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Review: Temecula Terror’s high-concentrate Halloween horror

Temecula Terror is our ideal of what a popup multi-haunt should be: It offers the convenience and cost of a smaller event coupled with the personal touch of an indie attraction; and it provides enough entertainment – three mazes plus peripherals – for a full evening’s entertainment.

Once upon a time, multi-haunt attractions like proliferated in Los Angeles: Spooky House, FrightFair, Haunts USA, etc. Now only the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride remains. That alone makes Temecula Terror worthy of attention; its high quality makes it worth the long drive to Riverside County.


Temecula Terror Review: Arrival

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Located near Galway Downs equestrian center in Temecula’s wine country, Temecula Terror gets the benefit of its rural surroundings. It feels like the middle of nowhere, and at night, separated from city lights, it seems like the sort of setting where a bunch of teens in an exploitation horror movie might break down and encounter who knows what.

Your GPS will take you to the official address, which is a bit short of where the actual parking lot is, but helpful attendants will point you in the right direction down a gravelly road. After parking, it’s not exactly a short walk but by no means unreasonable to get to the ticket booth (unlike the LA Haunted Hayride, you won’t be exhausted before you reach the haunt).

A groovy tunnel of green pulsing light leads from the outside world to the domain of Temecula Terror, which is fronted by an entrance with a giant, grinning devil’s mouth. Inside, there is something like a circular midway housing the mazes, a bar, some photo ops, and several free-range ghouls.

It’s like one-stop shopping for Halloween horror – a scare zone surrounded by three mazes, packed tightly together. With a VIP ticket, you can get to everything quickly and easily without feeling as if you’ve gone on an exhausting hike through the wilderness. Your biggest problem will be figuring out which maze to visit first while the roaming monsters rudely interrupt your logistical planning.

Temecula Terror Review: Mazes

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Small is a relative term. Temecula Terror may seem small compared to Halloween theme parks, but the combined square footage of its three mazes is quite impressive. Even better, that space is packed tight with cool sets, creepy props, and plenty of actors. Also, the themes make each maze a clearly different experience.

Hyde Street Haunt is that rare “haunted house” attraction that truly resembles a haunted house. The strategy here, however, is using store-bought decorations (glowing Jack O’ Lanterns, giant candy corn) to suggest a house that has been made up for a Halloween party – it looks so colorful that it must be fun, not scary! Needless to say, this is just a setup to lull guests into dropping their guard before unleashing more fearsome Halloween horrors upon them. We love traditionally themed haunts, and this one uses it clever twist to good effect.

The Crypt is, obviously, a crypt, but it offers more than just dusty skeletons lying on tombs. After an initial section that’s basically white walls and strobe lights, it has the deepest laser-fog “lake” we have ever encountered, and the settings begin to suggest something more ancient than a family vault, with a large, mechanical spider that would not seem out of place in a jungle temple. The sets are not as impressive in this one – it has more of a dark, funhouse feel – but the lighting sells the mood, and the monsters make the most of it.

Butterfield Asylum is another maze whose theme is explained in its title. Outside, the cheerful Dr. Butterfield welcomes you to his establishment and assures you of your safety in a way that is not very reassuring. Inside, the inmates are clearly running the asylum, and the therapeutic methods are far from sound (one great visual joke features an electric chair presumably used to administer “shock” therapy). Like Hyde Street, Butterfield Asylum strives to portray a convincing location so that you feel trapped inside a shabby asylum haunted by demented characters.

Temecula Terror Review: VIP Bar & More

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After Temecula Terror’s mazes, guests can catch their breath and restore their spirits inside the VIP Bar, which actually houses two bars. The one just inside the entrance asks customers to “name their poison” – that is, they serve straight shots. In the back is a Spookeasy offering themed cocktails such as Corpse Reviver, Black Apple Cider, and a Night in the Woods. We sampled the Muertos Mule and the Dragon’s Breath Mojito (misspelled “breathe” on the menu), both of which were excellent.

A few nice set pieces and decorations (brick fireplace, skulls, candelabra, glowing lanterns) turn the VIP Bar into a cool haunted hangout, but the only customers seated inside are decorative skeletons lounging around or playing a card game; seating for humans is outside.

Outside the entrance to the maze area, there are vendors offering food, merchandise, and activities. There is a kiddie ride or two, and a small stage offers live entertainment. Guests can have ghoulish makeup applied. Food options range from cotton candy, kettle corn, and lemonade to more substantial fare (the nachos and Tacos Before Vatos are great!)

Add it all up, and there is more than enough to keep you hanging around after you have survived the scares in the mazes.

Temecula Terror Review: Conclusion

Temecula Terror avoids the problems we encountered in some past multi-haunt attractions, which sometimes tried to save money by dividing a small cast between two or three mazes and occasionally blurred the theming so that it was difficult to tell one from the other. Each of Temecula Terror’s mazes offers a different experience with its own settings and characters; it never feels as if one maze has been stretched into two or three.

The compact nature of Temecula Terror condenses its elements into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. It packs a lot into a small geographical footprint, and there is something refreshing about being able to walk out the exit of one maze and almost directly into the entrance of the next (assuming short lines or a VIP fast pass). Thus, guests can enjoy the attractions without the enervating downtime in between. It’s a bit like imbibing a high-concentrate form of Halloween horror – all the scares and none of the empty calories!

Temecula Terror Ratings
  • 95%
    Hyde Street Haunt - 95%
  • 85%
    The Crypt - 85%
  • 90%
    Butterfield Asylum - 90%
  • 100%
    VIP Bar & Amenities - 100%

Bottom Line

Temecula Terror offers a high-concentrate form of Halloween horror, packing three mazes into a small area and filling them with distinctive themes, settings, and characters.

Temecula Terror continues on select nights throughout October at Galway Downs. The address is 38801 Los Corralitos Road, Temecula, CA 92592. Tickets start at $20 USD for adults (12 and up). For more information, visit temeculaterror.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.