Spoiler level: No specific details of what happens in each attraction, but lots of general description which could be perceived as spoilers.
“Do you remember that one at Blackpool? Well this is way worse than that.”
I overheard this in the car park from a guy trying to advise his friend as to what he was letting himself in for. While this may seem glaringly obvious to seasoned scare fans, it’s pretty spot on. ‘Worse’ in this context meaning ‘much more terrifying’. Because Scare Kingdom Scream Park, now in its eighth year, delivers scares on a grand scale, featuring seven attractions which are experienced in sequence over the course of the evening.
Due to the nature of the event, my advice would always be to steer clear if you’re of a nervous disposition, lest you become overwhelmed and need to be escorted from the park. I saw it happen last year. I saw it happen this year. And it will continue to happen I’m sure. But for the rest of us, Scare Kingdom is a veritable playground of scary fun, and I couldn’t wait to explore the dark delights of this year’s lineup…
In past years, Scare Kingdom’s opening acts have been fantastic. Simple yet effective pieces designed to get the adrenaline pumping and start the evening off at the right level. This was very much the opposite. As dull as it was confusing, it seemed to be over before it had begun. We weren’t there long enough for the muddled setpiece to make any sense. Our group was quite small yet we moved all the way to the edge as we thought more people were coming in. Had we been instructed to remain more central, the only scare that was supposed to happen might have hit a little harder. Although I doubt that would have saved it.
Scaring isn’t an exact science, but for me, this attraction is as objectively terrifying as it gets (but therein lies the subjective bias- I LOVE hospital themed stuff!) The execution of this concept was everything I was hoping for and more. The Sickness was the perfect balance of character interaction and set walkthroughs with an all-round sensory assault to boost the experience. Think heart monitors, grimy walls, smell pods, the whole nine yards. I was thoroughly immersed, although the music drowned out the actors a little. The storyline about the experimentation was a nice detail which kept us engaged, adding to the sense of dread and tension as we progressed. And the bed scene? Well, it scared the crap out of me. A perfectly timed impact scare which genuinely made me want to run.
The ever impressive Manormortis is always a Scare Kingdom highlight; its clever design and extraordinary grandeur are a delight to behold. This year, the story was centred around the recently discovered diary of ‘Emily Haxenghast’, and ghostly sightings within the house. The actors were all on top form, particularly in the library and furnace, and I loved the Ghostbusters/Holtzmann style character at the beginning. Scare Kingdom always wins on the movie nods. The experience this year felt very theatrical, with a Dungeons-style performance in every room, but no memorable scares. In fact, no-one flinched during the climax of one particular room (perhaps to do with volume/positioning), but the end scene gave me a decent jump, despite the predictable format.
The House of Gaunt
A nifty little attraction and a pediophobic’s worst nightmare, this was a creepy, claustrophobic experience that really delivered the chills. The haunted doll motif, which found recent fame in movies such as The Conjuring/Annabelle, worked well here, especially with the unease of not knowing (for sure) what would move and what wouldn’t. There were a few jump scares but unfortunately they mostly seemed to target the front of our group. The visual effects were still enjoyable though. I thought my pal Automata from Horror Camp Live might make an appearance here, but sadly not!
666 Brimstone Place
I’m a little torn here between my need to review this as a standalone maze and my urge to compare it to Hell from last year, which was housed in the same building. The fact of the matter is that I’d rather have seen Hell return for a second year, rather than something under a different name which is largely the same. There were small differences, and Hell was indeed one of my highlights from last year, so it was great to see that finale again, albeit with a different character. Also the actor at the beginning was fantastic and really took his time unsettling us. Overall this was a lot of fun, with a theatrical start and a dramatic finish. Tension fell a little flat for me once I realised I knew what was coming, but I still had a good time.
Who doesn’t love a hooded maze? Well, me usually. The plague is a theme which I’d love to see more of in scare attractions. I’ve always found it to be very disturbing, and there’s lots of dramatic imagery to play with; sick people, plague doctors, rotting corpses, etc. That’s why I was disappointed to hear that Black Death at Scare Kingdom was going to be hooded. But this was a great attraction! It helped immensely that the hoods were thick, this really does make a big difference. I couldn’t see a thing. The actors played up the other sensory elements very well, and the change in texture on the ground was very effective. Our group seemed to split at one point, although the sense of isolation from wearing a hood negates the need for this. The only thing it was missing was a strong smell – perhaps there was one but I couldn’t smell it through the hood!
In the past I’ve remained quiet about Psychomanteum, the 18+ add-on to the Scare Kingdom experience. I wanted to perpetuate the mystique. But Psychomanteum has now been replaced with Snuffhouse Alone, a sick spin-off from Snuffhouse After Dark, the 4 hour experience I completed earlier this year. As with Psychomateum, the nature of Snuffhouse Alone is very extreme. If you had any difficulty comprehending how Psychomateum fitted in with an otherwise traditionally scary evening of Halloween fun, then Snuffhouse will baffle you even more. I’m right there with you, but that’s not to say I dislike it. In the 4 hour version, the tormentors were playing the long game, breaking us down gradually with psychological and physical techniques. This experience lasted several minutes, so all of that had obviously been taken out. What remains? Shock and repulsion. God help you all.
- Scare Kingdom Scream Park is located at Hawkshaw Farm Park, minutes from the M6 junction 31 on the A59 near Preston and Blackburn in Lancashire, UK
- It is open on selected nights between now and November 6th 2016
- Tickets are available via the Scare Kingdom website
- Snuffhouse Alone is 18+ only and carries an additional charge