Review: (Watch your) Step right up to the Circus of Fear 3D

Francie Swidler | Boulder Weekly

The first stop on my October Haunted House crusade? The Circus of Fear 3D, at Fat Cats “All Out Fun Center” in Westminster (10685 Westminster Blvd)

First Impressions: The creepy face paint on the strange young man, who had been circling the circus tent’s entrance on a penny-farthing bicycle, gave me the unshakeable feeling that it was among these clowns that I’d finally get to meet my first Juggalo.

Final Verdict: Go for the disorienting 3-D paint and face make-up, and stay for the free bowling. And while you may not get scared straight, you’ll still have fun — even if the circus tent is not actually on the inside of the “all out fun center.”

Fear Factor: B

Fun Factor: A-

I was so excited to explore my first Colorado Haunted House that I accidentally got in line without collecting the 3D glasses I’d need to correctly experience the Circus of Fear. When finally suited up with the proper gear to enter, I was greeted by a colorful woman in a top hat, suspenders, tuxedo jacket and lipstick. I imagined her to be the Lady Ringmaster. She cracked her cane against a sign that read, “Guidelines to Staying Alive,” as she told the tale of how this traveling circus had not only gone wrong, but how it somehow gained an additional dimension.

Turns out, just a few days after the circus arrived in town, Bubbles the Monkey went missing. Hours later, the circus folk finally found the primate clamoring in the woods, somewhere off the beaten path of Highway 36. Unfortunately though, Bubbles wasn’t in great shape; growling, convulsing, drooling, and suddenly in the third dimension. Bubbles just didn’t seem himself. He’d been bit and infected, and immediately spread the unknown disease to every circus member he encountered, minus the Lady Ringmaster. She’d been in town shopping for spare buttons.

Just as I began to feel suspicious that I was actually at a script reading for Outbreak II, the hostess swooshed open the tent, and we entered the Circus of Fear. It started off as a fun, confusing little maze, with creepy, neon-clown paintings staining the walls, and 3D skeletons jiggling and jangling after me as I went by. But it quickly escalated to a full blown, three-dimensional, three-ring creep fest. Disturbingly merry music teases your ears and messes with your mind. Evil circus scoundrels terrorize and laugh at you, popping out of corners and doorways that you didn’t even know existed. Your depth perception completely collapses.

Between attempting to lean against walls that only appear to be there, trying to walk up 3D neon steps that actually lead downward, and blindly climbing up a diagonal ladder, only to trip down a slide — any sense I thought I had of balance and proportion, blew right out the flap of the circus tent. At one point, I became entirely trapped in what seemed liked millions of doors that led nowhere, and was hauntingly mocked by who I thought to be living rag dolls, that menacingly screamed at me to “Come this way! That’s not the right way!” In fact, the only room I felt solace in, was the one with the crazy mirrors. At least then, I knew it was the mirrors that were crazy, not me.

Sigh. I didn’t end up meeting a Juggalo — at least not that I know of — but I did come across a snarling, enormous ape, whom I presumed to be the infected Bubbles. I wished him a speedy recovery, as he chased a screaming me out of the tent.

While Circus of Fear 3D may not be the scariest haunt around town, it forces you to trust your senses in order to escape, while completely fucking with them at the same time. That kind of mind molestation puts a smile on my face, a smile as big as an infected and demonic clown might have painted on. And even though this circus seemed to contain a few out-of-theme characters, the actors put on fantastic show, the set was built with a sense of authenticity, and you get to keep your 3D glasses.