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Aug 17, 2010
I got a chance to visit Carowinds on Saturday for their Scarowinds event. I'd never been before, and it's been a couple of years since I've been to a park for a Halloween event now. I have to say that overall I was impressed with the event and had a good time. There were pretty large crowds as it seems to be just a big year for the park in general, due in no small part to the addition of Fury 325. My group purchased the Fright Lane passes, good for essential line-skipping privileges for any of the park's seven mazes (a considerable tally) and exclusive access to the park's five "Skeleton Key" rooms in their scare zones. I typically don't like shelling out the extra dough for such systems, but I have to say that given the crowds, it was the only reasonable way to experience every maze.

The first two mazes we did were shortly after the park reopened for Scarowinds, so they were putting what I assume to be the normal number of people through the mazes at a time. This made for a better experience as there were more scares to be had while inside. As the night went on and crowds grew, they seemed to be simply shoving people through. This increased their overall capacity but decreased the overall experience; kind of a double-edged sword.

The first maze we checked out was Silver Scream Studios, a maze which starts the jumps with the photo op at the beginning. This maze, like many other in the park, was lengthier than I expected and was enjoyable overall. Studios provided a horror movie theme in which we were evidently touring the studios of a deranged director. We felt it was one of the better mazes, but that may have been because of the smaller group sizes being allowed entry at the time.

Next we headed over to Slaughterhouse, a gorier experience exploring a meat processing plant that Upton Sinclair may have had a few issues with. This was definitely one of the more PG-13 mazes, and included some good interaction with the actors inside. I really enjoyed the fact that the actors all around the park were willing to have some conversational exchanges with us, and improvise a little bit while in character. This maze also benefited from the smaller groups, and was maybe the best overall maze the park had to offer.

Zombie High was next up. Carowinds constructed a more elaborate facade for the building than I expected, since many amusement parks simply use warehouse type buildings. This was a bit of a kitschier maze, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and probably a less scary and somewhat fun 80s experience. There was one unique scare in the prom scene that I enjoyed. Overall it was a decent haunt.

Cornstalkers was a good idea with somewhat middling execution. Surrounded by corn on either side, actors were hidden on the walls throughout. My only problem is that I felt that the actors were a little too noticeable throughout. One highlight of the maze was that I was asked to make fertilizer for one of them.

Last Laff was a somewhat straightforward maze, possibly relying too much on the popular fear of clowns. The maze was advertised as being in 3D, but I'm not sure if that was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek (there was a sign for where to grab 3D glasses, but I didn't see anyone with them). There was one decent effect where the walls moved subtly that was pretty cool, and I enjoyed laughing at my friend with a clown phobia.

Defex was supposed to be a walk-through of a toy factory, but it honestly didn't seem like one. This was far from my favorite maze, and included some repeated effects from other mazes.

7th Ward was our final maze, and decidedly my least favorite. This seemed straight out of a Six Flags park and included some rudimentary scares and some really poor looking aesthetics. Carowinds should have just left it with six mazes if they weren't going to put in the same amount of effort.

One of my biggest issues with the mazes is the lack of a detailed theme. The surface theme is pretty evident for each maze, but the Scarowinds website has detailed write-ups about each maze that are not translated to the actual event. It'd be cool if they could find a way to integrate that more.

I felt that Carowinds used the scare zones to concentrate their themes to small areas instead of going park wide. They were decent, but lacking in actual scares. The wandering actors in non-scare zones did an equivalent job. These zones were home of the Skeleton Key rooms. I felt that these were a really cool idea, but a little too stilted and short, although the lines were inclined to back up a bit. My favorite room was located in The Playground. It depended too much on gross-out gags, but the actor was hilarious and interacted with us quite a bit, as did everyone in the area.

I wasn't able to see any of the shows as it took about four hours to do everything else, even with the Fright Lane pass. Overall I really enjoyed Scarowinds and think that the park went above and beyond many other regional amusement parks. Some of the theming was more extensive than I expected and at the end of the night, it was a lot of fun. I'm definitely looking forward to more of what Carowinds provides in the future.
Thanks for the report.. id like to eventually get into doing a couple haunts at theme parks a couple times each fall. And this park was on the list. :)
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Reactions: Franco

Really nice cairns with active flames line the entrance plaza. We miss the Overlord, the Witch was not very impressive and had trouble following the lip-synced opening track. The dusk and night photos are blurry, but the quality of props was outstanding. Scare actors were everywhere and doing a really good job. PLUS being original in their characters when talking to you. Many old favorites are still around.

The steampunked theme of London Terror was cool. "I like your hair. Can I use it to strangle you with?" There was also contortionist in in this zone to make things freaky.

We like seeing the behind the scenes looks at coasters this time of year while standing in lines to the houses.

The shows were a street DJ which we just skipped, Lost Souls which was a mediocre performance at best, and Rocktoberfest with a live 70-80s cover band in wigs and all. But the surprise highlight was little 'ol Skeleton Crew and it's 4th act. The best description is Kinetix performed by Monster Stomp skeletons. Plus, the 4 guys are really, really friendly. Highly recommended. Only checkout the linked video if you aren't going to see the show. There is a spoiler for a surprise in the act.

A blast from the past was again seeing a troll that fully talked and stood up. Amazing. This wonder is some 12 feet tall when fully standing. He also has very funny things to say. The area is poorly lit so the photo is bad, but the park built a HUGE shelter that is really nicely done to protect him. Instead of just plop him down in the woods and open elements. Video is attached.

Franco pretty much summed up the houses. But we were really impressed with the level of work and detail in Slaughterhouse. The signage going in was clever. The neon blinked out to say DIE. They had a handicapped fellow without legs that looked like a slaughter victim prop on a table. That is, until he sat up and started talking to you. Also a guy's real upper body while a giant saw cutting into his fake torso. Many others, too.

Defex and Last Laugh (still enjoy this with 3D glasses, tho) are in need of retirement or rework. The zones were good with London Terror the best albeit short. Scary Tales was the worst with no set path to take and so much fog you couldn't see anyway.

Rides were walk on all over. Fury325 is awesome at night. The tunnel lights are great to see on. This thing is so hugh you feel the hot and cold air of the atmosphere as you move through the altitude changes.

We saw a lot of "cleverness" here that we no longer see at HOS. Hopefully, BGW is getting back into the game this year. On a down note, this was the fewest Halloween merch we've ever seen. 2 shirts, one not worth the time. The second, a really cool Fury shirt. We also saw security running down a small gaggle of idiots, but no mayhem like the next night.

They are selling pumpkins lights to hang around your neck if one doesn't want to be scarred. A nice touch, though you have to pay for it.

Some video clips are linked for those interested.

Video Clips
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