The Scream Zone is the kind of Halloween haunt we don't see in Los Angeles anymore: a popup, multi-maze attraction in the parking lot of a fair. Located on the Del Mar "Scaregrounds" in San Diego County, The Scream Zone offers a trio of terrifying treats: The Haunted Hayride, The House of Horror, and The Chamber.
This is a small indie operation, so you're not going to get the most impressive production values - or are you? Scream Zone is not a multi-million dollar operation, but they make good use of their resources, so you may be surprised at what you encounter within its haunted domain.
Scream Zone 2019 Review: The Chamber
The Chamber comes closest to what you would expect from a popup haunt. It's basic construction of the fun house variety, not a convincing environment. Fortunately, its interior is haunted by some demented variations on the characters from The Wizard of Oz, and there is a genuine maze-like element near the end, with dead ends and movable walls. Think of this walk-through as a value-added item, like a B-side on a hit single.
Scream Zone 2019 Review: The Haunted Hayride
If the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride is U2, then Scream Zone's Haunted Hayride is Nirvana - the grunge alternative. It doesn't have the money that comes with major-label representation, but it has its own street cred.
Instead of navigating through a wooded area, this Haunted Hayride threads a path back and forth between a long series of stables. It's a bit like zig-zagging among neighborhood streets, but in this case, each street is a completely different neighborhood with its own theme and crazy characters, so it's a bit like travelling through several haunts, without a lot of downtime in between.
The stables are shadowy, with lots of hiding places, but there is also lighting and decor to set the scene - everything from a slasher kind of area to something more along the lines of Mad Max: Fury Road. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and the Haunted Hayride is very spicy indeed. But can you handle the heat?
Scream Zone 2019 Review: The House of Horror
The House of Horror is Scream Zone's promised land: it has the best environments and the best scares. The narrow corridors frequently open up into larger rooms, including a medieval plague scene, some kind of prison-dungeon, a modern zombie-containment breech, a colorful Dia De Los Muertos section, and for the creepy climax the Neibolt House form Stephen King's IT.
Any of these would be good enough to erase any lingering impression of a low-budget popup haunt, but the IT section is wisely saved for last, providing some climactic final terrors with a combination of live actors and animatronics, which are sometimes difficult to tell apart in the dark - except we're pretty sure the eight-foot-tall Pennywise towering over us wasn't human.
Scream Zone 2019 Review: Conclusion
The Scream Zone does not operate on the level of something like a major theme park or the L.A. Haunted Hayride, but the people involved are clearly putting major effort into maximizing the scream factor. Their cast is large and enthusiastic, creating an enjoyable scare experience throughout the event, and the House of Horror stands among the best mazes we have visited this season.
Screamzone 2019 Ratings
The Scream Zone relies on enthusiasm and energy to wring every possible scream from their available resources. The results vary slightly among their three attractions, but the cumulative impact adds up to a solid evening’s entertainment.
Scream Zone is open through November 2 at the Del Mar “Scaregrounds.” The address is 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Del Mar, California 92014. For more information call the fairgrounds at (858) 755-1161 or visit the Scream Zone website here.