I just wanted to make a point of why as a kid I didn't think it was as good as Fifth Dimension and Terror Tomb just for the sake of my own ideas and anyone else who cares read my articles.
That's fine, but since this is a discussion forum, you won't mind me talking more generally about the ride itself and not just your specific opinions. It would be great if you could describe the rides that you remember, since nobody will ever be able to experience them again today.
Anyway, I think the ride was better when it had the UV overhaul (I think this is when John Wardley got involved and I'm sure I can remember him or someone talking about it on the TV)
No, John Wardley did not have anything to do with Thorpe Park until 1999 when Tidal Wave was developed. Before then, Tussaudes Group did not even own the park. Thorpe Park was bought in 1998 and had previously been owned by Ready Mixed Concrete Ltd since 1979. Phantom Fantasia was refurbished in 1994, the same year that TerrorTomb at Chessington opened; again, probably a direct response to Chessington opening their new dark ride.
So yes - Whackyness- important.
By wackiness you perhaps mean stylisation, which, you are correct, is very important in production design/art direction. You choose how far to deviate from 'realistic' visuals. If you look at the original Haunted House, a lot of it was exaggerated, but not to the extent of slapstick, to give it a consistent atmosphere of lightheartedness, with a 'spook' edge. However, Phantom Fantasia I assume was built more as an educational trip through the dark aspects of British history, with some scares thrown in (like the London Dungeons), so it never intended to have the characteristic styles of more recent British dark rides.
As you can see by this new entrance, they really tried to make it more wacky and haunting, including new animations such as the witch above the entrance, to bring it up to date with other theme parks.