It was weird to be back. Last August we were standing in the same car park, trepidation hanging in the air before the four hour torture simulation we would go on to endure. Now, the sun was setting, a group of people was chatting excitedly, and the general atmosphere was a lot more relaxed. We had heard a lot about the intricate detailing and elaborate theatrics of Scare Kingdom’s mazes, and finally, as the first stop of our UK Halloween trip, we had a chance to see it for ourselves.
Our tour started off with Mallum. Basically a single introductory scene to welcome the visitors to the park, with an actress interacting with an audio recording, and some lighting tricks. Seems like a clever way to bump up your maze count, and a bit overzealous to call this an attraction standing on its own. But, a fun way to batch people through, and to create some distance between the groups, so hey.
Our first maze would be The Sickness. In an attempt to find out what happens to the soul after death, a number of renowned, but controversial medical experts conducted experiments that had failed disastrously. Now, a disease is spreading through the wards. Irresponsibly enough, they still take groups on tours through this facility, which should be fine, as long as everyone keeps away from the quarantained areas. No surprises where we ended up! Inching our way past curtained-up hospital beds, ducking to avoid blood splashing from a botched surgery, and running left and right in a very confusing finale, this maze really set the tone.
On to the famous Manormortis! We had heard so much about the theming of this gothic haunted house, and we weren’t let down one bit. Different leading actors took us on a beautiful journey through the estate and all its rooms, the wine cellars, the chapel, we experienced a seance, hallways hidden in the closets led us to the more secret parts of the house, we even ended up in the heating ducts. This is a pretty long maze, but it never ceases to amaze. Cleverly connected rooms and a lot of drop panels ensured that scares kept coming from all directions – the further we went, the more I distrusted every single thing with a framework around it. That renaissance-style painting of a scary old lady, wouldn’t it be a shame if she could come out and get you?..
The House of Gaunt was up next – where we were to admire an extensive collection of creepy dolls and marionettes. Scare Kingdom mazes always have a very theatrical introduction, and the puppetress who welcomed us to this house was truly amazing, setting a truly creepy vibe. Soon enough, we were squeezing ourselves through tight, dark, winding corridors, every now and then encountering puppets on display, staring at us with dead eyes. Very minimalistically themed, there is a good buildup of tension, but we fear we might have caught the actors inside during an off moment. The two we did encounter did not seem to be aware of our arrival – but even then, the sudden appearance of their doll-like features was enough to startle the front of the group. The ones in the back, well, they had a pretty quiet walkthrough. Technical malfunction, or miscommunication? In the end, although it wasn’t our favourite, the change in pace and the eerie quality of this maze were nice. If the scares would have been on point, this could have been a real winner.
Scare Kingdom picked up the pace immediately, in 666 Brimstone Place. Hidden behind this facade, a satanic society worshipping a beast only known as Crowley conduct their rituals and bacchanalia. Again, the disciple welcoming us to the house was top notch, setting the scene and creating a sense of tense unease. Inside, occult symbols are painted all over the walls, grinning satanic monks suddenly appear from dark passageways, graphic, blood-drenched rituals and offerings are on display, and a certain scene on a round, pentagram-decorated table had us slackjawed. During the impressive and hectic finale, we saw Crowley, laughing from above as we were mercilessly teased by his minions, before we finally escaped into the cool air.
After our narrow escape, we immediately encountered a plague doctor, who explained the Black Plague was running amok through the streets of London, and that we would be hooded during our walkthrough. What followed was a blind stumble through a 16th century, disease-ridden London – with actors coughing in your face and grabbing you from all sides. A genuinely creepy and frantic experience, and my favourite hooded maze to date. All too soon, we staggered into the Brouhaha bar, and this is where the night really took off…
For Snuffhouse Alone, please read our separate review. It was quite something.
So, the Scare Kingdom mazes – I gotta say, the rumours were true. Top notch acting throughout the different mazes, a very theatrical feel, absolutely stunning theming, and I very much enjoy how they pick up the aggressiveness and touchiness a bit towards the end – almost feels like they are getting people hyped up for the Snuffhouse experience. As a point of critique, the walks between mazes could do with more theming and maybe some hidden surprises here and there. As it is, the walk does take you ever so slightly out of the experience. Compared to other parks that use a freeflow hub-like structure, the Scare Kingdom event feels a little bit less whole. But importantly, their timed entry system and rigid sequence of mazes does ensure proper batching, group separation, queue time control and all that. Indeed, we never ran into another group and never missed a scare because of this, so it absolutely works, a huge plus.
In conclusion, a really cool event. The general admission mazes are wonderful, the fact that an 18+ extreme experience is on offer is something that I appreciate immensely, and the bar was absolutely buzzing, with people coming out of the mazes, people getting dragged out of Snuffhouse, a very, very contagious vibe. Absolutely recommended!