Reign of Terror, Thousand Oaks, CA
Hello hello, folks! Hope you had a spooktacular weekend full of fun Halloween festivities. We're back with another week of haunted attraction reviews, concentrating on independent haunts all across Southern California. Today, we tackle Reign of Terror, a now-long-running haunted attraction out in Thousand Oaks that annually astounds guests with its depth of theming, expansive layout, and immersive environments.
Tucked away near the Gold's Gym in the back corner of the Janss Marketplace, just north of the 101 freeway in Ventura County, Reign of Terror has been scaring the daylights and nightlights out of guests for over a decade and a half (although a good portion of that was as a home haunt). Taking advantage of having a year-round location where they can leave maze sets standing, this elaborate haunted house has expanded and improved their rooms and layout year after year, and for the 2016 haunting season, Reign of Terror boasts 95 rooms and 21,000 square feet of haunted attraction space. It literally takes 15-20 minutes to walk through each grisly, eerie, startling square foot.
Although the location of Reign of Terror may be far, the detail and beauty of theming is definitely worth the drive. Reign of Terror is astoundingly spectacular, and each of its numerous rooms is packed with detail and props and animatronics and lighting that literally rivals the best of the best--I'm talking Halloween Horror Nights quality here. In fact, guests who attend both events may even spot a few common props. The level of work and investment that owner Bruce Stanton and his crew have buried into this attraction is honestly amazing and deserves a very big kudos.
Guests who arrive will often find a long line winding outside the complex onto the outdoor shopping promenade. There is a front of line option available for purchase for those less patient and with slightly thicker wallets. Once inside, guests ascend a plain emergency back stairwell to the second floor and enter the actual Reign of Terror space, and there, the experience truly begins.
The photos in this update are all from the queue, because photography of any sort is not permitted inside the actual maze. But they give an impression of what haunt enthusiasts can expect with Reign of Terror. A rolling, spooky soundtrack is punctuated by moments of thunder and lightning, and a sprawling yard of ghouls, skeletons, and graves dots the interior landscape. Inside this line, guests are no longer in scenic, suburban Thousand Oaks. They've stepped into a dark and twisted realm of demons and zombies and skeletons and other nasties, surrounded by an ammalgamation of common horror scenes, often in dynamic motion.
The actual maze doesn't really have a singular storyline. Instead, it ranges through a series of themes (which makes sense, given how long it is). Guests start off descending into a dark, mysterious mine shaft, but before they leave, they will have gone through a mysterious swamp, an old, stately vampire manor, a hillbilly hell shack, an asylum, a sinister laboratory, a zombie infection zone, and other traditional haunted house settings. But it is all decorated and set exceptionally well.
With a maze this long, the obvious concern is how actual scares come about and how actors are utilized within the maze. The longer a maze, the more monsters are needed, since even the most beautiful maze isn't really that exciting without dynamic scares. Fortunately, Reign of Terror this year appears up for the task, with many rooms adequately staffed with talent (and multiple people in some), all well committed to character. Although there are definitely rooms that are lifeless, some of them are compensated through the use of animatronic scares, which break up the pace and also help create tension when guests encounter actual actors who may be pretending to be prop characters. And yes, there are also rooms that are plain empty, but there is more than enough eye candy to distract from the lack of actor there. Overall, though, the cast that is a part of this Halloween season is top notch, providing plenty of well timed startle scares and creepy interactions. And as the themes ebb and flow, so too do some of the characters, ranging from moody and unnerving to intense and in-your-face.
Ultimately, Reign of Terror is an absolutely premiere independent haunt that should be on every haunted enthusiast's list. It is spectacular, rich, and definitely packed with frights, and the entire crew has done a great job this Halloween. Lines do get long, though, so get there early, or bring your patience, or opt for the front-of-line pass. Whichever option you choose, the maze is well worth the cost of admission!
For those concerned about the drive, I would suggest combining this into a trip with other nearby haunted attractions in the general area. The next two weeks will bring the opening of several popular small haunts and elaborate yard displays in nearby Ventura, Woodland Hills, and Sherman Oaks (Dead Zone 805, Boney Island, and House on Haunted Hill) and home haunts somewhat nearby in Burbank (The Backwoods, Rotten Apple 907). And there are haunted productions such as Fallen Saints and Zombie Joe's in Burbank that can be partnered into a spooky night tour.
For more information, directions, and online ticket purchasing, check out Reign of Terror online.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.