This event is over for the season, and I have included a number of spoilers. However, it is possible some of these mazes might return next season, so if you want to be safe, maybe try another article.
The scare industry around Belgium seems to consist mainly out of two distinct types of events during Halloween – either it’s theme parks doing a horror makeover, which can be pretty awesome, but you’ll have to fork over a big wad of cash, or you get tiny, local ghost walks through the woods, which can be fun as well, but are often somewhat lacking in scale, scares and budget. So, when I caught word of a dedicated scare park in Holland, it wasn’t a difficult decision, and I jumped into my car the next day for a visit.
Horror Nights NL has found a great location, they were able to build their mazes in and around the hangars of an industrial park. From the moment you enter, it makes for an impressive venue, while fires roaring in metal barrels sent sparks flying through the air. A number of steampunk themed actors were roaming the area between the three haunts, brandishing axes and blunderbusses – and as we were the first to enter the park that day, they all ganged up on us, starting the evening off in a promising manner. In the middle of the chaos, a bar provided liquid encouragement, and oddly, off to the side, a falconry group was present, allowing visitors to pose with birds of prey.
For our first maze, we picked See No Evil, a hooded maze (see no evil, get it?) that revolved around serial killers. At least, that’s what we read afterwards, as we had a hard time making out the story as we went through the maze. Upon entrance, two actors were searching through heaps of rubbish, until a ghostly appearance made its entrance on a screen. After a short moment, one of the actors found what he was looking for – a box full of blindfolds. We were instructed to put one of these on, and follow the rope. Inside, actors would interact with us by gently blowing or sneezing on our faces, or brushing our hair with what felt like a feather duster – which didn’t really work as scares for me. As I continued on, the rope followed a rather predictable pathway, and it was a bit obvious when we were heading back towards the entrance. At one point, someone started up an electrical drill near me, which actually got me a bit unnerved, but immediately afterwards, the maze was over. After I removed my blindfold, the actors from the beginning interrogated me whether I had seen ‘him’, but I honestly had no clue who or what they were talking about. I didn’t quite follow the purpose of all of this in the underlying storyline, there seemed to be no clear reason for the blindfolds, or for what went on inside the maze. Serial killers with allergies and feather dusters? I had been quite excited about my first hooded maze, and had pictured different possibilities of how a maze like that could play out, like uneven walkways, having to crawl through tight spaces, intense interactions with scare actors, … After all, with your visual sense taken away, everything becomes more tense at once. So, I left somewhat disappointed, a little more thought in the storyline, and a little more relevant scares in the maze itself would have improved this maze a lot.
On to Mist then, an outdoor maze where we were instructed to find Anton, the lost fiancé of Johanna, but to watch out for the ‘Witte Wieven’ who populated the area. Okay, with that goal in mind, we set off through the dense fog of this maze. The maze started out with rather wide corridors, but as our visibility was severely reduced by smoke and lighting effects, actors were still able to creep up on us quite effectively. Halfway through, we came upon a big open space, where we heard someone shouting for us to rescue him. The mist here was completely impenetrable, which worked great as we tried to locate the source of the cries for help. There we found Anton, wounded and bound to a contraption. As soon as a number of ‘Witte Wieven’ showed up, we realized there was no saving him – one last tug at his ropes to no avail, and after that we ran to safety. Well, safety isn’t the correct word, as we could hear the rumble of a chainsaw getting louder – apparently someone else had a date with Johanna in mind, and he would do everything to make sure Anton would not be found. What followed next almost deserved a Benny Hill theme for the soundtrack – as I rounded a corner, the chainsaw maniac was right in front of me, maybe 20 meters away, and in a second, he was running straight for me. With nowhere to go, I darted through a curtain actually meant for the actors to scare us, and ended up in a backstage area. No reason for chainsaw guy to drop the act, as he chased me a full lap around lighting equipment, actors on break and a number of confused technical guys, screaming and letting his chainsaw rip the entire time. One of the actors kindly directed me back into the maze, and I was able to run outside, laughing hysterically. I don’t know what the intended reaction was supposed to be, but when a chainsaw maniac runs at me and there is no way forward to run, I’ll take my chances via another route. So, a lot of fun in this maze, albeit partly due to an unforeseen reaction by yours truly. Still, I liked how they created an immersive maze using minimal theming and a ton of smoke, it all worked quite well.
Off to the final maze then, Nautilus, which would be a visit to the underwater kingdom of Captain Nemo. An odd theme for a scare attraction maybe, but something original at the least. A scare actor who’d easily win two staring contests in a row donned us with some steampunk/under water style goggles, somewhat obscuring our view, but also functioning as 3D glasses, a nice little touch to correspond with the theme. In the first room, we were granted an audience with the Captain himself, who explained how he had developed a hatred for humankind, and how he and his crew have lived under the sea for centuries. After that, we took a tour through his world – an underwater world of dark silhouettes and neon colours, in order to make full use of the 3D goggles. A number of actors dressed in black morph suits rendered themselves completely invisible to our eyes, until they decided to jump out of their hiding spots – while sea creatures attacked us, Nemo’s hate for us humans appeared to be quite infectious! On the whole, I’m not sure about this one. You do have to commend the creators for doing something different, but being attacked by someone in a crab costume, or being lectured by an oyster is more on the odd side, than on the scary side. And while humorous mazes can be cool, it was a little bit too inconsistent for me. Especially when our underwater visit ended with a chainsaw finale, that didn’t make too much sense.
Still, I’m excited that the guys at Horror Nights NL have put this together, it’s the first real seasonal scare park in my region that I had heard of, and I can only applaud and support that. The quality of mazes was a bit inconsistent, and the theming and general storylines could use some work sometimes, but they have a good platform to build on and I did have fun. The night we visited eventually sold out, so that’s a strong sign from the public there is an audience for these types of events. I’m curious to see what these guys will come up with next – and I’ll be visiting next year again for sure.