Welcome witches and warlocks,
I had the great pleasure of attending Field of Screams: The Haunted Stadium as presented by Sinister Valley and figured I would offer up some thoughts for my fellow haunt enthusiasts. For the uninitiated, here is a brief description of the event from their website:
Field of Screams The Haunted Stadium is back and better than ever in 2019. This year, Sinister Valley returns to Inland Empire’s #1 haunted attraction bringing new terrors to its attendees! Featuring 3 BRAND NEW MAZES including our BIGGEST MAZE EVER at nearly 10,000 sq ft. The event will feature our signature creepy characters (some new and some returning favorites) to completely immerse you in a way only Sinister Valley knows how! See you soon… IF you dare!
Upon entering the Haunted Stadium this year, we come across a scene referencing last year’s event. In fact, we pick up right where we ended, in the woods where we were hunting a werewolf. Well on this trek through the forest, the wolf is dead and we come across a map, directing us to either walk to a hotel on the outskirts of town, or to make a longer journey towards an ancient temple.
To start things off, we decided to stick to the familiar township and headed towards the Dead Rose Hotel.
One quick note for my fellow haunt enthusiasts who might be more familiar with the major market haunts: Sinister Valley makes a point of pulsing its lines. For those unfamiliar with the term, that means only small parties (usually capped around three) can go through together. This gives guests a more personalized experience and, honestly, makes some of the scenes quite unnerving. Okay, with that out of the way, let us move on.
DEAD ROSE HOTEL
Synopsis: This decaying building was once the scene of a grisly murder. Killed by her husband in her sleep, a woman’s tortured spirit now stalks the hallways of this once lavish hotel terrifying all who visit. (Haunted Stadium)
Thoughts: Greeting us at the entrance of the Dead Rose Hotel was a priest who brought us through the first few rooms while relaying a bit of the backstory. It seems some foul murders had occurred in the past at the establishment, but they were reopened now and the priest was still attempting to exorcise the demons from the place. He wished us blessings, warned the demons to leave us alone, and he sent us on our way to find our room.
This is not going to descend into a walkthrough, instead let me talk a bit about the hotel itself. The design was especially memorable because they managed to create a hotel corridor that stretched from one end of the house to another that we could see right from the first room. Various objects would block our path down said corridor, forcing us into chambers where we saw the remains of some of the previous residents. Instead of gory tableaus, we are treated to eerie skeletons, seemingly at peace before they departed this mortal plane. The details were absolutely exquisite and the whole thing felt close to falling apart on us before we could escape.
Adding to that sense of dread was the sound design that accompanied us along our journey. The audio was made up of long bouts of silence followed by the sound of creaking wood. It was unnerving and ratcheted up the tension as we forged our path through these seemingly empty hallways.
The cast was absolutely excellent throughout. We had two walkthroughs of the house and had different scares each time. What made this even more impressive was the fact that it was the same people working the haunt all night. They had multiple methods of achieving fright that ranged from the more obvious jump scare to the creepier silent following. The switching up or scare methods gave a lot of repeatability to the house not found in some of the more major market haunts.
Synopsis: Forfeit your sight and make your way through the treacherous path to the mystical jungle. Will you make it through? Are YOU worthy for what lies ahead? (Haunted Stadium)
Thoughts: After braving the hotel, we decided to double back on our journey to try our hand at Senseless. According to the map, this was a special cave system that would serve as our pathway to the temple. The facade itself was pretty much unthemed and, to be honest, the inside was pretty much the same.
In fact, I should probably take a moment here to just straight up say that this was a blackout maze. I will be honest, I am not a fan of these types of mazes, but I understand that some people find them enjoyable. Given the level of detail found in Dead Rose Hotel, this one sticks out like a sore thumb as it is all black walls and intermittent (not strobe) lighting along the path.
There is a small cast in here (I recall two, but there could have been more) and they do the best with what they have to work with. At the very least, they seemed to understand how to use the lighting to their advantage by appearing and vanishing without much notice. One actor appeared out of nowhere and uttered, “Thirty seconds,” before disappearing back into the darkness. Not long after, he reappeared further down the path for a scare. It was certainly not a groundbreaking experience, but the cast elevated it a bit.
One other area where Senseless gets things right is the audio cues which manage to be eerie, echoing, and add a lot of ambiance to the experience. While the sets might not have resembled a cave even slightly, the sound design achieved the feeling with ease. If not for the map and audio, it would have been impossible to pinpoint any narrative significance to this house.
SECRETS IN THE MIST
Synopsis: Explore an ancient temple shrouded in mystery. Said to hold the secrets of the underworld, all who enter the mist are lost, never to be seen again. Will you survive the journey and discover the Secrets In The Mist? (Haunted Stadium)
Thoughts: Upon exiting Senseless we are met with the grand facade for Secrets in the Mist. This is the house they advertised as the largest they have ever built and the exterior certainly promises big things inside. Add to the fact that occasionally we hear some thrumming audio portending a large scene and I have to admit, I was in great anticipation of what was to come.
Secrets in the Mist had some of the largest scenes at this year’s event and included three of my favorite things from years past. While it had some nice nods to the past, it also was very different, at least thematically, to what came before as it clearly moves us beyond the Old West town of Sinister Valley. It is not a perfect house, as I will get into below, but it certainly shows a lot of promise for what is to come.
There is an area where the final entry in this year’s trio of houses does fall a bit flat: theming. For the most part, we get lush, very jungle inspired sets, but every so often there is a hallway that seems to rely upon just being a dark walkway with plain walls. These moments stand in stark contrast to the grander scenes we encounter and were this a bigger haunt (and not one built in three weeks by two very committed guys), I would be annoyed. As is, I understand the necessity, but feel it should be mentioned.
That being said, those large rooms and scenes are packed to the gills with effects and theming. Whether it be everyone’s favorite recurring goblin animatronic or a simulated collapsing temple, when they go big they make it work. Even writing this review a day later, I am still picturing a few scenes very vividly, just because they were that memorable.
Another massive plus were the actors in this house. I honestly am not sure how many they had, but it seems like the same creatures kept on popping up in scenes that seemed to be nowhere near one another. There was a real sense in this house (in fact in the event as a whole) of the cast actually stalking us through the houses. This was not something just felt by my party, but also by other guests as I heard someone remark, “That monkey would not leave me alone,” upon exiting Secrets in the Mist.
Apart from the house actors, there are also sliders and various other cast members roaming the esplanade, out for a scare. Each of them stayed in character while interacting and added a lot of ambiance to the experience whether it be scaring someone just trying to enjoy an ice cream, or playing with a guest waiting in line. They also were killer at working together as we saw four sliders work together to scare a group of teenagers.
All in all, Field of Screams: The Haunted Stadium has benefited greatly ever since Sinister Valley set up shop. There has been a real uptick in the quality of the houses, the narrative, and the actors populating the event. The two years I have spent exploring this fictional town (and now its outskirts) have been memorable and I am eagerly anticipating what else they have in store. Fans of major market haunts like Knott’s Scary Farm, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, or Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights should definitely be checking out this event as it offers a similar, more intimate experience. For more information on Field of Screams: The Haunted Stadium, click here.