On the penultimate night of my Halloween tour, I found myself pretty close to home at the Wat Tyler Centre, hidden away in Basildon – a rather surprising location for a scream park given how far removed it is, though probably a positive thing given how much light pollution there is surrounding busy areas. Shivering like I had just walked into an industrial freezer, we queued up to enter the park and after a lengthy wait, made our way in and up to our first haunt: Toy Shop.
The first thing we noticed about Toy Shop whilst we queued was the music: it was rather creepy and crept its way out of the entrance rather well. We were sent in as a small group and eventually got split up so it was just us two going through on our own, which we really appreciated. The story throughout was consistent, and each actor really helped carry the story in the way they portrayed their character and the make up – I really loved the Coraline inspired make up toward the end too! It was also great to see a claustrophobia chamber given a new spin on it with the use of teddy bears – I’ve seen all sorts of themes done this year, but I think this might have to be my favourite as I’ve never felt more uncomfortable getting up close with teddies before in my life. It was a decent length haunt given the footprint available, with theming that was rather unnerving at points, to the point where I found myself completely distracted – the actors got a handful of jumps from me!
Next up we chose the Work Chop, a Sweeney Todd style attraction wherein you enter a shop that hides a dark secret. The set up for the story was brilliant, especially the rather well hidden secret entrance to the rest of the attraction: the vibe suddenly changed from a run down cafe to a rather dark and atmospheric industrial corridor with very monochromatic lighting that only helped create tension, though the icing on the cake was hearing my name call out from behind the walls! The scares were almost entirely sound based, though this really worked for this attraction as your line of vision was almost constantly obscured by material hanging from the ceiling, though when these thinned out, what was left was these beautifully creepy paintings all over the walls and, at the end, a brilliant effect where smoke entered the room at ground height before being sucked up into the air by a fan – something I’ve never seen before, but really adored!
Third up was Festevil: a freakshow themed attraction with some rather clever elements. I loved how brazen this attraction was, as the first element you encounter is a claustrophobia chamber with strobe lights which left me wondering what other elements we might experience given that most attractions hide claustrophobia chambers deep in the attraction. What we did experience was a rather disorientating trip through a freakshow meeting all the general characters you’d expect to meet, following routes that I am almost certain doubled over each other somehow through rooms filled with light cubes growing out of the walls, and passing through bars that stretch around you. It was a really bizarre and trippy experience that really blew me away.
We decided that we should drop in on the Nag Inn for a bit of a break… yeah right. Cleverly themed around the seven deadly sins, we were taken on a narrative driven tour through a decrepit inn filled with plenty of creepy actors, tense moments, and lots and lots of scents. Whilst it lacked in jump scares, the beauty behind this attraction was very much the way the actors interacted with us as we went through.
We moved onto Contaminated, Cursed’s zombie themed attraction. This had a very strong introduction and a lot of instructions for the first scene that were very confusing and distracted us so much that we almost tripped over the first piece of scenery, causing much hilarity. We were then chased through bales of hay, past fire torches, and through a brilliant hay maze which had multiple routes through! We then ended up running down a dirt path before slowing down to enter a darkened forest with a handful of zombies scattered about in, though the weirdest bit was how quiet this area was, given that we were still in a scream park. The scene in the church was incredibly creepy and extremely well executed – I won’t say much more than that. This haunt was surprisingly lengthy, to the point where the scene would change and we’d expect it to just taper out into an ending, but it never did – there were even points that we thought we had taken a wrong turn and ended up lost… until we bumped into a zombie. For a haunt as long as that, I was surprised that the story was not only detailed enough for there to be a reason behind our actions but also for the story to be absolutely consistent throughout: we were told to find the church, and we did end up inside the church. My only critique is that the zombies weren’t entirely threatening and were very few in numbers – otherwise, an extremely strong attraction.
Finally, we chose Cell 13, an absolute nightmare of an attraction that was extremely intense and dizzying. There’s very little story line to the attraction, though it definitely doesn’t need it as the characters are very much maniacal and you’ve just got to survive. Sadly, this attraction suffered a little from actors being a little lifeless and missing a final scene with the electric chair, though otherwise the attraction was still great – I just never felt threatened by the characters.
On the whole, Cursed really stepped up to the plate as the original plans for the night had fallen through a few weeks before, and I’m 100% certain they outshone the other attraction with ease. Definitely need more lighting outside the haunts so you could actually see where you were going and signs or a map to point you in the direction of haunts as we almost missed Contaminated, but otherwise the atmosphere was very relaxed, the roaming actors really read people well and easily spotted the wimps, and the group sizes through each haunt and batching was perfection – I’m gutted I didn’t get to Cursed last year, given it’s a stones throw from my doorstep!