Where: 43rd Ave. and Thunderbird, where the old Blockbuster was
When: Thursday through Sunday now through Halloween, plus additional days as it gets closer. 7 till at least 10 pm.
Cost: $10 general admission, $18 VIP fast pass
Ahhhh, another year, another trip to Jack and Jill’s. Except…. things aren’t quite the same. After a frustrating debacle with a guest at the old haunt, they were forced to relocate the Haunted Hill to a commercial location at great expenditure. I toyed with titling this review “Jack and Jill’s Haunted Blockbuster”, but restrained myself.
Allow me to break character for a moment and say a word about the entitled, hyper-litigious nature of people these days. Coincidentally the night I visited Jack and Jill’s last year was the same night the aforementioned guest debacle occurred. Nobody was actually injured, and their whole party was refunded their money, but they still saw fit to file a formal complaint with the city which brought hellfire on this small, DIY attraction. This isn’t Disneyland, people. And these peoples’ petty response to a minor inconvenience has caused dramatic consequences for people who were only trying to entertain by doing what they love. Now, on with the review:
One can’t help but raise an eyebrow when a haunted attraction theme built entirely around a hill takes up residence in a commercial shopping center, but I loved the wraparound story they created to explain this inconsistency – a faux news report in the style of last year’s starts you out, explaining that the police blew open the torture dungeon in the abandoned mine where Jack and Jill (and numerous others) met their doom. But now…. the disappearances have started again, and another entrance has been discovered. The videos they use to introduce you to the theme are always great. This year’s is no exception.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the mine shaft facade still holds up well even without the natural dirt floor. It’s still cavernous and ridiculously dark – just enough to know where the walls are basically. However, because an old Blockbuster is still a bit larger than the house on the hill where this haunt used to be, the sense of claustrophobia is slightly diminished. In addition, now that they are in a commercial location the law stipulates that every “chamber” have clearly marked escape routes. I’d later learn that there were countless hoops they had to jump through to translate this haunt into a commercial space, but luckily most are not visible to the customer.
They re-use many of their old, spectacular set pieces – the deaths of Jack and Jill still being the most impressive, but there are some new surprises. My favorite was the twisting hallway where the missing people are held prisoner. It was like walking through the world’s worst pound, but with screaming, ragged people instead of animals. It’s a highly troubling experience to have about 15 bloody people screaming for help, pounding against their crude cages while you stroll by impotently – like the “just visiting jail” square in Monopoly. But macabre.
They also used one of my perennial favorite parts of the old haunt – the room full of bodies hanging by their feet, wrapped in sheets. As you make your way through, nudging aside swinging corpses, you get the feeling a very much alive person could jump out from anywhere. And they do….
Before I go any further, I’d be remiss not to admit to some journalistic bias. The story of Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill is inspirational to me for obvious reasons. And the people who created it and run it have been super cool to me; I can tell they are in this for much the same reason as I work my ass off each Halloween. I feel a responsibility to admit this, because I’m going to implore you strongly to visit this haunted house, and tell anyone else interested in such things to do the same.
The truth of the matter is, there are some growing pains involved in moving a haunted attraction built up over the years to occupy a small residential home, into a larger commercial location that lacks the wonderful feature of an actual hill. At the original spot, waiting in line was fun in and of itself because of the ambiance of the place. Here, it’s a parking lot. And while they’ve done a superb job of recreating their haunt in this new location, it’s simply not the same, and there’s no way around that.
I later learned that this location is kind of a “transitional” thing, and next year if all goes well they should be set up in a more permanent spot, and one better suited to their aesthetic. But I urge you not to skip it this year for that reason. Because as I’ve mentioned time and time again, Jack and Jill’s is still the best bang for your buck as far as haunted attractions in Phoenix go. At 10 bucks, it’s one of (if not THE) least expensive haunts in the city. And to boot, you get to know that your dollars went to good people, and a good cause.
*I had the privelage to interview Jackson – one of the masterminds behind Jack and Jill’s Haunted Hill. Check out that interview here.