ScreamFest 2019: Award winning horror nights.
We arrived at the sold-out ScreamFest Media Preview Night to be greeted by a large and growing queue. Doors opened at 7 and we all piled in to meet three very friendly ladies who signed us off the list and gave us a free food and drink voucher (an unexpected but appreciated touch!). The wristbands had 5 boxes on and we were told we could enter anything 5 times, you don’t have to do all of them, you can do one 5 times or all 5 one time. It’s up to you. The merch stand sells extra passes for a fiver if you really are desperate for more!
Upon entry, we walked into a large space with a food stall, merch stand, street entertainers, seating (outdoor and indoor) and the first two attractions; Freak Out and Dia de Los Muertos. The street entertainers were fantastic, Chucky was a personal favourite among our group because his interaction with every age group was superb! He was dancing with the kids and scaring those who were afraid, posing for pictures and really acting it up. They were all well-known horror characters which was a nice addition.
We began with Freak Out. The crew sent us in small groups so there was enough distance between groups to get scared, without hearing the previous screams above the background music. It wasn’t too scary, a good first attraction to get you in the mood with a couple of jump scares, particularly in the strobing checkered room! I’d have liked some more scares to set the night off to a scarier start, but it was good to get us into the spirit! 1.5/5 Scare Rating.
We moved onto Dia de Los Muertos, a day of the dead inspired maze extravaganza. Right from the start it was far scarier; you’re dragged in a large group onto the back of a tractor trailer with flashing fairy lights and a booming background voice to set the mood. Driving through the fields in the pitch black rain, you eventually came to a corn field and were herded inside in small groups to the background noise of screams and chainsaws. Once again the staff did a fabulous job of sending in smaller groups with intervals so you couldn’t hear the people in front – a fault I have seen in other scream parks. We walked through a maze of corn (sectioned into walkways by wire fences). There were many jump scares, with you getting chased by chainsaw-wielding actors multiple times, but there were also times where they built tension and apprehension, spaces without any scares which was nice. It would have been good to have some rustling of corn and whispers in the maze to generate more of a buzz, but overall it was one of my favourites of the night! 4/5 Scare Rating as the atmosphere held so much anticipation, and nerves with its realistic vibes.
Screamfest scares are longer than those I have seen in other attraction parks like Xtreme Scream, they give you the chance to really get into it, not a 30-second scare fest and then it’s done.
You exit by a photo stand, there must have been a photo opportunity that we missed but you can also get one taken with props before HillBilly joes – the photos are only 2 for £5 and they print them and put them in a screamfest wallet for you, bargain!
Before taking a break we decided to do the new attraction for this year as it was next to Dia’s exit; Hillbilly Joes Zombee Zoo. This one we were pleasantly surprised with, it began with a looooot of talking but the scares throughout were far better! Very well sustained and a few back to back scares that you were not expecting. There are a lot of actors talking to play the part of the hillbilly’s but the zombies could have been more full-on to get a higher scare rating. The length was good, with a mix of outdoor and indoor spaces. I feel there is a lot of potential for this scare and Dia to take the lead if they increased the intensity of the scaring, build the tension and then do a couple in quick succession to really terrify the public! 4/5 Scare rating for surprising us with the tame exterior and jumpscare features.
We took a break to use our vouchers (which included the bar!) and settled for fish and chips with a cider, fantastic food and drinks located right next to the final two scares with toilets close by. We decided to save insomnia for last as it’s the one we had heard was the scariest, and opted for love hurts first upon recommendation by the staff at the photo booth.
The look was fab, queuing through a grungy bar with music and chainsaw sounds located near what appeared to be a sewer. You are ushered into a small room with a small group, and are split into two – going into two toilet cubicles that smell (and look) very realistic. A voice sounds over a speaker and tells you a story before both groups exit on the other side. You walk through a wet sewer, being blasted by water sprays and drips from above, reaching a green water mist effect. We were disappointed that there weren’t scares as you descended through the mist, but it was quite slippy. This one was a lot shorter and the best scare was a jumpscare at the end by a chainsaw guy who chases you out past the crowd queuing (so you know it’s coming but it still gets you!) Love hurts was hyped up by some staff and previous reviewers but I didn’t see why, it wasn’t our favourite in terms of scares, but they really put the time and effort into the look of it, the vibe was the best with its ultra-realistic immersive sounds and smells. Many of the scares were similar to freak out where the actors just stare at you, they don’t scare you. 3/5, good effects but lacking length and scares considering its the last one you come to.
Finally… insomnia. We were unsure what to expect as we queued past a girl and her mother playing through a storyline of colouring a White House with a red roof and door, seeing “crackerjack” and not wanting to sleep. A group of 10 of you wait in a room and watch an acting scene of the girl seeing him through her window and waking her mum up, then he moves to another, and finally jump scares you out the wardrobe which was totally unexpected as you were immersed in the acting. The staff send only half of you through at a time which was lucky as we were near the back and didn’t want to be last of 10 people wandering through the maze. You follow through into a children’s wardrobe with a story in the background, the girl crying for help and screaming at you to leave because he’s going to get you, it had a mixed storyline of the popular horror films The Babadook (2014) and Insidious (2010), immersed in a child’s nightmare and you have to find them. I led the pack, through the red door and into the house where a vicious cycle of rooms with strobe lights follow suit. There were a few scares but the worst was the hall of mirrors. As I was at the front, it was my job to feel in the dark for a mirror, space to walk or possible actor. I am saddened to say there were no actors in the mirror maze, which was disappointing considering my apprehension for feeling through the darkness. If they had of put more scares in it would have been the best of the night by far! The storyline, scenes and effect was there but the scares were not as refined as Dia or Hillbilly Joe. There wasn’t a great ending, we turned the wrong way thinking there was more but there just wasn’t. 4/5 for effect and storyline, has the potential for more scares but just wasn’t my favourite of the night
At the end we visited the merch stand, the prices were very reasonable for an event and the product quality was super. We picked up a fleece with ‘Screamfest survivor’ embroidered on the front for £20, and some printed survivor T-shirt’s at only a tenner each! They had embroidered beanies for £5, foam fingers, wristbands.. everything! The sizes for clothing runs up to a XXL which was unexpected. The XXL is quite a roomy one too so you can get away with it if you’re a bit bigger.
To conclude, in comparison with other leading horror attractions such as Xtreme scream, Xtreme scream is scarier but way shorter. They can afford to scare you more because there isn’t as much time to scare you. In Screamfest you build up tension in between scares, It’s unique – there’s a storyline to the attractions, not just meaningless scares. ScreamFests attractions are highly thought through, ultra realistic and immersive horror. I highly recommend a visit because it is worth it, the attractions just have something about them.
Tickets available at: https://www.screamfest.co.uk/