2016-10-26 – Xtreme Scream Park

 

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We had already heard the actors in Xtreme Scream Park were allowed to get grabby with their audience. When they happened to win the ScareCON 2016 award for best scream park, Xtreme Scream Park secured a must-visit spot on our list. Cutting our second day in the Alton Towers theme park short, we drove up to Twinlakes Park near Melton Mobray to see whether Xtreme had got the chops.

As soon as we got there, we were immediately greeted by an infectious chaos, groups of people were running screaming out of the Twisted clown maze, only to encounter the roaming actors outside and run straight back in. Over the entire park a real effort has been made to make sure there is something to see and experience around every corner. Apart from the six scare mazes, all of them housed behind impressive facades, you could get a drink in a bar where a couple of creepy lingerie-clad dames were crawling over the tables and dancing on stage. A spinning teacups ride was in operation, which looked especially macabre as not a single soul was riding it when we passed it the first couple of times. Way in the back of the park a second bar could be found, where a band was playing and people gathered around open campfires with their beers. Then, sneaking up on anyone not paying attention, there was an ominously grinning clown, a chainsaw-swinging lunatic, a disturbed girl carrying a dirty baby doll and a few more, ensuring screams could be heard from every corner.

1

We first walked into The Hunted, a maze set in the local countryside. A pact had been made, where a couple of residents were hooded and sent into the woods, to appease the man-eating wolves that resided there. Obviously, that honour became ours, and we were sent into the maze, with our sense of sight stripped away and with only a rope to follow through the long, winded route. The maze seemed to last forever, with every now and then an actor grabbing us and pushing us further down the path, over uneven footing and through some kind of tunnel. After a decent while of feeling our way forward, my hood was taken off, and I appeared to be in a cell, along with a blood-covered cellmate! Clearly, we hadn’t escaped just yet, and we were thrown into the final part of the maze, where a couple of howling wolves were after our flesh. In the distance, a chainsaw was rumbling, but in the end, we pretty much walked out, I guess that chainsaw wasn’t meant for us. The Hunted was a fun start, and set the tone for Xtreme’s tendency to really extend their mazes to the max. However, it could have really done with some more actors and scares.

2

The town of Melton Mobray is well known for its pork pies, and the next maze played around with this heritage. Again, The Pie Factory was a fairly long maze with a very theatrical introduction. The attraction started off as an outdoor walkthrough. We passed through the pig housing areas – with an actual pig, obliviously sleeping through all the carnage around it and acting as a clever “oh, look at the cute pig” distraction while an actor made great use of this unguarded moment. Entering the indoor part, we walked through a number of rundown rooms, which looked like the housing for the factory workers. Not too much seemed to be happening, but the situation deteriorated quite quickly, when an actor made us jump, only for us to be steered past a huge animatronic boar puppet. Amazing scare! More creepy scenes followed, especially worth mentioning was a room filled with mannequin heads which seemed to be looking right at us as we entered. A great set up for a jump, but we caught the actor peeking out of his hiding spot, too bad! The factory tour continued past bloody slaughterhouse areas and through corridors with a more industrial feeling. An exploding water barrel caused me to leap all the way to the other side of the room, and near the end, an incredibly creepy hallway, filled with mist and loads of plastic curtains had us inching through on our toes.  And this time, we did get to sprint out, chased by an angry chainsaw! Again, we would have liked to see more actors in this maze – the endless sequence of hallways and rooms does create tension, but the time in between payoffs was a bit overstretched. Still, a number of really cool moments.

3

By now, it was time to see what had all those people sprinting out of Twisted’s exit. Previously, this maze was named Curtains Chaos, and we couldn’t possibly think of a better fitting name for this maze. Made up of a never-ending sequence of small curtained square rooms, we were constantly feeling for a way out, while clowns had us jumping all over the place. A very fun and frantic experience, I wouldn’t want to be a coulrophobic in this disorienting place! At some point, one of the evil jesters stole my girlfriend’s hair tie, making her leave the maze with a completely disheveled hairdo. Being the gentleman that I am, I was in hysterics and made no effort whatsoever to defend her honour. We never did see that hair tie again. Thieving bastard clown!

4

In dire need of some pampering, we decided to check into the Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa next. We couldn’t have made a better choice, this was easily our favourite maze of the night. We were instantly welcomed by a complimentary steam room treatment – quite nice! As we were relaxing in our private little cabin, the lights suddenly went out, and the entire room began to shake, something wasn’t right here, so we ran the heck out. Dirty towels were hung everywhere, and the room smelled like the collective sweat of a hundred old, obese sauna clients. I could swear the crew spent a month wringing out towels at local wellness centers, it was incredibly disgusting. So, hand over our faces, we made our way through the onslaught of damp, sweaty towels and ended up in a number of rooms where different beauty treatments were administered – you know, the kind that screams “beauty is suffering”. I don’t know what it was with Xtreme Scream Park and my girlfriends hair, but as we were walking through the hairdresser’s office at some point, the stylist ran out, grabbed her by her new makeshift ponytail and pulled her into a curtained off area, with a creepy doctor type of guy following suit. Now, I don’t know that much about beauty treatments, so once again, I went on my way and let her have her fun! Eventually, she was released from her cosy time with the beauticians, and we ended up in the hotel section of the maze. A multitude of rooms where anonymous people got to practice whatever weird fetishes they had, without society’s judgment. Actors jumped out of the cupboards, and we even had a huge teddy bear surprise. As we finally stumbled out of the exit, we had experienced so much, it’s impossible to remember it all. Now, even more than the others, Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa is huuuuge. Sprawled over two floors and fifty different rooms, it’s an amazing feat they managed to keep the maze from feeling monotonous, and we really had a blast in here. Also, I have the feeling more actors were present inside this maze than in the others, even considering the length, and this makes all the difference.

5

The Belvoir Dungeon was next, but we were only allowed to enter after a vampire’s bite was administered to our neck! Now, from the lush, varied theming of the Hotel and Spa maze, we walked into the tightest, darkest maze you can imagine. Set in a children’s maze, I can seriously see larger people not being able to get all the way through, as we squeezed ourselves through narrow passages a kid would barely fit through, while strobe lighting made sure we were completely blinded. Unfortunately, not too many actors were present in here, and we barely got a scare in. Evidently, the maze isn’t purposefully built with the idea of incorporating hiding places, but a little more scaring effort, or at least a finale scare, would have been welcome.

6

Now, only Ash Hell Penitentiary was left. As we approached, a guard started shooting blanks from a machine gun nest on the far end side of a bridge overlooking the attraction. An amazing detail, and the loudness of it all, combined with the surprise of seeing actual muzzle flash coming out of the gun almost made me throw myself to the ground. An amazing start to a maze we had heard so many good things about – and we hadn’t even gone through the introduction! As soon as we entered the maze, the attention to detail really grabs you, it really is wonderfully themed, you’d mistake it for an actual prison, one not really being up to code, that is. Metal bars seem to have eroded over many years, and escape routes seem to have been painstakingly carved out with spoons everywhere. Again, this maze seems to last forever. Unfortunately, we had very few run-ins with actors once again, and we didn’t experience any of the notorious intensity of this maze. With just a few scares over the entirety of our walkthrough, the cell after cell after cell layout began to drag a bit. With more actors and more aggressivity, we have no doubt this would have been an amazing scare maze, but as it was, we weren’t too impressed. The fact that the finale actor was outside posing for selfies did not improve the situation either…

So, the verdict. The general atmosphere, the attention to detail and theming, six scare mazes, along with all the side entertainment, Xtreme Scream Park has a lot going for itself. Also, these are not the kind of mazes you walk through in three minutes, there is proper distance to be covered, a lot of details to be seen. I love how the park allows you to get engrossed in the storyline, they take their time, and make you feel like you really are in a wellness hotel, or in a prison gone awry, or in a pie factory. The evolution of your walkthrough isn’t rushed, and they did not spare any expense making the mazes as believable as they can be. However, actors will always remain key. It might very well be possible the park employs as many actors as every other scream park, but their extensive mazes, with somewhat of an exception for Twisted, and for Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa, felt underpopulated. This underpopulation was the only thing holding Xtreme Scream Park back, as actors are still the life and blood of a scare attraction. Even in the Hotel and Spa maze, a good number of rooms were empty, which is perfectly understandable considering the expanse of the attraction. But, as long as the scares come often enough to make you distrust every single room, this is not a problem at all, and you remain on your toes – which was the case in Stilton Hall. For the others, it’s a pity, I can only imagine how panicked and chaotic our runs through the endless Ash Hell Penitentiary, or the Pie Factory would have been with a few more scares. Even with this downside though, the park is absolutely worth a visit. After all, it is very well possible that we happened to visit on the one night where just a couple too many actors called in sick. With everything on offer and the amount of detail in the mazes, it’s amazing value for money, and the general atmosphere is fantastic – a great night out.

 

Xtreme Scream Park official website

Xtreme Scream Park Facebook page

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