After beginning our 2009 Halloween Haunt Odyssey – an annual night-time tour of amatuer haunted houses – with a visit to the Forest of Mirrors in Woodland Hills, we moved on to the Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks. This attraction is a bit of an anomaly in the Haunt Odyssey, which focuses on amateur Halloween events open only on October 31. We made the exception because we enjoyed the haunt so much last year, and it was a relatively short freeway drive from our first stop.
Located in the Janss Marketplace at 215 North Moorpark Road (which housed the disappointing Thousand Oaks Haunt back in 2005), Reign of Terror is a great example of a successful transition from home haunt to professional haunt. Having outgrown its owner’s house in 2007, it moved into the local community center in 2008 before taking up residence in the market place this year, where hopefully it will remain for years to come.
In the manner of the now-defunct Spooky House, Reign of Terror benefits from a convincing facade suggesting that you are walking into a dilapidated dwelling. This perfectly sets the tone for what follows: although there are shocks and a few gruesome tableau, the overall effect is of being inside a haunted house. With so many Halloween events in Los Angeles based on themes of slaughterhouses, asylums, killer klownz, and alien abductions, it is nice to find a traditional approach truly in the spirit of the season.
Many of the old effects are back from 2008 (Reign of Terror employs several mechanical mannequins for pop-up scares), but the haunt also takes advantage of its new, larger location, expanding in length and adding several more rooms. Too many haunts evince the law of diminishing returns when they expand, offering more space but not necessarily more scares, thus diluting the experience; fortunately, that is not the case here. When we first encountered Reign of Terror last year, we confidently predicted that it was capable of compeating head-on with the big boys in the professional haunt leagues; it may sound self-serving, but having visited its new location, we can confidently say that our prediction has been fulfilled.
Reign of Terror Preview Article – August 15, 2009
For archive purposes, we include the text of a brief preview article which originally ran before we posted this review.
The Reign of Terror Haunted House in Thousand Oaks was one of our most pleasing discoveries of Halloween 2008, so we are pleased to note that it will be back this year – bigger and better than ever. Formerly a yard haunt, Reign of Terror expanded into the Conejo Recreation Center last year, and it was such a thrill that in our 2008 Halloween Haunt Awards we picked it as the best “Community Haunt” – a category reserved for attractions that fall somewhere in between amateur haunts and professional haunted houses.
For its 10th anniversary, the Reign of Terror takes another step toward the big time, moving into the Janns Marketplace at 215 North Morpark Road (where the Thousand Oaks Haunt was located in 2005) and promising a “much larger and more complex” attraction than ever before. Proceeds will still go to benefit the Conejo Recreation and Parks District Youth Charities, so technically this is not a for-profit event, but we have upgraded their listing on our website to Professional Haunt simply because it is of professional quality.
Unlike many haunts, which mimic asylums or slaughterhouses, Reign of Terror does an a fine job of simulating a walk through an old-fashioned haunted house, and it makes excellent use of mechanical figures and effects. Best of all, despite its length, the 2008 incarnation was dense with scares around almost every corner. If the proprietors can make it even better for 2009, then it is definitely a must-see for Halloween fans in around Los Angeles.
Dates for 2009 are October 22-24 and 29-31. Hours are 7-11pm. Ticket prices have not been announced yet.