Spoiler level: Some specific details on what happens in one attraction at Screamfest 2018, and general description of the others which could be perceived as spoilers.
In and amongst the scream parks, scare mazes, Halloween events and shows which populate my calendar in the dizzying month of October, there’s one event I have a great fondness for; where, for a sentimental Halloween lover such as myself, the evening is such a delight that I could sit and people-watch for hours. Where else could you find two old ladies drinking cups of tea while the theme from Halloween blasts from the sound system and teenagers are chased around by a guy in a clown suit. This event is Screamfest, a Halloween spooktacular at the National Forest Adventure Farm in Burton-on-Trent. Featuring a slew of terrifying scare mazes and a selection of charming games and sideshows, and not forgetting DJ Duckpond, Screamfest genuinely has something for everyone, including us thrillseekers! So we ventured in to sample the scares of Screamfest 2018…
You thought you were entering a scare maze – you thought wrong. This is immersive horror, a fully theatrical experience blended with some traditional spookhouse scares to keep the adrenaline pumping. We knew from the queue line that this would be something special; a mini setpiece featuring a mother and child, which flowed into the first scene, really grabbed our attention. From there, we found ourselves in a hyper-real dream dimension where the acutely terrifying elements of a child’s nightmare materialised right in front of our eyes. This attraction cleverly harnesses a very specific feeling and projects it onto these scenes; a unique sense of terror which could only be spawned from a child’s overactive imagination. Something no child is safe from, yet it doesn’t physically exist. This attraction excelled in delivering that sensation – one particular moment involving the mother really pulled the rug from under me.
As we made our way through, the theming and sound design came together in a horrifying tableau (in which I saw a little of the Babadook, amongst others) and I was spellbound. The only minor downside was the first room – more people from the queue piled in halfway through the first scene, which threw the tension off slightly, and resulted in them missing half of it. Aside from that, this was easily the best of the night.
Dark mazes can work; I’ve been in attractions before which featured minimal theming, black walls and basic lighting effects – essentially a platform for the scareactors to work their magic. Unfortunately, this dark maze is still missing the mark for me.
As with last year, I was impressed by the exterior theming, and the first room worked perfectly. But once again, the door opened and the experience fell a little flat. I ambled around for several minutes before I saw a scareactor. There were countless empty wall panels, which was a huge disappointment; all I saw were a couple of scareactors lurking around corners, so I quickly acclimatised to that. Scareactors in the panels would have helped to mix things up, and that’s essential in a minimalistic maze such as this.
By the time we reached the cage segment, my mind had wandered elsewhere. I’d had no good scares and it was a little too easy to see my way around; I could even see a scareactor gearing up to get me. Mind you, this attraction featured a certain seasoned scareactor who was guarding the numbered doors; an absolute favourite of mine, and that made my night.
There was a great atmosphere in the queue line for this attraction. As it’s themed around a grungy rock bar (The Diced Heart), there’s always good music playing and lots of band posters to look at, along with a bar area adorned with fairy lights and an impressive proscenium arch bearing a huge Love Hurts logo. When it comes to theming, Love Hurts is Screamfest’s signature dish. Starting with the foul toilets and into the sewage works; the sets are so intricate throughout this attraction, and there’s a great deal to take in. We had a fantastic run, with some energetic scareactors taunting us – although I didn’t see a scareactor in the green mist, which was a shame as that’s a great effect. There was one lurking, but they scared the middle of the group as I was exiting at the front.
The lighting shattered the mystique a little in the final scene; I’d question whether the professor looks full-on scary enough to be bathed in bright light before running at us; but this is wholly subjective. It’s still an effective ending which works well with any group size, which is as big plus, as we’d run into the previous group by this point.
Día de los Muertos
Yes, Mexico is riddled with cartel crime; some would say that’s as good a theme as any. An escaped criminal, a chop shop, people shooting at you, walls with bullet holes etc. – all scary right? I am still inclined to disagree. It’s not my favourite theme and it never will be. Some would argue that the Día de los Muertos association alone is culturally insensitive, but for me, that element is where this attraction really shines. Upon arrival for the celebration, the village is so beautifully themed, and the ‘lost souls’ portion works well in and amongst the corn. Mild scares, but really quite charming and enchanting. The discombobulation occurs past this point.
I’d have liked a jump scare or two in the strobe section; aside from that, this is much the same as before, with the addition of a few more chainsaws (which is always a bonus for me). The ride to the entrance, perfunctory as it may be, is still a standout – the van, with the addition of the newsreader, is a wonderfully inventive setpiece.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to experience Freakout this year. However, judging from the screams drifting from the maze structure, and the sporadic flurries of people bursting from the exit in fits of laughter, it would seem this maze is certainly holding up. We hope to be able to pay the clowns a visit next year!
Screamfest will be open on selected nights until Halloween, and is a must-do for anyone in the area who wants to partake in a little bit of a Halloween celebration. The event does offer a ‘ScaredyCat Ticket’, which gives access to the park, but not the mazes. This is a great way to enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment, but given the fact that these mazes aren’t too intense, they are well worth a try for a first timer – especially Insomnia with its theatrical style, which truly deserves to be seen and experienced.
- Screamfest will be open on selected nights until early November 2018
- Our review of last year can be viewed here
- The event is located at the National Forest Adventure Farm, Burton upon Trent
- Tickets available here
- Tickets can be purchased on the door ONLY if the night has not SOLD OUT, so pre-book to avoid disappointment