14/10/2017 – Faceless Ventures: Diary of a Deceased

A dead body. A diary with all but four pages ripped out. This is the fractured story of John Doe and his encounters with monsters and noises in the dark.

We descend the stairs to the morgue silently, as instructed. A nurse stands to greet us silently as a heavy atmosphere descends around us: in her hand is the Diary. In a melancholic and calm tone, she begins to explain how John Doe and his diary came into her care. She opens the diary to the first undamaged page and begins reading.

We are instantly transported back to John’s childhood, led by his former self. We hide in a den and play a game of Noughts and Crosses; a safe space, the child explains, from the things outside. We relive his night time routine, then it goes dark. Do you hear noises in the dark? We do. They get closer and closer. We escape.

Back in the morgue. We meet John’s love interest; they met in America where she was studying at the time. We enter a room with American flag and bunting, a shadow facing a huge American flag as The Last Post plays. She told us how she didn’t believe him when he told her about the noises, but that all changed. A speech begins to play, growing in volume; the American anthem joining the aural intrusion. Nightmarish creatures appear from the darkness, creeping around, tormenting us, disembodied by flashing lights that allowed them to move unnaturally. The shadow facing the flag leaves the room, and everything returns to normal. What is normal anyway?

We’re back in the morgue. We’re told to follow the voice as a hauntingly beautiful and overwhelming rendition of My Immortal wafts through the air. We follow the voice: in front of us, John sits, arms upturned to show his bloodied and slashed wrists. An unknown figure with no allegiance to life or death, good or evil, looms over him, simply mourning. In death, his childhood and love are returned to his past: the only gift left to give is death, which was given to us.

Up the stairs and back to reality. Is this the end, or merely the beginning?

 

22528286_513645705636725_8982613136062561773_n

Diary of a Deceased has truly left me stuck for words: I know for a fact that what I experienced could never be transposed into words: it was intense, haunting, and utterly beautiful!

What sets this apart from other haunts/attractions is that it relies heavily on the narrative and the actors ability to set the atmosphere in each scene, which they all did perfectly! From the whimsical and lighthearted atmosphere when visiting his childhood and playing games through to the melancholy of his relationship, through to the soul crushing end of John Doe, it was impossible to not get sucked in!

The one tiny piece of criticism I have is the haunt ending – I loved what it was trying to portray, and it portayed it well; however, some more effects such as a wind machine and strobes would further push the idea.

Despite the one little teeny-tiny improvement I could think of (and that’s all it is), this production definitely set the bar high for future immersive theatre, as people were moved to tears in the 30 minutes the show lasted. I cannot wait to see where this goes, if it goes anywhere: as a singular story it is perfect, but as I somberly climbed the stairs leading away from the morgue, I was definitely craving more! Well done to everyone involved!

14/10/2017 – Faceless Ventures: Diary of a Deceased

13/10/2017 – Farmageddon

Farmageddon has a lot of reputation behind it, that’s undeniable: I really wanted to add it to my lineup last year, however as many people know, their tickets sell out phenomenally fast and I missed out on the opportunity. Being more clued up this year, and with a gentle nudge from a friend, we got tickets and I finally had the opportunity to get to one of the most famous scream parks in the country!

We finally got to Farmageddon at 9pm, after driving roughly 4 hours from south London and hitting a hell of a lot of traffic which caused all of us to panic, as we really wanted to see all the haunts but were afraid that it wouldn’t be possible in the 90 minutes we had. Sounds like a bad intro, right? Well, we thought it was too.

After getting our wristband and entering the park, the atmosphere hit: loud metal tracks blasted its way through the air, sound effects were going off everywhere, clever visuals projected/playing on walls and the like, and everyone was just absolutely buzzing as actors roamed about, getting scares here and there from the unsuspecting victims.

After panicking and deciding that we could forfeit the Zombie Paintball experience, we jumped into the massive queue for Terror on the Farm, a 20 minute attraction through multiple different sets that lacked a story, but where it lacked in story it really made up for it in set pieces – there were huge animatronics, live actors very cleverly hidden in with props and other set pieces, and special effects that we really weren’t expecting! The queue itself looked horrendously long, but the queue seems to constantly move, meaning that you’re only queuing for maybe 20 minutes at most; we started getting a bit nervous because a quick moving queue means that large groups are being pushed through as quickly as possible, and from previous experiences, that generally means you’ll also be queuing to get out: not the case here. Group sizes are exceptionally small (we went through as a three) and are batched quickly: taking it at a casual pace, we never bumped into the group in front, which is an absolute miracle! The scares themselves were all jump scares, but the actors and effects were so on cue that they even got me to jump and shout a few times! Honestly a very impressive haunt that left me shaking a bit!

 

Our next haunt of choice was The Meat Locker. We joined the queue (which also looked horrendous) but as we navigated the cage maze that makes up the queue, we discovered that in fact there were multiple queues and the one we were sent down only had a 10 minute wait at most – score! This one had more of a dedicated theme – Saw meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with a slightly sci-fi twist. The door in front of us automatically opens and we’re ushered inside with another small group (no more than 6 or 7 of us in total); the door closes behind us and a sound clip explaining the loose story plays as the room fills with smoke and the lights go out. We’re ushered out of the room and end up in corridor after corridor of what can only be described as a goreno fantatic’s wet dream: bodies and limbs lie all over the place, blood splatters line the walls, and props are dotted all over the place. As with Terror on the Farm, the scares here are mostly jump scares though some of the actors like to creep about or hide in plain sight before getting you. The whole haunt you’re left to wonder where the next scare will come from and just when you think you know, the scare comes from a completely unexpected place! Props and live actors work in harmony to ensure that you get at least one scare. To say it’s intense would be an understatement, as I caught myself using my jacket to hide behind as I led the group through the attraction! I absolutely loved this haunt from start to end, though I was definitely glad to catch my breath after being chased away!

 

Our final haunt for the night is Contagion 3D – a name that really doesn’t fit the theme. Over the last two years, I’ve done plenty of 3D haunts and the 3D effect more or less works for most, but Farmageddon has really nailed it on the head – 3D paintings line the walls, ceilings, floors, props, actors… absolutely everywhere, making it almost impossible to discern a prop from a painting on the wall or from an actor, and the scares well and truly play on this deception and disorientation to create some truly surprising jumps that seemingly come from nowhere! I won’t lie, I felt like I was taking in the 3D effects far too much for the actors to actually scare me, but the amount of detail that went into making this haunt work is impeccable! The zigzag slope after the vortex tunnel really made it feel like we were in a twisted funhouse, and the dubstep track that was playing really added to this effect (if anyone knows what it is, drop me a line!), but what was by far the most impressive was the fact that as soon as you said a name in there, the actors instantly picked it up and passed it onto the actors in the following scene – Amber from Parks, Scares and Glitter got absolutely tortured by actors, which was the funniest thing for us to watch! The finale in this attraction was also incredibly strong, and made me high tail it out of there as quickly as I could whilst still trying to retain my coolness (ha!).

 

The thing with Farmageddon’s haunts is that they really know what they’re doing with their make up: there were points during the haunt I was convinced a prop was an actor and vice versa, only to be surprised when an actor jumped out from elsewhere! Not only does the actors’ make up match the props design, but the actors and props work in harmony – an actor might jump out at you quickly followed by a huge set piece or special effect triggering, meaning you’re completely bombarded with scares as you make your way through! I had so much trouble trying to predict the scares that I actually gave up and just started wandering round suspecting absolutely everything, and not even that prepared me for some of the scares!

 

Wow, what can I say? All three of the haunts were absolutely incredible in their own right: intense, detailed, and incredibly jumpy! I thought that I’d be able to give criticism easily, as there was a lot of loud music playing right outside the haunts themselves and I was readying myself for sound bleed from outside, but I don’t remember picking up on any noises coming in from outside! I can honestly say that the only criticism is that we turned up later than anticipated and didn’t get the “full” experience of just wandering around and taking it in, but from what I got to experience outside the haunts, I was just as impressed with – never did I think I’d see a queue of adults cutting shapes loose and fast to a clubland cover of Eiffel 65’s Blue as a guy dressed in a similar fashion to Frank n Furter dropping it like it’s hot in 6in heels! Tickets have sold out as of today, so if you missed it this year I suggest getting in early next year! Definitely the surprise of the tour!

 

13/10/2017 – Farmageddon

08/10/2017 – Alton Towers: Scarefest

I’ve been a huge fan of Alton Towers’ Scarefest since I first went a few years back when The Sanctuary was still running – the set, story, and effects really dragged me into the experience and whilst it wasn’t inherently scary, it really had the atmosphere and creepiness necessary for a haunt to work for me: since then I’ve always made an effort to trek up to Stoke-On-Trent to drop in, and with Alton Towers boasting a brand new haunt as a pre-cursor to SW8, it would have been rude to not drop by this year!

 

Upon arrival, it was clear that Alton had really gone all out again: all signs had Scarefest branded signs, Main Street had been decked out with pumpkins, hearses, a huge Scarefest sign, and their signature children’s show characters performing on a stage right at the base.

 

Our first haunt, or rather, attraction, was House of Monsters. I’ve deliberately not called it a haunt as it is so much more than that: it’s immersive theatre, pantomime, escape room, magic show, and haunt all rolled into one – it’s easy to see why House of Monsters got such rave reviews from others last year! The characters are extremely engrossing and animated, making puns and (intended or not) double entendres throughout that had us absolutely doubled over at points! As you make your way through the attraction, you interact greatly with the characters who get you to do one or two tasks in order to get you to escape, which ends up in a fun little haunt with some scares that we really weren’t expecting (and definitely made all of us jump!); don’t worry though, it’s not an intense scare – the haunt part is very comical and very Scooby-Doo in nature (if you imagine Shaggy and Scooby being chased about by the bad guys in and out of rooms in corridors). I absolutely loved this attraction, so much that we bought an extra ticket and went through again! It’s definitely not the scariest attraction at Alton, but it definitely surpassed my expectations!

 

Our first haunt at Scarefest was Sub Species: The End Games. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this last year, so I was excited to get back down into the labyrinthine haunt hidden deep in the basement of the towers. It very much started out the same as last year with a creepy introduction swiftly followed by actors grabbing you and dragging you through the maze; unfortunately, this year didn’t seem as chaotic as I remember it – it felt like there was a lack of actors in the labyrinth which definitely detracted from the chaos (but make no mistake, it was still insanity trying to find the exit without an actor pushing you in the right direction). Once you’re through the labyrinth, you’re treated to some incredible scenery and a corridor that’s pitch black before finally being chased out the exit. Still a strong haunt despite the lack of actors.

 

Our second haunt was Terror of the Towers, a gothic vampire haunt that snakes its way through the towers themselves. Whilst not the strongest attraction for scares, it definitely leaves its mark with theming, use of smells, and creepy actors: the strongest element was the strobe maze, as there were a number of lights working with each other to disorientate you as much as possible; having said that, the haunt requires everyone to go in a conga line and all the scares seem to happen to the front of the queue – I’d love to see the conga line scrapped seeing as it’s the least intense haunt at Scarefest and the only haunt there to actually implement it. Definitely a good introduction to haunts if you’ve not been to one before.

 

Our third haunt is Altonville Mine Tours which has received a more memorable name than last year, though it’s still very much the same attraction, albeit with an extra added scene. Out of all the “adult” haunts at Scarefest, this was definitely my favourite: everything had improved since last year and the run at ScareCon! The helmet this year had much better effects programmed into it, making some parts much more intense as the light bouncing off the fog really limited how much vision you actually got. Alongside this, the incredible detail to the theming both visually and aurally complimented each other perfectly to create an unpleasant atmosphere at times. The actors themselves were on top form too, as some jibbered on about nothing, whilst others said things to you early on in the haunt and actually remembered what they said when you met them again later! Another brilliant thing the actors did is completely invade your personal space to add to the creepiness that resides within. Unfortunately, I’m still not entirely sold on the finale: it’s a clever twist and I can appreciate that, but there’s nothing grand to it that says “this is the finale” and leads you on to think that there’s still more to come, when you actually find yourself outside. Definitely my favourite haunt at Alton Towers this year.

 

Our fourth and final haunt was the anticipated The Welcoming: Be Chosen. We had our tickets booked for as late as we could reasonably do before we travelled home at stupid o’clock, so it was nice and dark when we went through (for those that don’t know, it’s an outside attraction which means natural lighting may or may not affect the experience). All I can say is: wow! Whilst at an intensity level of maybe a smidge above Terror of the Towers, the theming is just incredible. From the moment you step into the haunt, you’re transported to a medieval celebration of Halloween, where paganistic characters dance and swoop as they celebrate: I loved the scarecrow beings (for want of a better description) and the person that dropped to the floor and started inscribing runes onto the ground in front of us, partially blocking the way – a great touch to add to the creepiness! I wasn’t a big fan of the hooded section as I’m not entirely sure what they were trying to portray here and the finale, however everything else felt like walking through a cinematic piece – definitely worth doing once it gets dark!

 

Alongside these attractions, there was also the Freak Show scarezone, which was rife with creepy takes on the classic circus shows (ringmaster, bearded lady, strong man, etc), all of whom use the billowing clouds of smoke to their complete advantage to hide and scare unsuspecting victims – definitely a great laugh when you’re making your way through!

 

Alton Towers have created another fantastic Scarefest, despite the few gripes I had with the attractions – I’m definitely glad that we added it to our lineup this year, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back again next year!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

08/10/2017 – Alton Towers: Scarefest

07/10/2017 – Scare Kingdom Scream Park

With nine years under its belt, Scare Kingdom descends once more on Mrs Dowson’s Farm, where all sorts of evil creatures stalk the darkness…

 

sLAUGHTER

As with all Scare Kingdom Halloween events, the first stop is to a small intro scene that sets the tone and gets you ready for the scares ahead – this year, Billy Redneck (a famed killer clown hunter) welcomes you to the mayhem, with a brilliant special effect that really packs a punch!

 

The Sickness 2: High Hopes Hospital

New last year, High Hopes Hospital is a sequel in the The Sickness “franchise”. Hosted by Doctors Lockjaw and Van der Blood, this extremely theatrical haunt will blow you away from the fascia sitting outside as you approach and the dank corridors hidden within, to the creepy and alluring way the actors manage to portray themselves, this fun haunt is a great expansion on what was laid out last year.

 

Manormortis

Manormortis is definitely a treasure to behold in the haunt industry: it’s beautiful, so incredibly themed within, and the numerous immersive stories that are told within it almost feel like American Horror Story’s Murder House; the only thing I can fault with it is that the entrance isn’t decorated to be a grand manor house like High Hopes Hospital! As with all Manormortis haunts, it is extremely theatrical and has a great mix of story and scares that blend together greatly to completely immerse and lose you in its world! Got to give recognition to the female in the finale – that scream is terrifying!

 

Prey

Following the grace and beauty of Manormortis is no easy feat, and unfortunately I feel like Prey doesn’t even try to stand up. Themed around vampires, the external theming sees the building turn into a beautiful chapel that looms over the audience as they approach, almost giving off a hauntingly forboding atmosphere on its own; however when you step inside, the complete lack of theming really ruins the attraction. What could have been a beautifully creepy attraction turned out to be a haunt that relies completely on jump scares every few feet that become predictable and boring by the time you’re half way through. Don’t get me wrong, the pitch black walls press in on you greatly and create this sense of creeping claustrophobia, but so much can be done with it as we saw in 2015 – I really hope it returns to that soon.

 

Body Snatchers

Brand new this year, and the most anticipated haunt at Scare Kingdom, you are invited inside Brimstone & Black funeral parlour where not everything is as it should be. This is honestly on par with Manormortis with regards to storytelling, and the scenery and costuming is absolutely beautiful and really fits the theme. There are a number of effects and scares dotted throughout that are sure to catch you off guard, though most of the scares were aimed toward the front… until the finale, which is guaranteed to get you no matter how brave you are! Definitely the strongest haunt at Scare Kingdom this year!

 

Black Widow

The last of the boo haunts is Black Widow – a hooded haunt themed to arachnophobia. The set up was really quick and fun, but as soon as the hood is on and you enter the haunt, it loses momentum: from the constant “are you scared of spiders?” being yelled to what’s obviously hands grabbing you, it’s more fun than scary. Having to run your hand over something furry/spiny to make it feel like you’re brushing against a spider, or parts of the rope covered in something sticky to feel like web would definitely add something, hanging lengths of string from the ceiling to simulate strands of web, and even a leg tickler section would really add that little extra that it’s missing at the moment.

 

Psychomanteum

With the departure of Snuffhouse, the sickening Psychomanteum makes its return, and boy does it really pack a punch! This extreme haunt is the only one of its kind that can make me go from laughing hard to feeling extremely uncomfortable and back again in milliseconds, and it’s easy to understand why! I am honestly so glad that Psychomanteum is back, as it’s honestly my favourite haunt at Scare Kingdom (I’m a sick f*****, after all). Definitely one to avoid if you’re not comfortable with being put in scenarios that really toe the line sexually; if not, get your ticket and get ready for the chaotic whirlwind inside!

 

 

What can I say? Scare Kingdom has really pulled it out of the bag once again, and I’m glad that I returned once again this year. If you’ve got a free weekend, I definitely suggest a visit!

 

07/10/2017 – Scare Kingdom Scream Park

06/10/2017 – Tulley’s Shocktoberfest

Located in Crawley, Tulley’s Shocktoberfest is the definition of what a Halloween festival should be – spine chilling haunts, creepy roaming characters, and live bands and fairground rides all night, there really is something for absolutely everyone who goes!

As soon as you arrive, your ticket is quickly checked and you’re given a stamp as well as a slip that’s used by staff to mark when you enter a haunt: you then sift into the main hub of the festival with haunts lining the left hand side, a stage and food stalls on the right, and rides and even more haunts straight ahead: this year, Tulley’s boast seven haunts, a hayride, and a 3D cinema!

DSC_0277

After taking in all the sights, we decide to go to the first attraction of the night: Creepy Cottage. We were put in our own group of four (a nice little touch, I must add) and entered the house. Corridors snaked all over the place throughout this dark and dingy house, passing from room to room as actors charged, jumped out from hidden areas, and towered over us: nowhere was safe! From the makeup on the actors to the special effects were used to make it look like props had a life of their own, this haunt was a great start to the evening.

DSC_0280

Our next haunt was Twisted Clowns 3D. Last year only part of the haunt was in 3D; however, this year it was the entire thing. We were told to put on our 3D glasses and listen to the safety announcement, which had a sinister rhyming scheme that was informative but also added to the atmosphere. As we went through, the 3D effect was extremely successful: pictures jumped off the pitch black walls and disorientated us as we tried to make our way through the attraction, unable to see where some of the actors were considering their outfits blended in with the 3D effects – there was even a special element quite close to the beginning which had actor and guest alike jumping with fright! The music warbling through the air and the trippy 3D illusion definitely felt like a drug trip gone wrong, which was only exacerbated (though I loved it) by the vortex tunnel. Overall a great haunt, though the middle definitely got the majority of the scares for this.

DSC_0311

By this time, the sun had set enough for us to be happy to do the Horrorwood Haunted Hayride: sure it definitely doesn’t have to be dark for this to be great, but there’s always something about the cover of night that just adds to the experience. With a layout almost exactly like last year, this is the best haunted hayride I’ve done to date: the actors were creepy, the effects were as incredible as they were last year, and the experience as a whole was extremely fun; the only downside to the hayride is that it requires a decent group of passengers (moving vehicles where you’re not strapped in must be a health and safety nightmare which is ruined by boisterous people who think they’re being funny when they’re threatening to jump out of the trailer), and that the volume on the trailer itself needs to be much, much louder.

DSC_0293

VIXI, Helement’s replacement, was our next choice, given that it was now pitch black and hooded mazes seem to suffer when outdoors in the light. We donned our hoods and entered VIXI, led by only our sense of touch and a piece of rope that’s rather easy to drop. The special effects through the first bit were from Helements and didn’t really make sense in the context of VIXI, but the finale definitely made up for the bizarre mish-mash: we were greeted once again with Tulley’s expert attention to detail and theming as fire and loud bangs exploded around us, while strobes made it hard to navigate! I personally didn’t enjoy the hooded section, but the finale definitely made up for that: one piece of criticism would be that the drums didn’t fit in with the medieval vibe throughout the area they were in – a simple paint job or something would really finish off this area perfectly.

22450785_10155044892543597_1512790373_o

Our fifth attraction for the evening was The Cellar, an extremely well themed journey into what feels like a run down basement in a house located in Louisiana. I’m pretty sure that this was almost identical to last year, but this didn’t detract from the experience at all – the scares came quickly (but only at the front), the strobe maze was disorientating and creepy (though I’d have loved for it to have been longer), and the whole aesthetic just gives off this grimy, dingy vibe. This is definitely not as scary as some of the others, however that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism – it’s still a beautiful attraction to wander round. Only improvements I’d make is for it to drop the conga line (as it’s the only haunt that has that requirement) and to extend the strobe maze (but I’m an absolute sucker for them, as you’ll soon find out).

DSC_0302

We were now down to my three favourite haunts from last year and the 3D cinema (which is new this year). Our next attraction of choice was The Chop Shop, a car repair service that hides a dark secret that will leave you in pieces! Once again, the actors and scenery was what we’ve come to expect from Tulley’s by now: intricate design with great attention to detail. The reason why this is my second favourite Shoctoberfest attractions is because one half of it is a complete and utter sensory overload of flashing lights, loud bangs and grinding sounds, heavy metal music, and the heavy stench of petrol: it’s a 10 minute long strobe maze that disorientates you so much that you’re sure you’re repeating the same rooms over and over again until you’re spat out at the end! The actors in this attraction are a mixed bag: as you start off, everything seems innocent enough with young girls with southern American accents drawl on about cars and the like until you hit the freezer where this “friendly” vibe is ditched and all the actors from this point onwards are huge intimidating guys that really know how to wield chainsaws and navigate strobe-ridden corridors – this was the one haunt at Tulley’s that actually had me feeling uneasy, as one of the characters loomed over me, chainsaw idling away at his side, as he stalked and breathed down my neck: I was glad when he turned back and left me alone! I love this haunt as it is, but if this were to be expanded, I’d absolutely love to see sparkers used to add to the illusion that the chainsaws could do harm!

DSC_0307

The Colony came next as the queue for it was right next to The Chop Shop’s exit. Themed around a post apocalyptic hive of beings, this haunt is beautifully decorated with lots of Fallout aesthetics and Borderlands sounds/quotes. The beauty of this haunt is that it utilises both inside and outside scenes which complement each other greatly and really transports you to this new realm. This haunt is laden with jump scares, though there were a number of scares that were more creepy (shout out to the female who runs down a pitch black corridor so that you only see her silhouette!). Unfortunately, this was my highlight of Shocktoberfest last year and a lot of it has stuck with me ever since, so it was quite obvious when scenes and routes were identical – having said that though, it’s completely breath taking if you’ve never experienced it before, especially the special twist on the finale!

DSC_0287

Finally on the list of haunts was our most anticipated attraction last year: Coven of 13. Themed around witches, this haunt was definitely the strongest attraction again this year: as soon as you step in through the entrance you’re transported into an 18th century witch hunt where angry witches stalk swamps, forests, and houses marked with runes. This also has an extension this year that just makes the haunt more attractive as a whole, and the change to the finale, while not as dramatic as last year, still had a strangely dark atmosphere and rather than fear, I experienced a slight amount of sorrow – something I definitely wasn’t expecting at Tulley’s!

 

The last attraction on the list was the 3D cinema. Not much can really be said about it as it is what it says on the tin. The effects were really good and really leapt out of the screen; however there wasn’t much in the way of a storyline and there didn’t seem to be any order to it. It’s fun, there are a few scares in it, and it’s cool that Tulley’s is the first scream park that I’ve been to that has a 3D cinema, but it really doesn’t compare to the level of detail, scares, and atmosphere in their live haunts.

 

Once again, Tulley’s has really sealed the deal in being a Halloween festival: the atmosphere throughout the park was electric and everyone there was buzzing from the energy, the roaming actors were a mixture of creepy and scary (and in the case of the nurses, utterly hilarious! Ask them for a little song if you can!), the bands performing really knew how to get the crowd moving, and all in all, it really looked like everyone was having the time of their lives: I’m glad I returned this year to review!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

06/10/2017 – Tulley’s Shocktoberfest

04/10/2017 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

After my first visit to Scaresville roughly this time last year and really enjoying myself (despite a few small critiques), I knew I had to return this year – and was I glad I did!

Scaresville, for those that aren’t in the know, is dubbed a “haunted village” and quite rightly – when you visit most scare attractions, there are multiple individual haunts that last 10-20 minutes which can be done in any order; Scaresville is a ~90 minute walk around a small section of Kentwell Hall that has a number of different scenes that last from 30 seconds through to 15 minutes, and you see and experience everything!

As I stated in last years review (and I’ll no doubt mention it again next year), I’d usually review each of the haunts one by one, but as you go through so many little scenes during your visit, it’s impossible to remember every little thing you experience, so I’m going to review the whole attraction as one supersize haunt.

First off, The Unfairground made a return: it was almost the same as last year, though the magician had been traded out by some areal acrobats that performed once in a while which was impressive (despite the sound issues) – definitely worth a watch if they’re performing when you’re there. It would have been nice if there was some sort of schedule at the entrance of the big top (if it is there, ignore this). I really enjoyed The Unfairground this year, despite the fact there’s still a lack of things to do and see – a pumpkin shy or apple bobbing thing wouldn’t go amiss! Nonetheless, the atmosphere in this area was truly electric, and as the lights hanging from the browning trees swayed with the breeze and with the announcer calling out group numbers, it really and truly felt like a Halloween festival – the local airborne wildlife definitely added to this feeling!

After grabbing a hot drink and watching the acrobatics, it was our turn to queue up and watch the safety announcements where we’re told the rules and such, and there were two rules I really did like: you must change positions, and if you catch up with a group you must wait. This is the only place I’ve ever heard these rules though the first you kind of have to do as keeping in the same order for 90 minutes sucks, but it’s rare for haunts to actually encourage you to slow down, and it’d honestly be rude to not slow down and ensure your group is all together as some of the scares used are much, much more intense when everyone sees it the first time!

What is a really nice touch is that the owner of the event sits just before you start your tour of the haunted village – it’s clear that he’s there as an equal to greet his guests and welcome them to his creation and he does with great gusto and pride – and he really should be proud of what he has created.

The scenes themselves this year were as brilliant as they were last year – there were some I recognised from last year, some that had been used in years before, and some that were brand new, so even though there were scares where you knew what to expect, enough has changed for you to be kept on edge – especially in the forest.

Usually if there’s sound bleed between haunts I’d be the first to jump on it and critique it; however, as all the scenes in Scaresville are small the constant screams coming from the distance really adds to the atmosphere that settles over Scaresville like a thick fog as you’re never sure if they’re coming from scenes in front of you or behind you.

The scares themselves are extremely clever, often using misdirection and the cover of darkness in order to illicit a scream from you, though that’s not always the case – some scares are in plain sight and it’s not until the scare has happened that you realise how obvious it was! I was also seriously impressed with the angles the scares came from – one actor hanging about in the forest especially got me after I walked into his limb by accident!

I could honestly go on and on about how great Scaresville is, and it really is incredible. The only improvements I’d make is to add a little more scenery/games to The Unfairground, and whilst it’s probably not completely curable just look out for the batching as you get a little bottlenecked a few times (though it really wasn’t a big issue at all). Overall a very tense, atmospheric, scary, and fun attraction that I will be returning to again in the future.

 

PS: bring wellies and wrap up warm!

 

 

04/10/2017 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

30/09/2017 – Frightmare at Over Farm

For my second attraction of the day, I headed over to Over Farm along with Controllers and Creds and Park, Scares and Glitter to experience Frightmare as the first scare ground of the season!

Upon arriving with some Halloween song blaring through the car, we saw no signage to point us to the location- had we not known where to turn off, it would have been extremely easy to overshoot and get lost. We were directed where to go to park our car, then headed toward the huge “Frightmare” sign and huge spotlights. We were allowed to join the queue a little early but were told we would have to wait for the 7pm intake to go before we were allowed in; unfortunately for the 7pm intake, they weren’t allowed to enter until about 7:15pm which only gave them 15 minutes before we were let in (and we were let in on time).

Whilst waiting, we had two car parking assistants that looked like they had just experienced a hit and run, and a street magician that kept most people entertained, though it was obvious that everyone was anxious to get in and go through a haunt (not that anything could be done to cure that, but having to get out of the way for an actor who had roamed too deep into the queue every few minutes started to get a bit grating).

Our tickets were scanned and we were handed our pass to enter the haunts, and we made our way immediately to the portaloos to relieve ourselves after our 2.5 hour drive, only to find that the only light entering them was natural, and there unfortunately wasn’t much on this drizzly evening – a string of fairy lights to provide a little more light wouldn’t have gone amiss, and even one or two at the start of the queue for those cut short by the call of nature.

We walked through the plaza which was populated by a number of shops, a stage with some performers (mainly fire eaters when I was paying attention, though I did see some props for acrobats and aerial gymnastics), and a food and a drink stall. We decided to join the three person queue for Caged as our first haunt of the evening – the weakest attraction there last year, we were told.

DSC_0244

The first thing I noticed was the theming in the queue and the facade – the queue itself was very much metal fencing that weaved in and around itself and looked quite disorientating, though it was never used as the event was unfortunately quiet. The facade and lighting gave off an uneasy vibe of the chaos hidden from view. We were told that we’d have to wait for another group to join us before we were allowed in.

We enter the first room and watch a video to set the scene. The video was unfortunately grainy, and the volume far too quiet – we were stood right in front of the speaker and we were having trouble hearing it over the screams from the victims ahead of us. The video ended, and we entered the darkness.

We ended up weaving through numerous rooms painted black that were sparsely decorated, and it felt a little bit lacklustre as there were no effects and the only time we encountered a cage was the finale, though I was happy to overlook this as all the actors were powerful, and made us jump a number of times – especially in the outside scene! Also thoroughly enjoyed the finale as an actor climbed on the frame over our heads and reached down at us – that was really unsettling! As soon as the haunt started to gain traction, it ended; however, it was still a brilliant run through – adding a smoke machine and maybe a strobe would really add to the chaotic nature the actors were putting across.

 

DSC_0242

Next up, we decided to go on the Haunted Hayride as we were tipped off on the queue getting longer toward the end of the night. Whilst queuing, we were entertained by a selection of songs related to Halloween as this rather creepy clown did creepy clown stuff, such as balancing a broom on his chin, and playing with his rat, all while giving off this melancholic aura that juxtaposed the smile painted on his face – in my opinion, this actor was the strongest by far.

After a 20 minute wait, we were ushered into a pen with about 20 others and another TV flickers to life as an enthusiastic farmer sets the scene for the haunted hayride, quite a fun and interesting concept with room for comedy throughout, and I hasten to add that the volume on the TV was perfect, though the video was still very pixellated. We board the trailer and the comedy begins instantly, though it was very hit and miss as the actor had a hard time projecting her voice over the rumbling tractor engine.

The tractor sets off and were treated to a soundclip to help further the story as we make our way to our first scene, which was rather amusing. The actor here was able to make herself heard, although we were clearly on the wrong side of the trailer as we didn’t see what was happening (even though we clearly knew what was going on). This would very much be the theme for the rest of the hayride section – a soundclip followed by acting, both of which were disjointed from whatever preceded and followed them, with the acting generally trying to be comedic, but unfortunately not landing. Shortly afterward, we were asked to disembark the trailer and two actors up in front of us were doing something, then we were sent into a pitch black maze with automated scares and maybe two actors at most inside. I love the use of animatronics in place of actors as they can be very effective, but some never triggered (either due to not working or because they were resetting) and had no link to the story (though this maze added nothing to the story), and I was far too focused on not tripping over stage blocks etc as people tried stampeding their way through to get away from the scares.

We left the barn and entered another scene which was actually linked to the story from the video, and the actor made great use of the props to hide before charging at us. We walked for another 5 minutes and entered this car park area, which also didn’t really fit in besides having zombies roaming – there was even just one random actor that greeted us cheerily as if nothing was wrong before giving away what the finale was (though it was quite obvious being right at the back and hearing it happen to the group in front).

The finale was probably the best bit of the haunt, and the haunt itself lasted possibly half an hour. I won’t give away what it is, but the only reason why it was effective was because it was loud and where it was hosted helped reverberate the sound even more.

There are so many ways this could have been better here: I’d have personally themed the barn around the final soundclip that’s played, or an old person’s home filled with zombies of old people with tables fully laid out with cake, bunting, the works, as that would have been surreal enough to get a laugh and would fit in with one of the scenes, or just skip the barn entirely and have the walk back be in the corridors in the barn with the same scares as everything after the barn was disjointed: I really felt that this was an incomplete attraction that took maybe a week to design, and I was really hoping for something grand after the video set the story.

 

DSC_0247

Our third haunt of the night was The Offering, themed to a group of cannibalistic creatures lurking in the sewers. We watched another video which set the scene (and got a good jump scare in), and entered the sewers through a claustrophobia chamber, which was a clever way of “transporting” you into the underground sections. This haunt had a lot of dark areas where you had to duck for an extended period, which made it easy to bump into the scenery (as I found out the hard way!).

Despite being so dark, the theming itself was great and the sloped walkways, intentional or not, added this bizarre layer of disorientation that added to the atmosphere. The actors here were also particularly strong, paying a mix of both creepy roles and jump scares throughout the attraction – I especially like that they spoke and communicated in their own language, which added to the “lost civilisation” trope they were playing on.

We were told that the sound wasn’t working for our run and, whilst I’d have criticised that, I honestly think the lack of sound added to it! Maybe some ambient sounds like dripping pipes or quiet chanting voices would add a layer, but an entire soundscape would lose half the appeal in my opinion. Definitely one of the haunts I enjoyed.

 

DSC_0248

Next up was Wonderland, a twisted take on the already twisted Alice in Wonderland (does that make this normal then?). We were led into a room and again shown a video that both had sound and visual issues, and went on a little bit too long – just as I thought it was done, the character started speaking again (though I’m impressed with the fact it was a dark poem).

I honestly can’t say much about this – the best bit was the revolving tunnel, but I’m a sucker for big pieces like that. Most of the scares were from actors screaming (please make sure they don’t do damage to their voice box…) as there was no atmosphere at all, and I guess the actors were screaming because they were having to fight over the creepy music that had to drown out the music from the stage the attraction was hidden behind. The group was split up and I think we walked through a set of doors only to re-join the other group, though as you’re only allowed to go through once with how the ticketing system works, you never find out what happens on the other route.

Two other memorable scenes was the use of UV paint in the Cheshire Cat room and the way the actor slunk about her stage blocks, and the card room (though holding the guests in that room for a few seconds before the next room opens would be a great way to add to the intrigue there). The finale was also clever, but is only effective for those at the front of the conga line.

Overall, it felt like this haunt was unfinished and built just to up the number of haunts available to the public.

 

DSC_0249

Finally, we moved onto Seance – the haunt I was looking forward to most. As with all the other haunts, we watched a video which had the whole audio/visual issues but would also freeze at certain points which broke the flow of the story. The actor in the video seemed very ditzy and almost as if this video was his first ever attempt at urban exploration and really didn’t fit in with the story at all, and this theme continued throughout with the other actors that weren’t ghosts.

Despite the happy-go-lucky and bouncy nature of our “guide”, the seance was a clever and fun pre-show to the haunt though I felt it was let down with the use of blue floodlights alongside the strobe – it really detracted from the fact that we had summoned a demon or something that was out to kill us (the actor was pretty good in her movements though).

The rest of the attraction was highly decorated and was extremely impressive in comparison to the sparse sets used in the rest of the haunts, and I especially loved the use of strobes toward the end. Having said that, I think I counted three attempts at an actor trying to scare me through the walkthrough, which was a shame as there were so many places for actors to be hiding. There was also one prop that needs to have the pole painted black so it’s not quite so obvious it’s an animatronic.

I honestly feel that for theming, this was the best attraction there.

DSC_0238

I’d like to make a point that was noted in all the attractions bar the Haunted Hayride: the batching process was absolutely awful. We never bumped into the group in front of us and never had the group behind us catch up; however as the queues were so small for all the attractions (there were maybe two or three groups of friends in any queue at any time we joined), it might be worth considering allowing groups of friends going in one by one than having a “full load” enter all at once. On quieter nights, this would very much reduce the need to repeat scares for the front of a group as well as the back, and guests would feel more vulnerable.

 

So what’s my verdict? It was very hit and miss, but ultimately I didn’t enjoy it even though I tried. Some haunts had some pretty strong scenes that worked well, but overall the attractions weren’t great, unless what you’re looking for in haunts is actors jumping out at you and screaming; however it doesn’t feel like that’s what Frightmare is reaching for as the concepts to the haunts are detailed. I feel like maybe more was bitten off than could be chewed, which meant all the haunts suffered – had there been two haunts and the hayride that were completely developed and themed well, I’d have been more than impressed and happy. I do hope that this was just an off night and that the rest of the season improves for the Frightmare team.

30/09/2017 – Frightmare at Over Farm