Murder House Productions, Thousand Oaks, CA
Among haunt critic circles, last year’s out-of-nowhere breakout newcomer of the season was, without a doubt, Murder House Productions, a home haunt located all the way out in Thousand Oaks, not far from Reign of Terror. Founded by Aurora Persichetti and Kyle Warner, MHP burst onto the scene with a stunning portrayal of Trick ‘R Treat. Their home haunt was so incredible that Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights even took notice and decided to try their hand at bringing the cult classic movie to life this year!
Okay, so that last part isn’t quite true. It’s more coincidence that Horror Nights Hollywood did a Trick ‘R Treat maze this year (and Orlando already did a scare zone to the movie last year). But what is true is that Murder House Production’s Trick ‘R Treat maze was the talk of last Halloween, due to its highly polished, professional-looking, absolutely thrilling home haunt that had very much the quality and feel of something produced at HHN.
It’s exceedingly rare when a home haunt tackles an IP as the theme of a maze—especially one without readily produced theming and props to just buy off the shelf. But Kyle and Aurora are a rare breed of hyper-detailed, keenly critical, brazenly ambitious haunt enthusiasts who felt that it would be a great and fulfilling challenge to bring this screen favorite to haunted house form. And did they ever! Trick ‘R Treat was masterful enough to catch the eye and raves of one Rick West, who invited Murder House Productions into the Hall of Shadows at Midsummer Scream this year and featured Aurora on the New Generation of Haunters panel at that very same convention. So what would the MHP team conjure up for their autumn home haunt this year…?
Well, if you thought Aurora and Kyle might try their hand at another IP, you’d be wrong. This year’s Murder House Productions maze is an original idea. Entitled “Resurrection,” it’s basically a witch story, about a beautiful but deadly being named Azbell who lives in the woods and claims the souls of wicked children. And freed from the constraints of adapting an existing story, Murder House Productions has really revved up the engine to produce a highly calibrated, viscerally thrilling, wholly enveloping home haunt that is at once chilling, astounding, and unforgettable.
The Persichetti House is almost the house at the end of the street, located second to last on the left as one drives up Ranch View Place. But it’s hard to miss. It’s the only house decorated for Halloween. Out and visibly prominent at the front yard and walkway to the house is a lovely yard display themed to Trick ‘R Treat, an open homage to last year’s hit maze. It provides a beautiful photo op for guests when they first arrive.
But wander attention too far, and one will miss the fact that the story has already begun before guests even enter the maze. Lined up in a modest switchback on the driveway, guests can hear soundbites that provide background on the setting and disturbances around “Resurrection.” Those who have sharp eyes and want to further cut to the chase can read the backstory of the maze in the form of an excerpt from a diary detailing a chilling encounter with Azbell. It’s a preview of what’s to come.
This year’s Murder House Production maze once again winds through the garage and side yard of the property. It’s an intimate and relatively short layout, as last year’s was, but the density of action and detail really offsets the relative lack of distance. In addition, an approximately minute-long preshow lengthens the experience, providing backstory and depth to the tale.
Guests enter at a maximum of two people at time, and they very quickly find themselves under ambush via Halloween Horror Nights-style “boo box” scares from the frightening creatures who hide within. Although the execution of sudden startle scares out of nowhere with flashing strobes and jarring sound effects does recall the approach that Universal Studios’ Horror Nights uses, MHP actually goes a step beyond and incorporates cinematic scenes and more variety in the angles, distractions, and manner of the scares.
A mix of live actors and puppeteers also really enriches “Resurrection,” and the presentation quality is truly astounding. It’s tough to believe that all of this is being produced by a pair of 21 year old designers. Most home haunts struggle for a cast. Murder House Productions? How about just throw in a couple of props that are manipulated by live operators in addition to having terrifying creature stalk the guests? Your job is to just control something else. And yet, they do it with gusto!
Then there’s the atmospheric treatment. From the soft hay added to the floors in the barn and the use of mirrors to deepen the perspective of a scene to the vines and branches that guests must duck under and the actual architecture of the barn, the details are overflowing, submerging guests into the world very immediately. Even outside of the maze, the details are subtle but present. Text on the Milbury Farms signage forming the facade of the maze subtly pays tribute to Knott’s Berry Farm under a certain sort of code. The tripod and other equipment represent the relics of the previous soul who dared to venture into the forest in search of Azbell. One of the recordings even features a gentleman narrating his adventure, Blair Witch style. Spoilers: he doesn’t make it.
The net result is a production that has guests buzzing with excitement, incredulity, and/or appreciation when they exit. Going through Resurrection solo is quite a haunting trip. Going in a group or making repeat visits still brings some highly effective scares with it.
The talent is also quite impressive for matching up to the cues and beats of the maze, hitting their triggers and strobes at precise and perfectly opportune moments to maximize the scare. Their roles do bring to mind synchronized and repetitive nature of Halloween Horror Nights’ maze scareactors, but the shorter nature of the maze layout compared to the average home haunt allows some leeway to use the same general scare. Resurrection is just compact enough to avoid having these “boo box” scares grow stale.
In just one year, Murder House Productions has thoroughly outdone itself, crafting a whole creepy and unsettling world that keeps guests on edge throughout their walk through Resurrection. The scares are bountiful and intense, and the ambiance wholly chilling. Going through the maze, one can’t help but grow nervous and suspicious of every shadow and misdirection. They could be just static objects, but they seem to have a knack of becoming something more horrific! And that illustrates the genius that Kyle and Aurora have brought to the storytelling and consideration of their 2018 production. All the construction, set dressing, programming, audio mixing, and effects calibration requires an immense amount of time and resources. And Kyle and Aurora and a few assistants have certainly poured in that work!
Murder House Productions is located 2240 Ranch View Pl., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, and will be running this Halloween night, from 8-11pm. For anyone even remotely near the area, it is a can’t miss. Indeed, MHP has been one of the best home haunts we’ve visited this season, and they deserve the support of the haunt community!
Congratulations to Kyle and Aurora for once again bringing their nightmares to sophisticated, technologically advanced, theatrically extravagant life. In the hands of people like these two, the future of haunting certainly burns brightly!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.