Haunted House Review: Sinister Pointe in Brea

Location: Sinister Pointe; 453 S. Associated Road, Brea. (In the Brea Plaza Center, also home to a relatively rare strip mall Borders. An attraction year-round!)

Low Down: Two “terrifying” mazes: the “interactive” Fear and Silent Hill, based on the popular series of video games (and, to surely a much lesser extent, the not-at-all-popular 2006 Sean Bean-starred movie). Don't be misled by the term “maze,” though (theirs, not ours); both are pretty traditional, linear haunted houses rather than anything like a cornfield maze, though I did get rather disoriented and turned-around towards the beginning of Fear–though that doubtlessly had to do more with my own general lack of awareness (every day I don't walk into a wall because of Twittering on my iPhone is simply prolonging the inevitable) than the attraction's design. There's also, apparently, a “scare zone” called the “Slaughter Yard,” which we actually didn't notice while there. Sad times.

$13 for one maze, $20 for both. Certainly more affordable frights than say, Knott's Scary Farm, but 13 bones for what amounts to approximately 10 minutes of entertainment is a pretty tough sell in these dreary economic times. At least it's priced at the spookiest of all numbers.

Takers: Though the interactive elements of Fear–holding wires, pulling on ropes, pressing buttons–are pretty gimmicky and don't realistically add very much to the proceedings, it is an original splash to something that can often seem like the same thing over and over again (dudes in scary masks jumping at you and making noise). The interactive elements are vaguely similar in motif to the ever-ubiquitous Saw movies, which makes sense, since last year Sinister Pointe had a Saw-branded attraction.

Leavers: As opposed to the much more intricate Fear, Silent Hill is a fairly basic haunted attraction. (Read: dudes in scary masks jumping at you and making noise, specifically banging on things and shaking cans at you. Menacing!) I haven't actually ever played any of the Silent Hill video games (or seen the movie, but no one has), so I can't accurately judge whether or not it was an effective recreation. Though there weren't too many real startles in the offerings, it definitely was finely detailed, with each locale–including a bedroom, living room, hospital room–pretty stacked with props, a nice touch given that a lot of people won't notice since it's dark and all that. And the dudes banging on things and shaking cans can be a bit distracting.

Sampled Time: Due to various external factors delaying the scare-fest, we got there around 11 p.m.; they close on the weekends at midnight. There weren't a ton of folks around at that point (a few), and no line for either of the mazes.

Best Scene: The dingy hospital room in Silent Hill was pretty well realized, with lots of various medical paraphernalia neatly arranged and the right amount of fake blood tinges on the wall. (Though what all of these seemingly random locations had to do with each other remained a mystery to the end, other than that Silent Hill is apparently a real dump, and everyone there wears weird gas masks.)

Best Scream: The “laser people” in Fear, who thanks to some degree of optical trickery conjured by red lights, seem to melt right out of the walls and right in your ready-to-be-stirred face. Both attractions actually do a good job at the vital element of bait-and-switch; making you think one dude is gonna turn around and try and freak you out, and then a completely different one pops out just as you're lured into that false sense of security. Sort of like those classic Simpsons gags where they set you up for one really obvious joke, and then pull out something else entirely.

Most Valuable Monster: The older dude with a Santa beard that creepily told us which way to go when we arrived. Not quite sure if he was part of the show or not, really.

Loved: Overhearing the employees gossip about each other's love lives and talk about other banal personal matters before you're allowed the mazes. Not sarcasm, it's an effective palate cleanser before immersing yourself in such a spooktacular environment.

Hated: Walking through a black, inflatable void towards the end of Fear. Not so much because it was lame or scary, but the thought of all the sweaty dudes that likely walked through it earlier in the night. Shudder.

Overall Grade: Three-and-a-half dudes banging on things and shaking cans.

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