4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara
Reviewed 09/30/11 by Specter
It's been a few years since our last visit to Great America's Halloween Haunt so it was with more than a little interest that we returned this year to see what has changed. So let's get right to it and take a look at the prime attraction, the haunted mazes.
New York's hottest club is Blooooood! It has everything, blurkels, human bath mats, puppets in disguise... oops, sorry, Stefon flashback there. What I meant to say was Club Blood is Great America's hottest club for vampires and the undead. It has everything, evil zombie bums, hungry undead nurses, piles of cadavers, and sexy vampire cage dancers who literally want you for your body.
Club Blood is a fun and scary look at what a night out on the town might be for some young hip vampires with stops for fresh blood and gore around town before hitting up a happening underground nightspot. We enjoyed our previous visit to Club Blood and it didn't disappoint this time. In fact, it felt even more fully staffed than before and since actors make a haunt, we really enjoyed ourselves.
Billed as a place where once dreams were made and now where nightmares come true, the Toy Factory turned out to be our favorite haunt of the night. Life-size dolls (former guests, now horrible toys) torment and torture from every turn as evil factory workers chased us through a factory where all our favorite childhood games became horribly twisted.
Maybe it's the cooties I was infected with as a child but evil life-sized dolls just creep me out. Their unchanging faces, the bloody knives in their hands, the little bits of flesh they drag from the bottoms of their shoes, and the relentless cries of, "Play with me!". Shudder! It's just so wonderfully demented.
We also particularly enjoyed the Hungry Hungry Hippo and life sized Operation game. Truly, it all was great scary fun!
New this year to Halloween Haunt is Slaughterhouse Annihilation. In this maze you enter a world that is overpopulated and needs food. As a “solution”, you become the food! This is another extremely well done and detailed haunt. There is blood everywhere and body parts are hanging from the ceiling, scattered on the floor, and being carried around by creepy slaughterhouse workers. A favorite room of ours was the grinder room in which meat (you know, the other, other white meat, long pig, soilent green, uh... you) was coming out of a grinder and piped into the hungry mouths of the living. There are actors everywhere in this haunt and it is lengthy, moving you through room after bloody room of writhing body bags, a filthy disgusting bathroom, and kitchens that even the San Francisco Health Department would immediately close down. Many of the scenes are so detailed that I would have liked to spend more time looking around, but we didn't want to become dinner.
Corn Stalkers takes you on a long walk down a path littered with hay, wooden outhouses, barrels, and evil scarecrows who jump out at you or rustle the corn as you walk by. On our previous visit, Corn Stalkers was our least favorite haunt, mostly due to a lack of actors. This time around it was largely unchanged except there were many more actors. This would have been a nice improvement had our experience not been marred by park personnel conspicuously standing around using bright flashlights as they wrote in notebooks and loudly discussed the merits of various Android-based tablets. A real mood killer. While we're sure this is an isolated incident the haunt still is at the far end of the park and if you're pressed for time we'd recommend hitting the other, faster paced mazes first.
Black Widow's Cavern
Black Widow's Cavern takes place at the Logger's Run ride, which has been taken over by angry arachnids. The ride is essentially unchanged from the standard Logger's Run but there are a few startles sprinkled along its course. We're not sure how it's possible but we actually got more soaked this night than we have on other visits to the park. If you don't save this for last you might want to at the least bring a change of shoes and socks.
Werewolf Canyon takes over the Rip Roaring Canyon ride location but rest assured that this, unlike Black Widow's Cavern, is a dry haunt. Werewolf Canyon takes you through a dark and evil forest where hunters have become the hunted by a pack of murderous werewolves. While I enjoyed this haunt overall it was a little uneven in the scare department. It began strong as we toured a massacre scene at the hunter's cabin but as we went deep into the woods we ran into a human traffic jam that left actors with nowhere to go and it was obvious they had no strategy to deal with this, as we just stood and stared at each other. One wolf gave a shrug as if to convey that he was just as clueless as I as to what to do in such an awkward situation. Still, once we got moving and progressed toward the end of the haunt the crowd thinned, the actors had room to get back into character, and there were a few more satisfactory startles.
I don't know if it was a question of trying to push too many through the haunt or an inability to move guests, once in. I suspect the cause may have been a couple, girl crying hysterically, that I saw at the exit to the haunt. All I can really say is, I wish I had her experience.
The freaks come out at night at Carnevil, which is filled with crazy characters, action, and décor. As was the case last time we visited, creepy carnival music and demented clowns haunt the grounds around Carnevil, hiding in the thick fog and beckoning you to enter their lair. Once inside, it’s a smorgasbord for your senses. The smell of fog is thick, all you can hear is warped carnival music and tortured screams, and everywhere you look you see bright neon colors and crazy characters.
Last time we visited Carnevil, it had cotton candy hallways. This time it added cotton candy people! It was a simple yet brilliant touch that I wish I would have thought to do for my own Halloween costume! This haunt has all the requisite carnival themes going on: jack in the box, evil clowns, a penny arcade, escaped circus animals, a magician, a hall of mirrors, and more. All the rooms are extremely well done and the actors are top-notch. They stay in character, menace you throughout the haunt, and the costumes and make-up are stellar.
As in previous years, the park features roaming actors dressed as all manner of evil, creepy, disturbing, and dangerous monsters but there are three areas, Dead Man's Cove, The Gauntlet, and Underworld Alley that are positively rife with them. Our favorite was The Gauntlet, the fog shrouded area outside of Carnevil. It is overrun with carnival freaks and maniacal clowns darting in an out of the fog playing evil tricks on the unsuspecting.
If you find yourself in need of a break, I highly recommend you position yourself near one of the Scare Zones. Watching the actors sneak up on and scare unsuspecting Halloween Haunt visitors is hilarious and an attraction in and of itself.
In addition to the haunted mazes and Scare Zones there are a number of live shows happening around the park. There are three musical shows, Blood Drums, Primevil Percussion, and Zombies Gone Viral. Blood Drums is new this year; it's located at the grand Carousel Columbia and is performed by the very talented Street Drum Corp. It's a high volume, high energy percussion show in the same vein as the theater hit, Stomp, but with a darker twist. If you miss them at this stage you can catch them as they wander the park performing Primevil Percussion using found objects and wandering actors to create a unique show. Another not to be missed and new show this year is the awesome Zombies Gone Viral show at the Great America Theater where the undead dance to the best hits from the past.
Last but not least, at the Delirium Stage you'll find the Shocking Sideshow of Freaks where George the Giant and Michael Todd will amaze and disturb with freakish and cringe worthy feats. If you've ever wanted to stand on a man's head as it rests on a bed of broken glass then this is the show for you!
Great America has a real winner on their hands this year. Compared to our last visit there are many more actors both in the haunts and roaming the park. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and I believe this represents a great value for your Halloween dollar. Seven haunts, five shows, and three Scare Zones, not to mention the great rides, equals an entire night of fun for around $40.
Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar or our map of pumpkin patches and haunted houses to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area.
Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion in our forums!
||Oct. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, 2011, 7 pm-midnight
||4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara
||$36.99 pre-sale; see website for other pricing and discounts