HorrorWorld: 2018 Review

Puente Hills Mall, Rowland Heights, CA

Well, this is fitting. On back to back days, we have updates from our back to back visits last week of two haunted attractions that independently took coincidentally similar paths to this year’s productions. Yesterday, we visited Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place, a mall-based haunt featuring three different haunted attractions and spooky exhibitor space, spearheaded by a familiar, recognizable name in the haunt community. Today, we visit HorrorWorld, a… mall-based haunt featuring three different haunted attractions and spooky exhibitor space, spearheaded by a familiar, recognizable name in the haunt community.

Located in the Puente Hills Mall (famed for its use in the original Back to the Future movie), HorrorWorld is the brainchild of Larry and Cheryl Bones of Bone Yard Effects, in collaboration with Adam LeBlanc of The Fleshyard. Both parties created horror productions that Westcoaster visited last year—the Boneses with their Into the Black experience and The Fleshyard in Anaheim. This year, they’ve come together to deliver three different haunted house attractions across three different and neighboring storefronts on the second floor of the mall, over on the Macy’s wing (hey, that’s another commonality!).

The inspiration for HorrorWorld began last year after the Boneses, fresh off their critically acclaimed Into the Black attraction at Fairplex, were seeking to expand and bring back bigger and greater scares in 2018. The idea of a multi-haunt destination took root, and Boneyard Effects enlisted interest and support from several other haunts to join them. Unfortunately, as is the case with haunts, once the realities and economics set in—including some challenges with securing a rentable space for a suitable time period at an affordable rate—some of the other haunts dropped out. But The Fleshyard remained committed to the cause, and together with Boneyard Effects’s Into the Black and a third, new maze called Psycho Sanitarium, the result has been a pretty nifty product in the form of HorrorWorld.

The Marketplace

It’s impossible to avoid comparing HorrorWorld to Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place, since the two have so many similarities, and this begins with the general exhibition and vendor space. Like Sinister Pointe, HorrorWorld has a series of booths from merchants selling a variety of horror and haunt related merchandise, from clothing to jewelry to props and more. Unlike Sinister Pointe, this area is all compressed into one relative compact footprint in the first of HorrorWorld’s three storefronts, sharing its space with Psycho Sanitarium.

   Imagine Rick   is one of numerous vendors at HorrorWorld.

Imagine Rick is one of numerous vendors at HorrorWorld.

Although it is smaller than Scary Place, the dark market at HorrorWorld seems to function better and feel more atmospheric. I think this is because the spread out nature of Scary Place dilutes the ambiance. The empty space is unfortunately noticeable. At HorrorWorld, despite having less merchants, everything is arranged adjacent to each other, and the area seems to have more vibrant activity, even if the overall number of visitors is less.

   Yxtabay   is another, selling jewelry and other gothic accessories.

Yxtabay is another, selling jewelry and other gothic accessories.

The downside of HorrorWorld’s setup is that each of its three attractions occupies a completely separate tenant space, requiring guests to exit one maze, go back out into the mall, then enter another space to hit up their next haunted maze. In that respect, Scary Place is more immersive, because guests never leave the confines of the spooky atmosphere until they exit completely. However, given the arrangement of the lease and what was available, HorrorWorld’s sequencing is unavoidable. It’s just also a bit unfortunate as well, since having one lobby area from which guests could branch out into the three mazes would have functioned better. But alas, such are the constraints of reality.

Into the Black

The marquee attraction at HorrorWorld is Boneyard Effect’s spectacular and intensely unnerving Into the Black maze. This is a condensed version of last year’s Fairplex debut—taking up about 3600 square feet as opposed to last year’s 11,000 square foot. But don’t let the size reduction deter you—the scares and all the major components are still there, and the compaction into a denser layout actually improves the overall experience, yielding less downtown and empty space between the scenes and increasing the dread and frights.

 The Black house is home to the occult, and that means demons swarm the place.

The Black house is home to the occult, and that means demons swarm the place.

The mall location also resolves an issue that impacted my personal experience last year: light leak. Due to personal scheduling constraints, my visit last year occurred in the middle of the afternoon, and a thin band of sunshine permeated deep into the footprint of the maze. Although it might appear to be minor, the effect it had on the maze was drastic—especially when compared to my experience this year in its new location. Part of Into the Black’s effectiveness relies on the dimmed vision and uncertain visuals scattered throughout. There is a lot more apprehension when it is literally difficult to see where a demon might come out. This year, thanks to lower storefronts and more complete blackout curtains, Into the Black is very much blackness for a notable portion of the maze—in a good way.

 Fare better than previous explorers of the house. You know, by not dying a grisly death.

Fare better than previous explorers of the house. You know, by not dying a grisly death.

The story of Into the Black is the same as last year:

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 rediscovered, the Black house and the evil that lurks within has survived over 150 Years.

Boneyard Effects featured a far-reaching production in 2017, creating a short film that narrated the backstory of Into the Black, a VR experience (which unfortunately, is not present at HorrorWorld this year), the actual haunted maze, and a behind-the-scenes documentary. The film is helpful toward understanding the premise of the maze and enhances certain scenes within the maze, though it is not necessarily mandatory viewing. It is recommended watching, though!

 Most of this maze is very difficult to photograph, but there are some spectacular and more prominently lit moments.

Most of this maze is very difficult to photograph, but there are some spectacular and more prominently lit moments.

Once inside, guests—who once again must navigate Into the Black one at a time—find alteration between stark, ominous passages simply lit by lanterns and ornamented by some dusty cobwebs, and elaborate, richly themed chambers representing various rooms of the house of this heinous, devil-worshipping family. What is kind of amazing is that some of the rooms thoroughly dressed despite being dimly lit. It would have been nice to see the details better in these spaces, to more appreciate the production, but the Bones make a bold choice in keeping these areas in the shadows to layer on an ever-increasing sense of unease and drama. Clearly, bad things have occurred within these walls, and they’re in plain sight—even if that sight is dark.

The makeup and prosthetics work at Into the Black is also outstanding. It goes without saying that Boneyard Effects has long been famed for its intricate and truly terrifying character visualizations. After all, Larry Bones and his crew used to supply the make-up for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. And that same Hollywood quality is very present in this haunted house—even if it’s not often clearly seen!

 They are waiting… always waiting…

They are waiting… always waiting…

Somehow, within all of this gloom, a cast of hideous and and garish demons manages to spring jump scare after jump scare throughout the maze, emerging from hidden compartments or blind walls to froth and snarl with feral animosity. The cast of Into the Black deserves a high round of praise for their excellent timing, commitment to their roles, and persistence in following and haunting guests as they go through. The startle scares are merely “Boo Box” frights that are one and done. Sometimes, a demon lingers, sowing doubt into one’s mind after the initial rush of adrenaline subsides, and one’s rational brain remembers that it is in a maze. These are scareactors, right? Well, with the way they prowl about, invading personal space, a guest may not be quite so sure…

Ultimately, Into the Black triumphs as a beacon at HorrorWorld. Yes, pun intended—given how dusty everything feels within. But the combination of the atmosphere, the solo experience, and the skilled monsters makes this a can’t-miss attraction, period!

Psycho Sanitarium

In contrast to Into the Dark, Boneyard Effect’s other contribution to HorrorWorld takes on a more high-strung, darkly comedic function. At its premise, Psycho Sanitarium is simply an asylum maze. Journey through a mental hospital, where the deranged staff and long-neglected patients have gone thoroughly mad. Will guests survive?

 The nurse will check you in. Just keep your eyes up here.

The nurse will check you in. Just keep your eyes up here.

In short, yes, because Psycho Sanitarium is candidly more “fun” than “fear.” The maze itself is far less elaborately themed than Into the Black, though there are nice touches to the walls in the form of scratched patterns and messages, scribbles and art pieces presumably etched on by the patients, and a few… less savory “decorations” that I won’t spoil. Of the three mazes, it is also the shortest in length, relying more on its interactions with its talent to occupy content.

 There are some shocking developments inside the Psycho Sanitarium.

There are some shocking developments inside the Psycho Sanitarium.

Fortunately, the scareactors within Psycho Sanitarium are wonderfully spirited and quite unhinged. The experience begins right from the start, when a decided unorthodox nurse checks guests into the facilities—and shames them for trying to objectify him—er… her? From there, guests encounter various patience in some expected settings. But the exchanges are consistently colorful and entertaining—right down to a cannibalistic resident rapid firing a Jungle Cruise’s worth of human-food puns.

 Read the messages on the walls. They’re quite disturbingly entertaining.

Read the messages on the walls. They’re quite disturbingly entertaining.

There are scares within the Psycho Sanitarium, but they’re typically of the openly visit startle scare type that won’t do much for haunt veterans but will likely trigger those who are a little more fidgety. When all is said and done, though, Psycho Sanitarium is notable because its amusement more than its anxiety or angst, and that’s okay. It’s nice to venture through a haunted attraction that’s just a bit silly and enjoyable.

 The patients would love to have visitors for dinner.

The patients would love to have visitors for dinner.

The Fleshyard

Rounding out the HorrorWorld line-up is The Fleshyard, now in year three as Adam LeBlanc’s independent pro haunt. The Fleshyard spent 2016 and 2017 at a little pumpkin patch in Anaheim, at the intersection of Imperial Highway and La Palma Avenue, but it’s made the transition to an indoor residence pretty smoothly with a familiar but slightly reconfigured version of its cursed house maze that focuses more on storytelling this year.

 This year’s Fleshyard maze has a more heretical tone to it.

This year’s Fleshyard maze has a more heretical tone to it.

Indeed, year 3 seems to have brought a little more polish and refinement to The Fleshyard. Certainly, aesthetically, it is still rough around the edges—but intentionally so. It’s more of the stylistic manner that gore-filled haunts were commonly portrayed ten years ago, vs some of today’s more polished “Haunt 2.0” presentations from places like Halloween Horror Nights or Warner Bros.’ Horror Made here.

 Guests learn more about the Kearny family and how they came to be slaughtered.

Guests learn more about the Kearny family and how they came to be slaughtered.

The improvements, however, come from a stronger connection between story and scene. Moving away from last year’s semi-escape-room-centric approach, this year’s Fleshyard actually functions as a bit of a prequel to the overall saga. Visitors in either of the previous two years may remember the premise of The Fleshyard:

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.

The timeline of those versions took place in the present day, but this year’s Fleshyard tells how the slaughter of the Kearny family actually occurred and reveals who was responsible.

 There are certainly a lot of candidates. This house seems to be full of violent monsters.

There are certainly a lot of candidates. This house seems to be full of violent monsters.

The sequence of spaces will be familiar to past visitors, but the storyline arc—assisted by the dialogue of the various scareactors—gives it a fresh feel. And once again here, the talent does a great job of weaving story and character into their roles, convincingly keeping guests on edge. It all leads up to a pretty fantastic and climactic ending, featuring a scare tactic that I have never quite seen executed in the manner in which it is done. The encounter leaves guests buzzing on a high as they endure and exit the Kearny house—survivors of The Fleshyard.

 Who actually did it? Explore The Fleshyard to find out.

Who actually did it? Explore The Fleshyard to find out.

That wraps up today’s haunting visit. As you can see, HorrorWorld provides a thrilling, well-done series of haunted attractions that haunt enthusiasts should certainly check out. Guests can purchase tickets to each maze ala carte or buy a one-time-per-maze all-access pass for a slightly discounted rate. If one isn’t doing all three, then Into the Black and The Fleshyard are definitely recommendations.

As far as how HorrorWorld stacks up to Sinister Pointe, it’s truthfully hard to judge which is “better.” I’m not just saying this to remain an impartial reporter. Both attractions have their strengths and disadvantages. Sinister Pointe is more massive and immersive, but while HorrorWorld is smaller and takes guests out of the ambiance every time they move to a different maze. But HorrorWorld’s lesser footprint compresses the density and intimacy of the frights, working that to its advantage. Both places have great talent. Scary Place dollar-for-dollar offers a slightly better deal at this point, but I’d have to give the quality of mazes and theming edge to HorrorWorld. Of course, HorrorWorld doesn’t have a dark ride. I could go on and on…

In any case, HorrorWorld runs select nights from now through Halloween night. More information is at their web site, where tickets can be purchased online (they can also be purchased on site). There are good spooks to be had, so head on over and get spooked!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.