- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2014

Although walking up to a 40-foot-tall, 22,500-square-foot white fabric structure in Blob’s Park (centered between D.C. and Baltimore in Jessup, Maryland) does not scream Halloween, the three movie set-like environments it contains won’t soon be forgotten by horror aficionados.

Since 2001, owners Alan and Jill Bennett have perfected scare techniques and visual interactions that Universal Studios and Disney Imagineers could admire.

The massive structure contains three attractions — “Medieval Underworld,” “Sanctuary of Insanity” and, new this year, “Inferno 3D” — all geared toward terrifying adults by delivering some of the best in makeup effects, animatronic creatures and set designs in the U.S.

Once visitors walk through gates closely guarded by a dragon from above, they enter the fantasy realms of the “Medieval Underworld.” The dingy castle setting and dungeon maze reveal a war between vampire knights and armor-encrusted humans played out in gory splendor and reminiscent of the film “Army of Darkness.”

Next, “Inferno 3D” pays homage to the classic piece of literature Dante’s “Inferno,” as guests get an eye-popping look at what happens to angry, greedy, gluttonous and violent individuals stuck in circles of hell. The three-dimensional effects do not disappoint at any level.

Finally, “Sanctuary of Insanity” explores the worst of humanity — all of the psychotic possibilities that one might find in the second season of television’s “American Horror Story,” complete with human experimentation, a caged maze and cannibalism.

Count Zad highly suggests methodically walking through the decidedly hardcore experience (tell impatient attendees to move ahead) to fully appreciate the visual smorgasbord of horror.

Patience will lead to savoring a creepy room highlighting ashen, white-faced, hooded monks; watching a female eaten by a dragon; scrutinizing the detail of large animatronic creatures such as a horned necromancer, Minotaur, winged vampire and ax-wielding executioner; and enjoying corridors with undulating walls built of skulls.

Designers use the perfect blend of loud sound effects, music, loads of terrifying dummy decoys, lighting and live actors to deliver grotesque thrills worthy of “Hellraiser.”

By the way, of all the Halloween attractions visited this year, “Bennett’s Curse” actually spooked Count Zad enough to often cause him to hesitate when strolling around corners and even squinting his eyes for fear at what might pop out next.

Fear factor (out of 5): 4.5 for adults, and children younger than 13 absolutely need not apply.

Hours: Thursday and Sunday, 7 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 7 to 11 p.m.; also weeknights of Oct. 27, 28 and 29, 7 to 9:30 p.m. (open through Nov. 1).

Price range: $30 for general admission to all three areas or up to $60 for “VIP Admission” and next-in-line privileges (look online for possible daily deal purveyors to find less wallet-strangling pricing).

Website:www.bennettscurse.com

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