Haunted House Review: Fear Farm

Where: Fear Farm, McDowell and the 10 on the Glendale/Phoenix line.

Overview: Fear Farm was named this year's Best of Phoenix, and topped last year's reviews, for good reason. This massive four-part, mostly cornfield, haunt is the best (and, apparently, busiest) in the Valley. Fear Farm is chainsaw heavy -- in fact, after this you'll likely be desensitized to the shrill whir of power tools -- and mostly made up of corn mazes, though, surprisingly, not nearly as dusty as Arizona's Original Scream Park. It's well staffed, with most of the jolts coming from old-school behind-the-wall scares and few animatronics.

Price: $18 online, $19 at the door for all four houses. Since this is definitely 2+ hour of fun Fear Farm is probably the best Halloween bargain in town. If you're going on a Friday or Saturday night buy online in advance (the ticket line itself was brutal) and strongly consider the $10 "fast pass" which allows you to skip some very long lines. We (thankfully) had the fast pass but some kids we talked to said the line for each of the four houses took 20 minutes to a half hour.

Who Should Go? Anyone in Phoenix who likes haunted houses. There simply is no better Halloween-related experience in the Valley.

When We Went: A very busy Saturday night. The atmosphere was something like you'd expect to find at a high school football game in the West Side.

Best Scene: Fear Farm has so many, but a scene in "Chainsaw Mayhem" (formerly Fatal Valley Mortuary) really stands out: You walk by a sty with two sleeping (and, judging by the smell, real) pigs and encounter a pig-faced man with a chainsaw and a headless horseman. As with a lot of places in Fear Farm the sets are detailed enough to captivate even seasoned haunted house goers, while the scares sneak up on you.

Scare of the Night: We saw one chainsaw-wielding monster chase a terrified grown man (well, a dude with a faux-hawk in his upper teens -- old enough to know better) all the way out of the house and through a mass of 100-or-so people waiting in line. The crowd roared their approval and the "man" slunk back to the waiting arms of his supportive girlfriend, who must have been stifling a chuckle. That's not just the scare of the night, it's scare of the year.

Most Valuable Monster: "I don't like pigs with chainsaws," said my girlfriend, which means that guy has a pretty great claim to the title. The witch who serves as greeter, and managed to scrounge up another ticket for my friend Bill after he lost his in the first house, also has a good claim. She worked the crowd like a true pro.

Loved: Can you tell we loved pretty much everything about Fear Farm? It's well organized, well staffed, huge and a great bargain. The atmosphere is electric and the houses deliver on that.

Hated: The lines. But, luckily, our fast passes let us skip those! I was also not overly impressed with Fear Farm's lone inside -only attraction, The Asylum, which struck me as a poor competitor to Doomtown's asylum house. The lighting was way overdone, and too many scenes had to "scare" pop out at you, banking too much on a creep-out factor dependent on the acting abilities of a 15-year-old girl in facepaint staring you down and saying "geeeeet ooooout." Sorry, that's not scary or creepy. We also thought that the carnival-themed house relied too heavily on clowns as there was no dog-faced boy, monkey-men or any real carny-types -- when it comes time to invest in new props, this is where Fear Farm should put their capital.

Overall Grade: A

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar