Attraction Review - Alton Towers Scarefest

I know I shouldn't say this, but as I've gotten older Scarefest has overtaken FRIGHT NIGHTS as my favourite Halloween event. That's not to say FRIGHT NIGHTS isn't fab, but there's definitely an extra air of hocus-pocussy gloom that comes with the setting of the Towers that you just can't replicate at Thorpe. Wandering through the grounds of the park after dark, with the rides and beautiful surroundings all lit up with spooky lighting and fog is definitely my happy place. It's what I think of when somebody says the word 'Halloween'.

So it's always one of my most anticipated events of the season and this year was no different. For us southerners, Alton is always a bit of a trek but I always find that just builds more anticipation. I was super eager to get stuck into old favourites as well as the new SW8 tie-in attraction The Welcoming: Be Chosen. Scarefest, like Thorpe in many ways, steers clear from your more stereotypical themes when it comes to scare attractions and The Welcoming is the latest that follows that tradition.

Anyway, we always rock up about midday for Scarefest. We've done the park a million times and don't need hours and hours to ride everything when really all we're visiting for is horror mazes and fabulous coasters in the dark. Crowds are always super manageable at Alton during Scarefest and this year was no different - it was actually the quietest I've seen the event in a long while. Not that we were complaining - we managed to get every big coaster, all the horror attractions and loads of other bits in between done with time to spare!

I always love Towers Street littered with its pumpkin paraphernalia and spooky characters. Again, it's something I synonimise with Halloween and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I wander down towards the Towers themselves listening to the creepy music playing overhead.

Usually I'm a creature of habit when it comes to visiting UK parks, but on this visit for some reason we slithered over to the X-Sector to kick off our day. Oblivion is always a staple for me and one of my favourite coasters in the UK, but on the way over we took advantage of something we're not used to - Smiler with a practically walk on queue! I'm not a huge fan of inversions but I do secretly love The Smiler and its airtime hill of joy. In my opinion the whole ride is worth it just for that moment.

Oblivion next, and again walk on due to the coaster operating with four trains. Yay! Not as much oomph on the drop for our first ride of the day but to be fair it was still warming up so we let it off.

Our maze tickets kicked off from 2.15PM - a little early technically what with the sun not setting just yet but honestly the main three mazes are inside the Towers themselves and so pitch black inside that it actually doesn't matter - in some ways it's actually beneficial which I'll explain in a sec.

Back for its second year of fiendish debauchery, Altonville Mine Tours: Uncover the Legend of the Skin Snatchers reopened its creaky old gates to us once again. I friggin' love the concept of this attraction. It's just SO dark - with the generic hick-American-town vibe at the start of the attraction this could quite easily veer off into sadistic hillbilly territory, but what you actually get is a much more wicked beast entirely.

Some of the imagery once inside really is grotesque - it always gives me Rob Zombie/Jeepers Creepers vibes. More grindhouse grungy video nasty horror than cheesy Halloween horror maze. It's also got some really impressive working set pieces in the elevator and mine shafts, and it's these added extras that really help to elevate the attraction as a whole.

So yes, it's fab. But sadly for us on our run through we were grouped with some idiots who kept leading the group down actor corridors. Like yes, I understand it's dark and disorientating but when you're face to face with a dry ice machine and there's a massive sign saying VISITORS DO NOT ENTER it's a pretty good sign that something has gone wrong. Actually, thinking about it those guests never did rejoin the group once we doubled back. Maybe the legend is true after all (mwahaha, etc.)

I'm going to be honest here, when I saw that Terror of the Towers was joining the Scarefest line-up YET AGAIN I did do a bit of an eyeroll. This attraction has returned year after year since 2002 in various forms and I kind of couldn't see what more life could be squeezed out of this one.

Well, turns out if you do it early in the day and there's a small group of four of you it's absolutely pant-pissingly terrifying. We got absolutely hounded by the actors the entire way around, there wasn't a dead moment with any step we took and familiar corridors lined with monks in cloaks and open windows blowing menacingly suddenly took on an entirely creepier vibe. Also, turns out that when you're the only four people in the final strobe light room a LOT more attention is paid to you. It was relentless and vile and I loved it.

I was commenting, slightly regretfully as I descended down the stone staircase to my doom that Sub Species is one of the few horror mazes that I've previously experienced to still 'get' me every time I do it. And this year was no exception. I had actual sweaty palms as we were grouped off and sent off to be hunted.

I absolutely ADORE this theme. I love me some sci-fi horror mash-ups and this is such an innovative and clever way to bring such a theme to life. The theming is fantastic, especially in the first room with the staggered TV screens looking like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. I always get separated from my group, I always end up staggering around blindly in the dark, I always shit myself, and I always have a good time. Would have been nice to see some slight changes for this year, but honestly that's just me nit-picking.

And now onto the new-for-me stuff. Last year we skipped on House of Monsters because we were under the assumption it was for kiddies. And yh, it is, but after it receiving rave reviews last year we were excited to try for ourselves. If you've ever visited Shrek's Adventure or any of the Dungeons attractions you can get a pretty good idea what kind of thing to expect from this one.

Themed to urban exploring a creepy old house with a monster-hunting vlogger, House of Monsters takes you through a series of challenges with a selection of different monsters, with a slightly modern twist. Oh, and they've all got American accents for some reason. But you'll forgive the awkward accents because the show is just so fab. It's tongue in cheek and goofy, sure, but in a camp, kitschy enjoyable way that means you're willing to overlook the cringe. I mean, who doesn't love rockabilly Frankenstein or a camp fashionista Wolfman? Exactly.

Plus there's some really fun theming in there too for those of you who like that sort of thing. Especially the definitely-not-Audrey II-from-Little-Shop-Of-Horrors animatronic plant. One thing I will say is that it ends with a mini-horror maze that is actually really scary and lots of the younger kids in our group left crying, so something to be wary of if you're planning on taking any little ones with you.

Saving the newest til last, our time to Be Chosen for The Welcoming hit just as the sun was going down - and I would definitely recommend doing this maze after dark as many of the scenes are open aired. Tying in with SW8 and what we can all be pretty sure is a theme of human sacrifice if the storyline of the maze is anything to pay attention to, The Welcoming sees you joining in with the rituals of a pagan festival, complete with fire, weird folksy dancing, chanting in unknown languages and more fire.

It looks incredible. Every scene is extremely detailed and even the 'garden fences' that I've seen many people moan about are all actually themed with little roofing details adorned with antlers and such. The main stage as you enter the first large stage has a huge skeleton upon it and little jets of fire here and there. All overlaid with a creepy Summerisle-inspired soundtrack and you've got definite Wicker Man we-know-something-you-don't-know vibes. Enthusiasts and anybody who has been paying attention to the fab SW8 marketing campaign will also have noticed the secret messages hidden throughout the attraction - a nice touch and great for continuing to build anticipation for the new-for-2018 wooden coaster.

And then add to that the characters. For some reason topless men with straw covering their faces is ridiculously unnerving. It's all just so unsettling and weird. Rosemary's Baby is one of my favourite films of all time and I left this attraction with the same sense of unease that that movie left me with.

One thing I will say I was disappointed with is the lack of actual human sacrifice (probably the first time that sentence has ever been written lol). With the whole bags-on-heads bit (pleasantly surprised to find this was NOT the whole through!) I was absolutely convinced these would be whipped off to reveal we were the victims of a human sacrifice about to be burned alive. But sadly, it was not to be. Human sacrifice blue balls, that's what I had.

I really enjoyed The Welcoming and kudos to Alton for doing something different. As much as I love a stereotypical walk-down-a-creepy-corridor-whilst-actors-go-boo style horror maze, with The Welcoming it seems that Alton have taken more inspiration from the increasingly popular immersive theatre style attractions. Much wider pathways, more 'stages', more time to soak in the action and performance as opposed to an actor growling in your face, and overall the creation of a spectacle of horror rather than the standard cheap jump scares. It was something entirely different, and I enjoyed it. Even if it didn't shit me up as much as the others.

We ended our visit to Scarefest with some rides in the dark in the drizzly rain (boo, ruining my fabulous autumnal vibes!) and a wander through the Freak Show Scare Zone towards the exit. Honestly, this won't go down as one of my all time favourite visits to Scarefest. The damp weather and quieter crowds meant that some of the spooky atmosphere was lost and as much as I love unlimited rerides to my heart's content on Nemesis, I did miss standing in the queuline and soaking it all in. But I guess that's what Fireworks is for!

Talk later xoxo,