Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights is the new contender in the heavyweight competition among multi-maze haunts. We enjoyed our first first visit back in 2017, but how does the Warner Brothers Halloween haunt hold up this year? To find out, read our Horror Made Here 2018 Review - if you dare!
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: Overview
Horror Made Here 2018 has been visibly altered and expanded from last year. The Halloween ambiance has been increased by using store fronts in the Warner Brothers town square to house functional business: in the Fangtasia bar, you can swill vampire-themed drinks; in the Lost Boys arcade, you can play retro-games while Echo & the Bunnymen's cover of "People Are Strange" plays on a loudspeaker; in the Little Shop of Horrors you can buy merchandise related to The Conjuring and IT while the voice of the late great horror star Vincent Price intones a creepy ghost story.
On Stage 48 (the behind-the-scenes section of the Warner Bros tour), the costumes from IT and The Conjuring have been replaced by outfits from Casablanca, but there are still numerous props and displays from such horror movies, fantasy films, and science fiction cinema as Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Blade Runner, and The Lord of the Rings.
The IT virtual reality experience is gone, and the Nightmare on Elm Street maze has been replaced by Arkham Asylum. Freddy Kruger still appears, along with Jason Voorhees, in the back lot's Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake scare zone. The returning mazes, The Conjuring and IT are longer and quite different. And The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening offers a highlight reel from the film, enhanced with in-theatre effects and interruptions by live actors - fun stuff for haunt-seekers looking for something other than another walk-through maze.
In short, there is enough holdover to please fans who enjoyed Horror Made Here last Halloween, but this year's incarnation is more than a retread.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: Tram Tour & A Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake
The actual tram ride has been diminished: no lunatics escaping the asylum, no zombies in the cemetery, no vampires in the woods. The spiel given by our driver as we wove through the facades and streets was notable for its fictitious nature, presenting plots synopsis from Warner Brothers' horror movies as actual studio history. The references to classic films (House of Wax, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) flew over the heads of other riders in the tram, but when the talk turned to meat pies in London (as in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), giggles finally erupted.
Eventually, the tram deposits you at the entrance to Camp Crystal Lake, located on the Warner Bothers' back lot. Bodies of brutalized victims act like signposts of doom. Frightened camp counselors flit through shadows, warning of dangers ahead, which materialize in the form of the masked madman Jason Voorhees and the burned child-killer Freddy Kruger. The two titans of terror alternately attack the counselors or threaten members of your group until you finally make your way to safety...
Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake benefits from its outdoor location with an actual lake (artificial, of course, but looking natural enough in the darkness). The foliage and cabins convincingly simulate a summer camp in the woods, and the actors get into their roles with enthusiasm, whether playing victims or villains.
What's lacking is truly intense scares and memorable special effects. You're not going to see Jason folding a victim in half or a snake-like Freddy swallowing a victim whole. In that regard, Horror Made Here 2018 still falls in the shadow of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: The Conjuring
Assessing The Conjuring walk-through is tricky. Our favorite attraction from last Halloween's Horror Made Here has been expanded with more rooms and actors, but we missed half the scares because too many people were being funneled through the narrow confines of the "house" representing the collection of professional exorcists Ed and Lorraine Warren.
After waiting in line outside, you squeeze into a front room where you wait some more; mannequins covered in sheets resemble ghosts, and bumps echo from the rafters. Then a guide squeezes you into another room and explains the tour will not proceed upstairs because all those bumping noises indicate heightened paranormal activity. After this extended setup we eventually get to the room where The Conjuring started last year: the collections room, where the dreaded Annabelle doll has escaped her glass display case, precipitating a panicked flight through the rest of the house, seeking escape.
There are more scares this year and one or two new effects, such as an empty bassinet whose shadow on the wall reveals a grasping ghostly baby's hand. The climax remains the same: the demon Bathsheba magically emerges from the wall where her portrait hangs, but there is an extra scare-actor in the room to add more shudders. We like the supernatural tone of this attraction (bumps in the night, doors opening by unseen hands), but it would have been much better with half as many people going through.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum is situated in the building that housed A Nightmare on Elm Street last Halloween. The new maze is longer, with much more happening and lots of familiar villains: The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harvey Dent. Since this is comic-book-inspired, the look is colorful, with ultraviolet lighting. The costumes and makeup are very impressive, especially Dent's Two-Faced visage, which the actor in his cell carefully hides at first, before snapping his head around for the big revelation.
We don't really find comic book mazes frightening, but the boisterous nature of Arkham Asylum provides a welcome change-of-pace from the demonic gloom of Horror Made Here 2018's other attractions.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: IT
Last year, the IT maze was a guided tour through the Neibolt House. This Halloween, the Neibolt facade is still visible, but the guide is gone, along with the descent into the sewer. Instead, the path takes you through more than a single house, weaving inside and outside, where you encounter creepy characters and situations not previously seen.
Some familiar set pieces remain (such as the trio of doors ranging from "Not Scary" to "Very Scary"), but the maze no longer works like a series of room where you enter and wait for some kind of mechanical or visual effect to trigger. The emphasis has shifted from animatronics toward live actors, with some brutal thug threatening the "Losers Club" (i.e., you), and Pennywise is now far more mobile.
The result sacrifices some of the old eerie ambiance in favor of adrenaline-triggering jump-scares - not really better or worse, just different.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: The Exorcist Forbidden Screening
Here's a novel idea for a Halloween attraction: splice together memorable clips from the greatest horror movie ever made, screen them inside a "church," and interrupt the onscreen terrors with live effects and actors. It's definitely not a traditional haunted house walk-through, but The Exorcist: Forbidden screening provides intense scares that dwarf those of the other attractions at Horror Made Here 2018.
Things get off to an amusing start, with a Mrs. Olsen relaying the history of the set in which the screening takes place, noting ironically that, although it has appeared as a church in other movies, it was emphatically not used in the filming of The Exorcist. However, giggles soon segue into screams when the film starts.
The montage deftly mixes subtle moments (rustling in the attic) with more famous shocks (the rotating head) without giving away all the best scenes. Meanwhile, untoward things are happening in the screening room: when a picture falls off a shelf in the film, something falls off the wall of the church; when the demonic force on-screen seems to shake the walls of the exorcism room, lamps above the audience rock back and forth, and the air conditioning is cranked to such freezing levels that it feels as if our breath will congeal in the air, just as we see happening in the movie. As if all that were not enough, the screening is eventually interrupted multiple times by the appearance the possessed Regan Teresa MacNeil - in the flesh, convulsing and contorting, raving and drooling - until finally the priests in attendance rush the frightened audience out of the church...
Among other reasons, The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening is remarkable because it can accommodate a large group of people without diminishing the experience for any individual viewer. The physical effects (which include vibrating seats) work for the entire audience, and the live actors appear left, right, and center, giving everyone a good look at what's happening. After trekking through a summer camp, an asylum, and a couple of haunted houses, it's nice to enjoy some scares while sitting.
Horror Made Here 2018 Review: Overview
If we may adjust the metaphor with which this review started, Warner Bros. Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights is a middle-weight contender among Los Angeles Halloween Haunts. Horror Made Here is bigger than rival multi-maze haunts (Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, HorrorWorld) but somewhat smaller than Queen Mary Dark Harbor. Once you have been through the mazes, there is not much to do: the only entertainment is a stage show featuring DJ music and two drag queens impersonating Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (no thanks!) There are no rides except for the Devil's Drop, which hoists victims a hundred feet straight up and plunges them back down. Food and beverage options at Central Perk and Crave Inn are adequate, but there is not enough variety. If you want to hang out, your best is to knock back vampire gimlets in Fangtasia.
The scare attractions are crafted with meticulous verisimilitude: you feel as if you are in a summer camp, an asylum, a haunted house, or a church - with none of the black plywood corridors that mar Halloween Horror Nights. However, the scares inside these settings tend to be mild. The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening ups the intensity, but we still found ourselves wanting a little bit more overall.
The important thing to remember is that Warner Bros. Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights is very much an expanded, night-time version of the studio tour, with a seasonal overlay. It's not a Halloween theme park aimed at teenagers whose knowledge of the horror genre extends no further than Stranger Things. Though it's certainly very much up to date, with attractions based on IT and The Conjuring, Horror Made Here 2018 is very appealing to fans of classic horror, who appreciate references to films from thirty, forty, or fifty years ago. Hopefully, it will continue to expand and intensify for years to come.
Warner Bros. Horror Made Here 2018 Ratings
The excellent settings and variety of Warner Bros Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights should appeal to fans of contemporary and classic horror films, though the scares may seem mild compared to other Los Angeles Halloween attractions.
Note: This year’s score for Horror Made Here includes ratings Food & Beverage and Stage Show, which were not included last year. Consequently, the overall average is slightly lower, even though the mazes are as good as or better than last year.
Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights runs October 5-6, 12-14, 18-21 and 25-28 at Warner Bros Studios. The address is 3400 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, 91505. General Admission ranges from $76-$86 depending on the date. Loser’s Club (fast pass, free parking, 2 complimentary beverages) is $169. Call 877-492-8687 for more information or visit wbstudiotour.com.