Alton Towers Dungeon - Top 5 Best Bits

Many Thanks to Alton Towers for inviting us down for a press preview of the Alton Towers Dungeons!

I'm going to start this review off with a big ol' dose of honesty - when the Alton Towers Dungeons were announced I was skeptical and a little bit confused. An up-charge attraction in the middle of the park? How does that work? And why is this a charge when Sharkbait Reef is free? Why isn't it in the Towers themselves - feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity? Another Dungeons - we already have a ton in the UK already, can we really warrant another one? But then again, I always had in the back of my mind that if there's anything Merlin absolutely nail in the themed attractions industry it's a spooky, actor lead attraction, so I held out for something awesome and I'm very happy to report that it paid off. In a word, the Alton Towers Dungeons are HORRIFIC and I mean that in the best way possible. Here's why.

The entertainments teams found across all Merlin attractions have always been somewhat of a shining jewel in the parks' respective crowns, and the ATD is no exception. I know adrenaline would have been running on a slight high given it was opening weekend, but the cast of the Dungeons absolutely KILLED it (pun absolutely intended). The dungeon-keeper at the start of the attraction did a perfectly wretched job of keeping the mood morose and melancholy, the Bishop of Staffordshire was hilariously camp and twisted (and actually gave me seriously King George vibes for anybody who has seen Hamilton). We had a right laugh with the hosts for the Black River boat ride as we withstood a barrage of insults about how thick we were and endured the sickly cute performance from the Plague Doctor (honestly I was in stitches, she was absolutely fab!) I won't list every single cast member but you get the idea - everybody was on fire and doing their absolute best to the the absolute worst and I lived for it.

Alton Towers have never really shied away from incorporating local legends into their attraction story-lines and have always used the rich history of the Towers themselves as an asset to amplify the lore surrounding their rides. The Dungeons are no exception here, but I was wondering what history would even be left to pull from, especially when the likes of Hex exists! But it's very clever the way local references are weave into the narrative - the judge becomes the Bishop of Stafford, the Torturer resides in the dungeons of Alton Castle which is just a stone's throw away from the park and the Haunting scene follows the local legend of the Witch of Burslem Molly Leigh. Yes these scenes do use a lot of Dungeon favourites when it comes to gags and one-liners, but it's all wrapped up in this clever local framework so it still feels fresh, original and exciting.

I'm not going to pretend I'm a Dungeons connoisseur of any kind, I've only visited the London and Edinburgh attractions, but I can honestly say that the Alton Towers Dungeons have ramped up the scare factor in a big way. Maybe I'm just a little bit rusty since Halloween feels like a lifetime ago but I shit myself on multiple occasions during our visit to the attraction and there really was no holding back on the jump scares, intense gore, vile special effects and general intensity all around. And it wasn't just a reliance on sudden loud noises to make you jump out of your skin - there was a general gloomy atmosphere that I always feel emanates from the Towers and the area surrounding them anyway but it's great to see that natural ominousness harnessed here. Especially in the final Molly Leigh scene - the actor leading the scene did an incredible job of telling the ghost story and setting the scene, allowing the terrifying crescendo to really hit home - the terror was palpable around the room and you felt a joint sigh of relief when the nightmare was finally over. What an ending!

This was something I was nervous about to be honest. Toy Factory to Chocolate Factory? No sweat. Chocolate Factory to torture dungeon? Slightly trickier! The end result is actually incredible when you stop to think what it looked like as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - it's completely unrecognisable and I couldn't for the life of me place where we were, and for the most part I completely forgot about what the ride used to be. Each scene is fantastically themed but my favourite of all was the exterior of Alton Castle - it really did an amazing job of convincing you that you actually were stood at the gates of this ancient building and was a fantastic sight to behold as you stepped out of your boat from the Black River. The exterior as well is wonderful - I love the use of the wood to blend the attraction in with the wooded surroundings, with key details picked out here and there like the flames and skeleton cages and photo opportunities. It doesn't feel too in your face and instantly feels like part of the furniture.

Whilst the actors and sets were, as mentioned, amazing, the whole thing was really brought together by the special effects pieces throughout the entire attraction. First up, let's talk about those animatronics. Typically you don't see too many of those modern scare animatronics in Merlin attractions. In fact, I can't actually recall another instance of one being used? Those things are tricky - get it wrong and they just come across as cheap and cheesy, but in the case of the Alton Towers Dungeon it simply comes across as pant-shittingly terrifying. Lulled into a false sense of security by the initial darkness of the Black River boat ride, this screeching animatronic from above had me clutching my imaginary pearls. It was so good and so unexpected! The rest of the boat ride doesn't disappoint to follow either - grotesque animatronics and set pieces decorate the scenes throughout and the clever use of shadows, projectors and sound effects leave the most gruesome parts to the imagination - to excellent effect. There's nothing more disturbing than the imagery our minds can conjure up is there not? The way the Dungeons brought all of these effects together to disgusting perfection was enough to make me sick...because of how bloody brilliant it all was!

In case you didn't gather from that, I absolutely LOVED the Alton Towers Dungeons. Way more terrifying than your average Dungeons attraction in my opinion and I don't know if that's something the park have chosen to do on purpose or not but I truly hope they don't tone it down - it's brilliant the way it is and I strongly urge you all to check it out if only just once - especially if you're a fan of spooky stuff.

Talk later xoxo,