The Haunted Stadium, Lake Elsinore, CA
Happy #ShriekySunday, folks! We're back with another catch-up haunted attraction review from the season--this time over from the Inland Empire. Field of Screams, aka the Haunted Stadium, bills itself as the Inland Empire's #1 Halloween attraction. Located inside the baseball stadium of the minor league Lake Elsinore Storm, offering four mazes and a new upcharge zombie laser tag this year (which we did not try) for guests. We took a visit a couple Mondays ago, during their Haunters Night, to see what this new-for-us haunt had to offer!
The site is located just south off the I-15, on Diamond Drive. There's plenty of parking for the venue, since it normally accommodates minor league baseball games, and the ticket booth and entry are right front and center when guests arrive. On our visit, we were greeted by a few monsters and sliders working the relatively sparse crowd. With not much with which to interact, they tried their best stay entertaining.
After navigating a very slight mini-maze gauntlet to enter, inside, we found the laser tag on our left and the mazes laid out in a row--one after the other--to our right. With no map or direction finding, we simply assumed the way to get around, and fortunately, the Haunted Stadium is intimate enough to make that relatively easy. Access to the bleachers and actual field is fenced off, so there aren't many choices with where to go. So as we walked along, we decided that we would just take the mazes in the order we encountered them.
High Lake seemed to feature a bit of an asylum or medical terror theme. As Field of Screams advertised:
"Built on the grounds of pure evil, this abandoned warehouse has been reopened for use of a different kind. What was to host a group of special individuals has gone horribly wrong. Bodies and minds have been taken over by otherworldly being turning these residents in to raged maniacs."
The story wasn't really that evident as we progressed, though. The young talent was pretty enthusiastic, to be sure, and they put enthusiasm and acting energy into their startle scares. But aside from a bit of decoration in the beginning of the maze, the theming left a lot to be desired. There were many blank walls and dim spaces, and the visuals weren't really existent. In fact, perhaps the most exciting part of this maze came in the "haunted restroom" portion of the layout, where disturbed patients seemed to have bad intentions in mind. But even here, the scene was flooded by slow, pulsating strobes, and I had to feel bad for the actors who had to be subject to these conditions all night.
Devour had a bit of a Hansel and Gretel vibe to it. With a witch, gingerbread man and sweets, and monsters with a taste for human flesh, there was a nice setup for a traditional haunted maze. Unfortunately, here, much like in High Lake, there was very little theming, and mostly blank walls with things plastered onto them here and there. Although a few animatronic characters provided some extra startle moments, overall, the level of theming felt relatively amateur. And that's not just comparing against the big league haunts like Knott's or Universal or even Six Flags or Dark Harbor. That's comparing it against the more prominent home haunts and even the less sophisticated independent haunts.
Fortunately, much like in High Lake, the talent at least tried to maintain a sense of character and scares. The interaction between guest and monster was often entertaining, sometimes seeing several scare actors gang up on us. These folks provided a spark to an otherwise listless maze.
Besides green laser things, the other "new hotness" of this haunt season seemed to be blackout flashlight mazes. Knott's executed this pretty exquisitely with Trick or Treat: Lights Out. Magic Mountain's Fright Fest had a different take with their Dead End maze. And Field of Screams offered their version with Witch Way, a maze with legitimate dead ends and a lot of dark spaces--but zero monsters and really no actual theming.
The point was apparently to unnerve guests through loss of sight, but the maze was literally it. There is only one photo--from the outside--because any photo taken inside would be pitch black, and any photo taken with flash inside would have shown blank walls. The flashlights provided also seemed to have some technical issues, with no apparent rhyme or reason to when they illuminated or went dark.
Fortunately, our night did end on a more positive note with the best maze of the event: The Damned. It's a pirate maze with some strong Pirates of the Caribbean influences--though no one at the maze would admit this, of course.
Here too, the talent was exceptionally solid. The gentleman in line control, exuding a bit of a Captain Jack Sparrow aura, was entertaining with his pre-planned corny terrible jokes and his moments of improv. The scare actors inside also hit their marks relatively well, conveying the concept of a doomed ship, although I would have liked to have seen a few more in the maze itself.
Compared to the other three mazes, The Damned had a practically Disney quality to it. There were several scenes with actual density and layers in theming, and even though the maze was uncovered and outdoors, it felt the most atmospheric. Of the four mazes, The Damned offered the most to be proud of.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when visiting Field of Screams, although I knew that there wouldn't be anything remotely close to approaching the quality of the "Big Four" haunts around Southern California. The talent certainly was very commendable, although the youth of pretty much everyone felt a little awkward. In most cases, I felt like I was interacting with kids literally twice my age. But kudos to them for their characters and enthusiasm and energy. Still, I felt a little underwhelmed after our visit, primarily from the lack of theming and atmosphere and actual storytelling from the mazes. There was nothing that seemed impressive or thoughtful. Instead, Field of Screams came off a bit like a haunted carnival just offering a Halloween attraction because that's the thing to do, not because of in-depth passion for the season. It's impressive that the venue puts out new mazes each year, but I would have liked to have seen a little more heart placed into the actual designs.
Field of Screams traditionally runs most of the month of October. I would expect that trend to be the same next year, but hopefully, they can improve the visual quality of the mazes to match the input from the talent.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.