It had been almost two years and a half since I last set foot on the parking lot of Mrs Dowsons Farm. Scare Kingdom had been the place where I had come looking for my bimonthly fix of extreme, hands on horror, the battleground where my rivalry with Mr Black usually climaxed in spectacularly wet and dirty fashion. The masked tormentors have retreated in the dark ever since, but we were more than happy to roam the grounds once again, and to see which Halloween treats the park had in store.
Our tour started off with The Parlour, an introductory scene where the group attempted to contact the spirits that haunted Scare Kingdom. The enthusiastic actor within deserves praise for the performance, but being just a single standalone scene without a real popping climax, it ends up being somewhat forgettable. Still, a nice and fun way to start batching people through the attractions.
We quickly continued to The Paradise Foundation – concept wise the most interesting attraction out of the lineup, for me personally. A plastic surgery clinic gone completely mental, a place for the rich to enhance their self image, with less fortunate individuals providing what was needed. Evidently, we were to be the latter. This walkthrough featured a couple of standout scenes (fat harvest!) and creepy, theatrical performances. A continuing problem we have in Scare Kingdom – but sometimes the quite elaborate monologues can be a little hard to hear over the soundscapes. We did get the general gist of it though – our body parts were for the taking. The most memorable thing about this maze though is the delightfully chaotic and intense finale, generating a full on panic in our group, with multiple people stumbling over each other trying to escape a couple of bloodthirsty characters. Definitely got the adrenaline pumping – and probably my favourite moment out of the entire event.
Manormortis was up next, once again tormented by a different spirit – the place seems to be an absolute hot seller on ghost Airbnb. Phantom nun Marie Lairre had taken control over the Haxenghast manor this October, a number of paranormal investigators were trying to get to the bottom of it, and we were caught in the middle of it all. As usual, the stroll through Manormortis was pure eye candy, less intense and full on, but an absolute sight to behold. A smoke filled finale room with a bright red horizontal laser plane, while impressive, maybe didn’t fit in completely with the theming, but with the jump it managed to deliver, we can easily forgive that. Damn nuns.
Sitting in the middle of the lineup was Blitz – a deserted chapel providing sanctuary from World War 2 bomb raids. The building this maze is housed in usually holds the weaker attraction in the lineup, with just tight, black corridors, no theming, and a number of peekaboo windows providing scares. We adored the facade of the haunt this year, but inside the story sadly was the same. A single flashlight for our group of eight, creatures wearing gas masks popping up and yelling boo, tight corridors, and not much else. That is, until someone charged me from straight ahead, catching me completely off guard and delivering an intense and aggressive close proximity scare – without a doubt my biggest jump of the night. Balaclava-wearing giant, I applaud you.
We made our way to Body Snatchers: Sweeney Todd. After the dark emptiness of Blitz, this maze picks the theming up again where Manormortis dropped it, guiding us through a Victorian setting filled with meat pies, close shaves and ready-made coffins. A very pretty walkthrough once again, with some fun bits where the actors got a little touch happy, reaching out and grabbing us through the metal bars they were incarcerated behind. The finale gave us a classic bright flash encounter with the demon barber, a tried and true method for a reason, but hardly a huge surprise.
Next, we were funneled into the Hoodening – the annual hooded maze. Three years ago, the last time we were at Scare Kingdom for Halloween, this actually was a pretty intense ride, with actors tearing and grabbing at us. And – it should be, it’s the closing piece of SK’s main lineup. The introduction set the scene nicely, and the moment we pulled the hoods over our faces, we were immediately struck by the chemical, alcoholic smell of the fabric, an amazing touch. Unfortunately, as soon as we started walking, nothing more happened than a gentle leg stroke and a barely noticeable breath past my ear. After enduring this for a while, the hood was unceremoniously taken away, and, that was that. Very much meh.
Luckily, Scare Kingdom always has a final trick (or treat) up their sleeves with the upcharge Psychomanteum. A lot has been said and written about this attraction, and we were pretty excited to finally, after all these years, give the “UK’s sickest attraction” a go for ourselves. Halfway through the waiver signing, this already infamous phrase was muttered: “You cannot touch the actors, but don’t worry, they won’t touch you either.” Excuse me? Whatever the reason for the no touch rule, I soon found myself crawling into Psychomanteum – and well, I won’t spoil what happened within. Sexual and adult themes, yaddayadda. It did feel a little underwhelming. It was funny, for sure, and it did leave me wondering what would have happened if the treats had been tricks, and vice versa. Was I intrigued enough to fork over another six pounds to find out though? Not really. Having heard glimpses about what had happened previously in these quarters, and having Snuffhouse as a reference myself in terms of what this final upcharge addition could once be, it felt very turned down – and I can’t help but wonder what the point is of boasting about having “the sickest attraction” if it gets a little tamer each year. I think it was just a single scene short of being worth the admission price – it definitely was something else, I did enjoy the moments within and had a few laughs, but in the end Psychomantrum failed to shock me, and I would have loved just a little more time in this depraved world. Also, a chainsaw finale?
So, Scare Kingdom, as a whole, was a bit hit and miss. Paradise was a nice addition to the lineup – and I can’t complain about Manormortis or Body Snatchers, the environments are so nicely themed, and they feature some class actors and fun scares. On the other hand, the barrenness of Blitz feels a little out of place, The Hoodening was tragically boring – especially as the finale maze, and Psychomanteum could use a bit of lengthening and/or spicing up. We really appreciated the theatrical introductions to all mazes, setting the scene and story. The concepts are very well presented, and there’s always a little bit more to it than just the typical haunt tropes. Also, batching is brilliant, you can be sure you’ll never run into the next group. But, some intensity has been lost over the years, and it’s a noticeable setback for us. Still, I feel Scare Kingdom would be on the list again, should we be around again in October times – there is an undeniable quality about the event that I really enjoy, it’s clear a lot of thought has been put into the presentation and the variety of experiences, and it always is a blast exploring these corridors.
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