Circle of Screams 2023 Review

Circle of Screams (Dickson City, PA) is a complex attraction to review/cover. Circle of Screams is a creative haunted attraction with great potential to thrive with a larger budget and build time, and in some cases, it has grown yet reduced its footprint in terms of attraction scope and design. While that may sound confusing, each season, the Circle of Screams has undergone large-scale changes and directional modifications that turned a once-developing “multi-attraction” scream park into a singular walk-through attraction built out of the modified remnants of attractions featured in the past. A longstanding attraction, it has undergone numerous reboots, changes, and alterations over its lifespan. A lot of positive creativity goes into the attraction, with the return of the hayride and the “Griffin Asylum” attractions being unique. Long-time visitors will see some repurposed scenes or parts of former attractions now being used, and what is present is, by and large, an excellent solid show that, with an actual haunt focus and perhaps a larger budget, would be by now a premier show. There is a lot of talent, creativity, and a dark sense of horror that is held back by constraints and execution. Also, for some reason, this is another attraction that “waits” for people to show up on the wagon, and by and large, there was not exactly a mad rush to see the show, and for those trying to make plans or schedule their evening, waiting just for “more” customers to show up creates unnecessary downtime.

Execution and operations and maintaining professionalism for the price of admission are critical to the overall experience. People pay a decent amount of money for the best show possible, and that starts with waiting times for the show itself. The actors/performers and creativity are solid, and perhaps this attraction will grow and move forward, gain its footing attendance-wise, and achieve its potential over time. Overall, the quality of acting and performances is vital and THRIVES, especially in the asylum attraction. While we may not agree with all the creative decisions or ideas, everyone works extensively hard, and the asylum performers embrace a sense of violent evil that brings life to the attraction. Finally, its price point lacks the big-budget bells and whistles of what one would expect and lowering the price or building the attraction “up” each season would establish a more dedicated, stable fanbase. So much love for the season can be felt by the creativity and performance art present; it just needs the proper platform to excel. Furthermore, for the “price,” the experience itself warrants a larger, more impressive design, and what is currently offered does not reflect the price point. We have been to numerous larger, smaller, charity and first-second year haunts that charge far less and offer a better overall haunted attraction experience. That is not a knock on the talent, or the performances but from a structural/build standpoint and execution it is hard to understand why this attraction never seems to grow.

What is evident is a great deal of creativity, quality character/make-up design, and generally strong acting, which gives energy to the event and makes up perhaps for the simpler set designs and brevity of the experience.

Attractions

Twizted Acres Haunted Hayride

Returning this season is the haunted hayride attraction, one of the first at Circle of Screams and, by and large, a unique experience. Each scene is generally smaller in scale, and some of the older scenes we remembered have been repurposed (including using parts of the former 3D carnival); there is creativity, and some scenes that will disturb. For example, a unique take on “Chucky” and an odd, somewhat violent, evil “Pinocchio” scene are standouts. Instead, some scenes are played out; an odd “scarecrow” Children of the Corn scene falls flat, and the clown “tunnel,” while a classic theme, feels relatively small in scope and a reminder of a 3D attraction from years past.

Griffin Asylum

Built out of gritty planks, a former steel/bar “maze,” and other unique custom structures, this attraction shines with dark actors, a mature story, violent-inspired lighting, and a mind-bending experience. Performers are off-color, it is a more mature style haunt, and the “asylum” itself is designed to be scary enough with unique scenes, strobe lights, and moments where you have to crawl to escape that again, what is “present” is quality.  The asylum itself is again custom built; the scenes, while gory, tight, and disturbing, are not the most extensive “big budget” experience. However, this is a fun, old-school, intense experience that we wish was only longer. The attraction ends with a lengthy walk through the forest and vortex tunnel and, again, is really well executed from a performance and creative standpoint. With a longer attraction, perhaps more investment in the infrastructure scene/set wise can shine. It is intense, disturbing, gritty, and “real.” It just needs to get to the next level of overall design, which will allow these performers and creative spirit to shine.

Final Word

While budget and building time are clearly an issue, we have seen far more impressive shows on smaller budgets with lower admission prices this season. Furthermore, one annoyance is again related to operations and respecting the customer’s dollar. For a rather steep price, there should be little unnecessary “wait time” for others to show up, and staff members should not be on the wagon itself describing scenes they know in front of customers who paid money; this takes away from any sense of immersion and leaves a sour feeling. However, it is essential to note that there is so much energy that appears to be held back by some type of barrier, and again, some scenes in the hayride, such as “Kills/Chucky,” tribute to Hellraiser, and the joy demented Pinocchio, shine. Some scenes seem roughly executed and designed; for example, a clown/tunnel scene, while a general theme itself, is built from make-shift pieces from a prior attraction, and really, the experience, while the actors try hard, feels flat in these scenes that clearly lack the level of detail one would expect. Acting, performances, and unique passion are the strengths at the core of Circle of Screams, and we hope that perhaps future shows demonstrate a build/structural quality respective of its price and the work ethic of the performances, passion, and creativity underlying the show. Furthermore, the asylum attraction and several hayride scenes are quite mature/dark and innovative takes on haunting themes; we just wish Circle of Scream offered more after so long, and for its price point.

Website: http://circleofscreams.com/

Location: 1911 Scranton Carbondale Highway, Dickson City, Scranton, PA 18508