URBAN LEGENDS HAUNT REVIEW
As the sun set on a crisp evening in Southern California, I pulled up to the Orange County Fairgrounds to experience Urban Legends Haunt. Due to COVID-19, there really aren’t many options for getting your scares in this Halloween season. But we were happy when Urban Legends came around because we could get scared while still remaining safe.
As I traversed the many cones and signs pointing me in the right direction, I finally scanned my ticket and entered. We purchased the VIP ticket ($100 for up to 5 people in the car, a Blinky stick and a picture) which allowed us to go into the VIP lanes.
We’ll talk more about how the VIP affects the experience a bit later on. Once in a designated lane, all I had to do was wait for instructions on when to head into the 45 minute experience.
But before I go into the experience itself, let’s take some time to talk about what was promised. Back on August 12th 2020, the crew at Midsummer Scream held a livestream where the creative minds behind Urban Legends Haunts talked about what guests could expect from this ALL NEW Drive Thru Haunt Experience. As a refresher, here is the graphic that was used.
They also talked about specific monsters guests would encounter while attending the event. Monsters like Blaze Drag-On, La Lechuza, and The Monster of Elizabeth Lake.
The creators also passionately talked about how the concept was inspired by having monsters coming off a drive in movie theater screen and coming for guests. Incorporating scare acting, dance, music, sound effects and special effects.
Now, let’s jump back to the experience. Needless to say, I was very excited to experience this Haunt after having heard about it on the livestream. It was unique, different and I loved the theme encapsulating the experience. Expectations were tempered since I hadn’t experience anything from these people before, but there was a bar to be met with what was talked about and what was promised.
Spoiler Alert, almost nothing talked about on the livestream was kept for the experience. The basic idea of why guests were there remained the same, but all the connective tissue that was needed in order to make it work was severely lacking.
The first scene that guests experience is a “movie premiere” of sorts. Where a Director is showing off his latest and greatest work documenting the Urban Legends of Southern California. This really is a necessary scene to set up the entire experience, but it really fell flat and wasn’t able to communicate the information for guests to appropriately establish them within the story.
The only reason why I knew this information was because I had an interaction with a Scare Actor who WAS the Director of the film and he layed it out for me. If I hadn’t gotten that info dump, I wouldn’t have understood the meaning and importance of the scene. It would have just been a “holding pen” for us to get into the first REAL scene. Which, in reality, this was exactly that. I do admit that my interaction with the Scare Actor was memorable and I always enjoy the “creepy” factor of events, because more often than not. Those are the moments that stick with guests. Not the momentary scare. But, on the flip side, there were maybe 6-8 different scare actors running around scaring guests. NOT A SINGLE ONE APPROACHED MY CAR! They even hit the same cars more than once and I was left alone to watch. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love to watch people getting scared. But, I paid to get scared and this was a really unfortunate beginning to the event and unfortunately a running theme throughout the experience as a whole.
The first major scene was…coal mines? Not sure how that ties into Southern California without having to Google search it. Which, after looking through some photos, there was a sign at the beginning that said “Black Star Canyon Coal Mines”. As each car is ushered into the experience, we are instructed to turn off our cars and turn off our headlights. The first thing I noticed was some phenomenal sound design to really help set the tone. But other than that, there really wasn’t much to speak of in this portion. As I mentioned previously, there was a massive disproportionate amount of scares directed at everyone other than myself. I watched the car directly in front of me get scared 8 TIMES….8 TIMES! And I sat there and was completely ignored. Aside from that, there really wasn’t any set design to speak of that would give a hint to the setting of the scene. Giant metal shipping containers never really translated coal mine to us. The only real clue would have been the costumes the monsters were wearing (miner costumes) but I never got a clear view because of how dark it was and them treating me like a leper. I was also very confused by the placement of two broken down cars in the center of our area. Why are there broken down, beat up cars in a mine shaft? After an excruciatingly long time sitting in the dark waiting for a scare, we were finally lead into the next scene.
Even after knowing what this next scene was about now, I’m still very confused. The placement of my car really lead to missing majorly important moments in the scene. I think there were creatures in guile suits attacking the actors? Basically all I heard were screaming and actors asking where “so and so” was or if they’d seen “so and so”. The major story driven moments where guests need to have a clear understanding of what’s going on just fell flat. All the actors are just screaming out their lines without any microphones to help amplify it, so everyone can hear.
To be extremely blunt, at this point, I just wanted out of the experience. After having spent $100, being trapped in this event felt scarier than what I was being told to be scared of. I would have rather been home spending time with my Daughter than having been here.
The next scene was the abandoned carnival! Again, not really sure how this is tied into Southern California. As we pulled in, there was much more set design to give off the idea that you’re actually in a carnival, but scare actors were scarce. As far as I could tell, there were only 3 clown scare actors and 1 victim scare actor. With almost 40 cars in the scene at one time, that means each actor need to hit 10 cars.
There were also shows scenes that need to be executed, which really shorted the amount of time the monsters had to hit everyone. But even at that point, the scares aren’t surprising, they were calculated and predictable. Literally going row by row screaming at each and every guest. It was really disappointing, especially because I think this scene alone had the most potential to be genuinely scary and unnerving. But it was more comical and boring than scary.
And finally, the last scene of the experience was Bloody Mary! Probably the most notable character on the “real” line up of monsters at the event. As the cars pull in, there is a large stage in the middle of the scene. What ensues was a live dance performance by masked dancers. To be honest, it was rather awkward. The music playing wasn’t nearly loud enough to cover up the sound of the dancers feet hitting the stage. Which just made the entire sequence feel extremely awkward. At this point in the experience, I had NO CLUE, this was for Bloody Mary. I just thought it was suppose to be a grand finale and all the dancers would attack the cars! But no, about what seemed to be 10 minutes into the dance, the dancers started chanting Bloody Mary together.
Entering the scene from the end of an 18 wheeler was Bloody Mary herself! But, she never approached cars and never scared a single guest. She only walked at a slow pace down the stage to each actor. Then we were lead out of the experience and sent on our merry way.
Oh man, this was an experience for sure. But one that was no where near the “VIP” $100 price point. In fact, here are the prices from the site itself. The first prices photo was from around September 1st, and the second photo of prices was taken on October 12th.
Between September and October, prices have jumped $20 in each section. These also don’t include the prices for VIP. To be extremely transparent, after having experienced the event, I personally find it hard to justify the price for the quality of product that is being presented. I guess if you go with a group of people and split $70, that can definitely lighten the blow a bit. Additionally, the VIP tickets didn’t really seem to improve my experience within the event. Outside of the digital photo, glow sticks and dedicated lanes; the scares were still few and far between. If the VIP ticket made sure that your car was by the major show moments or story moments; that would make a huge difference, But the way the experience was designed; you’d be lucky if you catch anything!
Overall, the event was extremely disappointing and I left with a bad taste in my mouth. There was major potential for this experience, but the execution was non-existent. The monsters tried their best and I commend each and every single one of them. Being a monster is a thankless job, but they are set up for failure when you’re expecting limited monsters to effectively hit each guest. There was just no possible way for those monsters to do their job effectively given the circumstances. As mentioned, plenty of the character moments, story moments and kills really get lost in the experience. Something that can actually really help the experience is a dedicated audio track that can play through guests radios as well as speakers outside cars. This would help clarify story, clarify and differentiate the different scenes, build in audio jump scares and put a bit of less importance on the actors screaming out what’s actually happening. Lastly, the event felt barebones. There was so much promised within that livestream that never came to fruition. Now, I can’t speak to what happened behind the scene to cause such a problem in the creative direction of the show. But what I can talk about is the eventual product that is being sold to guests. It feels cheap, gimmicky and overall extremely disappointing. Not only that, but it was just bad show. There were tech crew visible, uncovered stages and trucks. Just very unpolished. Now, I totally understand that some people potentially could have gotten scared big time. Admittedly, I am a hardcore haunt goer and a bit more hard to crack than most. Additionally, scares are all about the timing. Maybe the timing was just off? With the countless problems with the event, I highly doubt this was a fluke. There was major potential for this event, but what ended up being the final product feels more like a cash grab than a heartfelt experience that thousands of Halloween loving people could enjoy.