By Martin Cizmar In the last month I've seen a lot of chainsaws. Quite possibly more than I've seen in the rest of my life combined. Why almost every haunted house in the Valley ends with a chainsaw-wielding dude chasing you out the back door is a mystery to me, but they do.
It's been a long October for me, but I'm happy to now present a comprehensive guide to area haunted houses, just in time for your yearly pilgrimage. My rankings aren't totally comprehensive, it's true, with a few opening only this weekend, and a few others not getting back to us about tickets, but I'm fairly certain that this is all you need to know. Because, really, if they couldn't get back to us about tickets and weren't googling to see reviews of other houses, it's probably a pretty shoddy operation anyway.
Besides, where else are you going to find this information, some sloppy web site that has listings for houses that have been closed for years? Or some website that appears like an objective source but is actually a direct link to the worst haunted house in town? Or, God forbid, some story in The Arizona Republic that pimps what turned out to be a terrible attraction?
So here goes: Up on the Sun's 2008 Haunted House rankings with grades, comments and links to the full reviews.
Fear Farm 99th Avenue and McDowell in Glendale
Fear Farm has a great reputation and it's deserved. This house is staffed by skilled and experienced monsters and is very well designed and decorated. Part corn maze, part indoor attraction, it's the biggest attraction we toured and, at $18, a very good bargain, even if you have to drive out to Glendale.
Arizona's Original Scream Park McDowell and the 101 Scottsdale
Arizona's Original Scream Park is a real throwback house. The sets are amazingly detailed here, and great actors bring them alive. The night we went there was a little too much dead time between scares, but that may be fixed now as one would assume every available actor is working this week.
Ghoulfland Country Club and The 60 Mesa
Ghoulfland's The Gauntlet is itself short and sweet - a smallish maze packed with actors popping out when you least expect it. For a ticket that costs about the same as what you can get elsewhere you're able to go through multiple times, though, and the other attractions on site make for a full night of fun.
Doomtown at Rawhide The 10 at Wild Horse Pass Chandler
Rawhide got the 2008 Best of Phoenix award for "Best Halloween Scare" but I wasn't all that impressed with Doomtown's two haunted houses. There were a few cool scenes – the medical curtain maze is one of the best rooms in town the houses were too short and a little thin on live monsters.
Shadowlands at Fiesta Mall Alma School and The 60 Mesa
No house in town tried harder than Shadowlands, which must've invested lots and lots of time and money in to the detailed and unique sets that make up it's three attractions. Ultimately, however, haunted houses are about delivering scares and this one comes up short on that front. With a few changes – like ditching the overly complex storyline and using the actors as monsters instead of annoying victims pleading for help – this could be a great attraction.
Twisted Big Top Westgate City Center Glendale
The Nest and Alice Cooper’s Nightmare had pretty good reputations around town. Unfortunately, neither exists this year, with Glendale’s Twisted Big Top and Mesa’s Haunt of the Living Dead taking their place. Short, cheesy and expensive, Twisted Big Top should be skipped by everyone by hardcore haunted house enthusiasts and people terrified of clowns.