I’ve been a huge fan of Alton Towers’ Scarefest since I first went a few years back when The Sanctuary was still running – the set, story, and effects really dragged me into the experience and whilst it wasn’t inherently scary, it really had the atmosphere and creepiness necessary for a haunt to work for me: since then I’ve always made an effort to trek up to Stoke-On-Trent to drop in, and with Alton Towers boasting a brand new haunt as a pre-cursor to SW8, it would have been rude to not drop by this year!
Upon arrival, it was clear that Alton had really gone all out again: all signs had Scarefest branded signs, Main Street had been decked out with pumpkins, hearses, a huge Scarefest sign, and their signature children’s show characters performing on a stage right at the base.
Our first haunt, or rather, attraction, was House of Monsters. I’ve deliberately not called it a haunt as it is so much more than that: it’s immersive theatre, pantomime, escape room, magic show, and haunt all rolled into one – it’s easy to see why House of Monsters got such rave reviews from others last year! The characters are extremely engrossing and animated, making puns and (intended or not) double entendres throughout that had us absolutely doubled over at points! As you make your way through the attraction, you interact greatly with the characters who get you to do one or two tasks in order to get you to escape, which ends up in a fun little haunt with some scares that we really weren’t expecting (and definitely made all of us jump!); don’t worry though, it’s not an intense scare – the haunt part is very comical and very Scooby-Doo in nature (if you imagine Shaggy and Scooby being chased about by the bad guys in and out of rooms in corridors). I absolutely loved this attraction, so much that we bought an extra ticket and went through again! It’s definitely not the scariest attraction at Alton, but it definitely surpassed my expectations!
Our first haunt at Scarefest was Sub Species: The End Games. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this last year, so I was excited to get back down into the labyrinthine haunt hidden deep in the basement of the towers. It very much started out the same as last year with a creepy introduction swiftly followed by actors grabbing you and dragging you through the maze; unfortunately, this year didn’t seem as chaotic as I remember it – it felt like there was a lack of actors in the labyrinth which definitely detracted from the chaos (but make no mistake, it was still insanity trying to find the exit without an actor pushing you in the right direction). Once you’re through the labyrinth, you’re treated to some incredible scenery and a corridor that’s pitch black before finally being chased out the exit. Still a strong haunt despite the lack of actors.
Our second haunt was Terror of the Towers, a gothic vampire haunt that snakes its way through the towers themselves. Whilst not the strongest attraction for scares, it definitely leaves its mark with theming, use of smells, and creepy actors: the strongest element was the strobe maze, as there were a number of lights working with each other to disorientate you as much as possible; having said that, the haunt requires everyone to go in a conga line and all the scares seem to happen to the front of the queue – I’d love to see the conga line scrapped seeing as it’s the least intense haunt at Scarefest and the only haunt there to actually implement it. Definitely a good introduction to haunts if you’ve not been to one before.
Our third haunt is Altonville Mine Tours which has received a more memorable name than last year, though it’s still very much the same attraction, albeit with an extra added scene. Out of all the “adult” haunts at Scarefest, this was definitely my favourite: everything had improved since last year and the run at ScareCon! The helmet this year had much better effects programmed into it, making some parts much more intense as the light bouncing off the fog really limited how much vision you actually got. Alongside this, the incredible detail to the theming both visually and aurally complimented each other perfectly to create an unpleasant atmosphere at times. The actors themselves were on top form too, as some jibbered on about nothing, whilst others said things to you early on in the haunt and actually remembered what they said when you met them again later! Another brilliant thing the actors did is completely invade your personal space to add to the creepiness that resides within. Unfortunately, I’m still not entirely sold on the finale: it’s a clever twist and I can appreciate that, but there’s nothing grand to it that says “this is the finale” and leads you on to think that there’s still more to come, when you actually find yourself outside. Definitely my favourite haunt at Alton Towers this year.
Our fourth and final haunt was the anticipated The Welcoming: Be Chosen. We had our tickets booked for as late as we could reasonably do before we travelled home at stupid o’clock, so it was nice and dark when we went through (for those that don’t know, it’s an outside attraction which means natural lighting may or may not affect the experience). All I can say is: wow! Whilst at an intensity level of maybe a smidge above Terror of the Towers, the theming is just incredible. From the moment you step into the haunt, you’re transported to a medieval celebration of Halloween, where paganistic characters dance and swoop as they celebrate: I loved the scarecrow beings (for want of a better description) and the person that dropped to the floor and started inscribing runes onto the ground in front of us, partially blocking the way – a great touch to add to the creepiness! I wasn’t a big fan of the hooded section as I’m not entirely sure what they were trying to portray here and the finale, however everything else felt like walking through a cinematic piece – definitely worth doing once it gets dark!
Alongside these attractions, there was also the Freak Show scarezone, which was rife with creepy takes on the classic circus shows (ringmaster, bearded lady, strong man, etc), all of whom use the billowing clouds of smoke to their complete advantage to hide and scare unsuspecting victims – definitely a great laugh when you’re making your way through!
Alton Towers have created another fantastic Scarefest, despite the few gripes I had with the attractions – I’m definitely glad that we added it to our lineup this year, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back again next year!