Sinister Pointe, Fullerton, CA
As far as independent haunts go, Sinister Pointe is practically the grandfather on the block. For years, the company has created and contracted on numerous haunted attractions, consulting designs, and creative concepts, both for itself and big names such as Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, Winchester Mystery House, and Dark Harbor. This year, Jeff Schiefelbein and the folks over at Sinister Pointe have unveiled an all-new haunted attraction for the 2016 Halloween season, featuring different routes, a disorienting layout, and many of the creative and discomforting aspects that the company has come to be known for!
This past weekend, I visited Sinister Pointe with a couple of my friends to check out what Sinister Pointe had in store. I was especially fascinated by the "choose your own adventure" aspect of this year's event (or more accurately, "have your adventure chosen for you"--though repeat visitors have the liberty of politely requesting a different path to avoid repeats). Apparently, somewhere in the city of Fullerton, behind the 99 Cent Store off Orangethorpe and Brookhurst, a portal into another dimension has been opened up--one that features four terrifying realms that promise to bestow fear and suffering and unwholesome fates to those who enter. They are Infernal, Arcane, Rebus, and Tormentum--worlds were sinners, disease, tricksters, and torture dwell and interact with those unfortunate enough to encounter them. Of course, this means anyone visiting.
Originally subtitled "Fear the Mark," the premise of this year's attraction sets up the expectation of four different layouts, and from a size standpoint, this year's Sinister Pointe does not disappoint. The layout is sprawling and interconnected. There are indeed four different ways to progress through the maze, each determined by a card given to guests by a gypsy or fortune teller at the beginning of the journey. Next comes an encounter with a being who marks each guest with the realm that has been bestowed. After very literally pushing through deeply into the alternate realm, the routes diverge, sending guests toward a different experience.
As the maze progresses, the layouts do reconvene at segments before branching out once more. This happens several times, with guests of the same mark sent through their specific course. During this experience, participants may encounter extremely confined spaces, obstacles that require physical surmounting, exceedingly claustrophobic low quarters, blinding lighting effects, dead ends or apparent dead ends, and actual maze conditions that leave guests at their own whims to escape. It makes for a simultaneously fun and nerve-wracking experience, as the design of the maze physically takes many people out of their comfort zones or forces them through or past physically creepy constraints.
Unlike places like The 17th Door, there aren't any visceral gross-out moments, or water gags or potentially painful electrical shock effects. The maze is more cerebral, and that primarily involves the manipulation of the space itself to create physically awkward situations that raise apprehension. This year's haunted house isn't even that elaborately themed, especially by Sinister Pointe standards. There are a lot of sparse walls and spaces that compress and expand, and not really too much set dressing or detailed props. Instead, what decoration does exist is placed selectively and carefully to accent each scene, and the rest is taken care of by theatrical lighting, projections, and video effects.
And yet, this year's Sinister Pointe manages to be a lot of fun with some exciting thrills and startles. And that is primarily thanks to a dedicated and fully committed cast that has honed its timing and theatricality. The actors who effectively play guides at each station where the four realms branch out are wonderfully entertaining, some Shakespearean in gusto, others disdainfully antagonistic. The monster talent makes full use of the maze's designed distractions and visual obstructions to provide some great startle scares, and they're also not afraid to pounce on anyone who shows an ounce of fear and discomfort. We ended up going through five different times, and while some realms were better than others, all of them were quite enjoyable. It says a lot that all three of us ended up choosing a different realm as his or her favorite. Mine was Tormentum, which represented the most balanced of the four in terms of theming, scares, and creative design. But all of the routes offered something to make most people uneasy.
It's been a bit of a struggle for Sinister Pointe over the past few years to put on a high quality show fitting of its high standards. For several years, the folks there occupied a permanent warehouse location in Brea, but local difficulties eventually forced them out, and they've bounced around in temporary locations in Fullerton and Brea the past couple of years, with Halloween attractions that were fun but never quite completely up to par and their own expectations.
This year's event seems to reach the closest to Sinister Pointe's traditional thrilling quality out of the past few years' events, and although there's some rumor that Jeff may hang up haunted attractions operations soon, we certainly hope that's not the case, since Sinister Pointe continues to delight and frighten, even after so many years. The long weekend lines and regular sell-outs this Halloween season certainly make the case. This is truly a haunt that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Photos and descriptions don't quite capture spooky glee that haunt enthusiasts can find.
Sinister Pointe runs through Saturday, November 12th, making it one of the latest-running haunts around, so there's plenty of time to go check things out. Buying tickets online is recommended, because of the aforementioned sell-outs. There are options for single-use ticket, front-of-line single-use, all-night pass (for unlimited returns in one night), and all-night pass with front-of-line access. Additional information can be found on Sinister Pointe's web site.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.