Last year, Horroland debuted as southern Europe’s first scream park to rave reviews, which got them the award for Best European Independent Event. Unfortunately for me, in 2018 I was unable to attend yet my expectations sky-rocketed reading reviews of people who visited it. This year 4 friends (one of which is also another park enthusiast) decided to go, so we booked tickets in April!
[if you want to read about the houses, skip the next paragraphs.]
[Disclaimer: most of these pics are not mine. Credit goes to Adrián, from Horrorland's marketing team]
Before getting into what is Horrorland, it’s story time. Horrorland is an independent scream park that was created by two of Spain’s best scare/horror companies: Insomnia Corporation and Horror Box. These two companies started rather “small” by owning arguably Catalonia’s best horror themed escape rooms. Really, if there was a “one-two punch” category for escape rooms owned by the same company, I just could NOT decide which one I would pick: Horror Box’s Jigsaw and Ouija are among the most sophisticated and genuinely scary escape rooms you can find in Barcelona, while Insomnia Corporation’s Còctel del Doctor and Xperiment take story-telling and tension build-up to a whole new level, all of this while having to go cross-country by car just to get the adventure started. Besides this, Horror Box was founded by a former actor and actress from the legendary Krueger Hotel at Tibidabo, so it was nice to see their career finally taking off with this massive undertaking that is opening a full-fledged scream park.
Getting to Horrorland is really quite an experience in itself. The location of this scream park is far from any high-traffic area, next to Berga (approximately 90 minutes away from Barcelona by car). Having the park so far away from a big city with limited transportation options (aka: car) makes the journey a bit difficult for those who do not own a car or have a driving license. However, the setting in which the park sits is a hilly, densely-wooded area next to a reservoir, perched up next to an iconic and abandoned thermal power plant. Driving the last kilometers in and out of the ravine and finally seeing the ominous power plant’s chimney just sent chills down my spine.
Since the scream park started as an experiment for a seasonal attraction in the area, the owners of Horrorland had to deal with what they had: a series of industrial facilities next to the plant. The park has a large gravel parking area, which is quite convenient. Attendants were extremely helpful and efficient. To our surprise, the parking fee (5 €) could later be exchanged for a discount on the park’s merchandise, for a games coupon or for an extra load of paint bullets in one of the park’s attractions (more to come on this later).
On the day we visited the park (October 19th), upon arrival 90 minutes before it was meant to open according to the park’s official schedule (7 pm to 1am), we were informed that the park was sold out for the day. This would have been bad news, except we had bought our tickets months in advance. Showing great customer service, the park let guests into the park (and houses) 1 hour before it was officially scheduled so that everyone could get in as many houses as they could. How cool is that? A park basically extended hours completely unannounced. Yay!
As we were about to get in, I came across with a friend of mine that has been working for quite some time with Horror Box (kudos Adrián!) who gave us some tips on how to make the most of our day. We had bought a Fast Pass entry, which lets guests into each house once (except the extreme haunted house, which requires an upgrade), lets you participate in the zombie shooting range once, and lets guests randomly do one of the four express escape rooms, skipping the lines on all of these experiences. I must say that this ticket is great value, especially if you want to take things easy and avoid the hassle of having to queue for too long and being able to just take in all of the atmosphere. Seeing how short the FP lines for the houses/mazes were, I think that park did a superb job at not overselling FP tickets, which shows again that they really care about their patrons, unlike some corporate events with a cash-grabbing approach to business.
As for the houses/mazes, I am not going to review them chronologically:
Zombie Killer - score: 6/10
This was technically not a haunted house but more of a zombie-themed shooting range. The park needed a high-capacity, highly-interactive attraction and that’s what Zombie Killer is about. The attraction consists of 5 huge shipping containers lined up next to each other. First you had to get your ammunition, which consisted of a load of 100 paint bullets. We used the 5-euro parking ticket to get an extra load of bullets, just in case we got loose on the trigger (which we did!). First you are ushered into the first shipping container where a member of the army informs guests of the attraction’s nature and rules. Then you are rushed out into the first of the four different levels of the attraction. Each of these containers are fitted with about 20 fixed paintball guns. Me, being clumsy by nature, dropped most of my extra bullets before I could even load them in my gun xD Have I mentioned that the attraction features paint bullets, black light and that the shooting range scenarios include both physical sets AND live actors? Yes! As the levels progress, the amount of zombies found in each scenario is greater and they seemed to be more aggressive. Needless to say, we ran out of bullets pretty soon on each level. It was so much fun targeting live zombies, while I feel kind of sorry for the poor actor/actress having to endure being shot every 2 minutes by 20 gunners eager to paint-kill!
This experience was definitely not as intense as other houses but proved to be really fun and definitely original. Having a scare attraction that is a people eater is also good to disperse queues from other houses. The attraction would be perfect if there was a scoring system just to enhance competition among parties.
La térmica (The thermal power plant) - score: 6,5/10
The huge chimney from the former thermal power plant is a visual magnet and dominates the park’s skyline. You can basically see it from any angle within the park. Being such an icon, the park owners and producers had to base one of their houses on the power plant, which serves as the backstory for this attraction. The ride makes guests navigate the old plant’s sewage systems, where they encounter different roaming creatures that suffered horrible mutations after being exposed to several toxic leaks from the plant.
I absolutely loved the use of this backstory as it is linked to the area where the park currently sits. Considering that the attractions’ show buildings are basically industrial warehouses, the sets are stunning. The sewers were made of a sort of concrete and the attraction’s layout was long and full of surprises on each turn. Even the props that the actors wore were perfectly blended with their makeup. Inside the maze were several animatronics, one of which was one of the biggest ones I have ever seen outside of an actual theme park. It was a 10-15 feet tall creature that cornered unsuspecting guests in one of the narrowest sections of the maze. Just to make things even more realistic, you were forced to wear a construction helmet. At first I thought it was just for fun, but later I found out it was for actual safety, since the layout has low-ceiling sections or never-in-America sections where guests have to crawl their way out while being chased.
Very thrilling and disorienting. It did not score higher because I think that the experience was a bit tamer than expected, at least on our run. The sets, however, were exceptionally well put-together.
Clown Town 3D - score: 7,5/10
Chronologically, this was our first maze of the night. Other reviews made it seem it would be tame and not on a par with the rest. Boy were we wrong! We were let in in groups of six people. Before entering the maze, we were given a pair of 3D glasses. The maze itself is a concept that has been done plenty of times in other scream parks and theme parks: a freak show themed attraction using black light. However, Clown Town had a couple of tricks up its sleeve!
The attraction’s walls are saturated with colours, which paired with the 3D glasses made it really difficult to see where the actors could be hiding. There were a couple of scares I definitely did not see coming that made me scream like a schoolgirl to my friends’ delight xD The attraction’s layout was particularly long and confusing; at one point we had navigated so many corners I was just not able to predict our position within the attraction’s show building, which I loved. I wouldn’t say I am afraid of clowns themselves but the circus always gives me the chills; however, there was one particular narrow section full of standing clowns that had my group go crazy as no one wanted to venture it. Another spectacular stunt was in one of the biggest sets within the attraction, where a bungee scare actress basically attacked us from a blind spot. We were definitely not ready for that and it was something not that common in European scream parks (to my knowledge). The attraction’s layout was also fitted with a rather large and custom-built revolving tunnel, which proved very disorienting and long! When we left the maze we had a grin on our faces, whether it was joy or fear, I leave it up to you!
When talking to Adrián (responsible for the Horrorland’s marketing), he also mentioned that a single graffiti artist was commissioned to paint the walls of the entire maze by himself. Big kudos to him because the paintings were on point!
La casa del bosque (The cabin in the woods) - 8,5/10
This is another example of why you should experience a house by yourself and not go in with expectations based on other people’s opinions. Other reviews made it seem like this was one of the weakest houses, perhaps because it is one of the most conservative ones, in terms of scares and story-telling, but again, we were greatly surprised by its length, original scares, and superbly themed sets. So much so we ended up doing it twice.
As you enter the house, you are greeted by a mountain hiker who gives us, lost hikers, directions to the nearest cabin. The effect of going through a densely-wooded area was rather complicated to pull in a warehouse but it was neatly achieved by having many medium-sized trees on both sides of a narrow path, which forced guests to slalom their way to the cabin’s entrance. There was one particular scare involving a tree, followed by a really in-your-face kind of scare achieved with a big flying animatronic that has to be one of the biggest two-punch scares I experienced that night. Once you enter the cabin, you go through its different rooms, which featured detailed props that made the sets look very solid and real. Another scare that will haunt my dreams was a very mean use of a series of teddy bears which prevented from seeing the actual scare actor waiting for us at the end of a corridor. Even some of my most daring friends got scared shitless thanks to the clever use of space that helped actors achieve many scares within the same group of people but from different angles at different times.
Survival Maze: Battle Royale - score: 8,5/10
Have you watched the classic Japanese movie Battle Royale which inspired other dystopian series like The Hunger Games? Well, Survival Maze is basically this but in this house you are the star of the show. Well, I wouldn’t call it a house because it’s more of a maze, and it’s not meant to be scary but it’s such an adrenaline rush, it is becoming this year’s sleeper hit!
To be fair, when I heard about the concept of a maze with a large group of guests I thought it would detract from the experience: well, again, don’t judge a book by its cover! Survival Maze concept is simple: 40 guests are the participants of a live reality show in which they are released in a maze with 8 different killers they need to escape from. The attraction starts in a tent where 40 guests are divided into 4 groups of 10 people and assigned a team colour (blue, yellow, green and red) using a necklace of fluorescent tubes. After this, all 40 guests are led into the preshow/briefing area where the TV host introduces them as stars of the macabre show as well as their potential killers (it was fun to watch the profile of each killer and what weapons it could potentially attack with, specially the Diva SheMale killer, who had a dildo as a weapon LOL). When the preshow is over, the participants are led into the maze for up to three survival rounds: each round starts with a countdown “Survive in 3, 2, 1…” and then all hell breaks loose. Just imagine 40 people trying to hide from 8 killers in a confined space (the ratio is almost 1 to 4), so during the first two rounds most people are killed and sent to jail where they can safely watch the action happen to their helpless comrades. With each round, which lasted for about one endless minute, the killers seemed to move faster and get more aggressive. Running away from them and trying to find a safe place to hide was a rush of adrenaline like no other. At the end of the last round, the team with the most survivors wins the show. I almost made it alive but when were 10 seconds away from finishing the last round I was cornered by a Japanese ninja girl and the Diva SheMale Killer, and the dildo-bearer pulled my fluorescent blue tube!
As far as I know, this concept is completely new. While not scary, the combination of strobe lights, loud EDM music, thick fog, intense interaction with actors and mental stress, made this one of the most WTF-inducing mazes of the night. However, even though the park stressed not to run it was impossible not to. As a result, when I was running away from a killer I tripped over someone else and fell to the floor. I hope Horrorland takes this great concept even further because I think it has so much potential!
Matadero (Slaughterhouse) - score: 10/10
This house is the only returning one from last year’s edition. This house was actually awarded Spain’s Best Haunted House and it’s a fan favourite. I thought it would be your regular chainsaw-filled maze and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Matadero could be summed up as a vegan’s wet dream come true: what if animals were in charge of running a slaughterhouse and instead of butchering their own kind chose to butcher humans instead?
The house starts right before you get into the actual warehouse, when the attendant asks if any of the guests wants to be marked. If you agree to be marked, you will get into the house wearing a necklace of fluorescent red tubes. That means that actors inside can assault you and you are at their mercy. Of course I chose the more extreme option! Once inside, you are facing a humanoid pig who breaks the group apart while loading us one by one, pieces of meat, inside a cargo lorry meant for animals. Inside the lorry, you need to crawl your way out. What comes afterwards is a mess of insanity and rooms that otherwise would be to process animal meat but are instead ready to process your flesh. At some points of the maze, you encounter animals meant for human consumption like rabbits, pigs, sheep, chickens, cows wishing to take revenge by pulling individuals from the group to separate pods/rooms and giving them a horrible “special treatment”. I went in twice and the first time I got my hair cropped (the effect was really neat!) and the second time, a rabbit made me bend over and shot an air-compressed bullet down my ass. It was absolutely bonkers. What was even better is that your group couldn’t wait for you, so after you got your share of individual torture you were on your own trying to find a way out. The last bit consisted of a maze made with a series of transparent industrial-looking curtains where everyone was splitted once more, just to find your final demise when you faced an animal with a chainsaw that chased you out.
I can understand why this house is so popular. It is quite intense without being balls-to-the-wall insane (unless you want the marked treatment), it has a very original backstory and the props and theming are superbly done. I loved that they didn’t just throw some scare actors with chainsaws, which would be the easier option, but chose to refine and redefine what you could expect from a blood-filled maze instead.
Houses aside, since the park is owned and produced by companies whose main target have always been escape rooms, the park boasts 4 different what they call Express Escape Room experiences: these are 4 different highly-themed games (Elevator, Torture, Circus and Subway) lasting 8 minutes each. With your regular ticket, you are randomly assigned to one of these. If you feel like doing the 3 remaining experiences, you can upgrade your tickets, which I highly recommend as all 4 escape rooms feature different challenges and don’t feel short whatsoever.
I won’t give away too much but Subway is themed to an underground train that feels like it’s running. Elevator is very reminiscent of Tower of Terror and is a nod to the former professional past of Horror Box at Tibidabo, when they worked as cast in Hotel Krueger. Torture is a collaborative two-sided game. Finally, Circus is themed to a freak show caravan.
The park made sure that escape rooms were both engaging yet not too long, so as not to affect operational capacity. Hence they build 4 replicas for each experience, meaning that there are 16 escape rooms operating AT ONCE. Groups were never larger than 6 people to prevent the experience to feel overcrowded yet Horrorland seemed to manage lines at a steady pace. Myself, being completely obsessed with park operations, I saw the way they kept track of each group throughout the entire process using something as simple as a board and some magnets; very simple yet efficient!
Extreme haunted house:
Last, but not least, I wanted to go through Pyscho Xtreme, the park’s extreme haunted house experience. Unfortunately, due to online bookings and the park being at capacity, there were no more time slots left for this upcharge experience. Yet another reason to visit the park next year!
- Great customer service - every member of the staff we found was efficient, courteous and tried to stay in character as much as they could. - There were live actors roaming around queues - There are potential new spaces for future attractions - Although sold out time slots for the extreme haunted house prevented people from spending too long in that specific line, and therefore not experiencing the other attractions. - Turning an industrial facility into a semipermanent haunt installation - Location and surroundings - Non-corporate feeling - Shows with lots of impromptu every hour or so. Even if you were just chilling between houses, you were granted some kind of show in the park’s center stage. - There is a final fireworks display that goes along with a parade with many of the characters found in the houses called Blood Fire. The show was scheduled almost at park close (1am on that day), so I didn’t have time to watch it, as it started to rain and my friends were really tired.
Room for improvement:
- Greater food options, although the current ones are not expensive. - Public transportation to the park? Maybe even a shuttle bus from a nearby train station. - Turning the intensity of the weakest houses up a bit. However, I can see them keeping some experience tamer to cater to a broader audience. - Portable WC stations. Exceptionally clean though.
If you are ever in Barcelona around Halloween time, it's worth checking the place out!
Road to Horrorland with its ominous power plant
Parking lot and abandoned creepy industrial facilities
Left to right: Dani, me, Juanjo and Fran
Let's shoot 'em up!
One of the sets from Zombie Killer. (Credit: Horrorland)
One of the friendliest creatures from the plant. Don't you want to pet it? (Credit: Horrorland)
This clown has some killer jokes!
One of the sets from La casa del bosque (Credit: Horrorland)
Us before being thrown into Surival Maze to battle for our lives. Go blue team!
Want to grab a bite? (Credit: Horrorland)
Operations nerd alert: The clever batching system at the Express Escape Rooms. As you can tell, there's four columns and attendants were just moving these magnets along them to acknowledge where the groups were. Very simple and effective!
We made some friends throughout the night.
Freak show themed escape room (Credit: Horrorland)
Elevator themed escape room. Notice any inspiration? (Credit: Horrorland)
Some "The shining" fun
"Honey, I am home...!"
This great view of the huge green chimney overlooking Horrorland is the last thing we saw before leaving. We will be back for sure!