Fest was a weekend long festival including stage entertainment, a museum of oddities, makeup tutorials, and other diversions, in addition to a haunted maze or two. Haunt of Halloween ports over many of those features, but now the maze has been bumped up to the star attraction, with the other elements acting as sideshows to the main event.

The result, situated in a retail space of Kaleidoscope mall in Mission Viejo, is presented as a full-blown night-time Halloween horror show for adults (though there is a kid-friendly version on weekend afternoons). Although smaller in scale (there is only so much that can fit into the available space), the event delivers a slew of delicious scares inside its maze, with the value-added extras acting as bloody icing on the cake.

Haunt of Halloween Review: Outpost 13 Haunted Maze & Scare Zone

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Upon entering the storefront, visitors are directed to the entrance of the maze, identified on the event’s website as Outpost 13. Sheet metal walls suggest a blighted industrial landscape haunted by a seeming multitude of strange creatures (we suspect fog and clever hiding places are mentally multiplying the numbers in the minds of frightened guests). The monsters wear masks, makeup, and/or contact lenses depending on how visible they are, but all of them are effectively menacing as they deliver jump-scares via drop panels and other methods. Later, as the maze segues into an “outdoor” section made of chain link fence and netting, some of the inhabitants will silently stalk their victims, providing a more shuddery form of fright.

As a bonus feature, Outpost 13 includes a “Scare Zone,” which invites visitors to deliver scares. After exiting the maze, guests can double back to a separate entrance, pulling open a canvas flap to enter a small section behind the chain link fence. On the other side is a point where the maze’s twisting pathway converges so that victims pass by twice. Guests in the Scare Zone can shake the fence, bang on metal barrels, and scream at those in the passing victims. No costume? No problem! There is netting on the fence which acts as camouflage so that victims will not see that you are in street clothes.


Haunt of Halloween Review: Photo Ops & Props

After the maze and the scare zone, audiences have their choice of other attractions, some of which will sound familiar to those who remember Long Beach Zombie Fest: stage shows, makeup tutorials, photo ops, a collection of movie props, and a museum of oddities (which charges a separate admission).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Except for a background flat rebranded from Zombie Fest (and enhanced with barrels of hazardous waste), the photo ops offer mechanical movement and sound, inviting guests to take not only photographic selfies but also TikTok-length videos. The most menacing figure is Michael Myers from Halloween, but our favorite was the ghostly twins from The Shining, standing before a bathroom door marked “Redrum” with a chunk missing so that visitors could recreate Jack Nicholson’s famous “Here’s Johnny!” moment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The “Up Close Horror” attraction consists of authentic horror movie props. Fans will easily recognize Leatherface,’s chainsaw, Hannibal Lecter’s mask, Jason Voorhees’ weapons, and Freddy Kruger’s hat and glove.

The live entertainment, presented on a small stage, varies nightly, ranging from magic to mad science to Monte Revolta (apparently taking a day off from this years Haunted Hayride). Performances start at half-hour intervals so audiences need not wait around too long after finishing Outpost 13.

On the night we attended, the headliner was Michael Jackson impersonator RemJ, who delivered a spot-on recreation of the celebrity performer’s signature dance moves, starting (of course) with “Thriller.” The performance was wildly energetic from start to finish, and we have to give credit to RemJ for going 100% despite thin crowds on a late Sunday evening early in the season.


Haunt of Halloween Review: Conclusion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Haunt of Halloween is an entertaining throwback to the kind of haunt seldom seen today -an independent popup that takes over a storefront in October. A couple decades, this kind of attraction would have consisted of cheap plywood walls painted with glow-in-the-dark skulls, but the Outpost 13 maze is far better than that, with cool sets that immerse visitors in a world where they are menaced by an enthusiastic ensemble of monsters.

The ScareZone is a fun add-on to the maze, providing a chance for audiences to turn the tables, becoming haunter rather than haunted.

After that we feel that Haunt of Halloween oversells itself, creating expectations that might be hard to meet. In addition to the maze and the scare zone, the official website bills five attractions: the Face Your Fears Sensory Attraction, Up Close Horror Pop Up, Souvenir Photo Op, the S.C.H.A.R. Reptile Exhibit, and live entertainment.

Face Your Fears consists of putting your hand inside a box containing god knows what – a bit like the old Halloween party game (or possibly like the scene in Dune when Paul is tested by the Bene Gesserit). Up Close Horror is a prop collection. The photo ops are…well, photo ops. And the reptile exhibit was forced to cancel at the last minute.¬†The highlight of Haunt of Halloween’s bonus features is the stage show – at least on the night we attended – but your enjoyment will depend on which act is performing the night you attend, so it’s best to check the event schedule.

Added up, the number of attractions makes Haunt of Halloween sound like a larger event than what fits inside its retail space, but what it actually delivers is still worth the $20 general admission price. Haunt-seekers in Mission Viejo and the surrounding areas of Orange County should enjoy it. Those contemplating a longer drive (say from Los Angeles) can take advantage of the Kaleidoscope Mall, which offers appealing dining and shopping opportunities.

Haunt of Halloween Rating
85%

Bottom Line

A solid maze plus bonus attractions make this a good bet for Halloween fun.

Haunt of Halloween continues at Kaleidoscope Mall Thursdays through Sundays, from September 30 to October 31. Hours for the full-scare version are 7-10pm Thursdays & Sundays; 6pm-midnignt Fridays & Saturdays. Kids version is 2-5pm Saturdays & Sundays.

The address is 27741 Crown Valley Parkway in Mission Viejo. The haunt is located on the Plaza Level (5) in Unit 225. Tickets are $12-$25. Visitors are given an opportunity to donate a pumpkin to the families of Marines, 1st Division at Camp Pendelton. For more information, visit hauntofhalloween.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.