So most of us had visited Scarefest before Dane had yet to experience Scarefest properly. (He had been before but there were personal issues at the time) So we at PSG saw this year as the perfect time to get a unique view of Scarefest at a very unique time of year and situation. We were apprehensive but my lord was we wrong to be as this year blew us away, out the water, over the hill and into amazement. This is Danes review of Alton Towers Scarefest from a first timers perspective.
We shall start with the park atmosphere. Alton Towers at the best of times has a very mystical and romantic setting, More so for us in romantic. But when Scarefest sets in over the Towers a whole new energy comes with it. Dan had warned me about the “Genny Lights” or what he calls immersion killers but that was the only issue we faced. The lighting across the park in various places added something special in every area. From the eerie glow on the Towers itself to the green string lights near the rapids and especially the illumination from the Smilers centrepiece which created quite an impression on the night ride.
Talking of night rides … Th13teen, What a difference night makes, It honestly felt like a different ride. But leaving the lighting and atmospherics behind its time to review the mazes, starting with weakest to strongest.
The Attic: Terror of the Towers
We shall start with the positives and that is the theming. The use of sets, lighting, smells, smoke and effects along with the organic building of the Towers itself lends to what could have been a really promising attraction. The story is dark and gothic …well of what we heard of it as the story in the briefing had started before we entered the room. We thought this was just a misstep and the rest of the maze would shine, But sadly however after batching what seemed like 15seconds at most we found ourselves catching up with the group in front. Wanting to hold back as would be expected, we tried our best to do so, But in doing so it only meant that the group behind would catch up just as fast. We can’t say that the maze was inherently bad but rather our run-through was. Due to the poor batching which to be honest would be easily fixed with a member of staff ensuring the distance was still in check at the top of the stairs or even using the landings leading up to the main part of the maze as holding sections. We can see that The Attic holds great promise as an attraction but when so many scares were so front focused and by that in this case we mean “front group focused” it left the only thing for us to see behind being actor resets. The ending character in the fireplace, as well as the Governess, did pull some of the experience back up for us but it has to be mentioned if we are honest there were a few moments where COVID safety distances were breached by actors which of course should not be happening especially when you could feel the breath of the actor on your face. All in all a fantastically themed attraction but the batching let it down.
Altonville Mine Tours: Legend of the Skin Snatchers
I know this will be a controversial opinion to put so low down the list but there was a sense that something was missing and we don’t mean the helmets. We understand Mine Tours can not operate in its usual fashion given COVID Restrictions but the level of darkness within the attraction although at first was intimidating did eventually as the attraction progressed become more dangerous. Not being able to see where duck downs finished, where walls began and where actors could be waiting in the dark ended up with some very uncomfortable moments for the wrong reasons. Now on to some positives, The opening actor was absolutely fantastic and set the scene perfectly using quick wit to add a personal touch with well thought out improv. Entering into the mines the Sister/(Turning on headlamps scene) seemed somewhat redundant and had been kept for the sake of keeping a scene, Again though the actress in this area still kept up the energy to push us through. One thing which was the blessing of the darkness was the way it ramped up the claustrophobia of the mines and although some areas were too dark, A few well-placed lanterns or torches along the way could have really lead to some great distraction scares. The finale wasn’t the best but that was mainly due to the strobes being so frantic I had to walk with my eyes shut. Others did tell me later that the ending of Skin has always been a weak point of otherwise interesting attraction. I will say as a final note for this maze that although too dark the actors did use this new environment to get some great scares and that has to be recognized.
Well, where to start with this maybe by saying how much it surprised me.
Darkest Depths to my knowledge is a family attraction but at times it did not come across for that bracket. The actors within this attraction really were on top form, especially the one after the opening story that had a little banter with Dan, Those that have been through The Dungeon will know what to answer when hearing (QUESTION!) barked at you, Dan in his usual form replies (Anyone here who is loyal to Oliver Cromwell) Thinking on her feet the actress in question retorts back “Good Answer, Wrong Attraction” which really provided a fun start. Once entering into the maze I was fully taken by the details of the sets and even more so the immersion through smells, Some of which we might have rathered not smell (Vomit im talking to you). Again expecting a family attraction there were two scenes that really made me jump, all I will say in order to avoid spoilers is (Sirens and Davy Jones). The thing is with Darkest Depths alongside the batching being spot on was the way it just keeps surprising you as you get deeper into the tale of the Mutiny and a side note when you walk out and find yourself so surprised ..especially if you never saw people coming out in the first place. All In All fantastic run of an amazingly themed attraction.
Freakshow: Toxic Junkyard
Well… where the bloody hell do we start with this attraction other than saying it has to be seen to be believed. No words can honestly do justice to the absolute perfection of this maze. It’s rare to say when reviewing a scare maze that there is nothing we would change but that is exactly the sentiment the entire group shared. We were just stunned at how amazing F: TJ was. Honestly, the best way to go about reviewing this maze is keeping it as spoiler-free as possible because you really don’t want any clue of the kind of crazed, psychotic, twisted, psychedelic, pure madness within. Literally from entering the F: TJ ever member of our group of 4 was getting actor interaction. The theming is just so much more than a junkyard to what we can only describe as if Pennywise went into a kids play area on acid and watched SAW for inspiration. This attraction just keeps going and going and surprising and making you laugh one minute and run the next. Dan even said it might actually take his top spot from The Sanctuary and we all know how he feels about The Sanctuary. Our first run was in daylight and we were blown away but going on a night run is something that has to be experienced at least once in your life. The ending will make you run and F: TJ will keep you guessing yet never knowing what to expect next and we for one hope it becomes a mainstay on the Scarefest line up.
A quick note to Garden Lights Walk: Whispering Souls. Although we did not enter the gardens to experience due to time constraints and concerns about certain guests on park. “We all know what that means” We chose not to visit, However, what you can see from many vantage points is so much work has been put into really bringing the gardens to life and we hope that this becomes a resident addition that really brings another level of class to Alton Towers.
To close this review in all honesty no maze was bad as such because we did have fun even in the lower-rated but when compared with the absolute insane powerhouse that is Freakshow: Toxic Junkyard they just seem to fall in effect, Although this might seem like a criticism it really isn’t because it shows a direction that Scarefest is still capable of and heading to regardless of the holdbacks of COVID. We cant wait to get back to Scarefest and even more back into Barb Dywyers Reclaim Yard for more Toxic Junkyard Insanity! Well Done to the entire team, Be it Actors, Hosts or even just operatives. You all came together and really made Scarefest special in a time where it was needed most!