Business Expo Center, Anaheim, CA
Our tour of Southern California's independent haunts continues with a trip over to Anaheim, in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort, where we check into Motel 6 Feet Under to see how this fun, charming, throwback-style haunted house has in its bag of tricks for its sophomore year as a standalone and self-named haunted attraction.
Although the producers of Motel 6 Feet Under have created a haunted house attraction over the past seven years--most of them in conjunction with the city of Anaheim's annual Halloween festival--last year's iteration was the first year that Carolyn Carpenter and her family and team staked out the attraction as a stand-alone, independent haunt. And 2015 saw Motel 6 Feet Under break out as a surprise fan favorite, in large part because it's old-fashioned haunted house vibe, disorienting and dynamic layout, and good ol' carnival-style scary fun proved to be an addictive and relatively family-friendly offering that stood out among the sea of ever-intensifying haunted attractions in and around Southern California.
Much like movies, music albums, and children, it's rather challenging to come up with a successful second year maze after a popular and very well received first. However, Motel 6 Feet Under has risen to the challenge with another fun and fantastic maze that carries the same whimsy and frightful fun that marked last year's maze, but with some technical and operational improvements and a few new tricks to boot!
This year introduces guests to a new character, Mable, who has taken over the motel and wants the guests to be her residents forever and ever. Quite the prankster, Mable manipulates the motel into an ever-changing network of rooms and corridors, sending guests going back and forth and altering the paths to ensure that they are never able to check out. Perhaps all she wants to do is play, but an encounter with her is one that check-in's may not survive!
The result is a new layout different from last year, with some elements that visitors in 2015 may recognize plus elements that are unique and thrilling. As was the case last year, there are portions of this haunted maze that are an actual maze, and aspects of the layout that may actually lead people astray. In addition, a cornucopia of hidden doors and passageways creates a disorienting and confusing course amplifies apprehension causes just enough second-guessing to add some suspense into the experience. As with last year, the actual live talent is rather scarce, and many of the scares and effects are the result of animatronics, puppetry, illusions, or video projections. But that is what makes this maze fun--it never sets out with the intention of being the most extreme or scariest.
Motel 6 Feet Under aims to startle, for sure, but its aim is to bring back the old family fun frights feeling of Halloween from yesteryear--the kind one might find at a haunted house dark ride inside a carnival. The theming may not be hyper-realistic and gory, and the robotics may not be perfectly lifelike and fluid to Disney standards, and there may be some familiar types of scare scenes, but it all still results in the innocent glee that most everyone remembers experiencing from their trip to the county fair or autumn festival. And considering that all of the effects and animatronics are custom created--many of them by Carolyn's brother, David, it's pretty evident that there is a lot of heart within this haunt. Plus, because this is not an ultra-intense, violent-looking, explicit-content maze, it's a great candidate for haunters looking to bring interested but still slightly timid newcomers to the scene, be they older elementary school aged children or adults who aren't too warm on the Knott's Scary Farms of the world but don't mind innocent scares.
That's not to say that all of Motel 6 Feet Under is exclusively familiar trope either. This year, there are several moments that involve some creative use of scare tactics, including scares from unexpected directions, effects used for disorientation, and a finale that actually succeeded in getting a fantastic startle scare out of me--primarily because I have never seen any haunt do this before, and I find it incredibly brilliant.
On top of all this old-fashioned Halloween entertainment, Motel 6 Feet Under is set up to support B.O.O.: Building Occupational Opportunities, a non-profit organization that trains and teaches underserved individuals skills related to carpentry, electrician work, mechanical design and programming, lighting, and other practical skills that can help them find tangible jobs and help themselves into better circumstances. It's no coincidence that these skills also relate to what is needed to build a haunted house attraction. B.O.O. members help with the construction and operations of the maze itself, and the training they receive provides experience for them to obtain other jobs and obtain the dignity of employment.
With a fun theme and wonderful cause, Motel 6 Feet Under is a very worthwhile haunted attraction that deserves broad support and will leave guests giddy with the feeling of the Halloween of their childhoods. Because of the nature of the layout and flow of the maze, lengthy lines can form on popular nights. To mitigate this, it is recommended for guests to come early. Front of line passes are also available for a higher fee. Further information can be obtained at Motel 6 Feet Under's web site.
This attraction runs until the weekend after Halloween, so there is plenty of opportunity to visit. It's central location in Anaheim, near Disneyland and just off the I-5 freeway (on the east side) on Anaheim Way between State College Blvd and Katella Ave, makes it pretty convenient for most Southern Californians to visit. Go check it out and support a wonderful organization. I recommend it!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.