Bingemans is a true institution within the community of Waterloo Region in Ontario, Canada. Hosting a huge footprint within the city of Kitchener, it features everything from paintball, to beach volleyball, to bowling, to arcades. It’s one of the hosts of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany. And, for the last 13 Octobers, the home of the Screampark.
This year, the good folks at Bingemans have really upped their game and greatly expanded the Screampark experience. In previous years, the haunted house at Screampark would follow a singular theme through 3-6 sections, each with its own gimmick and broken up by brief refreshment breaks. The new twist this year is that they have split the experience into FOUR separate hauntings that you can experience in any order. This allows them to really lean into various themes and approaches in a way that makes each one a totally unique experience. On top of that, they also have three “execution rides” that really add to the carnival experience, a new escape room, and the classic zombie paintball!
I had the great fortune of getting to experience the haunts on the Bingemans Media Night, along with other media members, VIPs and Bingemans employees. It was a packed park and a very fun evening out. Let me tell you a little about what shook me up.
Description: Nuclear waste has seeped into a nearby cemetery. Make your way through this neglected land to witness the unnatural and superhuman effects the waste has on forgotten corpses.
Jeff’s Thoughts: Every year Bingemans does something to take advantage of the naturally creepy forest surrounding the park. This was as good as any they’ve put out there. Long stretches of walking on dark wooded paths, lit only by ghostly lights hung in trees or brush, it really created a sense of anticipation around the scares that came around the corner. If there’s an award for haunts that feel the most immersive, this would win. The natural setting, the atmosphere, the make-up effects, everything was perfect.
Description: For the safety of, well, everyone, the most demonic degenerates have been locked up here where they are guaranteed to partake in foul play. Will you just be the next in their long list of victims?
Jeff’s Thoughts: This was a major upgrade over a similar section the park had last year. This section truly felt prison-like, in that many of us just couldn’t figure out how to leave! Lots of dead ends, confusing corridors, branching paths, and bloody messages made this a really fun maze to try and get out of. The best advice I can give you is that not ALL of the grotesque prisoners are out to trick you. Some may even help you find the way out. If you figure out which ones are trustworthy (I really loved this part).
Description: Total, absolute darkness does funny things to your mind. It triggers your brain’s disfigured perceptions of the horror that lies ahead. Maybe it’s just imagining what is out there… Or maybe you’ll never see the light of day again.
Jeff’s Thoughts: This is a gimmick I can really get behind. Optical illusions are a big part of what makes haunted houses fun, but here’s one built entirely around that concept. Everything from pure darkness, to strobe lighting, mirror halls, fog mazes, and the classic spinning walkway… This throws everything at you to break your concept of reality. It’s the shortest haunt in the park, and that’s probably a good thing. I bet if it was much longer people would be leaving with headaches. But it was a cool disarming experience. My only gripe is the obnoxiously loud foghorn scare that comes out of nowhere. Sure, it made me jump, but it was PAINFULLY loud! Didn’t enjoy that so much.
Description: A fun house inhabited by former carnival workers who have had their mortal souls wiped out by an evil version of their carney alter-egos. This is where they dwell… can you survive?
Jeff’s Thoughts: This section went all out on the carnival theme, and boy did it make a difference. If you filmed a horror movie entirely in this haunt, it would look beautiful. The set design, the costumes, the make-up… everything was absolutely top shelf. And I’ll take this opportunity to give my props to all the actors taking part in this haunt, and all the rest. They did an amazing job of enhancing the experience all throughout. Sometimes the actors are barely more than props, but these folks really brought out the best of their character moments, and it truly felt interactive.
Description: Break from the fright and stop at The Bite. Enjoy a variety of snacks and beverages from pizza, soft pretzels, caramel corn, cotton candy, pop, bar drinks and more!
Jeff’s Thoughts: It’s always good to have a themed area to take a break from your night of frights. I had a seat, enjoyed a Zom-Beer Golden Ale from Innocente Brewing Company (excellent beer!) and commiserated with some other haunt-goers about what we’ve all seen so far. And because you can experience the park in any order, everyone was hyping each other up for the haunts they hadn’t seen yet. It was quite a party atmosphere, elevated by several actors who made sure to keep the spookiness alive, even while we were relaxing.
There’s lots more to experience at Screampark that I just didn’t have the time to take part in. I was there for two hours, and I doubt you could experience everything in three, unless you were rushing. This is well worth multiple trips. There really isn’t much competition for spooky experiences in Waterloo region, especially not something of this calibre. But even if you live outside the region, this is well worth a drive to experience.
Screampark is open Oct 17-20, and Oct 23-27. For more information, visit http://bingemans.com/screampark/index.php.