_REVIEW.   it’s about _LIVE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.   at _TWINLAKES PARK.   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until _31st OCT 2021.

October 28, 2021
images © Twinlakes Park & Kyle Pedley 2021.

As far as scare attractions go, Melton Mowbray’s Xtreme Scream Park has rarely been anything short of top drawer, as its enviable roster of awards and accolades can attest. With some of the biggest, longest and most artfully realised mazes in the industry, there’s a standard of quality at Leicester that fear-seekers just come to expect now.

That being said, its’s a long fall from the top, and with each passing year the number of challengers nipping around the heels of the major scare attractions grows, and so Xtreme’s annual challenge is always along the lines of whether or not it can maintain its standing and level of excellence.

Thankfully, this is a park that has never been afraid to innovate, eschew what maybe isn’t working, or to expand (both artistically and physically). The decision to replace its one stinker of a maze in The Dungeon back in 2017 welcomed in the fantastic Voodoo Hoodoo in its stead, whilst in the same year the sheer breadth and execution of The Village set a new benchmark in scare maze world building. 

This ambition and determination to keep visitors new and returning alike satisfied is on full display in 2021, as a staggering seven mazes and areas to explore, including two wholly new experiences, as well as a couple of extended and rejigged former favourites, keeps Xtreme’s standing as being amongst the best in the biz firmly intact.

As mentioned, Voodoo Hoodo and The Village remain excellent. Although the former initially adopts the recent, less inspired trope of awkwardly clinging to a rope as you stumble around unable to see a thing owing to the sack that has been deposited over your head, what follows is immeasurably better; a creepy, gorgeously designed venture into a voodoo-themed bayou nightmare. The Village is potentially still Leicester’s MVP, a huge, varied and sprawling journey through its titular locale, taking you from a disheveled homestead that would not feel out of place in a Resident Evil game to a not-so-abandoned primary school, a gruesome laboratory, an eerie chapel stuffed with robed attendees whom you cannot discern between actor or prop, and much more. Very welcomely, Village was notably better populated than last year in particular, when its denizens felt a trifle sparse (though we can excuse that as being a consequence of, once again, that ruddy pandemic).

Elsewhere, the penal and industrial horrors of the prison-themed Ash Hell Penitentiary, the health (see: death) spa benefits of Belvoir Manners’ exclusive members club, and the hillbilly, porcine hijinks of The Pie Factory all return, and they’ve each had new areas and features thrown in for good, frightening extra measure. Having experienced the likes of Pie Factory several times now, inclusions such as its new ‘Melton Hunting Lodge’ expansion, and even smaller cosmetic changes – see for instance, the inclusion of new shower and bathing areas to Belvoir – keep the experiences feeling fresh and unpredictable for even veterans of the park. The ongoing, increased incorporation of animatronic creatures and scares to ensure the less densely populated areas of mazes keep visitors on their toes continues to demonstrate a keen awareness of incident and pacing within Xtreme’s attractions.

Creepy clowns have long been a staple of Xtreme Scream Park, as evinced in the above recruitment poster from 2018. With ‘Unfair Funfair’, the park welcomes back a clown-centric attraction after the closure of ‘Curtain Chaos’ in 2019.

New for 2021, Unfair Funfair is a lighter, looser affair – a twisted carnival and funhouse populated by demonic clowns. It isn’t strictly speaking another maze – visitors can come and go, and explore its surroundings of their own leisure – but it is visually exciting and distinct from anything else in the park, and a nice nod back to some of Leicester’s older, clown-themed former staples. It looks great, too, even if at the time of reviewing its outer areas, though brilliantly realised, were almost entirely absent of actors. Still, Funfair did manage to eek out perhaps the biggest jump scare of the night, so don’t let your guard down around its chaotic, mischievous cast.

More conventional in structure is Earth to Ashes, this year’s other new offering. Bringing to mind (intentionally or not) the outdoor nightmares of Burton-on-Trent’s Screamfest in particular, Ashes takes you out beyond the periphery of Twinlakes Park, into fields of corn where a planet-worshipping cult has taken on an almost Manson-esque presence.

Xtreme’s trademark attention to detail and eye for conceptualising is on full display again here, as you navigate through a trailer park, the cult’s headquarters, and a number of other areas that would be spoiled if too greatly detailed. Although not the most starkly original of concepts, the more psychedelic elements provide a macabre and occasionally trippy playground that extend to even some physical and technical surprises, with a particular highlight being a trip through a precariously balanced caravan. Keep an eye out, too, for a cameo from another maze, relocated here for a surprise appearance.

Enmeshing the broader Xtreme experience are the usual food stands, live entertainment, a smattering of Twinlake’s resident rides, zombie paintball shooting, and of course, wandering scare actors. The central concourse remains a welcoming, warmly lit hub for a visit, amplified by some cosmetic improvements including a more functional gift store, and the new attractive framing aesthetic of Unfair Funfair. With now seven attractions to get through, though, there’s sadly precious little time to hang around and bask in the almost festival-like ambience, but it must be said that even where there happened to be a couple of fairly sizeable queues before the mazes, staff kept things moving in a mostly brisk fashion.

Every year, it seems as though Xtreme Scream Park picks up the gauntlet of ‘rising to the occasion’ and tosses it aside with deserved contempt. This is a scare attraction that knows its frights, continually refines and expands upon its mazes, polishes its existing scare gems, and is unafraid of delivering wholly new experiences, too. It remains visually and artistically amongst the strongest, most generous and meticulously realised scare attractions in the industry, and, in 2021 more than ever, should remain confidently at the top of any fear-seekers must-visit list.

Leicester holds onto its crown with relish, bringing fresh screams and experiences to present arguably its strongest smorgasbord of scares yet.


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