Haunt Review: HORRORWORLD (2018)

Deep in the middle of the Puente Hills Mall, taking up multiple spaces on the second floor, HorrorWorld has surfaced for 2018. Combining three different haunted mazes with multiple vendors and a virtual reality experience, HorrorWorld hopes to create a Halloween destination.

Having not had the chance to see one of this year’s mazes, “Into the Black”, during its run at a different location last year, I leaped at the chance to visit the new and expanded event.

To begin with, I found it very different to experience a Halloween event inside a mall. This is not the only time I’ve ever run across this (there was a maze in O.C. for a few years at a mall near Disneyland) but it does create somewhat of a minor disconnect. Twenty feet earlier you’re at a food court and now you’re trying to get scared as you walk up to a storefront. It’s not an insurmountable problem but it is a little jarring.

Once inside the first (of three) spaces, I examined the various vendors selling Halloween items of multiple kinds. Some great vendors could be found here—I especially adored the Mexican version of Audrey Two wearing a sombrero and sprouting from an appropriate can filled with dirt. The invasion continues!

Next we headed to the virtual experience known as VKult (with a cross for the ‘t’). First I am told that I am going to be experiencing some rituals first-hand. Then I get strapped to a dolly, my arms tied and a strap across my chest. The VR goggles and headphones are placed on my head. And the experience begins…

… only for it to not work for me at all. Although I appreciate the idea of a VR experience where people are occasionally touching you or spritzing you with water or some such to help create moments, that only really works if those touches and additional elements are timed to the VR. That was not the case here; the extra elements seemed completely random. Moreover, the VR was only 180 degrees and that somehow managed to be only the left side of how I was strapped. So for me to see what I was supposed to see, I had to turn my head to the left for the entirety of the experience. That made the entire experience hard to handle. Finally, the VR story itself bounced to multiple scenes including moments where it seemed I was only watching a movie, not actually part of the story. Such breaks in reality made it feel more like an example of what VR could be instead of actually being a VR experience. It was disappointing to say the least.

Next up, the haunted mazes that are the core attraction at HorrorWorld.

The Psycho Sanitarium

Description: Take a first-hand look into the lives and deaths of The Psycho Sanitarium’s abused and neglected patients.

Thoughts: Interestingly, the fact that the mazes are in mall storefront spaces actually helped create the tone and feeling of this maze. The neon lights of the store were left on, making it one of the few “bright” mazes I’ve ever run across. It was completely appropriate, too, because we were walking through an asylum full of crazy characters, so that neon feel and color tone was actually spot-on.

This maze had everything you typically imagine for an asylum maze, including deranged patients, fake ‘doctors’, terrible examination rooms and the like. But it also had some very clever moments, such as the ‘nurse’ at the entry of the maze whose choice commentary about patient intake was delightful—and if “her” (it was a man) announcement that I needed to stop gazing at her chest was even more so.

I would never have expected a brightly lit maze to work and I commend the creators here for pulling that off so well.

The Fleshyard

Description: After Abraham and Sarah Kearny are found brutally murdered in their home with their 5 children, their once successful livestock farm is burned to the ground to erase the memories of its former inhabitants.

The spirits of the violently butchered family cannot rest. They will continue to haunt their land while they seek vengeance for their untimely demise.

Thoughts: I’m not certain that the actual maze matches the original description listed on the website but I did find this maze to be my favorite one at this haunt. I am a big fan of mazes that take some time setting things up when you enter them and this one had a beautiful opening scene that was both creepy and really sad at the same time. You couldn’t ask for a nicer start to the horror yet to come.

Once we stepped into the house proper, we were treated with family members galore, several of them being slaughtered, many of them coming back and all of them angry about everything around them. The monsters were quite good (for the most part) at finding excellent places to both scare and trap us as we moved through their home and I know I legit jumped at least four times.

The decoration of this maze was also quite extensive and appropriate, just dark enough to keep me creeped out by what I could see within the remaining light. That’s a skill that not every haunt manages to get right.

I think the only thing that confused me was at the end of the maze. Suddenly we were treated to something that seemed completely unconnected to the rest of the story and I was not quite sure what to expect next or why we were seeing this. There was also a final exit that wasn’t as clear to me as I think the creators might want it to be.

Overall, however, such a nicely put together maze.

Into the Black

Description: The Legend says that the Black House was built in 1866 by a family deeply involved in Human Sacrifice, Devil Worship and Demonic Possession. For years, the infamous house had been lost to legend. Recently discovered, the Black House and the evil that lurks within have survived for over 150 years.

Thoughts: This is the centerpiece of this haunted attraction and is a remounted version of a maze that got a lot of attention last year (and which has a fun 30 minute prologue video that you can find on YouTube.) This year’s version is apparently a little smaller (and “refocused”) than last year, although that’s not something I can attest to personally as, again, I didn’t get the opportunity to see it last year.

The great strength of this maze lies in its details and set design. There are some absolutely beautiful locations within this maze designed to be your chance to walk through the Black House. Some of these locations are so detailed I can easily see full movies being made with these spaces as the sets. I really, really enjoyed actually walking through the space.

Unfortunately, that walking was also more common in this maze than I would have expected. Perhaps it’s simply because this was a press event and they don’t yet have all of their scare actors in place; perhaps they need to hire a few more. Regardless, I found that there was a lot of time when I was simply walking through the maze without anyone scaring me at all. And given that this is a maze where you must walk through alone, when there were no monsters…there was just me, walking through hallways and rooms.

When there were monsters, however, they were sometimes fantastic. There was a door at one point where I was certain something could not, in any way, come through it. Then just as I decided it was safe, a monster came through anyway, giving me the single biggest scare of the evening. There were also a few creatures that lingered at the periphery of my vision, trailing me through more than one space, following me just long enough for me to forget about them before giving me one final scare.

Ultimately, this was one of the best ‘haunted house’ mazes I’ve seen in a long time. I simply wanted it to be more haunt and less house.

Final Thoughts: It’s very hard to craft a great haunted house in the era of extreme events and immersive theater. So it’s nice to see a classic event that simply wants to put on some good old-fashioned haunted mazes.

In that way, HorrorWorld is exactly what it claims to be—a fun haunted attraction. And for most families, I think this would be a good event to attend. None of the haunts were too scary but they also weren’t too timid or simple. They were nicely designed scenarios that one can enjoy.

For those who truly want to be scared, HorrorWorld might prove too tame. I think even some of the bigger haunts like Knott’s or Universal can be scarier. But there’s some good stuff here that you might want to check out. I certainly enjoyed my experience through this world that has overtaken Puente Hills.


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