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This attraction was reviewed on October 19, 2018 by Team Hauntarama.

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Final Score: 8.32

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Set deep in the heart of the Denver Botanical Gardens’ Chatfield Farms, the Dead Zone Scream Park has become a staple of the Southern Metro area, which has likewise watched as it blossoms from a single haunted corn maze into a multi-faceted scream park. Given its location, Dead Zone offers a fresh experience each season as it shares the space with other events throughout the year, and must also contend with the Botanical Gardens’ crop rotation schedule, making it a lot of work in a short period of time. Talking with Jeff, one of the owners and operators of Dead Zone, and his General Manager, Sam, however, makes it clear that it’s a labor of love. In mid-September, the Dead Zone crew begins its build from scratch, scaring off curious mountain lions and inquisitive bears that get too close, only to have to tear it all down by early November, as Santa’s Village arrives.

The journey to the haunt begins with a drive down the dark and eerie West Deer Creek Canyon Road. Large banks of stadium lights illuminate the parking lot while the ticket booth glows brightly in the distance. After getting wristbands, patrons pass down a gently lit pathway for a short hike through a portion of the gardens before finding their way to the maze entrances. This year, the Dead Zone is also offering Fear Flicks: an opportunity for guests to relax under the stars and enjoy feature films each night, so long as the weather cooperates. The Dead Zone also partners with local groups, like a Colorado Movie Cars club and local pizza spots, and they run promotions for newly released horror movies, such as the latest installment in the Halloween series.

This year, the movie screen and a small concessions trailer sit nearest the pathway from the entrance, followed by the haunted Corn Stalker maze, with the After Dark corn maze in the distance around the corner. Though the Dead Zone must keep an eye on ratings, they offer a great selection, ranging from Scooby Doo to Insidious. The After Dark corn maze similarly offers more family-friendly entertainment, allowing folks the opportunity to wander through a seven acre corn field in the dark on a self-guided tour lighted only by glow sticks or flash lights. The real pi������ce de r������sistance, however, remains the haunted corn maze, Corn Stalkers! Scream-seekers get to find their way through three acres of a corn maze, while trying to avoid falling victim to the Krow and his devoted locals. Overall, the Dead Zone Scream Park is a great place for a fun night out. Whether you are looking for a genial, peaceful evening surrounded by the natural splendor of the Chatfield Farms or a gruesome, petrifying night being surrounded by the unnatural monstrosities of the haunt, the Dead Zone delivers both!

Cast: 8.08

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The quality of the cast was high throughout, with many of the actors fully committing to their roles. That abundance of quality, however, was unable to cover the ground that a few additional cast members would have. As discussed later, the detail and atmosphere throughout the Corn Stalkers maze was exceedingly creative and composed, but we were repeatedly left looking around for a scare only to find additional scenery. Despite that, each actor we encountered had their own individual and unique persona, ranging from a beaked cretin bobbing about with the air of a flightless bird to the bovine-boned butchers wielding chainsaws. The creatures creeping through the corn also offered their own takes on dialogue, with some providing a touch of comic relief in the otherwise terrifying darkness while others provided piercing stares in deafening silence. All said, the cast was tremendous, but could only benefit from more of this same talent.

Costuming: 9.04

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While there are certainly some thematic requirements, Dead Zone management encourages the cast to construct their own creepy character. Each personality was as unique as one would expect when dealing with a local group of Krow devotees, and each costume was as personalized as each persona.

Whether it requires a 3D printed custom mask or pendant, or a call to their bone dealer, there is no question the Dead Zone gents go above and beyond. With every scenematic detail oozing creativity and complexity, the costumes are nothing less than outstanding. The Dead Zone family’s passion for exacting minutia comes through in some of the more subtle pieces of the costumes, bespeaking the skillful nature of some of the scares resonating from the modest cast.

Customer Service: 8.55

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The Dead Zone staff was tremendously friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to go out of their way to make sure guests had a great time! Even though most of the scream park was appropriately marked with signs, there were still plenty of guests that we saw approach employees with questions, which the staff were happy to answer. Nevertheless, there were some spots that additional or improved signage would have helped. Although some things, such as the location of the entrance to the After Dark corn maze (which is utilized by Chatfield Farms during the day as family-oriented space), and the hours of some of the surrounding vendor booths, might be more readily apparent to folks already familiar with Chatfield Farms’ other offerings, they weren’t so clear to those of us who are not. Similarly, although the scream park’s website offered all of the basic information one would need to visit, it didn’t help with those peripheral details. Nevertheless, for our readers’ benefit, there are concessions available at the Dead Zone, and — surprise! — the port-a-potties even had lights inside!

The Dead Zone also did, however, do a terrific job ensuring that safety is a priority throughout the entire Scream Park. From evenly groomed paths inside of both mazes to the on scene law enforcement presence, there was no doubt guests were in good hands. Even for as cool as some of the costumes are, there is more to them than initially meets the eye! As Jeff explained, some of the costume elements denote more senior actors, allowing newer staff to recognize experienced cast members should the need arise. As we witnessed firsthand, that experience may be called into service on any given night should, for instance, a guest grow too terrified to continue. That sort of insightful design and attention to detail runs throughout the Scream Park making customer service certainly one of the haunt’s strong suits.

Atmosphere: 8.25

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The creepy atmosphere begins to build the moment haunt fans turn away from the bright traffic lights along South Wadsworth Boulevard, onto the dark, winding road leading to the Dead Zone’s entrance. The drive down West Deer Creek Canyon Road creeps through the night until the brilliant banks of lights brightening the night sky become almost blinding. Once out of their respective vehicles, visitors crowd the ticket booth, which stands in contrast to the Botanical Gardens’ structures, its understated Beetlejuice-esque glow reflecting the revelry surrounding it.

Admittedly, the walk from the ticket booth to the haunt entrance is uneventful, with very little to set the scene. Although the scream park is considering the return of scare zones on the stroll, which would be a perfect addition, even a few corn stalks, pumpkins, or other similar seasonal sights would help keep immersion into the event high while also more clearly marking the preferred path.

As guests near the Corn Stalkers’ entrance, the screams from within blend with the sound effects swimming through the air to warn of the terrors that await. Beyond, the haunt’s artificial haze mixes with the natural fog that rolls in off of the wetlands at the back of the attraction to give the impression that the entire field is enveloped in its own eerie cloud. The eight-foot tall corn towers overhead, catching just enough of the moon to highlight the smoky gyres rising to the sky. The huge trees standing tall in the distance rise like plumes of ash, eerily offset by the juxtaposition of vast emptiness and hints of something wild roaming the rows.

Special Effects: 8.71

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Like most of the best haunted corn fields around, the Dead Zone doesn’t need to lean on high tech toys to terrorize patrons. Its natural environment does a lot of the work on its own. The same dedication the Dead Zone displays with respect to the costuming continues in the decor. Custom made, sometimes real bone, creations compliment the corn stalks surrounding the maze’s weaving pathways, in myriad designs. Pig squeals ring unrelentingly through the air, meanwhile your heart quickens at things that don’t quite fit, not unlike our own bodies squeezing space to space. The extreme level of detail that makes your insides twist and neck hair tingle keeps guests engrossed in the haunt. The lighting design is impactful, seamlessly joining the ambience to resemble a monster of its own. This is a place where the unsettling scares and a depth of disquiet replaces the over-sensory and gruesome.

Theme: 8.35

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Due to repeated crop failures, the locals began offering sacrifices to The Krow. It is from that simple premise that the rest of the story grows, adapting itself to the cast’s quirks and the needs of each night. Between the tale on the Dead Zone’s website and the haunt’s setting in the midsts of a foggy corn field, there is no guessing at the theme, which has remained the same for much of the attraction’s existence. On our visit to pay homage, the Krow theme was lost at times against the general background glow of grotesque that was in some parts of the haunt. But after surviving a night in the sullen, silky stalks — beware intrepid thrill seekers — you might just hear, the craven call of ‘Praise the Krow’ erupting from the corn at any moment!

Scare Factor: 7.66

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Although the Dead Zone is not the scariest attraction around, it certainly holds its own. As guests pass through the maze at their own pace, the cast did a great job keeping groups from bunching up too much, while also providing scares to the whole line when folks would band together. One of the evening’s funnier moments, in fact, came when we slowed down to discuss a prop. One guest, of the two separate groups following closely on our heels, screamed ‘Why did you stop?!’ What fun it was to watch them choose between the two paths in the forked rows, only to hear all of their screams dancing across the ears of corn moments later!

The majority of the screams came from jump scares, as creepers popped out of the sea of stalks fairly regularly and other creatures glared at guests ominously while fondling weapons, but neither type provided much catalyst for screams after the first few encounters. Again, the haunt could have benefitted from more actors. Similarly, the ending was devoid of a real finale. The din of the crowd grew louder and we recognized the area surrounding the haunt’s entrance. Then we were suddenly at the end. Nevertheless, the Dead Zone did a spectacular job marrying an understated haunting ambiance with the haunt’s tremendous attention to detail to create a fantastically fearsome presence. Overall atmosphere at the Dead Zone, which, while not overwhelmingly scary, provides guests with the full spectrum of entertainment.

Entertainment & Value: 8

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Given the variety of activities at the Dead Zone, including the movie and After Dark non-haunted maze, the $28 general admission fee is a great deal! Even springing for the VIP pass for another $10 is well worth it for the busy nights at the scream park, which in a day frequently exceeds 3000 visitors. This is particularly true given its setting in the beautiful Botanical Gardens, near the charming Chatfield Reservoir, which offers guests a taste of the opulent grace that inheres in the nature of the place to contrast with the feeling of dread coming from the haunt itself. The space was generally used very effectively, with some winding paths leading guests right back to the monsters they had just escaped.

The combination of the extreme level of detail displayed in the props, costuming and scenery, the casts’ dedication to crafting their unique creatures, and the picturesque setting, the Dead Zone is certainly worth the journey.

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