Attraction Review: Avonturenpark Hellendoorn Screams

As much as I obviously adore our haunts here in the UK and Orlando was an absolute blast, I do think that the European horror attractions are the best in the world. I think there's a level of genuine fear from European attractions that you just don't get with UK/US events. I'll be honest, I think that's because European parks are known for being slightly 'wild' when it comes to health and safety stuff. There's a lot of things in parks over there that you would just NEVER see over here or in the US, and when it comes to Halloween that is amplified. Like I feel a genuine terror in the European mazes and for me that just heightens my fear and enjoyment of them throughout. I just love 'em. So, every spooky season I always make sure I book a trip to try out some new and exciting European Halloween events, which this year took me to the fabulous Avonturenpark Hellendoorn for their Screams event!

I'd been to Hellendoorn one time before, but on a cred run. It was actually during Halloween and we saw the park all decked out with spooky scarecrows and pumpkins and then and there we swore that we would one day return to experience the event in full. And that's precisely what we did! Hellendoorn's Screams is one of the biggest Halloween events in the Netherlands and includes three haunted houses and seven scare zones spanning the entire park. Honestly, the way they categorise 'scare zones' and 'haunted houses' is slightly odd - some of the zones took place inside buildings or attractions and some of the upcharge 'houses' were outside. So slightly confusing, but that's me being really picky.

On top of the houses and scare zones there's also a ton of actors just hanging out around the park. It's not a huge attraction so it's very easy to bump into spooky vampires or serial killers or insane clowns. Their style of 'scaring' again to me was quite weird. They wouldn't jump suddenly in your face or make a loud noise, they'd just kind of stand unnervingly close to you and stare at you? I guess it's just because it's different to what I'm used to but I found it more uncomfortable and weird than scary - the locals seemed sufficiently freaked out though so I guess that's what matters!

Anyway, I'll take you through all the haunts in the order we experienced them. Here we go!

We started our night with the first of three paid for 'haunted houses' in dark forest, a spooky walk through the woods that actually took you off of park property! The name didn't lie, it was a forest, and it was dark. I was extremely tense going into this as it was absolutely pitch black. You know earlier when I said 'never in the UK' type things being a thing at European parks? This was one of those. You literally couldn't see where you were walking and it felt like we were wandering down a dark path for ages before we reached the actual attraction.

Such a strange one. On one hand it was extremely atmospheric to go creeping through the woods in the dark. The ambience was truly very spooky, but being in the woods at night just is do I don't think this maze can win any creative points there? Some of the scares were fantastic - the actors were literally crept down in dug out 'graves' and would leap at your feet as you passed. Trouble is, when it's that dark you can't see a lot, so the scares were slightly diluted. There was also no rhyme or reason to the scares. You had spooky grave jumpers, which is fab, then there were weird people in trees plus...chainsaws? Sure? All very odd and non-sensical, and in the end the lack of lighting just made the whole thing slightly boring. A great idea, just would hope for a slightly tighter narrative and just a few technical lighting/sound changes to amplify it.

We just kind of stumbled across this one after seeing a creepy nun staring at us from behind a glass panel, and waited no time at all before heading inside. The whole thing was essentially a possessed convent, full of terrifying Valak style nuns and priests. And they were bloody terrifying. The scares here were so extreme that I jumped out of my skin on multiple occasions - one got me so bad that it shocked Conor and he said he'd never seen me shit myself as much in my life, so they must have been doing something right! Honestly, it's one of the scariest mazes I've ever done because, though the scares were sparse, they were so extreme when they did happen that they literally took my breath away.

This maze only loses points for theming. Much of this attraction was just long, black corridors interwoven with a handful of themed scenes. If this attraction were fully themed throughout to help uplift the already top level scare acting then this could easily be a contender for best in the world in my opinion.

The second paid for haunt of the night brought us to Death Lab - a maze taking you through a pop up First Aid tent treating some kind of horrifically infected individuals. Although it's obvious this has been done on a budget, that didn't stop the attraction being absolutely excellent. It very much reminded me of Thorpe Fright Nights circa 2010 with its rough around the edges and not afraid to be over the top intense vibe. 

The whole thing was utterly gruesome and unnerving - you wandered from tent to tent through rotten, blood spattered wards with sickly and twisted patients grabbing at you and through quarantined windowed cells containing some poor infected soul. Having the actors press up against the transparent materials and grab for you just inches from your face was truly horrifying - I loved it!

For me Death Lab is proof that you don't need massive budgets or overly complicated/original concepts to create a great scare attraction. This maze was just good, old fashioned fake blood, hospital sheets and fog machines and the end result is perfection.

The Ring may well be one of my favourite Halloween attractions of all time. So why has it only got three pumpkins I hear you cry? Well, I just couldn't bring myself to give an attraction that is literally a fog filled white marquee pumping EDM music any more than that. I'm not kidding - that's literally what this attraction was. Weird thing was, the signage for the 'maze' used the movie IP branding, so we were expecting something maybe along those lines? Nope. Tent, fog, strobe, EDM music - that's your lot.

And honestly it's some of the most fun I've ever had in a Halloween attraction. You might recall me gushing about a fabulous room in The Colony at Tulleys Shocktoberfest which was essentially a stark white room filled with so much fog that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face with creepy gasmask dudes emerging from the mist. That's pretty much what The Ring had going for it in terms of scares - the combination of fog+strobe+heavy music meant you were completely disoriented, so when an actor did emerge and go boo it really did catch you off guard and make you shit yourself. 

The last of the paid for houses was up next, the Horror Hotel! The facade of this did a fantastic job of disguising just how huge this maze was, and the massive staircase leading down to the cellar where our journey began. The whole thing was slightly ropey I'll be honest. It really wasn't clear which way we were supposed to be going and on more than one occasion we went completely the wrong way and even ended up in a utility cupboard at one point! The maze is exactly what you'd imagine from a haunted hotel themed attraction - a series of rooms themed to gross stuff, covered in cobwebs with some viles smells, sights and sounds pumped in for good measure. Standard stuff but fun all the same.

Horror Hotel for me gets brownie points for its fabulous elevator scene. The creepy ghoul staring at us through the window of the elevator door from the shaft was extremely unnerving and really creeped me out - great effect!

This was a very strange attraction - the whole thing was put together by some heras fencing all chained together, so not the most themed attraction you ever did see. But what the park have done here is make great use of their resources - in this instance some abandoned play equipment. And it would have been very easy to just go down the 'creepy children' route for the actors' looks in this attraction, but instead the park have decided to go completely mad instead.

 Haunted Playground included some of the most innovative characters I've ever seen in a maze - the stand outs for me being the ball-pit man whose entire outfit was made up of plastic ball pit balls, allowing him to camouflage perfectly into his ball pit for maximum scare opportunities and the cuddly toy fiend, a gal who has brutally massacred a bunch of teddy bears and wears their skin as a mask. Lovely. 

Y'all know I love me a crappy boat ride - so give me a spooky crappy boat ride and I'm all yours! Jungle Attack was perfect and exactly what you'd imagine it to be - a boat ride through some jungle theming with added actors who jump out at you at every opportunity to scare you whilst you travel upstream. The attraction begins with a crashed plane and some desperate looking travellers pleading for your help, so I guess the theme is you've gotten lost in the jungle and now the natives are after you? No idea, but there is something particularly vulnerable about sitting in a slow moving vehicle in the dark knowing some beast is going to jump out on you at any given moment. I guess it's the fact that you can't get away and kind of just have to passively sit there and let the scares descend upon you. It was fab.

Bloody Underground was actually something we'd experienced the last time we came to Hellendoorn, and not an experience I would easily forget! Again, this attraction is a great example of the park using their assets to their advantage, and if you had a creepy queueline that takes you through a dank, dripping sewer then of COURSE you're going to pump that thing full of fog and throw some scare actors in there - it's an absolute given!

Honestly I don't know why we don't see more 'sewer' themed horror attractions, they're so much fun and have so many opportunities to be horrifying. There's the gross out factor of just being in a sewer, the darkness, the claustrophobia of it all, rats, the list goes on and on. Bloody Underground is also an absolute expert in the 'spooky silhouette ahead' scare which you can get a little taste of in my vlog. So creepy and atmospheric!

Ah, another heras fencing maze, this time on a sandpit too! Seriously some of these mazes were so ropey, you can't help but laugh. What awaited us in Zombie Escape was actually something very similar to Do or Die at FRIGHT NIGHTS this season - essentially there's been a zombie outbreak and you have to manoeuvre your way past burnt out cars, banged up old oil drums and fencing to escape the undead. I think if I weren't so burned out from zombies this year I would have enjoyed this a lot more, but it was still fun anyway.

The best thing for me here was the use of fire effects (again, never in the UK!) We had to weave our way unnervingly close to vehicles that might set on fire at any moment and at one point turned a corner to find ourselves face to face with a full blown firebreather all dressed up in his diesel-punk get up. I don't know why fire makes these things better, but it does, so more spooky points there!

Our final attraction of the night was Freak Circus, which as you might have guessed from the name, was themed to a spooky freak show. And, say it with me now, I don't find clowns scary so I wasn't remotely freaked out by the premise of this one. Freak Circus was actually quite innovative, and another example of the park maximising their assets. Set inside the park's theatre, the ramps in and out of the main auditorium were used as the 'maze' portion of this attraction - having to weave in and out of hanging circus tent drapes to discover a new weird and wonderful freak behind each. 

When you reached the main stage we were told by a creepy magician dude to take a seat before being treated to a definitely-not-streamed-straight-from-YouTube screening of the infamous short horror film Lights Out - accompanied with live effects and actors. Awesome! I love things like this that think outside the box and explore alternative ways to scare audiences without sending you through a marquee full of actors. Fabulous stuff!

My god - ten attractions! Luckily we managed to get around all of them but there's seriously no arguing that Hellendoorn's Screams is a really fantastic Halloween event. It's by no means polished or high budget, but it is home to some of the more unique, enjoyable and ultimately terrifying Halloween attractions I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing! Definitely stop by if you're ever in the Netherlands at this time of year, it's not one to be missed.

Talk later xoxo,