Murder House Productions, Thousand Oaks, CA
We keep on trucking on with our Halloween season coverage, and with the many smaller haunts opening up the last two weekends of October that we've been visiting, we've got enough content to last past Halloween. So if you thought you'd escape these haunted attraction updates once November rolls around, think again. For haunters, the season starts in mid-September and pretty much extends all the way a week or two into November these days!
Then again, there are a lot of fantastic creations out there all around Southern California. This treasure trove of haunts is huge part of what makes the region so good for Halloween lovers. Today, we visit a home haunt that I didn't even know existed before this past weekend. But thanks to a nice tip from our pal, Rick West, of Theme Park Adventure, I learned of a potential surprise of the season haunted house that uses IP's (intellectual properties, i.e. movies or books or comics) as inspiration for the theme. The Trick 'R Treat haunt, from Murder House Productions, is an excellent production that features literally Halloween Horror Nights level theming and immersion--all crammed into the space of a three car garage. It's an example of where home haunts seem to be headed, with the best and brightest completely erasing the quality line between amateur and professional!
Murder House Productions is based all the way out in Thousand Oaks, which is a long drive for most people. But there are some pretty great haunts in the area, including Reign of Terror (also in Thousand Oaks) and the House at Haunted Hill (in nearby Woodland Hills). The owners, Aurora Persichetti and Kyle Warner, debuted their haunt machinations last year when they took on an Evil Dead themed maze. This year, they decided that Trick 'R Treat would be a great subject of inspiration, since the theme of the movie fits the idea of horror in regular, residential suburbia very well.
What's immediately striking upon arriving at the property is how slick and polished everything looks, even outside. Sam, the film's iconic character, stands amid a field of jack-o-lanterns and a bag of candy and greets guests with an unnerving quietness and calm. A simple banner plainly advertises the name of the creative group. A warning sign in the exact style of Horror Nights delineates what is and is not allowed within the maze. And on the side, a pathway leads to the side yard that provides access into the maze.
Those who are unfamiliar with the movie may not appreciate this maze as fully as those who are fans, but similar to mazes at Halloween Horror Nights, familiarity with the subject matter is not required. It simply enhances the experience, but it's by no means confusing to be completely unaware of the movie's plot. That said, the first room of the maze immediately draws guests into the scene and doesn't let go until they've escape out of the maze entirely. Upon entering into the maze proper, visitors find themselves in a dark, forested condition, with Sam peering toward them in the pale moonlight. It's a simple and spectacular moment that establishes the framework of the maze.
From there, guests journey into the house, where all sorts of murder and blood and guts are discovered. There are a few good scares available, from the "boo box" type to a cool scare that requires synchronization to the soundtrack to statue scares and regular pop-out scares from nooks and hiding places. Throughout it all, one can sense a very clear influence from Universal Studios. The theatrical sense is very pervasive, and some of the scare types echoes Horror Nights strategy. But the polished qualities are also present in the form of the maze soundtrack, which carries from room to room and really drives home the mood of the maze and of each scene. They fill the maze with a tension that resonates.
Though the layout itself ends up being a little short, even by home haunt standards, it's perfectly fine, because the quality has more than made up for the quantity. The young maze talent have their timing and patterns down to a science, and they definitely shown an enthusiasm welcome and needed at haunted mazes. In a case like Trick 'R Treat, the designers have bee able to fit a great amount into a small footprint, and it is truly impressive!
Also impressive is the actual production of the maze. Aurora told me that everything created for the maze began in July, and the team pretty much made or customized every aspect of the maze personally. There was, of course, the construction of the framing of the maze, but props and costumes that were purchased elsewhere were also aged or altered to make something unique--or they were custom fabricated by Aurora herself. Kyle, meanwhile, assisted with the programming of the sound and triggers of the effects, taking care of a lot of the technology needs. The result is a very slick and streamlined haunt that feels way more professional than even most notable home haunts provide.
It helps that Aurora, a scare actor in The Walking Dead Attraction at Universal Studios, has a creative soul with a knack for production and a heart that has always embraced the appeal of the horror genre. This home haunt allows her to exercise her design gene, and both she and Kyle hope that this can eventually lead to bigger and bolder endeavors.
If Trick 'R Treat is any indication, they are most certainly headed to a successful and high quality future!
Murder House Productions' Trick 'R Treat maze is open tomorrow, Hallowen night, 8-11pm. For anyone within convenient driving stance of Thousand Oaks (and even semi-convenient), this home haunt is a must-see. It's terrifically extraordinary what this second year haunt has been able to accomplish, and we hope to see them rise to bigger and grander creations next year and beyond!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.