Attraction Review: Horror at Hinchingbrooke House

Another new-for-me Halloween event in 2019, Horror at Hinchingbrooke House is a themed, multi-part scare experience set in the regal and rumoured to be haunted grounds of Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. This even came with a reputation that preceded it - pretty much every other vlogger, blogger and scare/haunt enthusiast I follow who has done this event has said it is nothing short of utterly terrifying, with some even proclaiming it to be the scariest horror attraction in the UK. So you can see why I was stoked to finally experience this gem for myself.

As with Scaresville, this attraction doesn't consist of several bigger, separate mazes on one property but instead sends guests on a haunted trail through several terrifying scenes including some extremely recognisable horror icons and franchises. The setting of Hinchingbrooke House does wonders in setting the scenes. You enter the estate through a huge, real stone gateway into the courtyard to be met face to face with the looming building all lit up in an ominous green glow. For those who get the reference, it reminded me a lot of The Haunting. The way the house is lit from the outside gives the impression that the house is a living entity itself who is inflicting this evil upon us, and the sense of foreboding for what our evening would hold was a great one and something I haven't experienced at other locations. It's an incredible setting for a scare event!

And as HaHH is different in its setup, I'll be framing this review as per the Scaresville review and instead focus on talking through sets, actors and scares before giving my overall thoughts and feelings as opposed to breaking down each scene. And as always, spoilers will follow so bugger off if you don't want things to be spoiled for you!

As described above, the setting of the house itself does much of the work here and oozes creepy haunted house vibes from that alone. But what's really clever in the initial scenes inside the house is the team behind the event use the existing architecture and interior design to their advantage. With just a few walls put up inside the rooms we're transported through the worlds of AHS: Roanoke, Poltergeist, classic Universal Monsters and the Terrifier to name a few. Perhaps my favourite was the Universal Monsters scene through what I'm guessing is a real library in the house. Having the electrified machine holding Frankenstein's monster against a backdrop of real leather bound books and heavy drapes really set off the tone of the scene which was absolutely wonderful!

And even more impressive than the house itself was the use of the corridors and classrooms of an adjacent school building. It was so creepy having to open the damn door of a seemingly abandoned school and wander down long empty corridors - there's something inherently creepy about being inside a school building outside of hours anyway so to use this as the setting for a scare event is pure genius! The characters and sets here were a little more mish-mash than back in the house and I found it a little hard to determine what each one was, but that didn't mean they were any less terrifying. I loved wandering through the 'Creepypasta' scenes and coming face to face with Momo (vile!) - makes perfect sense for these kinds of characters to be present in the school scenes given their internet/meme status which I think just elevated their spookiness. I think what made these sets so effective were the long corridors with each classroom peeling off. Having to walk past so many windows wondering which one was going to showcase something awful was absolutely horrific.

Unfortunately during our visit it was a tad windy so the outdoor sets were affected slightly given many of them are in tents/use sheets as scene dividers. The grounds of Hinchingbrooke House are pretty huge meaning there was a ton of space for several tents and scenes throughout - I couldn't believe how long we kept going for! The Evil Dead scene was one of my favourites as the use of some great soundtracks and signage nods gave the game away to any fan of that franchise which I was super keen on. But honestly, the reason Hinchingbrooke House is so notorious is not for its set design so I was surprised to see how differentiated many of them were. As this is a smaller event it would be unfair to expect large budgets to be spent on set dressing etc but despite being on the lower budget end of the scare event spectrum HaHH certainly doesn't lack in atmosphere or immersion for it.

Here's where the fun begins - I'd heard quite a bit about the actors at HaHH and how they're easily some of the most intense and aggressive (in a good way) you'll find in the UK. It was the thought of meeting these guys that made me so nervous and excited about visiting in the first place. Creeping from room to room inside the house was vile in itself as I was the sucker leading our group, but entering the first room to be faced with a nurse wielding a butchers knife running directly for me and screaming was absolutely horrific. I screamed so fucking loud I think I even made Conor jump. And it is absolutely relentless the entire way through, and this whole experience lasts around an hour so you're absolutely exhausted with fear by the end of it.

I was also impressed by how the actors wearing masks really made them work to their advantage. Many a time I've seen actors adorning masks relying too heavily on the mask to do all the scaring for them, but in HaHH the mask is used to amplify the terror of the overall performance as opposed to being a crutch for lazy jump scares. Their movements and actions match the expression of the mask and character they're portraying and the result is pure immersion - it really felt like I was wandering through a circus tent with the Terrifier or fleeing the half pig-man from AHS: Roanoke, brilliantly terrifying stuff!

When they say the actors will touch you they are not kidding - I've never been man-handled like this outside of a self-proclaimed 'extreme' attraction such as the Face It Alones that Thorpe used to do or Psychomanteum at Scare Kingdom. My hair was pulled, my neck was grabbed, I was held tightly by the sides of my shoulders and shaken, I was slammed against walls, I was put in an armlock. I was split from my group and frog-marched to separate sections of the attraction, held back and terrorised and everything else in between. And the mix of acting levels is so excellent too - you have the extreme as I've just described to the super creepy as found in the school, with ghostly children lingering dreamily for you to walk by. There's elegance in the dancing ballerina toys in Chucky's toy factory and extreme violence in the Purge section. The range is absolutely outstanding and always keeps you on your toes throughout - there's a danger with a huge walkthrough attraction like this of becoming too accustomed to the attraction's scare style and training and having its effectiveness wear off after a while. Not the case here - you literally never know what you're going to get around each corner and it's brilliant!

Probably my favourite actor interactions at HaHH came from those wielding chainsaws. Given how many of these things I've done it would be very easy for me to be bored of chainsaws by now and to be honest I am starting to lean that way (although I do try my best not to let myself become too accustomed to them). This attraction was the first time I've ever experienced the actors actually pressing the chainsaw to my skin and it was absolutely horrendous - the sensation of that petrol-fuelled vibration is absolutely chilling and has your internal monologue screaming to get the fuck away immediately. It's incredibly adrenaline pumping and even had me running in sections - something I usually outright refuse to do.

I think it's fair to say that as the actors at HaHH are so damn strong it makes sense that much of the drama and scares are relied on to be delivered by them. I may be wrong so apologies if I am remembering incorrectly, but I do not think we experienced any tech-lead or triggered set gags throughout the entire attractions. But like I say, that's just not the style of this place so it's not something that negatively effected our experience.

The scares throughout were fantastic though - some really fabulous misdirection paving the way for some excellent jump scares. The actors really knew how to manipulate and maximise the use of the strobe lighting meaning the long periods of darkness experienced through the attraction were absolutely vile. Being at the front of the group a lot of the focus was on me and I adored the interaction I received with actors who would take me by the hand and lead my down corridors, hide in the dark and jump out on me or get up close to me and force me to squeeze my way past. It's not all about jump scares though, atmospheric scares helped fill the space throughout each scene paving the way for the perfect platform for jump scares to punctuate each scene, like icing on a cake.

 So, did Horror at Hinchingbrooke House live up to its reputation of being absolutely fucking vile? Yes. Yes it does. Bloody terrifying and some of the biggest screams I've screamed at any Halloween event in 2019. It's brilliant, horrific fun and the perfect event for anybody looking to experience some next level scares but who may not be time rich enough to visit an all-day or all-evening event. If you're looking for a high dose of terror to be delivered in a shorter amount of time than most events of this type, Horror at Hinchingbrooke House is for you. 

Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

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