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Screamland Review 

 screamland

Following its recent restoration and much anticipated grand reopening, Dreamland Margate has wasted no time in embarking on the mammoth task of a live action horror event cleverly entitled- Screamland. Screamland is designed and produced by AtmosFEAR! Scare Entertainment. 

I must say that the marketing campaign has been exceptional with one of the best poster and web designs I have ever seen for a Halloween event.

Upon arriving on what was a dismally grey and chilly evening, we found the atmosphere to be a fabulous mix of friendly and eerie!

The park was cloaked in an unsettling mist which coupled with the retro rides provided a delightfully unique backdrop for the evening. It would have been a wonderful touch to distort the huge Hollywood style sign saying 'Dreamland' to spell out Screamland to enhance the presence of branding in the park.

Wondering around the grounds were a team of assorted scarers who managed to pick the correct tone for each group they approached. They ranged from creepy meat cleaver carrying gangs to the classic Halloween bride and groom.

A special mention amongst these actors must be made for the character of Punchinello a delightfully fitting and expertly portrayed mascot for screamland's Halloween event.

Needless to say, we were excited to get into the mazes and dive into our first Halloween event of the year. 

The first maze we encountered was the double whammy of 'Final Cut' and 'Dead and Breakfast' -two mazes linked together with a brief interlude between them. It was a shame that these two mazes were linked as I believe they would have worked so much better as two stand alone attractions, allowing guests to experience each one in its truly gruesome and individual glory!

FINAL CUT

Final cut was a great theme delivered well. *spoiler alert* the entrance through a cinema screen into a world of black and white was a lovely touch and I can honestly say the claustrophobia wall used was the tightest I've ever encountered.

We were one of the first in and, as always on a first night, I felt a few of the cast were finding their feet in terms of how to achieve the very best scares BUT by the time we went through for a second go at the end of the night they were fully fledged little terrors and achieving wonderful results... In fact complete strangers were grabbing onto us for comfort as they were absolutely terrified- achieving that level of development within a few hours promises for truly horrific results as they continue over the Halloween season! This is an attraction for the whole family to enjoy with some great famous characters from the silver screen and one scare involving a simple mirror had us jumping with delight.

DEAD AND BREAKFAST

Dead and breakfast was the second of these adjoined mazes and had a post air raid hotel theme. The set was a true delight, the reception felt real and the story based maze had a good mix of comedy and character based scares. My personal feelings on scene heavy mazes are mixed. The carnage and inconsistency of audience reaction makes it a truly exciting prospect, but also one which can be hard work for the cast. Scenes I feel can occasionally break the tension and anticipation so wonderfully built up by the superb mazes and the audiences own dark imagination. But that being said- the team seem ready for anything and delivered their characters wonderfully with some hilarious light relief and cheeky characters throughout. The final scare in this attraction involved an air raid shelter which was a lovely touch- however it needs some fine tuning to get guests running out of the attraction with terror.

Credit has to me made to the build crew on Dead and breakfast, from my own experience of building attractions you can clearly see a lot of time has gone into the theming and build and the level of detail throughout was exceptional. Both of these mazes were a joy to experience. Furthermore, The genius use of abrasive smells added another layer of immersive terror to the classy mazes we encountered. 

One extra observation I'd make is that externally there could be slightly more theming to match the beautiful attention to detail that lay within.

ABRAMACABRE

This attraction was the weakest of the four, the mirror maze is a full time attraction for dreamland so they've simply utilised it as a Halloween maze, meaning it hasn't had the same attention shown to it as the purpose built horror mazes. In my opinion, I would have just kept this open in the evenings as a dreamland attraction and had some actors terrifying guests without them knowing. It doesn't warrant being a heavily billed stand alone maze experience when compared to the rest of the great Screamland line up! However the actors did a good job of entertaining us, in particular the lovely Deady Mcgee! We did enjoy walking round it, as it is clearly a very well built mirror maze.

FESTINO'S FORGOTTEN FUN HOUSE

It was time to enter the fun house! It lay inside an eerie abandoned circus big top. Yet again the attention to detail inside this attraction was beautifully executed. The opening of the maze featured a delightful airbrushed clown with a giant foam tongue. And it was clear from the beginning that this was going to be an exciting attraction. Our praise goes to the actor playing Festino himself, who had a delightful script to present to us at the beginning. He was full of confidence and zest throughout his opening speech.

The premise of this attraction is that we were about to encounter many different freak show acts from a merman to conjoined twins and a freakishly vulgar scene involving gluttony eating her own intestines.  Throughout this attraction the scenes were very impressive and yet again felt as if we were on more of a 'guided tour' than inside a horror attraction. In each room we were met by different freak show characters who all performed a small scene and interacted with each group. Each actor performed well and delivered the script in a professional manner. There were also some great scares throughout. I did feel that some areas were lacking in numbers of actors and at times we were waiting to be jumped out at by some hidden monster that never materialised.

The final scene within the funhouse didn't really pack a punch and I felt it needed something to chase us out of the big top. Yes, chainsaws are seen very often at the end of scare attractions and are cliché, but I felt it needed something in this area to chase us out. Having guests running and screaming from your attractions will make the rest of the queue line shake with fear at the prospect of entering next.

All in all Festino's Forgotton funhouse is a fun experience, and as with all opening nights, once the actors inside have found their feet, they will develop the freedom to experiment with the scares and create some horrific magic! This maze is set to be thrilling as the season gets underway!  

I felt the whole Scremland event was new and young and an amazing start for dreamland. It will undoubtedly grow and mature into an astonishing event which should have rivals watching their backs.

Huge kudos must go to the dreamland in-house team, for sourcing props tech and theming themselves. The time, love and personal touches put into each maze made them feel like real places, as opposed to sets.

Screamland is a delight of a Halloween attraction and it is suitable for all as there really is something for everyone.

Congratulations Dreamland, you've made an impressive seaside splash here and with continued effort Screamland is set to become a tidal wave of horror to be reckoned with.

Review by Tom Swift, Terror Attractions

For more information on Screamland visit 

http://www.dreamland.co.uk/screamland

 

 



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