It has been three years since Hollywood Gothique stepped into The Empty Grave Halloween attraction in Anaheim. At that time, The Empty Grave featured a spacious fog-filled layout suggesting an ethereal trip through limbo; the approach was novel and intriguing, but some visitors felt it was an attempt to do a haunt without paying for sets. Well, those complaints have been laid to rest. Halloween 2012 sees The Empty Grave built up and decked out into something quite different, with more than enough maze and monsters to send a scream erupting out of your lungs.
A few glimmers of the old expansiveness remain. The sheer size of the interior space is big enough to accommodate a handful of "exterior" settings near the beginning, where fog and lights suggest an overcast sky; if not entirely convincing, the effects is aesthetically perfect, lending a layer of atmosphere missing from most Halloween haunts.
After that, you enter a tomb leading to a series of corridors and rooms that suggest you are walking through catacombs filled with carnivorous ghouls and other creatures of the night, many of them apparently dining on the corpses of those interred within. We did not do a head-count, but we believe there are more monsters for this Halloween; perhaps it just seems like more, because they are crammed into a tighter space, but the effect is the same - danger around every corner.
This pump-up version of The Empty Grave contains a remarkable number of surprises for those of us who have not visited in recent years: a blast of blood sprays you near the beginning; the figure of a statue comes unexpectedly to life; a hidden panel suddenly reveals a startling threat. The sets are nicely done, and some of the lighting effects are truly remarkable, particularly some floating blue and green beams the lend an almost underwater feel to one section.
Almost as much fun as the interior is the surrounding Anaheim Garden Walk, which attracts an upscale crowd of finely attired female fun-seekers, accompanied (for reasons no one could explain to us) by some rather drably dressed men. These party animals, on their way to bars and night-spots, have anything but Halloween horror on their minds; so distracted are they by thoughts of their intended destination, that they are totally oblivious to the monsters lurking aorund the Empty Grave's entrance. In short, they are easy targets, and the monsters pick them off like shooting fish in a barrel. Much hilarity ensues, especially when the men turn out to be the squealers. Trust us: the outdoor monsters know how to work a crowd, and you will want to grab a seat near the fountain and watch the proceedings, so leave yourself a little extra time to hang out after escaping from the Empty Grave itself.
Hollywood Gothique recommends making the Empty Grave one leg of a three-part tour of Orange County Halloween haunts, including Sinister Pointe Haunted Attraction and Dark Realms: An American Haunt, both in nearby Brea.
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The Empty Grave is located in the Anaheim Garden Walk (rather upscale for a Halloween haunt) at 321 W. Katella Avenue, Anaheim, CA 92803. Remaining dates are October 18-21, 25-31. Tickets are $13 for single admission; $20 for you and a friend; $40 for groups of five. VIP "Death Pack" - five front of the line tickets - is $65. Anaheim Garden Walk charges for parking, but the local bars will validate your ticket whether or not you buy a drink. Get more info at their website.