It's finally October, which means two things: grocery stores will probably start playing Christmas music ... and the Valley will finally be taken over by zombies, candy corn and, you guessed it, Haunted Houses. We're on a mission to scout out the best (and worst) ones and share our experiences. Hope you packed an extra pair of pants...
Where: 6912 E. Hampton Ave., Mesa.
In Brief: Dark Scares is a little on the short side, but cheap relative to other haunted houses for $18 at the door or $15 in advance, so things even out nicely. If you're short on time, energy or dough, you could do a lot worse.
Our Experience: We went at about 8 p.m. on a Sunday and entered into the long hallway-lobby of Dark Scares. The transformed warehouse scored some early points right off the bat for 1) being empty (although, given, it was a Sunday) 2) having a creepy actor in a top hat stalking us in line like he was zombie Abraham Lincoln and we were both John Wilkes Booth, and 3) having a terrifying little girl take our tickets as we entered the maze. Well done.
Inside, we were introduced to the storyline of the house: It's an asylum for the mentally ill, but the doctor just went crazy or it's patient appreciation day gone wrong or something about playing games...? It doesn't matter. The point is it's pretty darn scary. There's yelling and crying and laughing that echos constantly through the maze, and while actors jump out at you just like they always do, they get creative with it in unexpected ways. It's billed as two haunted houses, but we wouldn't have noticed if zombie-Lincoln hadn't made a reappearance to tell us.
The only problem is that it's a pretty bare-bones affair. The maze is all wood walls you can tell were just put up, and the scenery in some rooms is a little unbelievable. Still, the acting is what really matters, and you can tell everyone in the house was having fun screaming their heads off to "get out!" when you walked by. The maze took about 20 minutes to get through.
Scariness (1-5 Scale): 3.5. The actors do a good job with what they have to work with, but sometimes they rely on some old tricks you can see coming.
Worth the Cash? If you're looking for something cheap but fun, if not a little short, then coughing up the $15 in advance isn't such a bad deal. If you come without buying tickets online first, just come prepared with $18 in cash.
Who Should Go? If you're really into haunted house sets or elaborate costumes, this might not be the house for you. But if you don't mind, Dark Scares is a pretty solid house.
Best Scare: At one point midway-through the maze, an actor is set up at the end of a series of hallways, but disappears by the time you get to the last one. He makes a reappearance at the very end though, coming out of nowhere. Bonus points for being one of the extremely small number of haunted houses that didn't end with a chainsaw.
Fail: One room was lined with balloons, but had a pretty noticeable lump in a corner. The lump was -- you guessed it -- an actor.
Overall Grade: B
And the scaring doesn't stop there. Check out our other haunted house reviews so far ...