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Sep 23, 2009
For those of you who don't know (probably most), Central Park Fun-Land launched a Haloween walk-through attraction this year named Maze of Darkness. Clint Novak, the property's general manager, made some pretty bold claims at the recent ACE event regarding feedback they had been getting on their haunted house. Naturally, I was doubtful. That said, at $6, I didn't have much to lose other than my time.

I'm thrilled to report that neither my $6 nor my time was the least bit wasted. In fact, the meager crew of five cast members got more startles out of me in one walk-through of their house this evening than any single walk-through of any house at Kings Dominion (or, for that matter, my entire year thus far at Howl-O-Scream in Williamsburg). The cast effortlessly moved through the space, often seeming to materialize in front of Gavin when, just moments before, the same actor was chasing us from behind.

Anyone who has experienced an attraction like Ghost Ship at Morey's Piers can tell you that there is a special, more personal touch in houses where a small cast follows you through the experience—just in the few minutes the guests are interfacing with them, talented actors will adapt to the group. I watched the cast here do this to poor Gavin perfectly.

The house, despite its rather low-budget setting inside Central Park Fun-Land's existing laser tag facility, packs effects conceptualized, designed, and built in-house by Central Park Fun-Land. I won't spoil the three main "gimmicks" the house employs, but I will say that they are actually quite clever and all work surprisingly well—and I say that as someone who walked into the house knowing exactly what to expect. I don't think Gavin fared quite as well as I did... ;)

Interestingly enough, I don't actually think the fact that we were in a laser tag facility detracted from my experience at all. It actually gives the house an aesthetic that hasn't really been used before in the state. Going in, this was honestly what I was most worried about. Once I walked inside, my fears were very quickly put to rest.

Oh, and another thing: Both KD's Haunt and BGW's Howl-O-Scream have gotten remarkably sloppy with lighting over the last few years. I can safely say that, somehow, Central Park Fun-Land is pulling off the best house lighting in the state right now by a pretty wide margin. The lighting job here feels reasoned-through and sophisticated—plus sudden flashes of blinding light right in my face are a path straight to my heart—and CPFL seems to be the only place willing to give me that this year.

Anyway, of the many ways I've spent $6 in the last few months, I can safely say that Maze of Darkness was, squarely, the best. If you're in the Fredericksburg area on a Thursday through Saturday evening before the end of next weekend, please stop in and support this single gem of a haunted house.
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