Circle of Screams, located at the famous Circle Drive-In Theater, in Dickson City, PA has undergone extensive changes over its rather brief history, undergoing multiple changes in management, style, and thematic presentation. Historically, COS was a yearly dud, an abomination to the haunt industry which lacked professionalism and overall was a poorly executed show. Last season, a new haunt manager and team addressed almost all criticisms, recruited quality actors and created an entertaining show that changed our perception of COS. This same team once again returns in 2017, and continues the spirit of change, invigorating the COS brand. No other haunted attraction will give you an ardent appreciation for the effect of quality scare-acting on show quality. COS’s actors and creative team, bring to life a surreal show that almost makes you forget that perhaps the overall structural build quality is not on par with other larger haunted attractions in the area. This team deserves the proper backdrop to display their talents, and COS needs to begin to either move in a competitive direction that allows this level of talent to flourish.
Not enough praise can be heaped upon the talented scare actors and management team that bring to life COS. A once train wreck attraction is not only now operated with professionalism but has created custom-built scenes that inspire the imagination and are a small sampling of what this attraction can be with greater, year-long attention. COS continues to move forward, evolve and scrub away the stench created by past seasons focusing on the strength of its characters to present an entertaining show. Scare-actors bring to life characters, which work tirelessly to engage guests and create a rather surreal show. A slightly annoying (by design) yet entertaining Russian “Doll” roams the waiting area, “Krampus” is brought to life in chilling detail, “Freddy Krueger” is obscenely entertaining, a walking “Ice Cream” cone engages in disturbing banter and hulking giant named “Tiny” displays some of the most downright violent “acting” ever witnessed in a haunted attraction. Strong scare-acting, creativity, and commitment to providing each guest with a quality show are tenants of professionalism embraced by the “new” Circle of Screams.
Circle of Screams (COS) features three attractions this season; “Haunted Hayride,” “Cirque De Peur” and “Delfino Manor.” On November 3, and 4th COS will host a special event “Dark Circle” a more extreme, interactive version of the traditional haunt. Structurally, the attractions at COS may pale in comparison to those featured at its competitors, but quality scene design and talented acting make each attraction an enjoyable experience
“Haunted Hayride” is the focal attraction at COS, a roughly half hour journey along a long trail that features a variety of scenes/themes traditional to most haunted attractions. While structurally lacking regarding large-scale set designs, and suffering from a lack of soundtrack/special effects, the scenes thrive because of quality acting. A certain gritty charm applies to each scenes execution and allows for a sense of immersion as scare-actors thrive on personal reactions. Time is taken for each scene to “play out” in its entirety. Several memorable scenes feature a visit with “Krampus,” a psychedelic nightmare staring “Freddy Krueger,” stop at “Crystal Lake” and macabre “living” doll scene set within the dark, chilling forest behind the Circle Drive-In. Guests must get off and on the attraction to continue the journey at different points, and with enhanced production values and larger set pieces, this can be a truly unique trip. Furthermore, implementation of a soundtrack and a stronger finale would also help enhance the entire experience, while maintaining budget consciousness.
Cirque De Peur
“Cirque De Peur,” is not really an “attraction” as advertised but best classified as performance art showcased within the confines of the “Haunted Hayride.” “Cirque De Peur” is a unique demonstration of talented jugglers and twirling that embraces a traditional carnival stylistic theme. Performers showcased in this mini-carnival are incredibly talented, performing dangerous feats that define the midway. As performers twirl and breathe fire, juggle knives and capture attention, some rather disturbing scare-actors sneak up from out of nowhere.
Clowns and carnival barkers are featured, but the character actor who stood out the most was a bizarre “ice cream” cone, who would creepily stare at guests asking if the “wanted a lick.” This character was unnerving and added to the surreal nature of this performance-based event.
“Delfino Manor” is a gritty, classical haunted house built off the old Asylum Vortex attraction featured at COS, and perhaps the strongest aspect of the entire show. “Delfino Manor” is inspired by classical haunted mansions, but takes on a dark, sinister tone when guests encounter “Tiny.” “Tiny” is a massive, hulking monstrosity that manhandles fellow scare actors, and creates a constant sense of tension. This character presence infuses a sense of fear into the haunted “house” and quickly highlights the mature themes presented in this attraction. Demented nurses “hang” human bodies from hooks, and scenes of grotesque horror are featured in this impressive new attraction. The custom-built nature of this appeal adds to the overall scare level; structurally each room is designed efficiently to create surprise and fear. “Delfino Manor” excels until the point where it becomes the outdoor jungle-gym style “asylum” of old leading to an uneventful walk through the forest. Despite the rather flat ending, the new “Delfino Manor” is incredibly entertaining and at times unnerving, and a welcome addition to the Circle of Screams.
Logistically, interactions with the talented scare actors were hindered due to the number of guests allowed into the attraction at one time. Despite a rather small crowd, large groups of seven or more were forced to go into the manor each time, which was not only unnecessary but took away from the overall performance. Effective line and time management can make a world of difference regarding how guests view the quality of the show, and an area COS needs to address.
Circle of Screams once again provides a quality, unique show, that is leaps and bounds above its previous incarnations. As it stands, COS is an engaging, unique, and overall entertaining show.
However, with higher production values, stronger advertising and a concentrated developmental focus that addresses the core components of haunt operation, COS can build a successful “brand” and carve its niche within the ever-competitive haunt industry in Northeast Pennsylvania.