It’s that time of year again. the saccharine melodies of the holidays have become inescapable and even the most stalwart Halloween lovers have swapped their yard skeletons for cheeful elves. Luckily for scrooges like myself, Sinister Pointe’s 4thish Annual Not So Merry Holiday Haunt is here to pervert that most innocent of holidays into something the blood and guts crowd can really get excited about. Choosing to focus more on shit jokes than scares, the holiday haunt is vulgar, low-brow, and frankly pretty stupid. I had a great time.
Arriving at the location, I was initially concerned. This was the same location that they used for their Halloween haunt, Fear the Mark, and the banner advertising it was still that of their previous haunt. I began to grow worried that they weren’t fully prepared to open yet. It was hard to imagine how they could be, having held the final night for Fear the Mark only 20 days prior. It was to my delight to see that they somehow had managed to pull off a Christmas miracle, and aside from a few hints of their previous venture that peeked out through the cracks, they had managed to turn a trip through hell into a twisted winter wonderland.
As with Fear the Mark, the haunt is broken up into multiple parts, once you exit you must then re-enter the line to see everything you missed. There are only 2 paths this time, naughty and nice, as opposed to the 4 during Halloween, and given that December isn’t exactly prime time for haunts the line was a lot shorter, at least when I went. Overall, there seemed to be a bit less in terms of variance between the two paths than their was with Fear the Mark, but the full experience was still substantial in length and revisiting the same room brings with it a new experience each time along with a smattering of new experiences, so you’ll want to plan on getting the full experience. The holiday haunt is distinct from what they did during Halloween particularly due to this theatrical element that relies on your interactions with the characters to carry the show. There didn’t seem to be as many actors in total, likely due to the decreased demand not allowing for as much of an investment in hiring talent, but that slower pace leads to a far more personal experience.
If I was to offer any warnings, it would be that a lot will be asked of you. The experience is designed to push your buttons, to get you out of your comfort zone and to just let lose and have fun. In that vein you might be asked to do some things that are gross or uncomfortable, while you can certainly deny these requests without any repercussions, getting the most out of it is going to require you to lower your inhibitions a bit. Blackout this isn’t, but it’s also not first date material; though I suppose if your date can get through it with a smile on their face they’re probably a keeper. It also asks a lot of you in terms of being an active participant in the action. There are some really great, funny characters and they want to play with you. What you get out of these interactions is largely going to be dependent upon how willing you are to engage them and help them build up the narrative. I won’t spoil too much, as so much of what makes this haunt work is the surprise of what is going to be around the next corner, but one example of this is a little girl looking for her parents (well, a grown woman in a onesie, actual children should stay far away from this place). Do you know where her parents are? What happened to them? Will you help her look for them? How you choose to deal with these situations is going to determine how your experience plays out, and everyone is going to have a different story of what went down.
The design of the haunt itself is spectacular, especially given the incredibly tight schedule they were working on to completely revamped the aesthetic. References to classic holiday films and familiar iconography abound as the cute and whimsical meets the vile and disgusting to create a sort of surreal dark comedy. For anyone that made it out to Fear the Mark, the layout will be familiar, but it has been cleverly re-purposed and filled with some pretty impressive set pieces that set it apart from anything I’ve seen before. Hints of Halloween remain, but that’s almost comforting, a sort of grief therapy to help those of us that fear the end of the year, recognizing it only as the farthest distance from our beloved holiday. Sinister Pointe’s 4thish Annual Not So Merry Holiday Haunt is as much a celebration of Christmas as any sleigh ride or cozy night roasting chestnuts on the fire, just presented in a way that will more likely appeal to horror fans with different ideas about holiday merrymaking.
Now would normally come the part where I assess whether going to this particular haunt is worth your money. Really though, it’s December, and outside of Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater production of Blood Alley Christmas, this is the only thing going for horror fans at this time of the year. While the focus may have shifted from scares there are still plenty to be had and there is still an array of gory props that would be right at home on Halloween without the holiday trappings. If you have a high tolerance for vulgarity and don’t mind getting a little adventurous, then this is a must see for any haunt fan looking for an off-season fix. Tickets are still available for the 9th, 10th, 16th, and 17th, but may sell out closer to the event. You will likely want to get the all-night admission to be able to experience both paths, but based off my experience the scream pass isn’t really necessary unless you don’t mind spending the extra money to get in immediately. Sinister Pointe has done it again, managing to reawaken the Christmas spirit of even this jaded curmudgeon. They have made a name for themselves as one of the best particularly in off-season haunts and I look forward to seeing what they’ve got in store for 2017.