Seeing as we're at the end of the year, and as I haven't already done one, I thought I'd do a bit of a critical review of The Alton Towers Dungeon.
A bit on my views on the Dungeons "brand" and this style of attraction first. Anyone who knows me will know that I adore horror and theatre, and with the Dungeons promising to be a combination of both in a fully immersive environment, I should enjoy them. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. I've only experienced two other Dungeons (Warwick and London), and my main frustration with them is that the vast majority of scripts and shows between the two are identical, and sadly I don't really find the scripts that entertaining. You know at some point there'll be a fake out guest-selection, the rats will run under your seats, and the Torturer will demonstrate a rather cheeky instrument- to name just a few. Very little changes between attractions. Once you've done one, you've kind of seen them all- and it feels that way with the Alton Towers version.
After a re-arranged intro sequence (gone is the Jester, and the Judge is moved to the start rather than their usual appearance towards the end), we start the attraction with arguably the most unique, and anticipated part of the experience with The Black River, which uses the old boat transit system that's been SBNO for the past few seasons. The boat ride starts off promisingly with a delicious haze and projection effect- but before you've really had time to appreciate it, there's a very cheap-feeling animated jump from above that feels like it has no relevance. I can't help but feel it'd work better with a slower start before progressing, and that it'd be nicer focussing more on atmosphere rather than jumps. The rest of the ride actually follows suit in that respect- we sail past various grisly torture sequences and screens of men literally being severed- but there's... something lacking. I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Is it not dark enough? Does it feel too cheap? Is there a lack of narrative and direction? It feels like the answer to those are, sadly, yes.
What follows is fairly standard Dungeon stuff- and unfortunately, I don't believe there are any truly unique shows on offer. Whilst the scripts have certainly been polished, the general structure of each speech remains and scenes generally play out in the same way as before.
One thing that seems to be lacking in The Alton Towers Dungeon that divides opinions are the incredibly sparse incidental corridors that link scenes. To get to the next room, guests briefly pass through an unthemed corridor. Whilst the flow and pace of the experience is greatly benefitted by transitions being quick, it's a shame to see the omission of the larger sets seen elsewhere. My favourite parts of London are in-fact the pathways between as they feel like a much more traditional walkthrough attraction. I can understand why these don't feature at Alton Towers, but just leaving them blank means the experience isn't truly "fully-immersive" as promised.
Despite the lacking sets and the dated scripting, I will commend the cast and crew. Perhaps it's because I've only experienced this Dungeon within it's first few months, but all the actors felt really fresh and active, which is a far cry from the other two Dungeons I've sampled. I've done multiple runs of both Warwick and London this year, and it always felt like the cast were either over-worked, or couldn't really care about their delivery. Thankfully the cast at Towers seem like they always have energy to spare, and at no point did it feel like there was a weak link in the chain.
The most important thing of any piece of media or entertainment is whether it's enjoyable or not, and... well, it pains me to say this, but I don't really enjoy The Alton Towers Dungeon. Whilst the acting quality is incredible, the scripts and stories themselves are the issue- they just aren't funny or scary. I stand by my original thoughts on the attraction- if I wanted to do a Dungeon, I'd just go to one that's closer, or included in my annual pass. There's no unique scene that makes the Alton Towers one a "must-see", and with the short operating hours of the park, it'd feel silly to try and squeeze in a Dungeon run. Whilst I can appreciate that the attraction was very last-minute, I can't see myself giving it another go. Perhaps my biggest frustration is there's a yearning for more entertainments and street theatre at the Resort, and the only time we get it during main-season is in an up-charge format that we can see elsewhere.