Screamfest Burton popped up on my radar late last year, so I made sure to visit this year.
Freak Out is a funhouse style haunt riddled with clowns, strobes and choices the guest could make as they were going through. The clowns pretty bog standard (imagine clowns in a circus) and felt like they were lacking energy throughout: the only elements carrying the atmosphere in this haunt was the lighting and music unfortunately, as the facade is beautiful and lurid, and that luridness didn’t present itself inside – a UV strobe section would definitely be an improvement, if done right.
Soul Seekers was up next, and this was definitely a step in the right direction: the theming and set design was incredible, and the introduction scene was very well rehearsed and extremely effective at creeping everyone out; however, each actor was trying to steal the spotlight which, in quite a narrative driven section, definitely worked against them: the person doing the narrative needed to command the stage whilst the rest toned it down a bit. Absolutely loved the use of strobes during, though.
Love Hurts is a brand new concept to me – it’s the first time I’ve shared a toilet cubicle with so many people! Once again, the set both inside and through the queue line was very impressive and clever, though the plot needed to be explained/explored a little more as it felt like it got lost throughout. There are some rather bizarre and clever set pieces that I honestly never expected (see the first point in this paragraph) and some of the scares were well hidden but needed to be brushed up on: once again, I wasn’t buying into the characters desperation for help, and the audio needed to be louder, but the finale was absolutely brilliant and possibly one of my favourite ways that a chainsaw was used – well done there!
Demonica, my favourite haunt at Screamfest Burton, looks absolutely beautiful on the outside with ponds of water and smoke lit red with the sign spouting fire at intervals, while a demonic character guides victims to one of four doors: the scene inside these rooms is absolutely incredible and the strongest use of an element like this! Once through, a twisted and dark soundtrack pierces the air as you make your way through almost pitch black corridors and a cage maze filled with strobes and more screaming from the soundtrack. I’d very much like to see this have more actors in it and have the actors touch you in this section as it’d definitely feel more threatening, and I’d like to see the huge speaker right in the middle of the strobe maze moved off to a corner so it’s hidden under a strobe (and therefore invisible) or hidden above you somehow.
Dia De Las Muretos is Screamfest Burton’s cornfield maze and their most developed concept, which it has to be seeing as it definitely puts it’s foot across the line with regards to sensitivity and theming: it’s themed around a day of the dead festival that’s been overridden by a Mexican gang that’s out to kill. The trailer ride over was fun as the actors and radio show helped set the scene, but once inside the haunt itself it kinda falls flat: there were lots of sections that had very little interaction with actors, who all felt a bit 2D and lifeless when we did interact with them – the first set of chainsaws we met were the only characters that felt alive, which is a shame as there were some real possibilities for actors to really sell themselves to us. The finale definitely needs a re-think as it almost felt like they were grasping at straws in order to use the prop that is used. I enjoyed the use of lighting and the possibility for the group to get split up.
Overall, the attractions felt very weak: the actors across all the haunts felt like they could be dressed up in a costume and chucked into any of the haunts and they’d be able to work the attraction: whilst this is clever, it also feels like you’re watching the same thing happening again and again and again every 30 seconds, which (for me) gets tedious quickly. The haunts themselves are well themed and use sound and lighting (or the lack of lighting) well, and whilst none of them were particularly strong, there was a number of scenes through each that I honestly loved and thought was very clever.