30/10/2017 – Cursed

On the penultimate night of my Halloween tour, I found myself pretty close to home at the Wat Tyler Centre, hidden away in Basildon – a rather surprising location for a scream park given how far removed it is, though probably a positive thing given how much light pollution there is surrounding busy areas. Shivering like I had just walked into an industrial freezer, we queued up to enter the park and after a lengthy wait, made our way in and up to our first haunt: Toy Shop.

 

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The first thing we noticed about Toy Shop whilst we queued was the music: it was rather creepy and crept its way out of the entrance rather well. We were sent in as a small group and eventually got split up so it was just us two going through on our own, which we really appreciated. The story throughout was consistent, and each actor really helped carry the story in the way they portrayed their character and the make up – I really loved the Coraline inspired make up toward the end too! It was also great to see a claustrophobia chamber given a new spin on it with the use of teddy bears – I’ve seen all sorts of themes done this year, but I think this might have to be my favourite as I’ve never felt more uncomfortable getting up close with teddies before in my life. It was a decent length haunt given the footprint available, with theming that was rather unnerving at points, to the point where I found myself completely distracted – the actors got a handful of jumps from me!

 

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Next up we chose the Work Chop, a Sweeney Todd style attraction wherein you enter a shop that hides a dark secret. The set up for the story was brilliant, especially the rather well hidden secret entrance to the rest of the attraction: the vibe suddenly changed from a run down cafe to a rather dark and atmospheric industrial corridor with very monochromatic lighting that only helped create tension, though the icing on the cake was hearing my name call out from behind the walls! The scares were almost entirely sound based, though this really worked for this attraction as your line of vision was almost constantly obscured by material hanging from the ceiling, though when these thinned out, what was left was these beautifully creepy paintings all over the walls and, at the end, a brilliant effect where smoke entered the room at ground height before being sucked up into the air by a fan – something I’ve never seen before, but really adored!

 

Third up was Festevil: a freakshow themed attraction with some rather clever elements. I loved how brazen this attraction was, as the first element you encounter is a claustrophobia chamber with strobe lights which left me wondering what other elements we might experience given that most attractions hide claustrophobia chambers deep in the attraction. What we did experience was a rather disorientating trip through a freakshow meeting all the general characters you’d expect to meet, following routes that I am almost certain doubled over each other somehow through rooms filled with light cubes growing out of the walls, and passing through bars that stretch around you. It was a really bizarre and trippy experience that really blew me away.

 

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We decided that we should drop in on the Nag Inn for a bit of a break… yeah right. Cleverly themed around the seven deadly sins, we were taken on a narrative driven tour through a decrepit inn filled with plenty of creepy actors, tense moments, and lots and lots of scents. Whilst it lacked in jump scares, the beauty behind this attraction was very much the way the actors interacted with us as we went through.

 

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We moved onto Contaminated, Cursed’s zombie themed attraction. This had a very strong introduction and a lot of instructions for the first scene that were very confusing and distracted us so much that we almost tripped over the first piece of scenery, causing much hilarity. We were then chased through bales of hay, past fire torches, and through a brilliant hay maze which had multiple routes through! We then ended up running down a dirt path before slowing down to enter a darkened forest with a handful of zombies scattered about in, though the weirdest bit was how quiet this area was, given that we were still in a scream park. The scene in the church was incredibly creepy and extremely well executed – I won’t say much more than that. This haunt was surprisingly lengthy, to the point where the scene would change and we’d expect it to just taper out into an ending, but it never did – there were even points that we thought we had taken a wrong turn and ended up lost… until we bumped into a zombie. For a haunt as long as that, I was surprised that the story was not only detailed enough for there to be a reason behind our actions but also for the story to be absolutely consistent throughout: we were told to find the church, and we did end up inside the church. My only critique is that the zombies weren’t entirely threatening and were very few in numbers – otherwise, an extremely strong attraction.

 

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Finally, we chose Cell 13, an absolute nightmare of an attraction that was extremely intense and dizzying. There’s very little story line to the attraction, though it definitely doesn’t need it as the characters are very much maniacal and you’ve just got to survive. Sadly, this attraction suffered a little from actors being a little lifeless and missing a final scene with the electric chair, though otherwise the attraction was still great – I just never felt threatened by the characters.

 

On the whole, Cursed really stepped up to the plate as the original plans for the night had fallen through a few weeks before, and I’m 100% certain they outshone the other attraction with ease. Definitely need more lighting outside the haunts so you could actually see where you were going and signs or a map to point you in the direction of haunts as we almost missed Contaminated, but otherwise the atmosphere was very relaxed, the roaming actors really read people well and easily spotted the wimps, and the group sizes through each haunt and batching was perfection – I’m gutted I didn’t get to Cursed last year, given it’s a stones throw from my doorstep!

30/10/2017 – Cursed

20/10/2017 – Xtreme Scream Park

Located at Twin Lakes theme park, Xtreme Scream Park promises some of the longest haunts with some of the most diverse concepts and impressive effects I’ve seen!

 

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Revenge of the Zombie Clowns

a mix of funhouse meets circus, Revenge of the Zombie Clowns brings the heat to the beginning of the night: the vortex tunnel and crazy rooms with slanted walls and floors really set a fun tone as creepy music travels through the air, leading to a disorientating maze of curtain dividers which unfortunately starts getting repetitive. As one of the oldest attractions there, it’s definitely feeling a little dated and unloved – there’s a lack of actors, props for the actors to use/hide behind, and with no finale. Definitely the least scariest of the bunch, but it’s still a fun way to begin the night. Was very impressed with the way the safety announcements were done for this, as the actor personalised her character perfectly.

 

Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa

Our second haunt for the evening was an absolutely beautiful haunted hotel attraction with a very intense and chaotic introductory scene, which throws you into even more chaos as you pass through room after room of this incredibly long haunt that sets a high standard with regards to theming and keeps it at that high level throughout the entire attraction, including scents and sounds that really help immerse you. The scares come quick and fast as characters pop out of props and linger about, creating some tense and funny moments. The effects found within were very novel, one of which I’ve never seen done before in an attraction, but the most effective was the pitch black rooms which really seemed to freak people out!

 

The Pie Factory

Another brilliantly long haunt, The Pie Factory takes guests through (as the name suggests) a pie factory. Theming throughout was grisly and downright disgusting at points, with strobes and scents that make you question whether what you’re looking at is real! This was definitely my favourite at Xtreme Scream Park thanks to the mixture of actors that really knew what to say and how to use their space to get the best scares! Definitely not for those with a weak stomach, this sensory overload of a haunt will definitely terrify even the hardiest of people!

 

Ash Hell Penitentiary

Probably the longest haunt at Xtreme Scream (and if it’s not, it certainly feels like it!), there were some incredibly effects that I’ve never experienced before in any attraction! There are plenty of hiding spaces for actors to utilise, though I legitimately felt like it was seriously lacking them; having said that, the actors we did meet were absolutely brilliant once I realised that they might be a bit inflammatory with their script (maybe worth adding this to the safety briefing!). Like with the two haunts mentioned above, Ash Hell utilises what I can only describe as “reverse light”, i.e. only giving very quick bursts of light to give you enough time to take a glance at where you need to go, and the actors really know how to use this against you! With plenty of scares and some incredibly dark themes/visuals at points, this claustrophobic haunt definitely delivers! It’s a shame that there seems to be a complete lack of smells to make scenes (like the toilets) to be more realistic.

 

Hoo Doo Voodoo

Part hooded, this haunt is themed to the typical imagery you think of when you hear the word “voodoo”. Whilst I’m not a fan of hooded attractions, the hooded section here is the best I’ve experienced, as the actors get up close and interact with you using a wide variety of techniques as you blindly stumble your way through, your hand brushing against various surfaces – more narrative here would be really appreciated, as it’s so close to being a strong hooded haunt, but just falls short. The rest of the attraction, which you go through without a hood, rises up to meet the high standards set by the park: sets were beautiful, costumes were on point, and both worked together to create exactly what I wanted in a Voodoo themed haunt – the only jarring scene that left me scratching my head was the UV box room.

 

The Village

As the most anticipated haunt at Xtreme Scream Park, I decided to leave it to last as the hype surrounding it really made it out to be great: whilst it was fantastic, it definitely didn’t live upto the hype. The concept was well developed (although actors’ speech pushing the narrative would have made it greater), the theming was the pinnacle of all the other haunts! As you travel through the scenes, the lighting (or lack of) really works against you to create some really creepy and uneasy experiences, which are only worsened (or made better?) by the ambient sounds, claustrophobic elements, and your own paranoia! The final scene is definitely one of the darkest scenes I’ve seen in a haunt this Halloween, and I couldn’t be more excited to get to the exit! Whilst not inherently filled with jump scares, this haunt relies on creating an unnaturally creepy atmosphere and keeping you on the edge of paranoia to help further your fear. Look out for the professor – he’s sure to terrify you!

Generally speaking, Xtreme Scream Park has some absolutely beautiful haunts with narrow walk ways where you have to squeeze past props, actor costumes and face paint that really pops and wows, and huge props that are really impressive and startling! Unfortunately I experienced a lot of back up in all of the haunts where we caught up with the group in front – it didn’t really detract much as it gives you the chance to see all the theming and the actors are great at improvising and keeping you on edge.

The only thing that’s missing from the park is atmosphere – I can’t quite say what it is, but it just seems to lack the buzz that other scare parks have. Still, a great evening out – just be sure to wrap up warm and get there early!

20/10/2017 – Xtreme Scream Park

19/10/2017 – Dr Fright’s Halloween Nights

Walking into the marquees that hold Dr Fright’s Halloween Nights, the atmosphere was upbeat and lighthearted: the best nu metal and industrial tracks blare and disco lights and fog add a little atmosphere to the main tent, all while a creepy roaming character stalked everything, almost calculating who his next victim will be.

Our first attraction of the night is Dead Inside, a zombie themed haunts that takes scenes from a well known TV show that everyone should recognise as you go through. The safety briefing was done in character (albeit a bit too quietly – please turn the volume up!) and we were on our way through hanging sheets, past buildings, down dark corridors, and a strobe corridor that really feels like you’re being attacked! The actors really knew how to work their scene as each scare was perfectly timed (and managed to make me jump a few times!), and there were points where it was impossible to tell the difference between props and actors.

After being surprised by how good Dead Inside was, we decided to move onto Killer Clowns in a Supermarket as I wasn’t really buying into the concept to begin with: this changed as we joined the queue, as it was clearly meant to be a mixture of comedy and horror which was clear from the soundtrack playing in the queue. The horror/comedy blend continued as we found out that it was a bloody game of Supermarket Sweep where we had to escape from the killer clowns hidden within an actual shop, and it was an actual shop: we explored the food and clothing aisles, butchers counter, and even the staff area and bin section outside the shop as well! The choice of music mixed with the commentary from the clown now in control of the shop mixed together with the deranged clowns dotted about that leapt out from all over the place to scare you to create this bizarre juxtaposing atmosphere that shouldn’t have worked but really did – imagine the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the characters are battering zombies whilst Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now is playing, and you’ve pretty much got the vibe of the attraction in a nutshell. This is honestly the strongest clown themed haunt I’ve done to date.

Having been incredibly impressed by the previous two haunts, we moved onto the two that I was really looking toward: Hollywood Horror 2 and The Grindhouse Presents: Redneck Wedding.

Hollywood Horror 2 is an incredible homage to the original slasher movies from the 80s and 90s: with b-movie level designs that are impressive even though they’re a bit rough around the edges, walking through each set started to feel like we were jumping from one movie set to another! The scares were very reliant on guests being impressed by the set/movie they had just entered, but that really added to the slasher vibe that’s perfectly portrayed throughout. As someone who grew up on the tail end of the slasher heyday, I really enjoyed how each of my favourite franchises had their homage done to it – very jumpy, but a great laugh.

 

Our final haunt, of course, was The Grindhouse Presents: Redneck Wedding. Themed around a redneck wedding, I instantly knew I had to do this one last. Like Killer Clowns in a Supermarket, The Grindhouse Presents: Redneck Wedding was a very tongue in cheek mix of comedy and horror with most of the characters being guests at a wedding, just more bloodied and with the odd psychopath here and there that really knows how to terrify you! The really peculiar thing about this haunt is that most of it is held in a large open space which means you get to see other groups quite a lot as you’re going through – usually this would be a bugbear, but as the entire attraction was a redneck disco, it made sense to see loads of people. The attraction is actually a lot longer than you expect to, as there are plenty of scenes that are completely cut off from the main “dancefloor” scene. The bit that really solidifies this as my favourite haunt at Dr Frights is when we entered the chainsaw pit: Come On Eileen had dropped into the “come one, Eileen tu lu, ri, ay” bit just as two psychos armed with huge wrenches and chainsaws came out from hiding behind two bales of hay, and it felt like we were about to have somesort of showdown. I can see this haunt being a bit like marmite as it’s clear from previous experiences that people either would or wouldn’t get the comedy aspect of it, but the Dr Frights team really encapsulate that blend which really works every time they implement it.

 

Across all the haunts, they feel rough around the edges and a bit b movie-ish, which isn’t a bad thing: it really works well for Dr Frights, and I can’t really put my finger quite on why it’s ok – maybe it’s the fact that it’s all held in a marquee, who knows? I just really enjoy that”roughness”. The lighting and use of misdirection in order to get scares is very clever and effective, and even though I knew when and where to expect jumps to come, the scare was still effective and I ended up jumping and yelling a few times in each of the attractions. Adding to this, the actors ability to not only know their scene well, but also encapsulate the character they’re portraying and improvising lines really makes each of these attractions impressive and creepy! It’s really clear that everyone at Dr Frights enjoys and loves what they’re doing, which was really solidified when watching the clown on the hidden camera secretly located in Killer Clowns in a Supermarket who kept acting even though nobody was in the room with him. Absolutely brilliant night!

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19/10/2017 – Dr Fright’s Halloween Nights

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

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…

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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!

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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!

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06/10/2017 – Tulley’s Shocktoberfest

23/09/2017 – Hide & Shriek: Dead Centre

Roughly this time a year and a half ago, I found myself on the way to Southend Victoria to scope out this brand new attraction called Dead Centre run by Hide & Shriek, a relatively new company in the scare industry at the time. Soon enough, they’ve become a company I regularly return to not only because they’re on my doorstep and run year round, but also because I thoroughly enjoy what they do and I know that critiques will be taken on board and rectified for following shows, which is something that I thoroughly appreciate as a reviewer as while I do this for fun and for you readers’ entertainment, I also do it to help the industry improve somewhat.

 

Having said that, this might actually be my hardest review of one of their shows to date as I was both an actor and a participant, and knew a good handful of the actors within the attraction too but don’t worry, I’m not letting these bonds get in the way of my review – I’m still gunna be as harsh as ever!

 

On arrival at Dead Centre, our tickets were scanned and we took our seats on a bench in a semi-protected safe area whilst we waited for our turn: a two tier pyramid of barrels stood on one side of the shopping centre corridor and a wall with a screen built in displayed the title of the experience on the other, whilst eerie atmospheric music played on a loop that echoed throughout our little area, which emphasised the fact that we were completely alone in the shopping centre… or were we?

Soon enough, it was our time to enter the experience: we’re given the generic haunt brief (you are expected to run, no zombies will chase you on the stairs, etc) and we were sent down a service corridor. As we reached the end of this corridor, two shopping centre security guards, an Australian called Jake (though he insisted on being called Maverick and I am so down for that) and another whose name I forgot so I’m gunna call him Dan, welcomed and ushered us closer. He explained that the safe haven we were in has never come under attack thanks to the stringent security checks we have to go through – our first was to prove that we hadn’t been bitten and, rather typically, my small group of friends ended up having to do blood tests to prove we were safe – as it turns out, one of us was The Chosen One, someone whose blood cannot be infected by the zombies! Just as he had explained this, a loud bang as something hit the wall next to us got us moving into the next area.

 

We ran down another service corridor, chaperoned by the two guards that seemed to be a bit uneasy but continued to ensure us that we were safe and it was just probably another guard playing a prank. We soon stopped as we hit a set of doors whilst the service corridor continued off to the right, and Maverick gave us a quick demonstration on how to check for zombies by knocking and asking “are there any zombies?”, pausing, then saying “no” before moving onto the next – this is when I began giggling. He came back and confirmed that it was all safe with this dumb grin on his face whilst Dan just looked at him in disdain. We were then taken through the doors, across the floor of the shopping centre, and into another service corridor where we were told we’d have to go through the Loading Bay in order to reach The Reverend, who’ll know what to do with the blood.

 

On the way down to the Loading Bay we learned a little bit more about The Reverend, and both Dan and Maverick – both of whom were very new to this role, and by this point completely clueless as to what to do, though that didn’t stop them from trying to ease our fears (though I’m still giggling at this point). Maverick did his thing and checked for zombies before running back yelling “gogogogogogogogogogo” as quickly as he can: we’re led through another set of doors and Dan slams them closed behind us once everyone was in, then Maverick explained that he saw a mouse – his worse fear! The laughter continues.

 

We reach the loading bay and just as we pass a van, the alarm goes off and a small horde of zombies chase us through the loading bay and up a ramp and into another maze of service corridors and stairwells. Soon enough, we’re in a slightly more open service corridor where a cart full of water is sat, so we all take a bottle. Just as that happens, one of the service lift doors slams open and a disgruntled shopkeeper comes out and accuses us of stealing his water. The two guards start to fight him and the shopkeeper is left tied to a pillar, just as another small horde of zombies chases us down yet another service corridor and back into the shopping centre.

 

The aim of our mission changes from finding The Reverend to basically calling in a helicopter to rescue us, as the guards finally admit to not having a clue what to do. We make our way up several flights of stairs to the top of the car park where we were to lay down an SOS so a helicopter could come and pick us up. We reach the top of the car park and find a conveniently placed box that had some sheets in for us to make an SOS. Just as we finished, another car alarm went off and a zombie fell out of the car, chasing us down two levels peppered with other zombies before we finally went into another stairwell and went down to the shopping centre where The Reverend could be found.

 

We inch our way forwards to give ourselves a better vantage point to see if there were any zombies about and Maverick being Maverick did his own special check which had me absolutely doubled over in hysterics to the point where I was almost getting stitches from that rather than the running! We got given the all clear and I pull myself together enough to run from where we were stood to the Hide and Shriek shopping unit, where an odd character in a white vest, underwear, and doctors robe met us. He examined the vial of blood and confirmed it was good we came, and we were led into the pitch black corridors to meet The Reverend. We find ourselves back in another service corridor before we reach The Reverend’s door and are ambushed by another small horde of zombies, which we try to hold back with a wheelie bin though this was futile without four of us trying our hardest to hold them back whilst the rest of the group struggled to open the door.

 

Finally the door was opened from the inside by Maverick who had managed to disappear in the havoc and let us in. We re-entered the darkness and barricaded the door behind us. As our eyes grew accustomed to the dark, it became apparent that we were very much in a hospital/laboratory thing, the home of The Reverend. He introduced himself and reiterated that the blood could save lives, and he was determined to show us – he took us through to his back room where an infected lay on an operating table. People were picked out of the crowd, myself included, and we were given specific actions – one of us had to inject The Chosen One’s blood into the infected and the other had to take note of the heart rate as it was yelled out. As the infected was injected with the blood, he slowly came back to life and started convulsing uncontrollably: the lights went out and the infected had vanished! We were ushered into a seated area behind two sheets as the lights in the room strobed at an unpredictable rate, causing the shadows of the zombies to flicker across the sheets as they maul The Reverend. In the madness, the zombies were shot at and we were quickly ushered through more rooms before we found ourselves in an unused shopping unit. We were then told we just had to run in order to escape the hordes and find our own way to the next Safe Haven – the doors to the shop opened and we all sprinted to the exit of the shopping centre, laughing and cheering all the way.

 

Comparing this year to last year, there have been a huge amount of changes based on feedback from last year: the reasoning for going to each of these locations was clearly explained and followed a storyline, and they added a rather effective and well executed piece of theatre within their shopping unit. Alongside this, the shopping centre security guards that took us through the experience were a great touch, not only because army soldiers are done pretty much everywhere else, but also because they bought the trademark comedy to the show which definitely couldn’t have been done with soldiers.

 

Having said that, I do have a few criticisms (of which I know couldn’t be helped), but having chatted to others that had been through as well as the H&S team, it seemed to just be me that picked up on it: there was a lack of zombies. The Loading Bay scene had potential for a good 10 or so zombies to flood the area and make it really chaotic – this was also noticeable in the Car Park and the Service Corridor scenes, though the security guards yelling did add to the confusion a bit. It also would have been nicer for the zombies to get closer too as none of them really felt like a threat until the Finale chase where you had no choice but to weave in and out of them: we had a good ol’ run around the car park and the zombies had a decent enough area to chase us in, but they ambled about and were so scattered about the place that, had it been a real apocalypse, the 17 or so of us in the group could have easily just taken them out.

Continuing on the zombies, whilst I got the idea that in each of the zones the zombies were meant to get progressively more and more zombified, it didn’t really show – there were zombies that did they make up professionally and some that hadn’t, and whilst 99% of the time it wasn’t noticeable, it definitely was toward the end when we had our photo opportunities with them.

Also, something like fake barbed wire between the barrels and wall in the foyer bit right at the beginning of the experience would have been cool, but not a necessity.

The one final thing I want to shit on (in the nicest way possible) was the scene within the unit. I understand it’s a small area, but those bloody seats that were facing side on so you had to turn your head really didn’t do anything, and in fact kinda detracted from the experience a little as you had to hold an uncomfortable position for a short while. I’d have also had the lights flash a little bit quicker, but that’s just personal taste – the way the shadows projected onto the sheet really added to the visuals and helped soften the brightness of the strobes.

Despite these few critiques, I honestly enjoyed myself and whilst it wasn’t a scary experience, it sure was fun, entertaining, and hilarious! If it makes a return (and I hope it does), I very much urge you to go.

 

23/09/2017 – Hide & Shriek: Dead Centre