How Does 'Warner Bros: Horror Made Here' Compare To Universal's Halloween Horror Nights & Knotts Scary Farm?

Warner Bros is trying to get into the Haloween season horror maze game with Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights, transforming a portion of their backlot into a small town filled with haunted houses. Over the past five years, I have gotten sucked up in the seasonal haunted maze phenomenon and you may have already read my reports from the events at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights and Knotts Scary Farm here. So I was very eager to see how Warner Bros' studio tour event would compare.

A Small Town Event

The Festival of Fright takes over the Warner Bros' backlot's midwest town center, which has been featured in hundreds of movies and tv shows over the last 75 years. Where the Halloween offerings at Universal and Knots are spread over a huge park, it's refreshing to experience Warner Bros' version of the experience which all takes place over a few blocks. Universal Hollywood, in particular, can be a very strenuous experience, especially making that long walk across the lot to get to the mazes down in the New York streets. My body is always in pain after their Horror Nights event.

With everything in one place, it feels almost like a small town festival, where the entire downtown block has been converted into a horror maze event. The storefronts have been transformed into horror themed fun, like the bar from Tru Blood, or a Pizza place called Crave Inn (a clear homage to director Wes Craven), a small Lost Boys arcade (I like the concept but why not call it "Santa Carla Arcade"?), and a horror gift emporium called The Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey's shadow can be seen in the second story of the shop's exterior).

A stage in the town center hosts a horror trivia contest (which no one seemed too excited about – why not hire entertainers or a magician instead?) and just because they had room, the small park in the center of the square features a carnival drop ride that had no line (I'm guessing because the event organizers realized Universal and Knotts have rides, so they at least needed to have one?). Warner Bros. is clearly trying a bunch of things, and some of them worked and some of them clearly did not. I will say this: Horror Made Here makes better use of a small town square than Universal does with the many streets of their backlot invaded by Horror Nights.

Let's talk about the haunted mazes and attractions first.

Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum

The maze I was most excited to experience at the event takes place in the Batman universe. We are new inmates at Arkham Asylum on a day that The Joker and a host of DC Super-Villains have taken over the twisted institution. This maze feels more like a funhouse than a haunted house, and that's not a putdown in any way. It's more of a fun experience that allows you to come face-to-face with the Batman supervillains, so don't expect any huge jump scares.

There is a lot of fun to be had here and we even did this house twice as the line was short and it was that much fun. We realized that they rotate the selection of villains that you encounter throughout the maze, so one time you might see Harley Quin and The Riddler and another time you might come face to face with Poison Ivy and The Penguin.

I almost wonder if the event designers knew that this house in particular would attract younger audiences, and thus made it a little less scary and more fun. It seems to me that this event is aimed more at a PG-13 level, as compared to Knotts Scary Farm and Universal Halloween Horror Nights, which are both a little darker and more violent.

it house

IT House

The IT house has existed for a couple years now, first as a promotional pop-up in Hollywood, and later as an expanded version for this event. This year's version of the house is supposedly expanded even further, but this was my first time in this maze, so it's hard for me to compare. I can, however, compare it to Halloween Horror Nights, and it's immediately obvious that this event has less of a budget for scare actors.

The house is filled with great atmosphere, a bunch of scary non-moving mannequins and even some recorded scares from the movie. Expect fewer booholes and instead more immersion into the world and story of It. When you come face to face with Pennywise, it is quite terrifying.

Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake

Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake

This is my favorite experience offered at Horror Made Here. You board a tram tour cart that takes you to a portion of the Warner Bros Studio backlot used for rural woods and camp scenes. You are left here to walk the trails, entering into a recreation of Camp Crystal Lake. As you walk by a small cabin, you hear some loud noises, and a bloodied female camper comes running out the front door, warning you to get out of there. And right behind her is the slow walking but unrelenting monster known as Jason.

This is only how this experience begins. The trail takes you further into the lakeside camp, which has not only been haunted by Jason but also Freddy Krueger. You will go into the camper bunks which have already been devastated by the duo and come face to face with both horror icons.

The reason why this is my favorite experience at this event is because it's so unlike every other horror maze I've experienced. You aren't stuck in small tunnels, but experiencing this story on a grand scale in a big open space like you would in the movies. You actually feel like you're at Camp Crystal Lake as these maniacs are on a killing spree. And a big plus to Warner Bros for lighting the wooded area like you would light a horror movie – the darkness is really terrifying.

I commend Warner Bros. for making a much better use of their backlot than Universal does. As cool as walking through the War of the Worlds set is every year, it's still the War of the Worlds set dressed up with zombies or clowns or whatever the theme is that year. It feels cheap and not thematic. Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake at Warner Bros made the Halloween Horror Nights Freddy/Jason offerings in years past feel tame in comparison.

The Conjuring Universe

This house had the longest wait of the night: a posted 90 minutes, even though it probably took more like 45 minutes. I'm not sure if the Conjuring franchise is just that popular, or more likely, the different format of this maze caused a slow down in entries. Unlike a traditional haunted house where the guests are allowed to walk through the maze on their own, The Conjuring Universe is a guided tour through the Warrens' house and their collection of curiosities and horrors. What this means is that you are guided from room to room in a small group, and usually one or two things happen as a show plays out before you in each area.

I very much enjoyed this more story-based haunt, which makes it my second favorite attraction at the event. The house perfectly blends together all the films from the Conjuring franchise in a way that makes me wonder why Universal has so much trouble combining films. And what happens in the last room is one of the coolest effects I've seen this year in a Haunted House, a truly great scare.

beetlejuice house

Behind the Screams

After Nightmare on Crystal Lake, you are taken to the Warner Bros Studio Museum to browse their offering,s which includes a new behind the screams exhibit taking a look at the making of Tim Burton's movies. Anyone who has done the daytime Warner Bros. Studio Store Tour will tell you it's fantastic and the Museum offers a bunch of cool stuff to look at, photograph, and experience. My favorite part of the Tim Burton room was the miniature town prop from Beetlejuice and some of the miniature stop-motion animated puppets from Corpse Bride. You'll likely overhear people in the room wondering why Nightmare Before Christmas isn't featured – that film was made at the mouse house and not WB.

The normal WB tour takes you to another part of the museum with a bigger costume exhibit featuring Harry Potter and the DC films, and a warehouse room containing all the Batmobiles from the movies. It's strange that an event that features an Arkham Asylum maze wouldn't also include these portions of the tour, as it seems as if it would provide more for guests to do with only limited staffing.

And of course, you exit through the Warner Bros Studio Store gift shop, where the Halloween emphasis is being put on the dark arts of Harry Potter. It's hard to leave this store and not buy something. I picked up a Hedwig for my magic desk.

The Exorcist Forbidden Screening

The Exorcist Forbidden Screening

The Exorcist Forbidden screening might be the one house you can actually skip at this event, but that said, I did kind of love the idea here. Making use of the small church in the town square, they are screening a short highlight reel of the original Exorcist film. Before the screening, someone from the "church" warns us that this is not a good idea, and they are proven right. Things happen inside the church as the screening continues, doors slam open, and much more.

I remember when I was younger seeing It's Tough To Be A Bug at Disney California Adventure for the first time, the 4D A Bug's Life experience, and it was terrifying. Big spiders come down from the ceiling, bugs can be felt underneath your seat, and so on. I remember coming out of that attraction believing that someday someone would make a great 4D attraction based on a horror property. This isn't that, but it is an interesting execution of that idea. They use atmosphere effects, projections, scare actors and more to try to make the screening a spooky experience. They clearly didn't have the budget to make it truly amazing, but the idea is fun enough and worth experiencing. Also, what else would they do with this small little church during the event?

The Event Needs Better Branding

Warner Bros. needs to come up with a better name for this Festival. Warner Bros: Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights is not only a mouth full but it's confusing. Is this a studio tour showcasing the horror movie locations? Or is this a horror maze event? I was honestly surprised at how small the crowds were on a Sunday night in October that I visited the lot, and I'm not sure why. I've seen Warner Bro.s promoting the event, so it's hard to believe that people just aren't aware it exists. I'm wondering if it's the name of the event that's confusing people.

Some Fun Photo Ops

If there is one thing that Knotts and Universal don't have, it's many photo opportunities. Festival of Frights offered a bunch of such places for festival-goers to take photos with their favorite horror villains. The most popular one is with Georgie in his raincoat as Pennywise gives a maniacal look from inside the sewer drain below. I'd love to see them expand these photo ops in the future. Maybe I could get a photo with Freddy Krueger next to an Elm Street sign or with Jason at Camp Crystal Lake. In this Instagram selfie culture, I think this is a big area that Universal is missing out on and Warner Bros should capitalize.

I think they realize this, but don't quite understand what people want. For instance, when going into Arkham Asylum, you are photographed for your in-boarding as a "criminal." As fun as that might be, I'm not sure many people want to buy a photo of themselves holding a sign in front of a wall with measurement lines. But maybe they would if the Joker was there to join them?

The Whole Town is a Scare Zone

Typically at these events, they limit a scare zone to a small stretch, adding theme and atmosphere between two rides where scare actors are let free to frighten anyone passing through. At Horror Made Here, they instead decided to make the whole town square a scare zone, and I don't think this worked well at all. It spreads the scare actors too thin and doesn't allow a theme or atmosphere to envelope the guests.

crave inn pizza

Eat Before You Go, Drink At The Event

To say that the food options at the event are shitty is probably an understatement. The best things you can find are a slice of pizza or chicken fingers and fries. More plentiful are carts featuring churros and soft pretzels. It's a sad day when I think an event makes Universal's two food trucks and random stands selling large donuts look good. It's sad that none of the west coast events even try to compete with Universal Orlando's offerings of Pizza fries and spiral fried potatoes.

That said, the food is edible and expectedly overpriced. There are a bunch of places offering beer and alcohol, none of which had the enormous lines that you find at Universal. I'd stay away from the novelty blood bag offerings, which my friend (and /Film writer) Vanessa Armstrong described not-so-affectionately as "Spring Break in a bag". But I think there are enough other beer, wine, and mixed drink offerings to fill your alcohol needs.

Lots of Fun Horror Easter Eggs

Look at the second story windows and you might see some iconic characters from Warner Bros' history of horror movies. At one point, a young woman drenched in blood ran through the streets screaming. It took me and my friends a few beats before we looked at each other and realized it was Carrie.

The mazes themselves are filled with tons of small gags and touches, the kind of things you might expect in Orlando, but not Hollywood. For instance, when you're entertaining Arkham Asylum, take a long look at all the walls as there are a bunch of fun references to spot. While these references may go by 80% of the people in attendance at this event, it's incredibly rewarding and fun for those film geeks like myself that do pick up on these small details.

Don't Join the Losers Club

We attended an event with standard tickets on a Sunday night, getting to the studio at 7:00 P.M sharp for the opening and were done with everything by 11:00 P.M. The event seemed very empty when we arrived, but as it got later, the lines got longer. The longest was a 30 or 45-minute wait for the Conjuring Universe house. Most of the other houses took only five or ten minutes to get into, and if we weren't boring adults with Monday morning day jobs, I'm sure we could have found fun staying until the event closed, revisiting our favorite experiences.

The Losers Club VIP ticket, priced over $100 more than standard entry at $189, gets you front of line access, free priority parking (a $15-20 savings), a Free IT Photo Opp, and two complimentary beverages (probably another $20-30 savings). I honestly wouldn't say it's worth it this year, but as this event grows and expands, I can imagine that one day it will be like Halloween Horror Nights and a front of the line pass will be required to fully enjoy the event.

Is it Worth the Cost?

Tickets to Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights run anywhere from $79 – 86, and you can easily find $10 off promo codes. How does this compare against Universal and Knotts?

While general admission to Universal Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood can cost you as little as $75 – $97, you honestly need either the Express Pass, which runs $199 – $279, or the Frequent Fear pass, which runs $169-$350, to experience everything and have a good time. Knotts Scary Farm tickets run around $85, but if you buy early online you can get them for as little as $44. Their front of the line Fright Lane pass will cost you an additional $83-95, and while not as necessary as HHN, would greatly improve your experience.

How Does it Compare to Universal Horror Nights and Knotts Scary Farm?

Horror Made Here offers fewer mazes, fewer scare zones, and only one basic ride, which may be a deciding factor for many. The event has the big horror franchise IP that Knotts lacks, and the organizers seem to be more interested in doing creative things with the horror icons than Universal, which has become a bit stagnant the last few years. If you're looking for scares, I'd probably recommend Knotts Scary Farm over both Universal and Warner Bros. But if you're looking for fun and immersion, you can't go wrong with either Warner Bros or Universal. The front of the line pass is almost required to enjoy Horror Nights, so if you want to have a fun night for less than $100, Warner Bros Horror Made Here is a good alternative.

In its current state, I think Warner Bros should be charging less than they do for this event, especially if they hope to be competitive with someone like Knotts. I wonder if Warner Bros will stop licensing out their horror properties to Universal now that they are directly competing with the theme park in the Halloween horror maze event space. I think Warner Bros, with properties like DC Universe and Harry Potter, could differentiate themselves from Universal and Knotts by offering a less violent yet more fun experience that could be attended by a 13-plus audience. That said, I'm not sure if that would "scare" the adult Halloween haunt audience away.

I hope in future years they get a better name for this horror festival, adopt better food options, learn how to better confine scare zones, add some more photo ops with the horror icons, and maybe include an actual tram tour showcasing horror filmed on the lot. But the festival feels like the beginning of something and it can only get bigger and grander. I hope it succeeds and I hope it grows to take over even more of the backlot.