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ATTRACTION REVIEW

Horror Made Here Review (2018, USA) Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

Horror Made Here? Warner Bros. weren’t lying!

The last time that we were in L.A., Horror Made Here didn’t exist. We were aware of it running in 2017 but it didn’t appear to make too much of a splash. That all changed with their announcement of this year’s lineup. Suddenly the event became a serious contender, at least on paper. What appealed to us especially was the fact that some of the attractions didn’t sound all that conventional and it really came across as though Horror Made Here was making an earnest effort to set itself apart from its peers. And when we arrived, it didn’t disappoint!

It Knows What Scares You

Based on last year’s movie, IT Knows What Scares You was a fantastically themed haunt and, refreshingly, it encouraged you to take in all the scenery. They batched us in tiny groups and staggered the flow so that we weren’t rushed. As a result, there was ample opportunity to appreciate all the work that had gone into this house’s creation. It was oddly quiet in the first half, instilling a creeping dread rather than smashing you with scares from minute one – a tactic that totally worked. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love this attraction as it recreates all the recognisable locations from the film such as the sewer and Pennywise’s lair.

The other noticeable feature of this maze was the actors – there were a few, especially the school bullies, that delivered ‘full’ performances. Rather than just jumping out at us, they were seeking engagement and we actually had to speak to them in order to progress. Small matter in the scheme of things but it made such a difference. We were interacting with real characters rather than creatures programmed to suddenly leap out at guests before disappearing again as though nothing had happened.

One slightly disappointing moment came with the choice of three doors as featured in the movie. All three doors opened and they potentially could have had a bit of fun with this as in The Big Top at Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights last year. But, sadly, only one of the doors actually led anywhere with the other two just triggering effects (yes, we obviously tried all three!). Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely cool to include a level of interactivity at a busy event but I would’ve liked them to take it through to its natural next step and had this extend into splintering routes.

And then there was one really jolting bit towards the end where we encountered two Pennywises – call us purists but this sort of thing shouldn’t really happen as it’s the quickest way to destroy any illusion that an attraction has invested time in establishing! The two characters even acknowledged each other!

Arkham: The Joker Is Your Judge

The only other ‘traditional’ haunt at Horror Made Here, Arkham was a neon-drenched tour through Arkham Asylum, post inmate takeover! In a theme that would become common throughout the night, Arkham was full of actual performances – the actors here did masses more than simply try to elicit impact scares. That’s not to say that Arkham was high on theatrics and low on frights – more that the characters stuck around for a bit as though they were actual, real people rather than something existing simply to startle. Though, yes, scare for scare this wasn’t the most intense of attractions. I can’t say this enough times but Warner Bros. genuinely cared about the experience at Horror Made Here, doing justice to their properties rather than reducing them to their base components.

Beginning with a scene where you are placed in front of The Joker for judgment, you are found to be deserving of punishment. Said punishment is that you are forced to enter Arkham Asylum, a sentence that you are extremely unlikely to survive! From there, we basically navigate through a series of familiar characters’ lairs. For example, we came face to face with The Riddler and Penguin with The Joker occasionally checking in on us, keen to see how we were enjoying our tour through the asylum!

The haunt itself didn’t have any standout features as such, it was very conventional in that sense. It just brilliantly achieved its goal of bringing Arkham Asylum to life, aware that the colourful characters are as much a part of the experience as the set dressing! It was simply a standard haunt done very well, paying respect to the IP that it was based on.

Things that we weren’t so impressed about here? The ending was limp, we simply ambled out of the Asylum with no real driving impetus to flee. There was the suggestion that Batman had arrived to save the day; we never saw him but felt the diminished threat as a result of his presence. Witnessing the beginning of a classic Batman vs. Joker showdown may have been a more epic way to top off our journey.

And then there was the completely obnoxious photo opp before we entered the maze. Forcing these things inside any haunt is a bit of a no-no for me. For one, I’m never going to buy the picture so it’s a waste of my time. And leading on from that, it’s an additional thing to add to the queue length. Now, they were pretty quick getting people through once we reached that part but it still adds time to the walkthrough. And time is pretty precious at these events – we’ll get to that more with the next write up!

The Conjuring Universe

Now, this was an odd attraction! It’s clear that Horror Made Here is in its infancy in relation to its nearby rivals. We can’t imagine something like this flying anywhere else – L.A. or beyond! Bizarrely, for a multi-attraction Halloween event, this house was more or less promenade theatre. It wasn’t a traditional haunt but a series of actor-led scenes, each ending in some sort of ‘happening’. Every room pulled something from the Conjuring franchise such as Annabelle and the nun from Conjuring 2. Speaking of the nun; for us, hers was the best scene of the whole attraction. It’s a perfect recreation of the moment where the shadow slowly drifts across the room before stopping behind the painting. Fingers crawl out, seemingly from nowhere and then, bang, the nun rushes Lorraine, portrait in hand. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s the scene in question:

I am not making it up when I say that they completely pulled this off and I’ll be totally honest, it actually surprised me a little! Because I was obviously well versed with how the scene went, my eyes were already on the painting, looking for tell-tale signs that an actor was behind the wall. And I genuinely couldn’t see one. So at that point, I was expecting the fingers to appear and then for us to be hurried out of the room before things kicked off. But no, a nun did indeed erupt from behind that portrait. It was really clever, almost like a magic trick in its setup because I knew what was coming but dismissed it as there was no evident way that they could achieve this. I guess never trust an attraction that’s set in a film studio, they know all the tricks right?

One thing that really, really derailed things for us here though was what I hinted at earlier – The Conjuring Universe was simply not suited to an event like this. With our fast track tickets, we were still queuing for almost exactly 40 minutes (39 to be precise!). I dread to think of how long the main queue was but maybe that wasn’t as bad as it seemed that they were making an effort to get everyone through. But a priority ticket should not result in a wait that’s the better part of an hour. And this isn’t an elitist thing to say – we always purchase priority haunt tickets because we stack events up. On this evening we had come from somewhere else and were heading to another event straight after. So we’re reliant on those tickets doing their job or our plans are screwed. I think, generally, Warner Brothers’ relative lack of experience running an event definitely became apparent here. But, and we’ll talk about this a bit at the end of this post, it isn’t always a bad thing! Just 40 mins really took the wind out of our sails a bit…

The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening

Another attraction, another fresh experience! The name should have been a huge clue as to what The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening was but I guess I just wasn’t paying enough attention! Performing the highly sacrilegious act of screening select scenes from the original Exorcist film in a church, The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening sees guests take their seats on a church pew as the movie is projected onto the wall behind the church altar. If you’re of a superstitious nature, this is clearly a very, very bad idea! Essentially, you know those 4D cinemas that a lot of theme parks have? Where they condense a popular kids’ movie into a fifteen-minute jaunt supplemented with a bunch of physical effects? Think that but from Hell! The show begins fairly innocuously, a door opening, something falling off the walls. It could be related to the screening or it could just be a strong gust of wind right? And then things occur that can’t really be explained away – such as the appearance of a fully possessed Regan! Again, it’s crazy that Horror Made Here attempted an attraction like this. It wasn’t my favourite of the evening but it’s awesome that something like Forbidden Screening existed.

Nightmare On Camp Crystal Lake

Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake was simply stunning. Were it not for a specific issue that I had with certain sections, this would easily be a 5 out of 5 maze. You begin at the titular Camp Crystal Lake and your very first encounter is such a typical Friday the 13th scenario. The lake was an actual lake with a jetty that reached out into the water. Standing at the end was Jason who, upon spotting us, stormed down the walkway and onto land in fierce pursuit. If the attraction had ended there and then, I think I still would have been happy with it! The lake is such an intrinsic part of that franchise that I was glad that Horror Made Here didn’t try and work around it. Using what I assume is an existing feature of the studio lot, they were able to bring the camp to life! Surrounding the water was woodlands – perfect for a camp! And then we quickly passed through Elm Street before ending up in a typical Crystal Lake cabin!

The theming here was off the chart. Actual lake, real camp with fire burning, an authentic wood cabin… This would have been an interesting route to navigate even without actors! It was genuinely as though we’d been dropped into this movie, I really can’t recall a time where a haunt’s theming has been as comprehensive as this… Throw in the characters from Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street and you have a seriously epic time!

Following the general theme that everywhere else did at Horror Made Here, the acting was fully-fledged. No-one was going for short impact scares. Those that could speak to us said a lot and even Jason always approached from a good distance away so we had time to process that we were being hunted. It definitely gives the Horror Made Here haunts their own flavour, setting them apart from most of the other attractions we visited in L.A.

So, the thing that really bugged me about Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake? There were a few moments that had me scratching my head and, to be honest, may have potentially caused some problems with scared guests. I ended up leading the group (who else loves when the rest of your group is so scared that they willingly hand you the prime haunt spot?) into the cabin where a panicked counselor stopped me. She tells me that I need to run and, looking to my right, I can see why. Jason is standing there, motionless, at the opposite end of the room. Now, I look around and, for the life of me, I can’t see where I can possibly run to. Jason’s in front of me, the rest of the group is now behind. Bunk beds line the other two walls. So, in my mind, the only place I can really go is towards Jason. Nowhere else makes any sense. But then I’m thinking, that can’t be right, who has ever done anything so stupid before?? But now he’s moving towards us and I still can’t see where else I can go but towards him and then around the beds. By now he’s nearly upon me so I figure the time to make a decision has passed. So I just wait and see where this is going. And he just walks straight past me and the rest of the group, zeroing in on the counselor as though she’s the only person that he can see. Which then frees me up to take the route that initially led towards him. So, it turned out that I did do the right thing but as I leave that cabin I wonder if it was the right thing. After all, if that was a real-life situation, doing what I did would have ended in death, straight up! Maybe I’m applying too much thought to it but then I wonder, if I was more scared, would I have tried to do something stupid like scramble through the beds? Or run through one of the actor’s cutaways? I know I’m lingering on this one a bit but it seriously has stuck with me all this time. It just felt completely and utterly off. It wasn’t the only time that Jason acted bizarrely too, at one point just walking away after chasing us down only seconds before. It seemed as though the design of this particular attraction didn’t allow for many hiding places so we couldn’t help but observe some odd behaviour and resets.

Overall Thoughts

Right, so here it’s worth discussing how Warner’s relative inexperience in the Halloween event game impacted our evening. As mentioned in the Conjuring review – this attraction clearly wasn’t designed for the kind of throughput our evening burdened it with. Now, at the time, it really bugged us as we had another event to get to afterwards and really didn’t want to leave Horror Made Here having not been through all the attractions. It was close – another half an hour over the course of the evening would’ve thrown us off completely. But I think these early years where Warner Bros are still making these mistakes and finding their footing will probably be their best years. We’d highly recommend attending next year for that reason alone. Because, once it becomes apparent to them that the event is growing, they’re inevitably going to become less experimental and more homogenised to allow for increased throughput. As it stands, I will happily take the event’s flaws in place of something offering cut and paste IP attractions that success may eventually turn this into. So go now whilst they’re doing crazy things like scene-led attractions and have haunts that are full of characters that actually engage you rather than jump-scaring. Because we really do question if, in five years time, they’ll be offering such a varied bunch of attractions. It’s worth seeing now before it all potentially changes!

And we can’t end this review without at least mentioning the food/drink offerings throughout the evening! The majority of items on sale were themed to the event in some way. We naturally zeroed in on The Exorcist pea and ham soup! I mean, how can you not? Of course, we grabbed this straight after exiting The Exorcist: Forbidden Screening too! Little fun things like this go a long way and demonstrated that Horror Made Here was committed to delivering a comprehensive experience! There was also a True Blood inspired bar selling blood bag cocktails! Maybe we’re easily impressed but stuff like this is thin on the ground in the UK!

Horror Made Here - Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money
4

Summary

+ Full performances in haunts
+ Varied offerings
+ Fully immersive event

- Organisation was lacking at times
- Occasional odd moments in haunts

For a multi-attraction event, Horror Made Here is an incredibly unique time. The variation between mazes went deeper than theme - they were fundamentally very different experiences. If you're bored of endless walkthroughs, Horror Made Here definitely mixes things up!

Price: $169.00 (Losers' Club VIP)
Address: 3400 W. Riverside Dr. Burbank, CA 91505
Website: https://www.wbstudiotour.com/horror-made-here

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