Spoiler level: Some details of what happens in the attractions
“We’re telling Ghost Stories… just the thing for Christmas Eve!”
From television programming of ghostly M.R. James adaptations to Dickensian storytelling of yuletide apparitions, the British tradition of ghost stories at Christmas time is truly ingrained in our cultural heritage.
It seems fitting, therefore, that not only has Scare Kingdom Scream Park thrown open its gates this December for two nights of festive fear, but that the team are presenting their two most gothic & ghostly scare attractions from the Halloween season as part of their Christmas offering this year. The living house, Manormortis, returns with a new show called ‘The House of Living Toys’, and my favourite from October – Brimstone & Black’s funeral parlour, Body Snatchers – is back, housing a supernatural séance called ‘The Christmas Presence’. Psychomanteum has also returned, for those who like their spooks served with a side of shocks.
So, in honour of that most creepy Christmas tradition, we ventured out on a freezing cold December night to experience an evening of Scare Kingdom style scares…while wearing Santa hats.
Manormortis – The House of Living Toys
The Christmas storyline for Manormortis this year – The House of Living Toys – is a dark delight indeed. We were greeted by sinister toymaker Mildred Grim, who invited us to venture into an eerie world of unloved and unwanted toys, many of which had taken on a life of their own. These toys populated the gorgeously gothic spaces within Manormortis, and each had their own tale to tell, communicated in nursery rhyme-esque, playful poetic prose. The actors all handled their recitations with confidence and flair, bringing the script and their characters to life. Mr Punch and the toy soldier in particular had mesmerising energy and exuberance in their movement and characterisation; their scenes were outrageously entertaining to watch. Less vocal were the terrifying toy monkey and toy bunny, both of which had great physical command of the space, and moved in a deeply disturbing manner.
Certain setpieces were a festive feast for the senses, with Christmas decorations blending beautifully with the haunting, decaying grandeur of the house, and the Christmas toy motif tied everything together theme-wise. In terms of scares, the theatrical scenes were peppered with well delivered jump scares, which broke up the story and shifted the levels of tension at various points. Overall, this adventure into Manormortis was one of my most memorable, with only one scene in the library outstaying its welcome a little.
Body Snatchers – The Christmas Presence
The opening scenes of Body Snatchers wowed me in October, and things were no different this time around. The show got off to a hilarious start, with the two intro actors bouncing off each other with pitch-perfect chemistry and great comic timing. I could have watched them ad-lib for hours. We were then shown into the dingy Victorian funeral parlour, where the atmospheric scene was set for a séance to conjure the spirits of Christmastide. We were then introduced to medium Florence Cook, who reminded me so much of the character ‘Madam Talbot’ from my favourite episode of Inside Number 9. Once again, the scene featured two actors with spot-on chemistry, who effortlessly injected lashings of dark humour into the proceedings. Laughter is a powerful tool in any kind of horror; laughing one minute then screaming the next makes it very hard to mentally prepare for what might follow, and this attraction seriously delivered in that respect.
Whereas Manormortis blended theatrical scenes with impact scares, Body Snatchers functioned more as an attraction of two halves, with theatrical scenes giving way to torch-lit impact scares as we made our way through the fireplace. Things got a whole lot scarier from there, although I felt the attraction somewhat lacked an ending.
Review by Zoe
This year brought the return of Psychomanteum to Scare Kingdom as part of its Christmas FestEVIL. After a break for the torturous Snuffhouse I was excited to hear that “the UK’s sickest attraction” was making a comeback. Psychomanteum BloodMASS was the 11th incarnation of the attraction and you’d be forgiven for wondering if the well of inspiration had begun to run dry; the answer is a resounding NO! The attraction featured strong theming and a host of sick and twisted characters to shock and terrify the people brave enough to venture inside.
It was with great trepidation and a bit of liquid courage that I entered the queue for Psychomanteum. Having heard of Polly’s experiences in the past I was understandably nervous as I approached the entrance to the attraction. Lengthy and unnerving disclaimer signed, I took my place at the front of the queue. An appropriately costumed gatekeeper was on hand to both put me at ease and heighten my anticipation before the hatch was opened and a sinister figure beckoned me inside.
What greeted me were a set of Christmas characters that you definitely wouldn’t want visiting your house on Christmas Eve. Wonderfully acted and appropriately disgusting, the next five minutes were an assault on all five of the senses (yes I do mean ALL five) and a series of rooms featuring shocking and depraved scenes. The Christmas theme wasn’t only continued here but used to great effect as an integral part of the storyline. Not for the squeamish or faint hearted, this was a thrilling and hilarious experience that definitely pushed the boundaries of common decency. An experience that I’d love to repeat in future and with Psychomanteum HeartLESS confirmed for Valenterror in February, I know when my next appointment with its sickening inhabitants will be.
We’d like to say a special thank you to Jason Karl, Creative Director of AtmosFEAR Scare Entertainment, for a fascinating behind the scenes tour of Manormortis, while the show inside the attraction was still live. The creative detail and conceptual theming within Manormortis are astonishing enough, without taking into account the clever backstage design and layout, which allow the actors to deliver their scares so efficiently. These details reflect real dedication to the guests’ experience, and it was a treat to watch the show unfold from the other side of the curtain.