We were bummed out that we missed ‘Scarefest’ last year (and ‘Sub Species: Operation Lockdown’ as a result). It, of course, didn’t help that last year’s event generally had rave reviews, especially singling out ‘Sub Species: The End Games’. A visit wasn’t on the cards this year either but when we looked at our ill-fated Wales visit, we saw an opportunity to slip it in the day before and we took it.
Altonville Mine Tours: This was their new haunt for this year and utilised an interesting gimmick; head torches that were triggered to flicker/turn off at certain points in the maze. Unfortunately, only three people in every group were given one to wear. You’d obviously lose the full effect of the torches if you weren’t one of the chosen three. That aside, this maze was a heck of a lot of fun. It was a full contact maze, which immediately grabbed our interest – these experiences are way more fun the less you feel like a passive observer. We definitely didn’t feel like that here! One actor almost full-on leapt on one of us. Another managed to elicit a scream when they made a grab for the back of our thighs, completely unseen. Then the guys at the very end were having great fun, pulling our face and ears, impeding our progress! The maze itself was linear but quite interactive with ducking sections and corridors that kept narrowing. A great thing about this haunt was that there was some consideration for the story and an element of theatricality to the performances. It was clear that this was more than a simple ‘boo’ maze and we loved it for that!
Sub Species: The End Games: After hearing all the good things about this haunt, we were certain that we were setting ourselves up for disappointment. We needn’t have worried though as this maze was fantastic. It starts with an explanation of the story, that you are part of a game and people are betting on who survives until the end of the course. With that, we were dragged into one of three doors and left there alone to figure out what the next step was. Because this is a completely free flow maze, from start to finish you’re teased with multiple routes in your bid for freedom. This led to some amazing moments. We managed to scare one of our group who was clearly nervous from walking around in circles. He nearly hit the ceiling when we turned the corner and appeared in front of him! One other corridor brought us face to face with a beast (which was actually a full costume, not someone in face paint) so we quickly backtracked, warning those behind us not to bother! They didn’t listen. Again, being full contact added so much to the experience. At one, point, you have to crawl down a tunnel; we stupidly assumed that we were safe in there owing to space – wrong! This is everything that we’d want from a haunt.
Terror of the Towers: What Lies Within: The oldest maze at the event and it definitely shows. It’s not a bad haunt by any means; the way that it interacts with the actual towers gives it a production value that is hard to match. It just suffers by not being as frenetic as the other two haunts. The selling point here is definitely the set if you can call it that! With the entire maze winding through the Towers, you don’t need much to imagine that you’re in a centuries-old castle populated by vampires! Being a non-contact maze also immediately puts it on a lower tier to the other haunts. It’s not that we want everything to be extreme but it did just make it feel more obvious that the actors here were just jumping out with a ‘boo’. The threat that we’d felt from the other two mazes wasn’t present. What we would say here, however, is that in previous years they had operated this as an ‘alone’ maze once the park had shut. We reckon this could be the creepiest of the three in that sense because the setting is real. Sadly, we didn’t do that and couldn’t help but see it as being the weakest of the three haunts.
Dark Apocalypse: For a scare zone, this was tightly packed if a little short. The darkness plus use of smoke caused us to enter the scare zone and exit the same way about a minute later. We’re still not sure how we managed it given that it covered a small enough to be visible space but we somehow walked in a complete circle. It was impressive to catch us out like that! We took a video from the first time we went through it here:
Freak Show: Didn’t see this, we were quite pushed for time.
House of Monsters
Yeah, we know this was for children but we thought we’d take a punt on it, especially as Alton has a relatively small offering of scare attractions. We needed to boost the numbers! We weren’t quite sure what this was going to be like and when we entered the first scene, we cringed. It became apparent that this was going to be another Merlin audience participation show along the lines of the ‘Dungeons’ and ‘Shrek’s Adventure’ attractions and so we immediately started scouting out hiding places. We are completely and utterly cursed when it comes to getting picked on in these things! Turns out that we needn’t have worried (much). The participation was solely aimed at the children, getting them to perform tasks etc. so we relaxed in (relative) comfort.
Until we met Gorgel the Mummy anyway! In our (justified) paranoia we scrambled to get a seat that wasn’t at the front in this scene. And there wasn’t enough room where we were so we stood out a mile, being perched half on, half off a bench. We suffered the consequences! But we loved this character. Being a mummy, his defining trait was that he was an old, cantankerous man and the actor played it pitch perfect! He was brilliantly acerbic with us and we would’ve loved to see more of him! What really surprised us with this attraction was that after the show had finished, we had to navigate a legit ‘boo’ haunt to get out. This was something that we weren’t expecting and we can be honest in saying that it wasn’t toned down that much. The key difference between this section and a regular haunt was that this was well lit. Other than that, it was a rapid succession of impact scares that scared the children (but not too much). All in, it was a fantastic addition to Scarefest and well worth the upcharge.
‘Scarefest’ definitely demonstrates that sometimes, less is more. With only three haunts and a separate dedicated children’s attraction, this event had one of the lowest haunt counts we saw all season. The sheer quality of them completely mitigated this though and we didn’t even notice that it was on the low end of the scale, we were just having too much fun there! We’d much rather that an event put a lot of care into a smaller selection of attractions rather than boosting the numbers with similar feeling haunts. A large part of our enthusiasm is that two of the three mazes were full contact, which really adds so much. We’d also mention that the sets themselves were of a very high quality – every haunt had a distinct look and none of them ever looked flimsy!
We didn’t get to go through the ‘Freak Show’ scare zone and there were two, interconnected reasons for this.
First one being that ‘Scarefest’ shuts way too early at 9pm. For a dedicated theme park, with two hotels as well, we can’t see any reason why they can’t at least keep up with the industry norm and close at 10. That 9pm finish meant that we never really had a chance to enjoy things (or again, take many pictures) as we were paranoid about missing things.
This brings us to the second point. The Sky Ride shutting at whatever time it did. For a massive park, not having this to get about made a huge difference. We understand that Alton have been slimming down operations recently but we feel that for the short period of time that ‘Scarefest’ runs, Alton should endeavour to keep everything running until closing and that their closing times should be in line with what like events are following.
Scarefest (2016) Alton Towers
Loved it here. We’ll definitely be back for next ‘Scarefest’ – hopefully, they’ll bring back something like 'Operation Lockdown' too!
Ticket Price: £20.00 for three maze ticket, entry not included. House of Monsters was an additional £5.
Address: Alton Towers, Farley Ln, Alton ST10 4DB