XTREME SCREAM PARK 2022
images © Kyle Pedley
There’s a standard of frightening excellence one has come to expect from the annual Halloween offering of Melton Mowbray’s Twinlakes Park. For starters, an attraction that lashes Xtreme Scream into its title sets a certain bar of expectation. That it has managed to meet and surpass such expectations over the course of the past decade of operation is testimony to the skills and vision of those involved.
A year with no real new mazes presents something of a challenge for Leicester’s premier scare attraction, then. Sure, we’ve got the souped-up Uncle Enos’s Open Acres, rebranded as ‘New for 2022’, but in reality is a minor facelift and re-tweak of last year’s (admittedly fantastic) Earth to Ashes. Elsewhere, new sections, animatronics and freaky flourishes have been added to practically every one of Xtreme’s already lengthy and impressive six scare mazes.
Throw into the mix the not-quite-a-maze sideshow curiosity of The Unfair Funfair, which has also had a spot of refinement and embellishment (though remains slightly directionless), and Xtreme offers plenty of bang for your buck. There’s the requisite cast of wandering scare actors and smatterings of live entertainment, not to mention a handful of the park’s rides that remain both open and free of charge for visitors. The slightly canted, bohemian, ghast-onbury vibe of the park’s central gathering area remains a fun and vibrant hub from which to explore the frights and delights.
But it’s undoubtedly the mazes themselves that are the real draw here, and, for the seventh consecutive year of reviewing, Leicester’s offerings continue to be up there with the most intricately realised, impressively detailed and consistently polished in the industry. Originally something of a transatlantic overthrow, the scare maze world is big entertainment business nowadays, and its encouraging to see Xtreme holding onto its ghoulish crown with wicked relish.
“…the scare maze world is big entertainment business nowadays, and its encouraging to see Xtreme holding onto its ghoulish crown with wicked relish.”
Mileage for a night at Mowbray’s horror show will vary, depending on your familiarity. As mentioned, the two ‘new’ offerings this year are really fairly minor facelifts for past offerings. 2017 was a benchmark year for the Park, seeing two tremendous new offerings in Voodoo Hoodoo and The Village crop up at once (and both of which remain to this day). Perhaps understandably post-pandemic, the recent onus seems to have been on more measured, incremental additions. That being said, even older haunts such as Ash Hell Penitentiary have been given extra animatronics and jump scares, meaning even veteran visitors can’t be completely sure of what may be lurking around any given turn, twist or low-ceilinged corner.
If you’ve never ventured to Xtreme Scream Park, prepare to be greeted with some of the best scare mazes you can experience – in the UK and beyond. Each has its own distinct character, setting and styling – from the cornfield-meets-Manson-cult derangement of Uncle Enos, to the hillbilly, porcine horrors of The Pie Factory. Not only are they each sizeable and lengthy beasts, so too do they each represent a journey, with the production design, attention to detail and environmental storytelling excellent across every maze. Some, such as the depraved tour into a deranged black market high society of Belvoir Manners, dip into genuinely disturbing body horror territory, whilst others, such as the environmental tour-de-force of The Village, bring dilapidated and haunting trips to the familiar – schools, homesteads, churches – to disconcerting and occasionally terrifying effect.
For those already familiar, there’s plenty to recommend a return visit for. Stripping away the rebrand, Uncle Enos is only in its second year, and venturing out into its cornfields of crazies remains a transportive thrill. The mazes are also universally of such high quality, that the level of immersion rarely drops below a relatively unmatched standard.
“The mazes are universally of such high quality, that the level of immersion rarely drops below a relatively unmatched standard.”
In the interests of remaining completely unbiased and accurate, there are some potential negatives and downsides to be considered in 2022. In comparison to past years, some of the longer mazes in particular felt at times a trifle more sparsely populated. This was similarly an issue back in 2020, at the time dismissed as a consequence of the pandemic (Leicester being one of very few scare attractions that opened that year). There’s a high probability that the closer to half term and Halloween that the calendar gets, the higher the roster of actors that will be drafted in. The sheer breadth and size of the mazes demands respect when attempting to populate them, too, but it was somewhat disappointing to walk through significant chunks of a maze designed for jump scares and pop-outs, only to be met with patches of occasional emptiness.
Similarly, there seemed to be a slightly more tepid and cautious nature to the actors’ interactions and engagements with visitors. Past years have seen the cast grasp the Xtreme mantra with real gusto and mettle, with actors grabbing, body blocking and interacting with visitors with at times quite ferocious energy. This year, whilst there were some definite standouts – including a wandering corpse bride lamenting her woes, who provided some terrific on-the-spot improv and interaction – the energy levels overall fell a little flatter than we’ve been spoiled by in the past. There’s always the chance it was just an ‘off’ night, though, and mercifully, the world-building and production design in every maze remains so good that they easily command your attention throughout.
Logistically, there’s a fair amount to fit in to a single evening’s visit, making the option to purchase a ‘Fast Track’ pass for the mazes a shrewd investment. At roughly an additional £19 on entry costs, it may seem, on the surface, a steep investment, but in reality the Fast Track queues are remarkably well-executed and efficient; on the evening reviewed, our party of four went straight into every single maze, even when some, such as Pie Factory and Ash Hell had queues that looked to be circa 45 minutes+ in length. Given that there are six sizeable mazes to traverse in a single evening, the Fast Track option, for roughly £3 per maze, is a strong recommendation.
Pushing aside the comparatively mild gripes about some of the mazes being a little less densely occupied than previous years, and wanting some of the performers to perhaps be a little more characteristically boisterous in their engagements; these are only concerns made in light of Xtreme’s already established high standards. There remain very few – if any – Halloween events with such a high pedigree and attainment of offerings, and boasting six big, brilliantly realised mazes of such polish and execution means that this Scream Park absolutely continues to reign high atop the list of horror visit recommendations, for visitors old and new alike, even if it could probably be even more excellent by channelling previous years in being a touch more, well, Xtreme.
Slightly heavy lies the crown, Leicester nonetheless remains a must visit for thrillseekers yearning for top-tier Halloween thrills and chills.