Author - Jerry Paxton

WB Studio Tour Horror Made Here 2017 Review

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is one of the coolest things that a fan of film can book a trip on in the entirety of Southern California. The amount of movie and TV filming locations on the lot is staggering and cannot be seen in just one ride on the two hour tour. Getting into the Halloween season, Warner Bros. announced the “Horror Made Here: Festival of Frights” event. This small haunt takes place on only a handful of nights in October and sees roughly 1,000 people each evening. During the hours of 6pm to 11pm, guests can explore the town square area of the studio lot, where shows like Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, Growing Pains, True Blood, and a whole lot more were filmed. Guests are also invited to climb aboard an abbreviated studio tour as well as a number of small mini-haunts scattered throughout the grounds. Attendees can also enjoy photo ops, a live DJ, drinks, and food trucks.

Horror Made Here: Festival of Frights features several small haunted house like experiences for guests to enjoy. A Nightmare on Elm Street Haunted High School was a brief walkthrough of Springwood High, with hallways littered in teen corpses as well as the nightmare-stalking Freddy Kruger. The experience was very short, but featured some great Freddy Krueger makeup prosthetics – most based on mold from the real prosthetic pieces used in the films. The Conjuring mini-haunted house is one of the gems here on the lot, taking place right next to the house used as the exterior home of Ed and Loraine Warren in The Conjuring and Annabelle films. Guests enter through the garage of the home and go on a roller coaster tour through their collection of occult items. The finale of this mini-haunt is pretty spectacular and you should make sure to line up early for it. The Conjuring and IT mini-haunts had the longest lines on the night we attended. Speaking of IT, the IT Experience was moved from its Hollywood and Vine location to the Warner Bros. lot so that guests of Horror Made Here: Festival of Frights could enjoy/endure it. The line was fairly long but the experience was, in some ways, made better than when it was off-site thanks to some enhanced lighting design. While the mini-haunts are good, they are not like normal-length haunted houses you find at most haunted attractions. That being said, there is more to the Horror Made Here event than just the mini-haunts.

We then took time to ride the abbreviated WB Studio Tour – actually, we rode it several times, as each time we heard slightly different pieces of movie/TV info. The abbreviated studio tour for the evening had a few different stopping points where scare actors would “attack” the tram, but they were fairly scattered. These were divided by moments when you got to hear about some movies and TV shows filmed at various points along the tour route, but the experience felt like it was unsure of itself. I am torn on this one as part of me would like to see the entire abbreviated tour littered with monsters and elaborate set pieces – somewhat like haunted hayrides are these days. I can’t think of a haunted tram ride anywhere actually – even Universal Studios makes guests get off their trams prior to scaring them. Warner Bros. could up the ante next year on this tram ride, making it a full haunted experience, if they so desired. The other part of my torn self thinks that they should reverse course on the tour with regards to the horror stuff if they won’t fully commit to it, making the tour more like the day experience – talk more about the variety of films shot at places along the route. Right now it’s sort of in a weird middle-ground that didn’t work quite like it should have.

The live DJ spun a wide variety of songs and the bar tables featured a decent selection of alcohol. The food trucks on-site were of a wide enough variety to cover most things a person could want. We tried out the Made in Brooklyn NY Pizza truck and I could not have been happier. I just came back from a vacation in New York City and this pizza was the closest I have found on the West Coast to being like the ones I ate while in the city. At one point, we sat down in the table and chairs located around the gazebo and just took in the sights and sounds. There were some scare actors working the crowd around the lot, and even a makeup demo area setup inside the church where we saw some good prosthetic work being done.

Only in its second year, I can’t help but think that Warner Bros. is putting together plans for a much larger haunted event to come. Horror Made Here: Festival of Frights feels very much like an evolving experiment so they can see what works and what doesn’t – as well as see what they can add for next time. This is one event that I will certainly be waiting for in the Fall of 2018. If you’d like ticket information and more for this year’s Horror Made Here, check out the official website.

Photo Gallery

LA Haunted Hayride 2017 Review

Usually, we visit the LA Haunted Hayride on their opening weekend for a “black carpet” event. This year, they did not have a celebrity step and repeat, opting instead to have media out on their opening weekend. We missed that opportunity due to unforeseen circumstances and, instead, attended one week later on October 8th, 2017. The event’s PR agency provided us a few of the VIP-tier tickets to check things out.

Walking up to the impressive pumpkin pyramid, we watched the “rope drop” ceremony in which a cavalcade of evil clowns worked the crowd before letting guests into the event. After rope drop, we walked into the Purgatory area of the LA Haunted Hayride to checkout the available attractions, but were surprised by what was absent this year. The Purgatory area is somewhat smaller this year, which does makes it easier to navigate. Unfortunately this decrease in area comes at the loss of a couple really cool things. Absent from Purgatory this year is Jack’s Carving Shack, where guests could pay an additional fee to carve their own pumpkins and get tips from a pro-carver. However, a much bigger absence felt at this year’s LA Haunted Hayride is the Death Row photo op tent, where guests could take their pictures in a variety of sets – from bloody bathtubs to coffins. It was a really cool way for people to make memories of their trip out to the hayride. The snack shack is back, serving the same gluten-free treats as before, and most of the fare we ate hit the spot. The pumpkin beignets are especially good so I highly recommend them.

The House of Shadows, which used to be known as the In-Between, is a dark maze where guests navigate the blackness of a twisting maze in order to make it out there other side. This was a lot of fun, and the line control staff did a good job of spacing groups out so that there were not too many collisions between groups in the dark.

Trick or Treat has returned again to the LA Haunted Hayride, but with a very confusing change. While the name of the walk-through experience is still called “Trick or Treat” and the attendant that speaks to your group prior to entering tells you to knock on the door and say “trick or treat”, candy is no longer handed out (even though it still says it is on the website)! Last year, Sour Patch sponsored this experience and it was such a load of fun to walk door to door and collect candy. Even if their candy sponsor fell through this year, I would imagine that picking up economy bags of the cheapest Halloween candies from a big box store would be a possibility. Why have a Trick or Treat experience without the treats? If there was no candy available, I would have rather seen Trick or Treat transform into a more traditional scare experience. The scare actors in this experience seem to notice the loss as they don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.

There actually used to be another haunted house called the House of Shadows which was a semi-interactive/semi-escape room style experience. I wish it had been brought out of retirement this year to help offset the absences. Having just one more haunted house in the mix would have made the experience feel more complete and might alleviate the line times at the hayride itself.

As for the hayride itself? The wait times in line were very long on the night we attended. Even with the VIP express lane passes that our group had, it took us about 45 minutes to get into the ride staging cages. On every other visit we have had to the LA Haunted Hayride, we never waited more than 15 minutes. Whether this longer wait was due to fewer wagons being available or because there is less to do in the event as a whole, I cannot say. Once our turn was up, we all climbed aboard our wagons and took a seat. The hayride began and we were having a very fun time. The monsters along the hayride path did a great job by bringing a lot of energy to their scares and the set pieces were interesting and creative. Unfortunately, they are still having guests disembark the wagon midway through the hayride and go through a walk-through maze. This walk-through experience is simply not working – it takes way too much time to get guests out then back into the hay wagons and may be contributing to the increased line times. Also, people are paying money to go on a hayride, something that you simply can’t find in Southern California. Why you would remove guests from the one thing that makes you corner the marketplace is beyond me – especially when that walk-through area is nothing revolutionary in the haunted house space. The last half of the hayride is fun and we stopped by the gift shop on the way out to pick up some shirts.

This year’s LA Haunted Hayride is a mixed bag. There are several enjoyable things about the event, but it has been offset greatly by the strange absences this year as well as the confusing walk-through area of the hayride. I can see picking up a hayride-only ticket for $35 dollars but would probably not recommend getting a VIP ticket for $60 dollars this year – there just isn’t enough of a benefit to that ticket to warrant the added cost. Maybe if they added a VIP ticket holder parking area closer to the event, some free swag, or re-added the missing ingredients from last year’s LA Haunted Hayride – but not with this current lineup. The LA Haunted Hayride runs various days throughout October – you can find dates, ticket information, and more at their official website.

 

GAEMS Announces 1080P Portable Gaming Display

Redmond, Wash.–October 19, 2017–GAEMS announced today that the new M155 Full HD 1080P performance gaming monitor is now available for pre-order exclusively from GameStop and will launch on November 1. The 15.6″ E LED monitor now features full 1080P HD with a resolution of 1920×1080 at 60Hz and 180 nit brightness. Compatible with Xbox One X, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 Pro, PS4, PS3, and the Nintendo Switch. The lightweight and powerful M155 HD is the ultimate solution for enjoying games and entertainment wherever you go.

Weighing less than 2 pounds, the sleek and ultra-portable M155 Full HD monitor lets you experience games, videos and more in crisp, detailed Full HD 1080P resolution, and the hinged, anti-slip rubber feet support a 12 degree viewing angle. A zippered neoprene sleeve is included for additional padding and protection while on the go.

Features of the GAEMS M155 Full HD include:

  • OSD Languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, and Italian
  • Micro USB power port
  • HDMI Port 1.4 (without CEC function)
  • Integrated speaker
  • 3.5mm headphone jack 1W
  • ¼ camera screw socket compatible with mounts, clamps and tripods
  • Control buttons for Menu, Volume, Brightness and Power

The M155 ships complete with an HDMI cable, a USB “Y Split” power cable and 5V/2A power adapter plug, a protective neoprene sleeve and remote control. For more information and to pre-order the M155, visit GameStop.com .

Mountain High Lowers Season Pass Pricing in Prep for 2017-2018

Wrightwood, Calif. – (Oct. 19, 2017) – Mountain High, Southern California’s closest winter resort, is busy preparing for the upcoming 2017-18 season in many ways, including offering a “build-your-own” season pass product that is on sale until October 31 at the lowest price of the year.

The base price of $299 for adults ($199 for kids) includes unlimited access to all three Mountain High resorts (WestEast and North), day and night, with no blackout dates.

For additional benefits, guests can add fast pass lift lines, preferred parking, free skiing at 18 partner resorts and Mountain High resort vouchers.

Mountain High add-ons include:

  • Powder Alliance Benefits for $99 – Mountain High season pass holders can enjoy three days each at 18 premiere winter destinations like Sierra at Tahoe (Calif.), Crested Butte (Colo.), Snowbasin (Utah) and Snow Valley (Calif.) among others. Visit www.powderalliance.com for a complete resort listing.
  • Preferred Parking Pass for $99 – Mountain High will be offering preferred parking for guests at the West Resort during any visit, even on a powder day.
  • Fast Pass Lift Line for $99 – Skip the lift lines every day at both high-speed quad lifts, quantities are limited for this premier lift access. (Limit one person per fast pass).
  • A $99 resort voucher worth $120 value – This is valid toward any non-sale ticket, rental, lesson, retail or food and drink purchase at the resort except for alcohol and season passes.

Mountain High pass holders who buy three add-ons will get the fourth add-on for free.

“This is such an incredible value that you really can’t go wrong,” said John McColly, Mountain High chief marketing officer. “We’re stoked about the fast-approaching season and can’t wait to get our chairs spinning.”

Given last year’s wet winter, Mountain High anticipates a strong 2017-18 season. With nearly three times as much water available for snowmaking compared to last year, Mountain High expects to be the first resort open in the region again, which should take place in mid-November.

Mountain High offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing among its 16 lifts, 59 trails and North Pole Tubing Park. It is the only regional resort with night skiing available seven nights-a-week during peak season. Mountain High’s winter season traditionally runs from mid-November to mid-April.

For more information about Mountain High, visit mthigh.com or follow on Twitter @mthigh, Instagram @mthighsnow and Facebook.

The Queen Mary’s All-New CHILL Unveils Calendar of International Holiday Celebrations

LONG BEACH, Calif., (October 1​9​, 2017) – The world-famous Queen Mary invites guests to embark on an international holiday expedition this winter with the unveiling of the all-new CHILL, open December 13, 2017 through January 7, 2018. Featuring the first-ever Ice Adventure Park in the U.S., the newly-inspired CHILL offers a rush of icy family fun with nightly entertainment throughout the park including international cultural celebrations, live music, Rockettes-style dance performances, fireworks, light shows, DJs, dancing, tasty food, a nightly Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and much more.

Experience the 38,000-square foot ice park honoring international holiday celebrations with one-of-a-kind entertainment and traditions of Germany, Switzerland, China, Russia, Holland, and the North Pole. Embark in traditional Chinese entertainment in CHILL’s version of the Forbidden City with nightly performances by Shaolin Monks and experience first-hand the beautiful rhythmic movements of the traditional Lion Dance. CHILL’s Kung Fu Forest will offer fireworks every Sunday night. Glide through the finish line of Shanghai Speedway nightly ($5 add on) on CHILL’s big wheel ice bikes. Saunter down Lantern Lane into the Lucky Bamboo and meet CHILL’s Panda Character for warm bear-hugs and unique selfie opportunities.

Take in the traditions of Germany with a stroll through CHILL’s Munich Market and raise a stein to the nightly live tunes from the authentic Alpine Band. Meet the ethereal Christkindle, the German gift bringer and bearer of lights, and shop traditional holiday trinkets and souvenirs at the nightly festive market. Cozy up in Switzerland’s Alpine Square by roasting marshmallows and building gooey s’mores at the toasty fire pit. Dine in the Alpine Lodge, open nightly, serving traditional Swiss bites overlooking the Matterhorn Mountain tubing slide and meet the gift bearer of the Alps, Sinterklaas, for photos and celebrations of the Twelfth Night.

Show off your best grooves as the DJ spins today’s top hits at the Russian Disco in CHILL’s Blizzard Boulevard. Experience the magic of the Northern Lights Show offered nightly at the Aurora Borealis Light show and meet the gift bringers of Russia, Father Frost and The Princess. Holland’s Windmill Way will offer nightly performances on the Illumination stage with hourly performances by Rockettes-style dancers and a nightly tree lighting ceremony. Meet the magical Father Time, Holland’s gift bearer who will share interesting facts on stargazing and how the Dutch discovered the telescope. Skate over to America’s North Pole for a visit and photo with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Visit the Candy Bar to grab sweet treats for the little ones, and liquid candy sips for the adults.

The all-new CHILL also offers an opportunity to experience international fare. Tempt your taste buds with beverages and bites from around the globe including Germany’s Twisted Pretzel and Tasting Tavern and the Brat Haus. Pay tribute to Swiss delicacies with a visit to the Zurich Deli, the Fondue Pot, and the Alpine Lodge’s restaurant: Chateau Bar. Sip on traditional teas in China’s Zen Teahouse and the Hot Pot. Then warm up in the Russian Pierogi Paradise or the Stroganoff and Stew Pot. Curb your sweet tooth with gourmet donuts, make-your-own Gingerbread house or visit the Fire Pit to make holiday s‘mores.

CHILL pricing starts at $29.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $19.00 for kids. VIP Ultimate Expedition tickets are also available starting at $79.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $69.00 for kids. CHILL will run Dec. 13, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018, excluding Dec. 31, 2017. For more information, including an entertainment schedule, hours of operation and to purchase tickets online, visit http://queenmary.com/chill/

Castle Dark 2017 Review

I grew up in Riverside, CA and went to Castle Amusement Park A LOT in my youth – sometimes with friends and other times with family. Built and designed in 1976 by Bud Hurlbut, one of the creators of Knott’s Scary Farm, as well as Knott’s Berry Farm’s Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride, Castle Amusement Park is a fixture of entertainment in Riverside. However, despite my perusing some social media posts, I never got the chance to see their “Castle Dark” haunted event until this year! Castle Park, as it is now known since its purchase by Palace Entertainment, transforms into Castle Dark – a small haunted attraction that adds monsters and haunted houses into the park.

We arrived at Castle Park at 6:30 PM, a half hour prior to Castle Dark beginning. The park was still open, but in what they call their “Happy Hauntings” event. This is a more kid-friendly event and lets children paint pumpkins, participate in costume contests, and go through a very tame haunted house where they will even get some candy. It looked like the kids were having a lot of fun, but that wasn’t why we were there. At 7:00 PM, the PA system rang out with the announcement that Castle Dark had begun, and a small crew of monsters began roaming throughout the park, scaring guests.

We made our way over to the “Carnival of Slaughter”, one of their haunted houses, and went on in. Carnival of Slaughter was short, but the few talent inside were committed to their scares and I even jumped once which, due to my experience with haunted houses, is very rare. Once outside of Carnival of Slaughter, we were directed into another haunted house nearby called “Castle Peak Caverns”. This maze is built on a section of the park’s railroad and has a unique layout because of that. Most haunted houses have twists and turns in order to disorient guests. Castle Peak Caverns is almost a straight shot, albeit with a slight curve. Unfortunately, there were not as many monsters in this maze that there should have, given the distance it covers. I would like to have seen more spider holes alongside the walking path for monsters to conceal themselves inside. Castle Peak Caverns has some great atmosphere – especially once you get inside the mine tunnel area. I have never seen a haunted house laid out in such a straight path before – there is potential here. The last haunted house we went into was called “Shiverton Keep” and displayed good set design, dedicated monsters, and great costuming/prop-making. This maze definitely was the best of the three we experienced that evening – however each had its own strengths that made them fun.

There is one more “haunted house” at Castle Dark, but I type that in quotations as it really isn’t scary. It is the kid-friendly “House of Halloween” maze. In this maze, the scare actors interact with the kids in non-scary ways. They can even get candy! I think this kind of haunted house is essential. Not only does it prime younger people to get into Halloween and haunted attractions, but it also allows them a great deal of fun doing it. There are not enough kid/family-friendly haunts out there.

There are a couple of things that I would love to see come to Castle Dark next year. Chiefly, I’d love to see monsters lining the tracks of the Riverside Express train ride. I am a sucker for ride-based haunted attractions just because there are so few of them. Knott’s Scary Farm doesn’t really do them anymore and the LA Haunted Hayride is a hybrid ride/walk experience now. It would be great for the train to be a dedicated haunted ride – or at least better themed.

Also open during Castle Dark is the arcade and Ghost Blasters dark ride, where guests ride through blacklight-lit scenes and shoot at ghostly targets. It’s a fun ride although I think it might be cool to add some scare actors in it too! Also of note is the fried food shack where you can get all sorts of carnival eats – from friend Twinkies to funnel cake!

Overall, Castle Dark is a fun haunted event that will give both young and old some jump scares and a healthy dose of Halloween fun. If you live in the Inland Empire area, you should definitely find an evening to attend. Hours of operation, ticket information, and more can be found on the Castle Park website.

Photo Gallery

LA Ghost Train 2017 Review

After a turbulent, one year hiatus, the LA Ghost Train has returned to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park! The LA Ghost Train allows guests to ride on 7½” gauge model trains around spooky sets and scenes. We parked at the public park right next to the LA Ghost Train gate one hour before the attraction opened. It is important to get there early as the parking lots are small and the line gets very long very quickly. At 7:00 PM, the LA Ghost Train opened and creator Gary Baker welcomed us onto our model train. The trains are a big part of the LA Ghost Train experience and, even though it is rather dark during the evening experience, you can make out a lot of the detail to be found on the trains – the amount of work building and maintaining them has to be appreciated.

Our ride around the LA Ghost Train track was so much fun – the sets and scenes that have been constructed this year are great. Unfortunately, some of the sets had been destroyed after the event was temporarily canceled, so they had to be rebuilt. What’s even more amazing is that the LA Ghost Train crew had a VERY short amount of time to get the attraction ready after the LA Live Steamers board gave the event the green light for 2017. You would never know they only had 6 weeks to get it all together as everything looks amazing. The ride lasts for around 2o minutes and, during your ride, you’ll see a ton of spooky fun stuff.

The best part about the LA Ghost Train is not just that it is unique – I can’t think of another haunted train experience in SoCal – but that it’s family-friendly! The sets are spooky and have some startling elements, but it is all very tame in comparison to most haunted houses, which try to one up each other in the gore factor.  Most of the sets at the LA Ghost Train are activated by the train passing by sensors and are of the animatronic variety, but the event does have some impressive pyrotechnic effects – there are no scare actors at the LA Ghost Train. This combination of spooky fun and family-friendliness makes the LA Ghost Train a Halloween time tradition for many families.

A ticket to ride on the LA Ghost Train costs $20 dollars and is well worth the cost of admission. In fact, the LA Ghost Train is the Los Angeles Live Steamers only annual fundraiser. Operating the trains and maintaining the trains and tracks costs a lot of money throughout the year and the ticket sales go to help keep the machinery working.

Overall, the 2017 LA Ghost Train is an amazing experience that offers fun for all ages and is one of the best family-friendly haunted attractions in Southern California. The LA Ghost Train runs various days throughout October – check out their official website for dates, ticket information, and more.

Baja Edge of Control HD Review

Fans of racing games may recall the 2008 title, Baja: Edge of Control. It was released to generally positive reviews and was even one of the nominees for “best racing game of 2008” by GameSpot. Unfortunately, the game was not released on PC at the time. Now, almost ten years later, the game has been remastered for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 platforms as Baja: Edge of Control HD.

At its core, Baja: Edge of Control HD puts gamers in the cockpit of over 160 sponsored vehicles from multiple classes. There are go-karts, buggies, 4×4’s, and a lot more. This is because Baja: Edhe of Control HD allows you to compete in a variety of game modes, including hill-climbs and endurance races. There is enough to keep any racing gamer occupied for a while as they learn the various events and the quirks of operating each vehicle. I spent most of my time in the game’s career mode, where you rise in the ranks throughout a huge number of races. In this mode, you earn credits to buy new vehicles and vehicle upgrades, and this in and of itself is a lot of fun.

The most impressive mode that will definitely appeal to the hardcore racers out there are the lengthy “Baja” race modes. These races take place over huge plots of land and can, in the longest race, take you a few hours to complete. I thought the game was a lot of fun, but that is too much for this writer! Good luck to those of you with the fortitude and racing skill to complete it, I salute you.

The controller support seemed good, and my Logitech racing wheel gave me some decent force feedback effects during my races. I would NOT recommend this game for those PC players wanting to just use their keyboards. You really need at least a game pad for this one.

Truth be told, I am usually a horrible racing game player – I just never find the right amount of throttle to not go flying off the corners of the track. I did not suffer this fate in Baja: Edge of Control HD, however, as the game is sort of in the middle of difficulty spectrum. The vehicles handle in what feels like a realistic fashion, but it is not unforgiving like many racers I have suffered through. This balance allowed me to really get into each race and enjoy the experience of flying through the hills and valleys at high speed. According to the developers, the game has had some updating in its physics system, but I did not play the original to compare the two. Whatever they did, though, was positive as I had a lot of fun with the racing component of this game.

While there is a multiplayer mode, it looks like the server populations are not that great right now, so I spent my time mainly in single player. According to the game synopsis, the developers updated the vehicle AI for greater challenger and flexibility. I felt that my AI racing opponents were skilled and usually gave a me a run for my money.

Visually, Baja: Edge of Control HD is no beauty queen. It’s a decent game on the graphical front but, despite the up-to 4K face-lift, there are still a lot of textures that just don’t look very detailed. The good news is that, because of not needing a blisteringly-fast GPU to run, the game is very accessible for a variety of PC configurations and should allow you to see some nice frame rates. Baja: Edge of Control HD features good audio design and plenty of ambient, real-world sounds to make the racing experience sound believable.

Overall, Baja: Edge of Control HD is a fun racing game that is accessible enough for the layperson but not so “dumbed down” that the racing game purists will be turned off. Another huge thing going for it is its very reasonable price point of $29.99. At this price point, it is well worth the purchase for your PC racing setup.


Baja: Edge of Control HD Review Score

(4 out of 5 Stars)