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 ...
Location: Fiesta Mall, 1445 W. Southern Ave., Mesa.
In Brief: For a pretty reasonable price, you get entrance to two solid, scary, and notably different haunted houses. Definitely worth the trip and cash.
Our Experience: We picked up our tickets at about 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and immediately got into line for the first house, The Crypt, behind a pack of about a dozen 10- to 14-year-olds. The wait was about 15 minutes before we were brought in and had the rules explained to us. No touching, emergency exits, yadda yadda yadda. Inside, things started out about as we expected -- some banging on walls, some guys in masks jumping out at you. But as we got farther inside the maze, things got a little more professional, and a lot creepier.
The thing that really sets this haunted house apart from other standard "ooga-booga" haunted houses is the fact that it's a legitimate maze, complete with twists and turns, a storyline, and actors who actually interact with you beyond just a screaming-at-you level.
It also has good pacing. By that, we mean curtains in the beginning force you to stroll through the maze, lest you risk ramming headfirst into an actor. But by the end, the scariness gets amped up, and you might find yourself running out of there by the home stretch.
The same goes for the other haunted house, The Asylum. For our money, this was the better of the two. Maybe it's been done, but there's something inherently scary about a mental hospital theme, and the actors pulled it off without a hitch. Still, go ahead and try both, most of the people who visited each seemed to be split on which one they preferred.
Scariness (1 to 5 Scale): Four, maybe even higher. There's no cheap scares here, a lot of it is just the anticipation that gets to you, which is really what a haunted house should be -- a strong enough atmosphere that actors don't even need to jump out at you to snag a few screams.
Worth the Cash?: Definitely. For $17 you get two houses that you can easily get lost in for 15 minutes each, and actors stop to chat with you or slow you down along the way. If you're short on time, you can just get one house for $13. And it's a good time the whole way through, despite the chance of long lines (which can be sped through with an optional fast pass).
Who should go: The houses are suited for a large age-range, kids and adults will probably both come out scared but pleased.
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Best Scare: My girlfriend addressed me by name midway through the Asylum ("move Colin!"), and the actors rolled with it. "Here comes Colin!" one of the actresses shouted to the other actors, who started laughing and repeating it.
Fail: Both of them ended in a chainsaw chase, just like the Gauntlet, and you could hear them both while in line. Creativity points lost there.
Overall Grade: A-