Escape Authority

In-Depth Escape Room Reviews

Review: Scary Place

A brand new Southern California event took over all three floors of an abandoned Macy’s, and left us wishing that Macy’s had never closed.


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Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place is an event that runs twenty select nights between September 28, 2018 and October 31, 2018, every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well Halloween night itself. Scary Place features two different haunted houses, one haunted ride, two makeshift “scare zones,” roaming characters and an “escape room” (it’s not an escape room.)

Anyone spot the multiple spelling errors?

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Phobias

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Step right up and see if you have what it takes when you’re put up against some of your greatest fears. A fully interactive maze experience that will test your abilities to cope with your worst nightmares. We hope for your sake, being alone isn’t one of them!

On paper, the concept behind Phobias is a good one — gather together a collection of the most common fears people have and make them face each one by one. In its execution, Phobias feels a bit more cartoony and almost comedy-focused. While that is definitely not a bad thing – we love a good comedy haunt, after all – we’re just not sure that’s what Sinister Pointe was going for this time.

With little flowing narrative to speak of, all we can focus upon is the spectacle Phobias creates, and frankly, that’s not much.

Beginning with the exterior facade of a church, projection effects occasionally alternate the neon sign hanging above its doors from “Chapel” to “Phobias.” This ties to the first scene – a church’s interior set for a wedding. From there, each room to follow is more a stand-alone vignette scene.

There’s a dentist’s office, a gym locker room and a kid’s playroom full of dolls, just to name a few. And for those of you with Ceilingophobia (it’s the fear of ceilings; look it up) worry not – you’ll find none of those here.  Instead, flat plywood walls fill out mostly dimensionless scenes, completely open to the ambient light of the rest of the Scary Place facility.

A sign of things to come, the scenic throughout phobias felt very rushed and cheaply constructed. Or did they somehow know that was my biggest fear?

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Phobias’ actors were among the best at Scary Place – and while at their core, they weren’t necessarily great at character acting, nor were they dressed in professional looking costumes or passable make up, the people underneath really did put an effort into improvising with their guests to create an intimate one on one experience. Although a skilled acting coach could most certainly help to polish their delivery, we admire them for being willing to truly go the extra mile and play along with whatever the guests may throw at them.

Thanks to extremely small group sizes, spread out entry pulsing and, well, the fact that Scary Place was almost literally empty on a Friday night, the cast of Phobias are able to stop each group (or individual) in every scene and play to them directly. At one point, I was placed in a dentist’s chair, had my teeth checked and was actually given a toothbrush to take home.

It’s worth noting for those who are claustrophobic that once you reach the locker room, there are two possible routes you may be sent by the coach: left or right. We’re told the left path is much more narrow for a much longer distance. We requested the right, and even being claustrophobic myself, I can tell you I had no problem making it through that section, unlike past Sinister Pointe attractions with very enclosed spaces.

Evil on 2

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There is an evil that has taken over the second floor of this quaint little hotel. We need you to step up and venture into this maze to investigate! Lets just hope that the terror within hasn’t spread!

Evil On 2 checks guests in to a hotel whose lavish porte cochere  happens to be the unfinished stock room of a former Macy’s department store. Escorted by your own personal bellhop, you’re guided into a service elevator and released, alone, “On 2” where the “Evil” is (Just like in the title!)

I’m not really sure what went on here – but outside the elevator and past a few spray painted plywood walls, there’s some sort of Satanic sacrifice room, and then, you know, the rest of the hotel. Did we mention that the guests staying here are evil? AND all of the rooms are street view?

If Phobias’ scenic felt rushed, Evil On 2 felt “ran out of time.” Beginning by being taken to a backstage store room of the former Macy’s store, we’re greeted by our bellhop and put into an actual service elevator. Now – that part is actually pretty cool. As it lurches up one floor, it’s impossible to not begin to become excited about what could be waiting for us. After all, how many haunts begin in an ACTUAL service elevator, right?

Well, calm down. Once we reach our floor, we encounter the first of much spray painted plywood. And then there’s the confusing Satan scene – and then it’s all hotel, which, of course, happens to be evil (?). Much like Phobias, the hotel is constructed of little more than flat plywood, minimal details and furnishings beyond the obviously needed bed or chair here and there, and, you guessed it, again, completely open air lack of ceiling bleeding in the ambient light from around the attraction.

Worse, the hotel itself, beyond the Satanic Suite, feels very one note. The “lobby” is more of a small podium, and then the vast majority of the rooms feel the same – a word which here means underwhelming. (See what I did there? I referenced A Series of Unfortunate Events in a review about an actual Unfortunate Event!)

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Evil On 2 is a continuation of the “bad haunt (over)actor in bad costumes topped with bad make up” trend that would become common place for Scary Place. Where Phobias at least saw a cast that tried to the best of their ability to be interactive and improvisational, the hotel staff and guests in Evil On 2 essentially just rely upon over-done “boo!” scares and screaming in your face in hopes of getting a reaction.

 

Beyond the initial bellstaff checking you in and operating the elevator, it’s difficult to feel as though any subsequent characters have even the slightest story to tell.

The Boogeyman Express

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All aboard the boogeyman express. Rumor has it that the boogeyman and his evil minions roam these grounds hunting innocent bystanders!  So I have an idea, lets go see if the rumors are true!  Please keep your hands and arms inside the carts at all times, for this here is the most hair-raising terror train in the wilderness!

The Boogeyman Express is a very unique concept, and overall, boasts the best execution of any attraction at Scary Place. But to be clear, that doesn’t exactly make it great.

So, here’s where we’re at: The Boogeyman roams the mostly empty and slightly foggy third floor of an abandoned Macy’s, and as such the only logical course of action is to be pulled around in a cart that entirely lacks any type of safety restraints. I suppose potentially breaking a rib when you’re thrown from your seat in one way-too-fast-turn and fly across the cart into the opposite bench is scary, after all. And while no, I didn’t break a rib – yes, I actually was thrown across the car thanks to the out of control driving, twice.

But perhaps what hurts worse than eating the opposing bench is the blatant attempt at misusing Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s iconic tagline.

The Boogeyman Express is a bit of a scenic mixed bag – which, again, does make it better than its sister attractions, but come on – is that really the bar for which we should be reaching these days? With some modest scenes featuring a foggy forest, a church that our cart is driven through, or for some reason, a rotating funhouse tunnel, there’s equally (or perhaps even disproportionately) others where there’s just nothing but abandoned Macy’s surrounding us.

The truth is this ride would be a much stronger attraction if it were shorter – tightening up the path so that every square foot was scenically dressed, rather than having a sparse spattering of scenes with empty nothingness in between.

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Clearly inspired by haunted hayrides more prevalent across the Northeast, The Boogeyman Express does benefit from the classic “trapped in a cart with no where to hide” sense of vulnerability. Actors run out of nowhere (literally, because much of the course lacks notable scenic) and bang the side of the ride vehicle while even occasionally grabbing at its passengers.

Each vehicle has a driver and a guide – both of which stay in character for the duration and actually add a lot of value to the experience. A fun twist towards the end may be a bit unexpected, and truly makes them the stars of this attraction.

trickster’s escape room

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From the best we could gather, the “story” behind Trickster’s Escape Room is that Sinister Pointe realized at the last minute that they had too few attractions, so they engaged one of their scareactors to create an escape room.

The results are… what you might expect.

There’s a certain simplistic fun to Trickster’s Escape Room that actually makes it an entertaining attraction – but to be clear, what it IS NOT is an Escape Room. To the contrary, this entirely, intentionally misnamed attraction is simply a small maze in the dark. There are no puzzles. There are no locks. There are no tasks to complete. You simply need to feel around in the dark until you find a way out.

Beyond it’s somewhat Satanic-flavored entry banner wall, Trickster’s Escape Room has no scenic, for one simple and honestly obvious reason: It’s entirely pitch black inside. Like, cannot at all see your hand in front of your face dark.

What outwardly seems like a relatively small space is deceivingly disorientating on the inside. A few twists and turns and a few doors to open in the darkness is all that stands between you and escaping this not-at-all-escape-room.

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Well, that and the actors who, we have reason to believe, may control a sliding exit point that prevents you from escaping before they want you to. Here’s the thing — there aren’t a lot of turns to be made in there – and I followed the path multiple times – yet suddenly on my fifth or so loop, there was a new door available to me. I’m not saying it’s rigged, but it might be rigged.

But at the end of the day, even if it is, Trickster’s Escape Room was actually an experience more fun than I may have expected. The actors inside were very playful, and really went the extra mile to interact with me on a personal level during my 4:16 inside. Truly, it’s biggest detractor is its intentional false marketing. This is not an escape room, so there’s no reason to mislabel it as such. But an actual maze in total darkness? That’s kind of neat. Embrace that next time!

It should be noted that despite clearly posted information that your ticket price includes all attractions inside, Trickster’s Escape Room carries a whopping $1 entry fee, and it’s cash only. If you want to see this one and normally only pack credit cards, plan to hit an ATM before your arrival.

 

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Getting from place to place within the compound of Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place is no simple task. Unfortunately for you, if you want to venture across the event from the safe zones along vendor alley to catch the next act performing on stage, well that may be a little tough without having to pass through one of our scream zones. Tread lightly….Maybe the creatures that lurk within might not spot you!

I feel like this is one of those blind dating “profile picture” versus “actual appearance” situations. Let’s be blunt: Scary Place doesn’t have scare zones. Scary Place doesn’t have much of anything. Amid the three middle-to-low-grade haunts spread one on each floor, there are giant empty areas of a former Macy’s store, and nothing else. (We would later learn that in part, this was due to a carnival games provider dropping out at the last minute, but at the end of the day, Sinister Pointe is still a business and as such, should have found a backup plan.)

On the first floor, there are two attempts at “scare zones”- heavy use of quotey fingers applies – more painted plywood – each with no more than one to two actors at the time of our visit. These empty areas feel as much like a scare zone as they do left over prop storage. One carries a circus theme, and one carries a, I don’t know, miscellaneous danger chain link fence and camo net theme?

In both cases, these ahem, “scare zones” are little more than a square box of outer walls with basically nothing – including actors – in the middle.

 

We ventured to Scary Place excited to see a brand new large scale haunt event spring up in the already saturated Southern California market. And beyond just new, produced by Sinister Pointe, the same company behind The Event and Fear… the Darkness –  two pop up interactive game-based attractions that we really did love – we had high hopes that they’d surpass their own standards of production and originality on on this much larger stage.

They did not.

And worse, the night of our visit was marred by absolutely bizarre operational inadequacies. We want to preface by saying some of these have hopefully been addressed since, however, it is still our duty to relate honestly the experience we had at the time this review was based. We splurged a bit extra to buy the VIP option in hopes of avoiding lines. Unfortunately, upon our arrival at Scary Place, we found an almost entirely empty facility from top floor to bottom. The only lines were in the VIP queues, with the regular lines literally completely empty.  Much worse, there was but one family inside Scary Place who DID NOT purchase VIP passes, and each time they entered the regular line they were given preferential treatment over the longer VIP line that was already there before them under the guise of “we have to keep both lines moving to be fair to everyone.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is just insulting.

In a separate but similar instance, I was, at the time I walked up, the only person in either line for The Boogeyman Express. At the time, traveling as a single rider, I was told I needed to let other guests who arrived after me, who stood in line behind me, to go in front of me because they’re a bigger group. I would need to wait until until a small group at the end of the line reached the front so I could be placed with them. Think about that for a second. The notion of pulling the smaller group to the front to join the empty seats in my car never occurred to the venue’s staff. I was alone, so I mattered less.

These types of terrible operations only compound the lower quality found inside all of the attractions, entirely empty midways and embarrassing atmosphere. Scary Place is kind of like a kid’s birthday party, and you go, and there’s really nothing for you to do there. But the kid’s having a really good time, so you’re, kind of there. (Bonus points if you recognize the quote. Maybe we can talk about that instead!)

Most offensive of all, at the time of our visit, Scary Place cost more than a full night’s admission to the nearby Knott’s Scary Farm just down the road – but to say it offered even a fraction of the quality would be an insult to both Knott’s and fractions. Sinister Pointe has since lowered ticket prices following a rash of similar experiences to ours, but are still near the advance purchase price for the aforementioned far superior nearby theme park event.

At the end of the day, although we’ve been fans of past offerings by Sinister Pointe, Scary Place is simply a train wreck, and not even the kind that you would be inclined to stop and watch. Although we’re not likely to return to a traditional haunt by Sinister Pointe any time soon, we honestly and openly do look forward to the possibility of more interactive game-based content from them, as attractions like The Event and Fear… The Darkness are where where the venue has truly shined.

You can find an extended photo gallery from our night at Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place in this exclusive album on the Escape Authority Facebook page! While there, why not give us a “LIKE” if you haven’t already? We’ll give you candy!

Venue: Sinister Pointe

Location: Laguna Hills, CA

Dates: Select Nights September 28th – October 31st

Hours: 7pm – 11pm (Thursdays and Sundays) / 7pm – 12am (Fridays and Saturdays)

Cost: $39 per person (Thursdays and Sundays) / $49 per person (Fridays and Saturdays)

 

Upon sharing the honest feedback from our experience personally with Sinister Pointe’s owner, a large portion of our ticket price was ultimately refunded. We genuinely appreciate not only that, but much more so the venue’s eagerness to receive feedback. It is our hope that this review is taken as a tool that may inspire further improvement in years to come. Truthfully, we are only holding Sinister Pointe to the standards which they have set for themselves; standards that were not nearly met at Scary Place.

 

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