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

26/10/2016 – Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park

After getting my mojo back from Alton Towers earlier in the week and after hearing all the positive reviews from other haunters, we hit the road once again and made our way to Tulleys for their Shocktober Fest.

We collected our tickets and entered the scream park and were instantly blown away with what they had: 8 individual haunts (which I’ll get onto in a minute), 3 fairground rides, sideshow stalls, 2 stages, lots of food and drink outlets, and shops galore – it legitimately felt like we had entered a Halloween festival, and it was BEAUTIFUL.

We spent a little time wandering round, taking everything in and generally exploring before we hit our first haunt of the night: Hell-ements.

 

Hell-ements

Despite not enjoying hooded haunts, this has got to be the strongest one I’ve done to date. A brief video introduction to set the scene, we don our hoods and take hold of the rope, and I seem to stampede ahead in front of the group in this twisting and turning haunt without realising! Exploring the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire), everyone who steps inside has their wits and mettle challenged. As far as hooded mazes go, there was a lot that made me uncomfortable, including one actor that decided to remove my hand from the rope! An absolutely fantastic hooded haunt that really went on for a very long time, even if parts of it were ruined slightly by how light it was still – my bad for being so eager!

 

 

Creepy Cottage

Living up to its name, the Creepy Cottage was the second haunt we visited. This is definitely a haunt to visit early on in the evening as it’s all completely indoors and, if the queue is short, you’ll get to go through in a small group (which makes haunts that bit better). With loads of automated effects and a few live actors, we had a scream trekking through the cottage with scenes that flowed together so smoothly it was easy to believe that you really were in a cottage.

 

The Cellar

Without much story, it felt like we were transported to an abandoned house in the middle of a bayou in Louisiana or another similar state. With lots of claustrophobic elements and things dangling from the ceiling obscuring your vision, this dark and twisted haunt had lots of jump scares at the front of the conga line, with the actors being creepier the further back you were positioned which worked fairly well as the monsters lurking within were highly unsettling. This was an absolute treat for all the senses.

 

Pan-DEMON-ium’s 3D Carnival

Another haunt that’s completely indoors, this maze is like experiencing an acid trip on steroids! Themed around a carnival (hence the name), guests meet a number of creepy side show hosts before being told about the evil that awaits us further inside still. We don the 3D glasses and everything starts popping off the walls, confusing your brain and distracting you from all the horrors that use the darkness to their advantage! Whilst this was the best clown attraction I’ve experienced on my tour, it still felt like it lacked actors at points (especially in the first half of the haunt), but the clowns inside definitely make up for it. I also liked that we were permitted to go through in our own small group as nobody seemed to realise there was a haunt there. Shout out to the host that laughed as we reeled off the briefing before entering!

 

The Colony

After seeing some rather interesting themes this Halloween season, I was absolutely ecstatic to find this post-apocalyptic themed haunt hidden away! Whilst it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite haunt from Tulleys (and in general), The Colony just about steals it due to the theming. Feeling like you had entered a Psycho’s den in Borderlands, this humongous haunt uses both outside and inside areas to immerse you in the apocalypse, with bonfires and such dotted around to distract you; one of my favourite bits was the pitch black corridor with the lone actor standing at the end – that was visually stunning and very unnerving! The costumes and acting was incredible with a mixture of creep and jump scares, and the ending was absolutely phenomenal and a unique twist on the chainsaw. Bravo to the actor that was in there!

 

The Horrorwood Hayride

Based on a backstage tour of a movie studio, this hayride takes you through all sorts of hellish scenes that are not only legitimately jumpy, but are incredibly clever with how they’re executed! A speaker narrates a story as you pass from scene to scene, interacting with a wide range of characters, props, and special effects: possibly the best thing about this haunt is it doesn’t need to be night for it to be effective – I’d definitely consider doing this as the first haunt.

After an unsuccessful hay ride at the beginning of our trip I was kinda skeptical about this one, having both high and low hopes for it: needless to say, this rekindled my faith in hayrides and really think they are a strong and interesting way to scare!

 

Coven of 13

With a witch theme, this haunt is extremely clever in the way it uses lighting and smoke to create an illusion that can’t be described in text – you seriously have to go through the haunt to understand what I’m saying! After such a strong introduction to the haunt, I found it hard to see where they could go next; however, after attending a spellcasting and entering the home of the damned, the finale absolutely blew me away!

 

The Chop Shop

the final haunt of our visit was a little trip through a hillbilly garage that seems to be doing more than just chopping and trading parts for automobiles…

With very little story at all, this haunt was a complete attack on the eyes and ears which was completely disorientating, so much so that I’m sure we went through the same scene a few times. As soon as it was over, I had to take a deep breath to calm myself down, it was so intense! Definitely a strong maze, but needed to be a little bit longer in my opinion to make you feel like it wasn’t going to end.

 

All in all, Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park is definitely one of the most breath taking haunt attractions I’ve experienced to date, there was a number of times I found myself saying “this is absolutely incredible” at all the different things there was to see and do, the crowd and queue management, the entertainment on both stages, and all the sideshows themed to Halloween in some way. I will definitely be back next year to see how this attraction evolves!

On a final note, I would like to give a special mention to the two roaming zombie nurses we bumped into for their acting, they were absolutely hilarious! Thank you!

26/10/2016 – Tulleys Shocktober Fest Scream Park

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

For a while, I struggled to find something horror related to do as all the haunts we knew of were closed or not operating that day, but that changed when I was given a bit of information about an immersive short called “Séance”. I love the paranormal as a theme, but it’s extremely hard to get it right, especially when you’re running a live actor haunt and all your “ghosts” are, well, alive and breathing. Séance, however, did not have that problem.

As soon as we arrived, we were led to a shipping container placed just outside the main building which amused us as we were expecting a haunt of somesort. We took our seats around the table placed in the middle of the shipping container and put our headsets on, and the journey began…

Using 3D surround sound, you are taken on an immersive and chilling journey into the spirit world and into the depths of your own imagination, where nothing is quite what it seems…

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

14/10/2016 -Broadwitch HauntFest

October is here and the Halloween haunt season is in full swing!

 

The first, and extremely spontaneous haunt (I planned this 4 hours before the gates opened) of the season was Broadwitch HauntFest! Based in Southfleet, Kent, this attraction boasts 5 haunts that range from creepy all the way through to terrifying!

 

Spooky Castle

spooky-castle

Our first haunt was Spooky Castle, where an ancient evil dwells within, preying upon people that step foot in its halls. Spooky, right? Right! This deceptively small haunt takes you on an eerie journey through the castle, where you meet all sorts of creepy characters, most lurching from extremely clever hiding spaces built within the intricate theming! If you enjoy an evolving story and lots of creepy scenes, this is absolutely perfect for you, and will definitely catch you out with some of the scares, including a new twist at the end that we weren’t expecting, which was refreshing!

 

MassAcre

massacre

This is a haunt hidden away toward the back of the park in a cornfield. I’ve never been a fan of outdoor haunts as there’s too little control (i.e. lighting, nature, etc), but let me tell you, this completely blew my mind! The haunt itself is a great use of space but is sparsely themed, but that doesn’t detract from the haunt itself – the corn leaning in on you as you walk through is creepy enough – small shacks and sheltered areas are dotted around to break up the haunt which allow for unexpected scares: the first screamer definitely set the tone, which felt like a bit of a gamble but it definitely paid off tonight!

 

Thirteen

thirteen

This haunt, whilst not as strong as the first two, definitely had a lot going for it – the opening scene was rather disorientating and claustrophobic, which only got darker and darker as you progressed – soon enough we were groping about, trying to find our way whilst trying to ignore the strong smells coming from the next room. The scenes themselves were fantastic, stimulating you sense of sight, smell, and sound to bring you an entertaining haunt; the only downside is the transition between the scenes, but what they’ve done is fantastic – kudos to the clown who made me jump so much I almost fell down the stairs!

 

The Edge

the-edge

A very sudden change in theming for this next haunt: vampires! I have honestly never been a fan of vampires and find them hard to be scary, but this detailed haunt took us through gothic catacombs infested with bloodsuckers determined to drain us of our blood. From homages to Nosferatu through to Van Helsing, these creepy bloodsuckers came at us from every angle in order to get our necks! This haunt is worth a trip through if for the ending alone!

 

Biometrix

biometrix

We saved this for last as it received a SCAR award in 2015, but I was honestly rather disappointed with it. The concept is a great twist on the army/genetic modification gone wrong theme, but with the lack of actors and theming, and the recycling of scares, what could have been an amazing haunt fell flat on its face – definitely needs more smoke and/or strobe lighting/lasers in the long corridors to break it up a bit. Even though this reads negatively, it wasn’t a waste of a haunt – I still enjoyed it, but there’s a lot more that could have been done to really polish it off.

 

Whilst not part of the haunts, the roaming actors were alright except for Judy from Punch and Judy who is AMAZING! But seriously, all the roaming actors were extremely creepy in their own ways and were greatly welcomed by the general audience and everyone they interacted with.

 

Despite the minor gripe with Biometrix, as a whole, the event is extremely professional and well organised, with a great team of actors and front of house staff that kept us entertained the entire time we were there. Definitely worth a visit!

 

 

14/10/2016 -Broadwitch HauntFest

11/06/2016 – Twisted Attractions

Not even a month has passed since our last haunts at ScareCON and I gotta admit, a number of us were itching to get ourselves to another as soon as possible! We pulled together a quick 300 mile round trip to Twisted Attractions in Birmingham from Essex to do Coulrophobia and  Dr Hades Fear Theatre!

Unfortunately, we found out when we arrived that Dr Hades Fear Theatre was having teething problems so we didn’t get to see the show. Whilst we were disappointed, we completely understand why, and you can find out more too…

 

Coulrophobia

Whilst we were in the queue we were treated to a number of strong characters, including Dr Hades, Madame Pompadour and a rather creepy clown. Dr Hades was absolutely incredible in bringing the maniacal doctor role to life and definitely had the queue creeped out with his creepy games. Madame Pompadour a graceful and elegant character that really captured your attention. The creepy clown was, well… creepy. Evil laugh, thousand yard stare that feels like he’s staring into your soul… the whole shebang; definitely an unnerving character (and that’s coming from someone without a fear of clowns!)

Inside, the haunt is fantastic: what Phobophobia last year could have been, these guys ran with the freakshow theme (despite the name – yes, there is a clown, but it’s not a clown haunt). Expect to meet a variety of freaks on your way though!

Visually, there is a lot going on. The decor as you go through is really clever and builds up a sense of disorientation which builds more and more as the haunt progresses; we actually ended up getting completely and utterly lost at one point, and ended up doubling back on ourselves multiple times.

The characters themselves were well developed and owned by their actors – the clown in the strobe maze really worked with the strobes and owned his section, and the first character we met was just absolutely entertaining through and through.

We were informed that the maze was missing a few final touches, but when we went through it was definitely standing strongly on its own two feet; the final touches just sound like it’s only going to be better next time.

 

Dr Hades Fear Theatre

Remember when I said we didn’t get to see Dr Hades Fear Theatre? I lied a bit: the haunt is having teething problems but we were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of what to expect, and let me tell you that when it’s finished, it is going to take haunts in a whole new direction. If you’re ever in Birmingham and Dr Hades is open, you definitely need to go and see it: I’m already seriously impressed and we only got a sneaky 5 minutes!

 

Twisted Attractions is a very strong independent haunt with actors, techies, artists, and backstage crew that clearly love doing what they do, and it shows; especially in the actors improvisation throughout. If you’re ever in Birmingham and they’re open, I definitely recommend taking an hour or so to go and visit:

 

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11/06/2016 – Twisted Attractions

13/05/2016 – The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast

Yesterday marked two very special occasions: the day that Jason Voorhees kills a load of people, and ScareCON 2016!

For those that don’t know, ScareCON is a one day convention dedicated to the world of haunted attractions, ranging from independent haunts, low budget haunts, home haunts, all the way through to the tens of thousands of pounds events held at theme parks. For one day a year everyone gets together to showcase their stuff, and this year we were lucky to have the opportunity to experience Screamland’s (Dreamland’s) The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast!

 

The Final Cut

This haunt is themed around the silver screen, where you become the star of the show: you enter the cinema screen and are soon transported through the screen and into the movie world!

Going through the uniquely themed maze you enter a series of zones dedicated to a different classic horror movie, from werewolves through to Frankenstein, and even an electrifying Jekyll and Hyde transformation scene to close the maze

Whilst not scary, it is definitely a very jumpy maze that leaves you guessing where the scare will come from. There are some cheesy bits to it, but this doesn’t detract from the haunt – overall a very strong experience and definitely one for those that enjoy horror movies!

 

Dead and Breakfast

Leading straight on from The Final Cut was Dead and Breakfast, a more theatrical haunt with a stronger storyline.

Themed around the bombings in the 1940s, you enter the Better Days bed and breakfast and check in. You’re taken to your room and are warned of ghostly goings on, then everything starts to go wrong…

With a very clever multi-layer storyline, a load of creepy masks, and scene changes so slick you really believe you’ve moved without moving, this haunt was less jumpy and more creepy, although there were definitely some excellently executed jumpscares!

 

Both of these haunts were absolutely fantastic in their own rights, and are some of the strongest themed attractions I’ve experienced. As they lead into one another, I think Dead and Breakfast should have been first and lead into The Final Cut, though this doesn’t detract from the event. I will definitely be back to review The Paradise Foundation later this year…

 

13/05/2016 – The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast