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This attraction was reviewed on October 11, 2019 by Team Hauntarama.

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Final Score: 8.01

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The Dead Zone Scream Park, situated in the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield, is an institution in the area, with the perfect locale abutting the reservoir. As guests arrive, in the well lit parking lot, the glowing ticket booth clearly sits in the distance, near the entrance to the attraction. Visitors are then left free to amble through the Botanical Garden pathways toward the corn, enjoying some of the beauty the gardens offer along the way. It is readily apparent when folks arrive at the haunt, however, as the Fear Flicks screen comes into view, airing different classic horror movies each weekend. From that point, the Dead Zone Scream Park grounds open up, offering a glimpse at the Corn Stalkers’ maze and a few impressive photo op areas, with the After Dark Corn Maze and food stands in the distance. Generally, photo ops are rather simple and somewhat generic, but the Dead Zone had created a towering wall of jack o’lanterns just outside the Corn Stalker maze that was rousing in itself, but that also established a tie in to the haunt as well. Further down the path, nearer the entrance to the After Dark Corn Maze, guests can take a break, have a seat, and enjoy one of the many available snacks or drinks, including all of the usual midway favorites. The After Dark Corn Maze itself, while not haunted, still provides for ample opportunity to stroll through taller corn, which wasn’t as affected as that nearer the Corn Stalkers’ area, and provides a fun, friendly ‘out of this world’ theme this season.

As most Coloradoans know, however, such beauty sometimes comes at a price. This year, unfortunately, was one of those years for the Dead Zone. As Jeff Doan, owner of the haunt, told us, between a wildfire, a microburst, and the first heavy snowfall of the year, this was an especially challenging year for the Dead Zone crew. Those hurdles, unfortunately, resulted in broken corn stalks, taking the formerly ten-foot-tall corn down to about 5 feet. To top it off, on the night of our visit, an issue at the end of the daytime Pumpkin Festival, which was also being held at the Botanical Gardens, required the Dead Zone to divert several of its actors to clearing out the large, non-scary corn maze just before the transition to the haunt, which left the haunt itself a bit short on cast. In short, although they faced a rash of bad luck this season, the Dead Zone lot didn’t let that hold them back from offering a frightening, fun experience this fall!

Cast: 8.01

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Although much of the more senior cast had been diverted to assist with the incident that occurred just before opening, those that did stalk the corn gave a good performance. Some quietly yet menacingly approached while others ran up on us, getting in our faces. Certain creatures even crawled along the ground, attacking from unusual angles while screeching and creaking like their very viscera was infected with the Krow’s insidious contagion. Others chattered at us about the Krow’s demand for sacrifice. While the lack of cast and strong security presence in parts of the haunt was somewhat apparent, the actors did a great job distracting from the other parts of the scream park that remained visible due to the shortened corn.

Costuming: 8.14

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As in years past, the costuming at the Dead Zone was very well done. Although there isn’t much occasion to appreciate the amount of detail that went into some of the clothing itself, the masks were once again some of the best we’ve seen. Sticking with the Corn Stalkers theme, hauntgoers can expect to be set upon by the plethora of putrid townspeople, all attempting to please the Krow, feeding the soil with the sacrifice of fresh blood. Those folks don a variety of masks, often with real animal bone-like features, heightening the sense of realism. Although there seemed to be a bit less detail in some of the costumes than we noticed last year, it seems likely that those more senior cast members who had been diverted. Nevertheless, the costumes that we did see were appropriate and adequate created to fill their roles.

Customer Service: 8.79

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Customer service remains a strong suit at the Dead Zone! Everyone we encountered, from the gentlemen checking wristbands at the entrance to the haunt owner himself, we were greeted by and treated with all the warmth one could want! There was a consistent security presence throughout the entire attraction, including one Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy that regaled us with his own experiences in the corn and haunting his own home! The Dead Zone’s website and social media presence also provide all the pertinent info hauntgoers could need, ensuring that visitors have no trouble finding whatever they may need.

Atmosphere: 8.6

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The atmosphere at the Dead Zone is a lot of fun. Although this season had a more family friendly feel than years past, that was likely the result of the shorter corn and the lack of extra actors to creep through the queue or create other scare zones around the open spaces. Similarly, there seemed to be even less adornment of the trail through the Botanical Gardens, making the walk less full of the haunt atmosphere than it could have been. Once visitors near the Fear Flix screening area, however, the scream park vibe gets kicked up a notch! There is, of course, no mistaking the movies that spill across the screen, with audio just loud enough to attract passersby, while the wall of jack o’lanterns stands as a monument to the season. The line creepers that would normally be milling about outside of the haunt were largely absent on our visit, but we can attest from past experiences that those creepers further fulfill the freakish atmosphere outside. The combination of those high quality haunted elements with the family friendly feel of the rest of the scream park and the beauty of the larger Botanical Gardens dovetail well to provide for a great night’s worth of entertainment!

Special Effects: 7.46

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One often doesn’t think of fog as a very unique special effect, but with the lake effect (which is known to occasionally produce natural fog in the area), it is almost like its own character at the Dead Zone. Even with the shorter corn, watching the haze rise from the fields and swirl around the grounds produces an amazing effect that is nothing short of magnificent! That brume morphed from clouds to near whiteout conditions in another area where, with a few lazers, we were transported to a thick bog where were greeted to an unforeseen fiend rising from the mist.

Some of the other special effects were a bit less impressive than they have been in prior years, which was possibly attributable to the shortages of tall corn and cast on the night of our visit, but others remained highlights. For instance, we discovered one of the corn’s tallest inhabitants, who goaded us as we walked, crouched near a single spotlight that obscured the beast while casting an even more ominous shadow at our feet. As the masked man moved around to our rear, the light shined brightly in our eyes, blinding us enough to allow the bone-clad man to set up his next scare.

Theme: 8.25

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The theme is the Dead Zone and it is direct and effective. After years of unsuccessful crops, the denizens of the area roam the fields in search of more offerings to the Krow, who itself inhabits the corporal form of a scarecrow. The sordid sacrifices have, however, twisted the unlucky locals into unnatural abominations. That theme manifests nicely in the haunt, as real animal bones are used to adorn the path and the people, who themselves appear in the midsts of transforming into devious beings. Despite the fact that the theme would likely have been executed a bit better with more cast, we can hardly hold that against them. Likewise, although taller corn would have raised the bar on authenticity, mother nature (or, perhaps the curse of the Krow) is more to blame than the haunt crew.

Scare Factor: 7.61

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To put it bluntly, the Dead Zone was less scary this year than it traditionally is, owing in no small part to the effect the shorter corn had on haunt. Unfortunately, the ability to see the food vendors and lighting in the distance had an impact on our ability to stay in the moment, particularly during some of the lulls. Of course, the event would have benefitted from a few more actors in some spots (which would have lessened the length of those lulls) as well. We do have to give kudos to the final actor, who, despite using a nearly ubiquitous device and having just scared a group mere feet in front of us, was able to create a great sense of dread as we had nowhere to go but right in his path. The actor’s looming patience foisted the awkward unease of the situation squarely upon us, stopping us dead in our tracks!

Entertainment & Value: 7.86

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There is lots of entertainment to enjoy at the Dead Zone! The ambiance of the Botanical Gardens starkly contrasts with the creepiness of the scream park, which itself blends beautifully with the non-haunted corn maze and other fall time fare. Despite the different ideas the weather had for this years’ attraction, the Dead Zone still provides a great time in a terrific location! To make the deal even better, make sure to buy your tickets online before you go, which will save a couple bucks and some time, making it an even better deal! Either way, make a point to visit the Dead Zone this fall, and see if you can survive the Krow!

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