2011's haunt was clever in concept but short on screams. Is 2012 better, badder, bolder? Yes!
Last Halloween, Hollywood Gothique made its first terrifying trek out to the Sinister Pointe Haunted Attraction in Brea. The haunt's reputation for Halloween horror had lured us into the dreaded netherworld of Orange Country, where we were more than happy to brave dangers that awaited us. And yet, we were not quite fully satisfied. Sinister Pointe was conceptually clever, with interactive bits and multiple pathways unlike anything seen at other haunted house events, but the decor struck us as slightly barren; the scares were good, but there were not enough of them. Sinister Pointe was like a dark bloodstone, a diamond in the rough that needed a little polishing to fully bring out its macabre lustre.
As we retraced our footsteps this weekend, we wondered how Sinister Pointe would fare for Halloween 2012. Fortunately, this year's presentation feels like the realization of everything attempted last Halloween. All that was good has been retained, while the flaws in the surface have been polished away, revealing a dark fire that shines with lustrous red like the gleaming eye of a demon.
In its general contours, Sinister Pointe remains much the same as last year: visitors enter the building, which houses a convincing facade depicting the exterior of a backwoods cabin; monsters lurk in the shadows and fog, turning the wait into a terrible ordeal, until finally the front door opens, allowing victims inside in small groups.
This is where the improvements start to become apparent. The interior feels built up, with more details, more monsters, and more memorable scenes; we seemed to be under assault almost from beginning to end, with little time to catch our breath. Familiar bits were retained, but enough surprises were added to keep the maze fresh: i.e., the garbage disposal gag is still there, but the "choose your path" section has been re-arranged. The mirror illusions are also on view, but those are definitely too good to retire.
This year, we particularly enjoyed the unstable bridge over a mini-swamp, with an alligator snout poking through the surface, while an old coot warned us not to pass - and then harangued us mercilessly after the wood "cracked" beneath our feet: "You broke my bridge! I've only got one bridge! Now what?"
After a few more twists and turns, we found ourselves in the traditional "chainsaw chase," relentlessly pursued the last few yards of the maze until exploding breathlessly out of the exit. And it's here, outside, that the unique character of Sinister Pointe becomes most apparent. Many Halloween haunts play it low-key on the outside, building anticipation for the paranormal antics within; others opt for the adrenalin rush of chainsaws. Sinister Pointe goes them one better with a full-blown rock-and-roll theatre vibe.
Music pulses through the night air, while female dancers gyrate on a mini-stage near the entrance, a large video screen shining scenes of horror down upon the throng below. Monsters move freely in and out of the maze, terrorizing the waiting crowd. Booths selling Halloween merchandise add to the festive atmosphere. The result is a high-energy Red Bull rush that galvanizes your soul the minute you step onto the grounds to buy your ticket. Miraculously, the maze itself manages to retain and amplify this energy in a way that leave not only your spine tingling but your whole body as well.
The Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt has received a bloody bucketful of attention this year for its interactive Trapped maze, but entertaining though it may be, Trapped is truly "Sinister Pointe Light." And with its reasonable ticket prices (from $15 for general admission to $33 for an all-night VIP fast pass), Sinister Pointe is a better deal for the money. Don't miss it.
Sinister Pointe is located at 195 Arovista Circle, Brea, CA 92821. The remaining dates this Halloween are October 18-21, 25-28, 31. Hours are 7pm to 11pm on Thursdays and Sundays; 7pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Dates are subject to change, so check the Sinister Pointe website before driving out to Orange County.
Note: Los Angeles Halloween fans driving out to Brea should consider making Sinister Pointe one leg of an Orange County Halloween Haunt Tour, along with the nearby Dark Realms: An American Haunt (reviewed here) and The Empty Grave Halloween Attraction in Anaheim.