Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Haunt Preview: Reign of Terror (RoT) in Thousand Oaks

It seems like every Halloween season there is one haunt that really surprises me with its utter awesomeness. A few years ago, it was Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. I hadn't been since I was a kid and I wasn't expecting the pure, unadulterated terror - of course, I now know that HHN is the gold standard when it comes to L.A. area haunted attractions. Last year, it was the L.A. Haunted Hayride. And this year, the honor goes to the Reign of Terror Haunted House in Thousand Oaks.

I've heard amazing things about this haunt, and was particularly intrigued by the fact that the RoT actually started out as an amateur yard haunt at owner Bruce Stanton's house. A couple of years ago, Bruce partnered with the city, and the RoT Haunted House is now presented in conjunction with the city of Thousand Oaks. The haunt runs on volunteer labor and, after costs have been covered, the proceeds from ticket sales go to local community groups.

This year, the Reign of Terror will take place in the Janss Marketplace, a rather nondescript suburban strip mall. As I parked, I wondered if this haunt was all that it was cracked up to be - but the moment we set foot inside, I was blown away.

The decor and attention to detail at the Reign of Terror are absolutely amazing - second to none, and I'm including Universal in this equation. Bruce and his team of volunteers have crammed every inch of the 6,000-square-foot maze with vintage furniture and old medical equipment, lovingly constructed set pieces and animatronic creatures, lighting and sound effects and more. Keep in mind that the RoT was still under construction when I visited, and that it was the middle of the day and there were no monsters in the maze - just a few workers eating their lunch and discussing plans - and yet it was still terrifying! I'm not kidding when I say that, on our little self-guided, lights-on tour, there were a few rooms that I actually hesitated to enter.

This year, the RoT actually features two mazes: The haunted house, and a subsequent visit to an insane asylum. Both feel exceptionally long and claustrophobic - qualities that any haunted house aficionado will tell you are essential when it comes to setting the mood for terror. But, as I said, the real beauty of this attraction lies in the impeccable detail work. You can tell that the team behind the Reign of Terror are committed to giving guests the best - i.e., scariest - experience possible, and that they will stop at nothing to make sure every last gruesome element is in its place.

Despite the fact that I haven't yet experienced the maze with all of its lighting, sound effects and actors in place, I'm still giving the Reign of Terror my highest recommendation. It's worth the drive to Thousand Oaks from L.A. proper - you will not be disappointed.

The RoT Haunted House is located at 197 N. Moorpark Rd. in Thousand Oaks, on the second floor of the Janss Marketplace (above Gold's Gym). It will be open for 9 nights in October: 15-16, 22-24 and 28-31. General admission is $13, and front of the line passes are $20. For $3 off the price of admission for everyone in your group, become a fan of the Reign of Terror on Facebook and print out this coupon.

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