Hide and Shriek returned for the Halloween season with their ‘Scream Park’, made up of three haunts. We visited in the summer for their ‘Alien Escape’ escape game (review here) and were interested to see what they’d do with a linear attraction, especially as the set design and creature effects were top notch in that game.
I’Scream Factory: Using the same space as ‘Alien Escape’ did, ‘I’Scream Factory’ was a mixed bag. The area looked suitably frozen – as you’d expect the inner chambers of an ice cream factory to be! But beyond a well themed, expansive set, there wasn’t much going on. It felt incredibly light on actors and those that we did encounter didn’t leave much of an impression – with two exceptions. There were two actor-led introductory scenes before we entered the maze and the actors here were great. The rest of the walkthrough sadly didn’t live up to the promise of those opening moments. **
Boiled: We’ll be honest about this one, we had absolutely no idea what was going on here. The whole thing was bizarrely surreal. The introductory scene took place in a living room that was ripped out of the 70s. The oddest thing about this room was the man sat on a sofa, flicking through channels on an old TV. He didn’t interact with the guests at all and never looked away from that TV. We kept expecting him to do something but eventually had to leave him and the room. His presence in this maze was by far the best thing; it had us wondering who he was and why he was there! The rest of the haunt passed without incident as we walked throughout the apartment until we met the repairman. He asked us a question; we answered and then exited the maze. It really did end like that and we came away wondering if we’d missed something. It was another maze where next to nothing happened but its bizarre nature had us talking for a while! **
Dead Centre: Bite Sized: Our expectations were lowered by this point, having been through the other two haunts and also knowing that this was a slimmed down version of a longer event. However, this attraction brought us back in a big way! This maze’s biggest asset was that it used the genuine location of the shopping centre. We went through the service corridors and loading bays as we attempted to escape the living dead. The other aspect that worked in the favour of ‘Dead Centre’ was that most of the areas were wide and uncluttered so running was encouraged. If you feel you have to run away from something the threat becomes more tangible. Most haunts can’t really do this as they’re dark and very enclosed. The guys at Hide and Shriek clearly took advantage of not having those restrictions, offering a high-intensity zombie escapade! Our biggest regret now is that we never managed to experience the full version at the beginning of the year, especially as we understand that it had non-linear elements to it. ****
The ambition of Hide and Shriek can’t be denied. They’ve clearly made the best use of the space that they have and their themes are way more original than we see at other events. Yeah, ‘Dead Centre’ is zombie-centric but if your event is based in a shopping centre, how can you not use that aspect to make a zombie attraction?
To be perfectly fair, we don’t think the problems that we had with ‘Scream Park’ stem from bad design or anything like that. The issue comes from the space that’s available to them, being restricted by the size of the shop units. This has to limit creativity somewhat, especially when people expect an attraction to last more than a minute. It’s obvious that the team have clear, unique ideas and want to cut their own path from the competition. We suspect that they might be better sticking with single attraction events rather than trying to compete with multi-haunt parks. Either that or they should consider moving to a location where space is less of an issue.
We know we sound a bit negative in this review; we still had a good time but think that the scream park format isn’t one that translates well to their location. It’s worth looking at if you’re nearby. And we saw enough potential that we will be sneaking in a visit to their Christmas event in the next fortnight!
Rating: *** (Out of 5) – Flawed but worth checking out
Ticket Price: £20
Address: 344-347 Chartwell Square, Victoria Plaza, Southend-on-sea, Essex, SS2 5SP