Warner Bros Horror Made Here

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.

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