In 2010, the Queen Mary introduced Southern California to its Dark Harbor haunted attraction. With five haunted mazes, live music, and a nice bar area the event was a force to be reckoned with on the haunted attraction landscape. This year, Dark Harbor is back with a new line-up of live music as well as some refinements to its inner-workings and haunted mazes.
We were invited to their opening night to checkout the park and were instantly impressed with the much more efficient security checkpoint. Last year, the lined clogged up quite a bit as pat-downs went on and people were questioned. This time around, the security staff moved quickly and people poured into the entrance area. After making our way through the cool cargo container scare zone, we found ourselves right in front of the Nightmariner’s Bar, where patrons can grab a drink or two and enjoy some live music from various local bands. This year’s list of live music is quite the line up and patrons are in for a treat, no matter what night they attend the event.
The first maze on our walk-through was The Cage. Last year, The Cage felt like a lawsuit waiting to happen as guests tried (and often failed) to navigate their way through the maze. While still a bit winding, this year’s The Cage features a much better layout and some great rooms, like a hallway of hands… You will see when you go through. The talent was very excited to be working the maze and we definitely got more than our fair share of jumps and scares. Also of note is that the staff on-hand quickly and efficiently got us a supervisor for our video walk-through (see below).
Village of the Damned was our next maze of the night. The maze sends guests through various parts of a small hamlet under the control of various creatures and monsters. This maze also introduced us to the first of two featured monsters – actual performing talent. In this maze, it was the Mayor of the Village of the Damned, petitioning us to vote for him in their upcoming election. The overall maze design seemed the same as last year and, like The Cage, the talent really stepped up their game and worked for their scares.
Containment was the first maze to take us aboard the Queen Mary herself, in a ward looked after by the dreaded Doctor. All the talent worked into their roles as patients of the doctor and were very vocal in expressing their fear of the character. Featured in the maze were some very cool and bloody props that inspired not just disgust, but also awe in their design. The doctor character was well animated and performed his lines with a natural cadence. More haunted attractions should incorporate features characters like this, where appropriate.
Hellfire saw us delve into a ship ablaze. The maze made great use of fog effects and told a story of people committing arson inside the ship, which ends up claiming many lives. The design of the maze was incredible, with a lot of singed props and draping about to set the mood. The talent, like those in the mazes we already spoke of, was incredible and should be commended for their opening night performance. Hopefully, they will be able to keep up this intensity throughout their run. Hellfire did have one thing that left us wanting. Last year, the bridge across the boiler room had guests looking down upon some very cool projected flames. This year, guests are treated to a few spark throwers below, but the effect feels too far away and limited in scope to be effective. I hope they bring the projection effects back for next year’s offering.
The final maze of the evening was Submerged which shows a ship in distress, taking on water. The use of pumped water effects in this maze was brilliant and disturbing. Water on a boat is always a bad sign… While this maze did not have a featured character in the way the others did, a small-in-size woman playing a child looking for her “mommy” was eerie and she did a great job of playing the role.
Overall, the Queen Mary’s 2011 offering of Dark Harbor was a lot of fun and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a haunting good time this month. It has more than enough scares for the younger crowd and plenty of adult-oriented fun for us “older” folks. Checkout their official website for ticket info and more.
Village of the Damned