All throughout October, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is offering scares and haunts galore at their “Horror Made Here” event, where adrenaline-seeking fans can visit the studio lot and get scared by the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Pennywise, Annabelle and (of particular interest to me and all of you DC fans) all of Arkham Asylum.
Recently, I had the chance to explore Horror Made Here and was asked to report on this one-of-a-kind DC maze—to file a report from Arkham, as it were. I leapt at the offer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to explore a living recreation of the infamous Gotham City institution?
Warner Bros. has completely transformed their iconic backlot for Horror Made Here, and from the moment you enter, you’re instantly transported to a Halloween fantasia of scary clowns and carnivals, haunted houses and fog. In the midst of it all, standing tall and ominous, is the iconic wrought iron gate of Arkham Asylum, complete with a full-sized Batmobile parked outside.
I’m not going to lie, friends. I got goosebumps as I approached it. It’s one thing seeing Arkham Asylum in comic books, movies or games like Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, it’s another thing entirely to see it looming before you, screams and maniacal laughter echoing out from within its brick walls. Yes, I was a bit scared, but I didn’t come this far to turn back. And besides, there was a good-sized line outside. Plenty of time to muster up some courage while I waited.
Attendees are shepherded inside the asylum in groups of about ten, which seemed arbitrary at first until it was my turn. That’s when I realized two things. First, ten people are NOT enough. (That’s not nearly enough to hide behind.) And second, it’s not arbitrary at all.
You see, the Arkham Asylum maze is quite literally a show and a theatrical experience, not just a jump and scare haunted house. When you first enter the experience, you’re asked to hold up an Arkham inmate sign and get your mugshot taken before being led into the main antechamber room by Harley Quinn herself. This is where things really take off. As Harley interacts with guests in her Arkham Asylum nurse costume (which anyone who’s played Arkham Asylum will recognize instantly), she leads you to none other than “Mistah J.”
You remember what the Joker looks like in the Arkham games? Well, he looks JUST like that here. The costume, make-up and hair are all spot on. Heck, even the Joker’s voice is eerily similar to Mark Hamill’s, who voiced the Joker in the first Arkham games. When we first meet the Clown Prince of Crime, he’s sitting behind a tall desk and sentencing you as judge, jury and executioner to your fate: A permanent stay at Arkham.
Harley then leads you to an elevator which takes you “down” into the depths of the Asylum where the maze proper begins. My first real scare of the maze was when an insane inmate jumped out at us through the walls of the elevator while rambling something crazy. It scared me, but it also helped set appropriate ambiance.
As we left the elevator, we found ourselves wandering through a series of cells surrounded by hostile inmates in what’s clearly an outbreak. But these guys are just appetizers. The main courses lay ahead.
One of the first star villains you encounter is the Scarecrow, who attempts (and succeeds) to spray you with his fear gas. You then go down a path of neon colors and narrow hallways and meet another infamous baddie, the Riddler. Of course, he is reciting riddles as you walk by, but perhaps the biggest scare of the maze—or at least, it was for me—is when he takes his cane and hits it against the bars of his cell causing sparks to shoot out. Pretty cool scare, actually.
The next room is unexpected, but totally fun, as Poison Ivy makes her way into view, flanked by a giant plant monster and warning you to “keep away from her babies.” Ivy’s babies are pretty frightening on her own, so I definitely didn’t need the warning, but appreciated it all the same.
It was all starting to seem like we were trapped in the most nightmarish part of the Arkham video games, so I was almost relieved when the plot took a twist and another theatrical “cut scene” played out. The Joker himself caught up with us in the maze and had a few things to say to all of us.
And here’s where all that relief I was starting to feel went away and was quickly replaced with dread.
There were two pathways in front of us, and the Joker had made it his mission to split friends up from each other by sending them down opposite pathways. Luckily, there were no jump scares down my path (at least that I encountered). Just a lot of hanging, shredded cloth blocking your line of sight. However, it was still quite a relief when I was reunited with my group at the end of the tunnels!
I thought we might have reached the end, but we hadn’t. Not quite. Harley had a few more things to say to us, and as we exited, we got a few more small, last-minute scares. After the suspense of making our way through the asylum, though, they were pretty easy to handle.
Overall the maze was an excellent representation of the Arkham Asylum video game. The acting and costuming were excellent, and really made you feel as if you were interacting with the Joker and Harley Quinn.
In fact, in spite of everything I wrote, it’s almost hard to be scared going through the Arkham maze because of how cool it is to see your favorite characters from the DC Universe in person. You really feel as if you were transported to Gotham and are interacting with the city’s most fearsome villains.
The Arkham Asylum maze is just one of the many experiences at Warner Bros. Studio Tour’s Horror Made Here, and the others—including IT, The Conjuring and The Exorcist—are equally exciting. However, for DC fans, the Arkham maze is not to be missed. It’s the perfect mix of DC and Halloween, and a reminder that Batman’s world can be an awfully frightening place.
"Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights" continues through October 28, 2018 at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, CA. Click here for more information or to buy tickets.
Amanda Levine writes about DC Collectibles and the DC Universe in general for DCComics.com.