- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2014

Visitors to this famed theme park normally derive thrills from a variety of water rides and coasters, but then the fall creeps in, and with it the arrival of the annual “Halloween Haunt.”

A transformation on the grounds occurs each weekend night, featuring over two dozen attractions filled to the brim with creatures and ghouls along with 20 thrill rides still open from the daytime to enjoy.

Most importantly, this 14th version of the “Haunt” delivers a total of nine eclectic haunted mazes to walk through, more than any other Halloween-themed attraction in the area.

Please take some time to enjoy the live shows scattered around the park (“Skeleton Crew” features some slick acrobatics) and by all means wander through the excellently themed scare zones (the “Cleaver Brothers Carnival” hosts demented clowns and dioramas).

However, the mazes are the “must-see” attraction here, folks, due to some stellar set designs (each maze even has a detailed facade at its opening) and will easily suck up most of one’s time during the evening because of the long lines.

The latest and greatest “Maze of Madness” should be the first stop. The twisted path of this insane asylum culminates with a room only the most rabid fans of films such as “Hostel” and “The Human Centipede” would appreciate. Also, the front entrance boasts an electrocution of a hooded inmate that perfectly sets the mood for what will be found within.

Next, jog over to “Club Blood,” which takes its cue from HBO’s “True Blood” vamp bar Fangtasia. It stars some spicy, long-of-tooth, caged go-go dancers, roaming vampires in leather jackets and swinging creatures of the night.

Count Zad’s favorite was “Zombie High,” featuring the undead run amok in the school’s hallways. Appreciate the full-size crashed school bus in the courtyard and a steady supply of teen zombies munching on body parts, but beware of the gymnasium containing an unusually twisted prom theme.

Also, boasting some of the best makeup effects of the mazes and a bevy of deranged beauties, the “Doll Factory” pays a bit of an homage to the classic “House of Wax.”

Finally, “Slaughterhouse” offers a grisly take on industrialized farming, where the humans become the livestock.

The others, often just as potent depending on a victim’s tastes, include an Area 51 tribute called “Outbreak” (watch out for a full-size Alien), a highly claustrophobic maze filled with maize called “Cornstalkers” and a car ride through the “Blue Ridge Bloodbath.”

Overall, Kings Dominion offers an affordable and compact homage to an experience one might find in larger theme park chains such as Universal Studios Florida but for a much more manageable price.

Before the sun sets, between 2 and 5 p.m. youngsters can actually get in some trick or treating in a “Dinosaurs Alive” area of the park before they should leave ahead of the nightly horror.

Fear factor (out of 5): 4.0 for those 13 years and older.

Prices: “Haunt” is free with a general admission ticket price (starting at $35). For those thrill-seekers with some extra coin in the pocket, purchase a “Fright Lane Skeleton Key” pass (starting at $40 extra) to not only skip the long lines but gain access to additional scare rooms in the haunted mazes. The pass requires groups to literally find a real key by interacting with some of the creatures or objects to escape an area, for example by putting one’s hand in various containers housing some grotesque, tactile surprises.

Hours: Friday, 7 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. (open through Nov. 1.).

Website: www.kingsdominion.com/haunt

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