Well, it's finally here. The end of the Haunt Season.
As a site, this was our third year covering Halloween and we've had an absolute blast. We attended more Haunts this year than any other year, and it still was just a drop in the proverbial bucket.
Below are our rankings, this is by no means a complete list of everything that is out there. Some of these events still have some nights coming up this weekend so be sure to check them out if you haven't already.
If you missed ANY of our Halloween Updates be sure to check them out.
Best Theme Park Haunt - Knott's Scary Farm
With the addition of new mazes and the freshening up of some previous years mazes it was another banner year for the amazing Knott's Scary Farm.
Small improvements like the Skeleton Key rooms and new effects in mazes made the event seem fresh. The moving of Infected from Camp Snoopy to it's own maze not only made the overall experience for Infected that much better but freed up Camp Snoopy for an all new Scare Zone.
Best Independent Haunt - Motel 6 Feet Under
This was a tough category as there were 3 amazing Independent Haunts that could have claimed this spot (we'll touch on those below). But this event works in every way, not because it's extreme, not because it's gory, but because it's just a FUN Haunted House.
Motel 6 Feet Under is open this weekend (November 2 through 5) so if you missed this you still have a chance.
Best Home Haunt - Backwoods
So let's say you go to some imaginary "Haunt Graveyard" and get animatronics and sets that basically tells the history of Southern California Scary Events and put them all in your house. And then it all works in an amazing way. That's what Backwoods is and it's amazing.
Best Maze - The Exorcist (Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood AND Orlando)
Yep, this maze was our favorite at two separate events 2500 miles apart. And for VERY different reasons. The Hollywood Maze edges out the Orlando maze EVER so slightly but this maze had the perfect blend of storytelling and amazing effects.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and Unviersal Orlando are both open November 4 and 5
Best Scare Zones - Fright Fest - Six Flags Magic Mountain
This is now the third year SFMM has taken this award from us and for good reason. SFMM is HUGE but they manage to pull off filling almost every inch of their park with monsters and the best make-up team in the business.
We will say that there were a few dead spots this year (namely on the back side of the park). We are pretty sure this was because the area around Riddlers was supposed to close prior to Fright Fest and then they decided to keep it open. The Suicide Squad scare zone was great and we hope we'll see the expansion of the DC Universe Scare Zone into Metropolis for next years event. We'd also like to see the expansion of The Ruins near Apocalypse.
Best Talent - Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
This category wasn't even close. The talent at Dark Harbor has so much freedom it's really hard for the other events to compare.
Not tied to any corporate structure they are free to interact with the guests as they see fit, free to do things that other parks would freak out about while still maintaining safety for themselves and guests.
Best New Maze - (tie) Shadowlands - Knott's Scary Farm and Aftermath 2 - Fright Fest
We typically exclude Halloween Horror Nights from this category as they don't tend to repeat mazes, but that's not to take away anything from these two amazing mazes. One (Shadowlands) a completely original idea that we've never seen before and the other (Aftermath 2) a resurrection of a previous maze but on steroids.
Best Returning Maze - Reign of Terror
If you've never done Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks you are really missing out. This event is on par and in some ways exceeds even the biggest and baddest theme park haunt maze. The talent here is amazing and the size of the haunt is staggering. It takes a good 20-25 minutes to get through the entire event. And something we've never seen before, in-maze line control that totally works.
While this is the best "Returning" maze, they change it up enough each year to keep it fresh and exciting and you shouldn't miss Reign of Terror in 2017.
Best "First Year" Event - Gorlesque
With so many existing Haunts in Southern California you'd think there wasn't room for anything new. You'd be wrong. But you've gotta be different to make a splash, and Gorlesque found that happy place between interactive, scary, sexy and amazing. One of the most talked about events for 2016. We can't wait to see what they come up with for 2017.
Best Haunted Ride: Crash Test Zombies - Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
How do you make awesome bumper cars even better? How about adding Zombies and naming it after an obscure Canadian band from the early 90's with a hit song that still doesn't make any sense (not sure if that last part is actually true ... well, MmmmMmmmMmmmMmmm still doesn't make any sense).
Best Family Event: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Haunted Events are getting better every year, but so are the family events. But there's something about this party at the Magic Kingdom that's just so special and fun each and every year.
Best "New To Us" Haunt - Sinister Pointe: Fear The Mark
There are SO many events to cover that we only get to see so many each year, which is why we hadn't been to Sinister Pointe before. And now I'm sad because we had such a scary good time at this event and their 4 realms. To be fair, some of us on the staff had experienced Sinister Pointe before, but we'd never reviewed it as a website.
Sinister Pointe is open the next two weekends (November 4 and 5 / November 11 and 12) so be sure to get your "Mark" before it's too late
Today we're contiuning our look at Independent Haunts with Sinister Pointe in Fullerton, CA.
This is another event with a long standing history of being one of the best Haunts in Southern California and my first visit through the portal couldn't have been more amazing.
Written by Joshua Condon
With past event names like Diner Dead, Bloody Mary, Condemned and Horror Hall, you kind of can get an idea what you can expect in "Fear The Mark".
Unlike other events you get to possibly experience four different "realms" of terror.
Each maze starts off the same, with an amazing host getting you ready for what lies inside.
Soon you will be sorted into your realm and receive your mark. From there you will venture into one of the four realms: Tormentum, Rebus, Infernal and Arcane.
Each one offers something truly unique and different while at the same time sharing the same space at different area's. The way it's laid out simply "works" and works well.
The talent in the maze is incredible from start to finish, it's no wonder so many people come back to "scare" at this event every year. It's a well oiled machine in every way.
This was our first realm, one where the monsters play tricks on you. Apparently our group wasn't very good at finding our way out more than once and we sure paid dearly for it.
This was the "fun" maze and if you only have time to go through 1 realm and you are a coaster enthusiast, we highly recommend this one. Yes you can have your realm "chosen" for you, but you can also request one. You'll know where to do that. We also each got separated in this realm and a friend of mine sent me through a very narrow pathway. I had to suck in my gut but it was awesome.
This one also had some "alone" moments involved and some more physical elements that some may want to avoid if you are unable to do crawling, but it was amazing.
Tormentum (thanks Stephanie for your thoughts on this realm):
This one was a bit more gory than some of the other realms (as the name might tell you) and some area's where you have to crawl under some barbed wire.
Overall we had a simply awesome time at Sinister Pointe and we can't wait to see what your twisted minds come up with for next year.
Thank you so much for inviting us out to your event, we couldn't have been more impressed with the overall professionalism of your staff and the passion of the talent inside the maze.
For more information on Sinister Pointe be sure to check out their website, and just like some other events, they have extended their run through November 12th. So don't worry if you can't get out there this weekend, you still have time to get your mark.