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Haunt enthusiasts, by this point in October you’ve more than likely been chased by myriad ghouls in fog-filled, seasonal parks across SoCal, but did you have the ability to fire back? We did, and it was sublime! Read on for our review of the intensely unique experience that is Haunted Hollywood Sports.
Located at 9030 Somerset Blvd. in Bellflower, CA, Haunted Hollywood Sports is the seasonal re-creation of Hollywood Sports, a park dedicated year-round to the pursuit of Airsoft and Paintball. For the uninitiated, the former is basically paintball without the mess. Resembling the military-style firearms they mimic, Airsoft weaponry favors 6mm plastic BBs in lieu of paint, BBs which can be fired rapidly and with velocity; in this case, at zombies and zombie rednecks that pursue guests within the park’s three shadowy ‘Killhouses.’
Arriving to the spookily decorated attraction on September 27th for media night, we first found our way to Club Crimson, the park’s onsite nightclub (its interior is permanently framed by Gothic columns and other set decor from director Jan De Bont’s 1999 film The Haunting), and were greeted by not only a full spread of food and an open bar (the latter staffed by vampish, corseted bartenders), but also makeup artist turned ‘haunt head’ Candice Catron, who hosted the park’s launch presentation.
Catron, a haunt enthusiast and FX artist with over six years of experience in the field (having previously worked at Knott’s Scary Farm), told of this year’s haunt (its sophomore effort following the 2012 launch), “As an event, we have matured.”
“We added to our crew and have one goal in mind: to make our customers happy,” she continued. “With the help of 7-Up, we built Venom, a free-standing walk-through maze that is exclusive for Halloween and is not a part of normal park operations. We also have condensed the park immensely to ensure that our guests are being stimulated every step of the way.”
Chatting with Catron regarding what’s new for the 2013 haunt (you can read our review from last year here), she stated, “In addition to the Zombie, Voodoo and Deadman’s Trail ‘Killhouses,’ visitors can also expect for 2013 three haunt mazes (All American Armageddon, Cannibal Caverns and the previously mentioned Venom) and two scare zones (Carnival of the Damned and Outpost Z), in addition to the eighteen and over nightclub.”
After acquiring some libations, we settled in for Catron’s launch presentation and were touched by the engaging atmosphere generated by herself and co-hosts Giovanni Degidio (the park’s owner) and Jerry Paxtan of PaxtonDesignStudios, who along with wife Denice are marketing the attraction. Communicating not only their dedication to Airsoft (a small but growing sport made up of entirely passionate individuals) and their love of haunts, they made it clear that much like a niche boutique hotel, their goal isn’t to compete with the larger fear attractions of SoCal (Halloween Horror Nights, etc)., but to offer their guests an experience that simply can’t be found elsewhere.
Orchestrated to brilliantly illustrate that point, at that very moment the main doors of Club Crimson were flung inward, and a swarm of backlit, groaning zombies, clowns and grotesque creatures shambled into the hall. Before they were able, however, to dine on the gathered press, an Airsoft tactical team decked out in military garb and brandishing Airsoft weaponry neutralized the monstrous threat, all to the cheers of those assembled.
Having soaked this in, it was time for some combat within the Voodoo ‘Killhouse’ (in a nutshell, it’s a pairing of the ‘haunted maze’ concept with the sport of Airsoft). Outfitted with automatic electric air gun G36 assault rifles and protective goggles, and briefed on Airsoft safety by a scare actor with an altogether believable Cajun accent, we were directed into the maze. Receiving direction by our ‘point man’ and the trooper who took up the rear (two park employees with believable military and tactical demeanor), we moved quickly from structure to structure and room to room, firing on myriad zombified Cajuns who crept, lurched and shambled throughout the facility.
It was over altogether too quickly, as evidenced by the ear-to-ear grins on the faces of the assembled press and our vocalized desires to, “Go again! Go again!” With that, we ventured over to the Zombie ‘Killhouse’ in the hopes of a similar adrenaline rush.
There we were provided with Airsoft M4’s outfitted with IR (infra red) and C02 bottles attached to their butt stocks, which would provide, as Catron had told us earlier, “a recoil after every shot to lend realism, and the IR will light up the zombie’s vests, which should leave no room for user error.”
Again, zombies shambled among the buildings and lay in wait amid the darkened recesses of the park’s simulated Middle Eastern town, where our objective was to secure a package (a cure to the plague which had turned the town’s inhabitants into the undead). Our visibility cut by darkness, we made our way through. Some of our group didn’t survive, however (though if touched and subsequently ‘infected,’ we were able to continue along, albeit with the knowledge that we were killed in action). Like the Voodoo ‘Killhouse,’ this, too, was extremely entertaining, given the close proximity of the scare actors. For those who ever wonder how they’d fare in a “The Walking Dead” type-scenario, this was about as close as you are going to get (barring an actual zombie apocalypse).
A great time was had by all, and this writer can recommend without reservation a visit to Haunted Hollywood Sports, but don’t delay, as the attraction’s remaining nights for the season are limited to October 18th, 19th, 25th, 26th (7:30pm – Midnight), 27th and the 31st (8pm – Midnight). For more visit the official Haunted Hollywood Sports website, “like” Haunted Hollywood Sports on Facebook, and follow Haunted Hollywood Sports on Twitter.
As the attraction continues to grow, here’s one thing I would like to see (as did the other press assembled): a VIP ‘Killhouse,’ in which two guests would enter at a time, armed with flashlights, blow-back Airsoft pistols (with only one magazine each) and Airsoft rubber knifes, and be allowed autonomously to make their way. Their thirty-minute mission: to rescue a lone survivor somewhere within the attraction. Now that would be scary!
Note: My thanks to Denice and Jerry Paxtan for their assistance.
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