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

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

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