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Fright Walk and Labyrinth
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Reviewed: 10/15/2004, The Hauntmistress
I've always questioned why the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk didn't capitalize on the crowds drawn to the area by Labyrinth, and before that, the Beach Street Haunted House (creators, as a matter of fact, of Fright Walk). Well, now they have! The tricky part of this is that Fright Walk had to be better than average so they wouldn't be forgettable compared to the consistently good Labyrinth. I'm happy to say they have succeeded!
Located on the Boardwalk, you can see and hear Fright Walk as you walk up walkway 2 from Beach Street. They have eerie music pulsing, red lights shining, a fog machine at full Pacifica levels, and characters roaming around in front. The Boardwalk lends itself nicely to this atmosphere, as it is a little eerie and desolate at night. It's times like these that your really get the feeling that they chose the right location for the film Lost Boys. More than once I looked around to see if Kiefer Sutherland was lurking about, or maybe that was just wishful thinking.
We entered Fright Walk in our own group and did not run into any other parties inside - which I always enjoy. Fright Walk has a fun-house feel to it as you roam through corridors and rooms, and at one point, halls of full-length mirrors. Apparently, I am very scary to look at, as I scared myself no less than five times by turning a corner and coming face to face with my reflection in the mirror. I'd step back to go the other way, only to be confronted and scared by myself again in another mirror! This is an old, standard fun-house trick, but it shows the old standards really works here.
Fright Walk has lots of simple but effective scares and is more animatronic-driven than actor driven. And while the animatronics were nicely done, we would have liked to have seen less of the mechanics of them (as we've said about other haunts) and better timing of when they "go off" so we're not passed them when they do their thing. When the actors did jump at us, it was more effective than usual because we weren't expecting it.
We loved the vortex tunnel near the end of Fright Walk, and there is a special treat at the end of the haunt that was fun, but I won't spoil it for you! Go see for yourself!
The theme for Labyrinth this year is Carnival of Souls. As usual, it was great! They had characters roaming around in front of the haunt that interacted with people walking by and those in line. All the actors, both in the haunt and outside, were wonderfully, scarily costumed, and stayed in character. Speaking of characters, I must say, next to evil clowns, nothing is as scary as carnies. After we entered, we were greeted by a fortune teller but we decided to pass in case there was some truly horrible fate awaiting us at the Carnival of Souls. As we took our place in front of the doors that would allow us into the main haunt, we noticed there was some nice rag-time music playing from an old piano by a carnie behind us. This cheerful melody devolved into a demented, psychotic, circus-like tune as you moved into the haunt. A very nice touch indeed.
Inside, Labyrinth is dark, cramped, and full of disorienting twists and turns. We had quite a few shocking moments, the details of which I won't mention so as not to spoil the effect, but lets just say marionettes rank up there with clowns and carnies. There is one pitch-black passageway where, even though characters were trying to control the flow of people, we ran smack into a group of girls who would not move! They were frozen in place with terror. I literally had to push them forward while they were screaming in order to continue our adventure.
Labyrinth makes particularly effective use of fog to remove you from your surroundings and make you forget you are in a small section of the Boardwalk's parking lot. Normally we're not fond of most fog fluids, but this fog was nice and sweet smelling and didn't interfere with breathing at all. There is so much going on in Labyrinth that once you've exited, it all seems like a blur! They have so many good ideas going on that my only complaint is that it's not longer. Perhaps this is why we decided to go through again!
With the reasonable $15 admission price for both Fright Walk and Labyrinth, you receive a free coupon for either Laser Tag or Miniature Golf at the Boardwalk! A great value and a good way to make it a complete night.
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