PURGATORY SCREAM PARK
As the saying goes…” everything is bigger in Texas”. So, the question was does that hold true for their haunted attractions as well? To answer this question, I made my way to Purgatory Scream Park (formerly the Kingwood Asylum) in Kingwood, Texas. Located not far off the interstate it was easy to find, large signs made it easy to see from the road. With a very large parking lot, finding a space was not difficult. It was clear that they took the possibility of large crowds into consideration. It was time to see what the attraction itself had in store.
The design of the midway was thought out well. To the right side was a roped off area that led to the ticket booth and merchandise section. Tickets could be purchased online or at the location and a customer was offered 3 options. General Admission $45, VIP (skip the line) $60, or the Elite package which skips both lines and includes a special ticket, a lanyard, and a t-shirt for $100. The t-shirts came in a wide variety of styles and color combinations including and American flag design that I had not seen utilized before.
To the left was the entrance for all three lines. The VIP and Elite were a straight shot to the front and the general pass snaked its way along the side and was large enough to accommodate a good-sized crowd. This was a good thing because by the time I arrived a large crowd was already forming. There is also a large stage set up off to the side. Unfortunately, a band had been scheduled to play but it had started to rain. They worked quickly to disassemble the band and got a DJ set up quickly once it began to clear. The line actors did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd during this time. At any one time I counted at least 6 actors present and sometimes as many as 10. They were very effective not only working the perimeter but also working their way the length of the line interacting with as many customers as possible. While the line wait was around an hour (rather expected at this time of the season) it went by rather quickly.
The exterior facade is set up to look like a porch running down either side of the front door. It immediately sets the feeling that you are entering an estate. Once you enter the attraction you will see the attention to detail begins immediately and holds throughout the entire attraction. Heavily textured walls, intricate paint work, and highly detailed props quickly pull you into their world. Great care was taken in selecting the details of the walls and props, nothing looked out of place at any point. Transitions were very fluid both within the asylum and from one attraction to another. Makeup and costuming were on point. Every character fit their scene perfectly, the costumes looked very original (nothing looked generic, or store purchased) and the makeup was high quality.
The entire walkthrough took about 40 minutes. We were walking at a decent pace, certainly not feeling rushed. The attraction is split up into three themes, all working together but each unique. We did come close to getting stacked with other groups, but the actors did a good job of splitting us back up effectively.
The asylum is the interior portion of the attraction. Scenically emursive, it is here that you not only enter the home of a very demented doctor but his asylum housing some very tortured and twisted residents. It appears to be a very run down, deteriorating establishment, however it is fully occupied. There were very few dead spots. Actors, animatronics and many moving props got you around every turn. Creepy living spaces, twisted dolls, sewer tunnels, industrial rooms and toxic exposure all led to the asylum and its residents. Lighting was well thought out and effective with no excessive use of strobes or UV.
This is where you first begin to meet the escaped patients from the asylum. They have taken up residence outside and have been establishing their new home, and outsiders aren’t received in a hospitable manner. The caves are dark and creepy, and you begin to feel very closed in. Don’t let the sloped floors and stairs distract you because you are not alone inside there. The woods section was easy to navigate, even after it had rained. It was broken up with shacks outside, but you never quite knew where all the creatures were coming from. It is a large space, so actors were spread out, but it flowed well so the dead spots weren’t terrible.
This is the section where you are going to meet all the twisted clowns. Here you find yourself inside an abandoned, run-down carnival. Complete with run down rides, game booths, and 3D funhouses, it’s a total clown playground. If you have an issue with clowns, this area is going to be a challenge.
We went through close to the end of the night, but the actors maintained a relatively high energy given the late hour. All characters fit their scenes and played their rolls well. No one looked out of place or made you question why they were there. The asylum characters and clowns appeared the most dedicated to their rolls, but I must admit the character in the voodoo shack caught me off guard. Whether it is a good startle or an all out scare, I am always very happy if they can get that kind of response from me, so props to that character. Rarely do I feel the need to point out specific characters in an attraction, let alone two, but there was another actor that stood out enough I wanted to note it. In the que, this asylum character was so complete with makeup, costuming and mannerisms that he really made you question whether
he was an actor or an actual escaped patient. The sets were beautiful, but this is an actor driven attraction.
Certain themes become common if you make a habit of going to multiple attractions each season. The approach each attraction takes is what will set them apart from the rest. While this attraction was not unique in its entirety, they did a very good job of making it feel fresh. The designers have their own style on how they do things, and it was a very cohesive flow. While not completely original in the themes, their approach was creatively done, and done well.
OVERALL 9.6 A+
As a reviewer that has been both an actor and owner of a haunted attraction, I often feel highly critical. Detail, layout, flow, costuming and makeup are key elements. However, there are things that the average customer will not look for that I do. Cords, foggers, trip hazards and the like are on my radar. I was pleased to not see power cords or excessive use of tape to hold things in place. There were two spots I did find myself say to watch your step, however I did not hear complaints from anyone else. There was just enough tension and anxiety built up with no extreme highs or lows which made for an enjoyable walkthrough.
REP PERSONAL NOTES
I think there is a level of expectation when traveling to haunted attractions. The bigger the city and the bigger the haunt, the higher the level of expectation. Looking at the website for Purgatory, it proclaims itself to be the fastest growing horror themed attraction in Houston. This adds to that level of expectation that I was already experiencing. I can say that they did not disappoint, and if their statement is accurate, I can see why. Now don’t get me wrong, I did not get a chance to go to other attractions nearby, and I am not big on comparisons even when I can do something like that. Each attraction should be based on its own merit. But Purgatory definitely seems to be holding its own, and since I was fortunate enough to get to talk with the owners, I got some insight into the future. It will be interesting to see what changes are coming