Attraction Review: Broadwitch Hauntfest

Alongside my staple go-to events, every spooky season I try to visit as many new-for-me attractions as humanly possible. This year it so happens that the majority of those are abroad, but I have managed to squeeze in one new UK event too - Broadwitch Hauntfest! As y'all know, I use the Scar Awards to figure out where would be good for me to go and for the past few years this smaller Kent based attraction has popped up time and time again. In the 2018 awards it was nominated for both Best Street Team and Best Scream Park, so it felt high time for me to finally experience it for myself!

The Best Street Team nomination is 100% deserved. From the minute we stepped foot onto property we were constantly harassed. There is absolutely no getting away from these guys - they'll follow you into the queuelines, sit at your table whilst you're eating and wait for you at the exit of the mazes to give you an extra scare. The level of acting and interaction is just wonderful too - it's not just people running up to you and going 'boo'. They'll stand with you for ages just ad libbing and riffing off of one another and it really is just so fantastic and entertaining to be part of. Fantastic stuff! Oh, and tread carefully, a few of the naughtier ones are known to carry silly string and are not afraid to use it (we saw a kid literally fall to the floor and get covered in the stuff after being attacked by some clowns haha!)

Onto the attractions themselves then! As always, I've graded these on a curve. It makes no sense to compare a maze at Broadwitch Hauntfest with a maze at Halloween Horror Nights and I don't think one can really appreciate these attractions for what they are if you hold them to impossible standards. Let's get stuck in!

I've said it once and I'll say it again, I'm no coulrophobe, so creepy circus themes don't really do anything for me. That said, my love of the weird and kitsch and wonderful means I do have a certain penchant for a freak show theme. Understandably it's a bit of a touchy content subject where political correctness is concerned, so it's not a theme you often see explored here in the UK so I was excited to see what Thirteen Freaks had in store! Approaching the maze I was delighted to see the exterior plastered in vintage Coney Island style freak show posters, which really got my excitement levels pumping.

Inside I was astounded to note the level of theming and detail. The outside of the building, you see, is essentially a glorified shed so I was in no way expecting it to look as fabulous as it did inside. If you've seen American Horror Story: Freak Show you'll get a good vibe for the kind of thing Broadwitch have gone for here. Everything was just on the right side of twisted and macabre, with some excellent and clever scares thrown in for good measure: a crane grabber machine with some possessed toys within, an amazing mirror fake out scare plus an awesome strobe-light-plus-lizard-girl sequence. Just so wonderfully imaginative, creepy and downright weird - right up my street. Probably my favourite maze of this genre I've ever done.

Oh I love me a good pun so we were off to a good start on the name alone here. From what I could glimpse from the queueline this was a corn maze based attraction, which speaks straight to the Octoberphile in my soul. Anything vaguely pumpkin/harvest/corn/scarecrow related and you have my attention. What was fantastic about MassAcre was that it was country bumpkin inhabited but with a twist - they weren't American hillbillies, they were British farmers complete with fabulous West Country accents. Love it! There wasn't much lighting in this one so a lot of the terror came from having to wander, pretty much isolated from the rest of the park, through almost pitch dark cornfields trying to decipher which scarecrows were going to pop to life and give you a heart attack at any moment.

The Britishness of this maze made me love it all the more - why try and do American when we have all we need right here to pull off something far more authentic? Stand out scares for me were the grotesque bunny in the hutch out back, a giant grassy/moss creature properly getting all of us as we crept through the greenhouse and the chainsaw dude finale who let Conor and I escape but decided to hold Ben back by himself for that final bit of impact. Great stuff.

The Edge was next with its serving of spooky vampires and gore. Using shipping containers as a base, this maze did a very good job of simulating dank crypts stacked high with coffins and even a demon infested chapel scene - again it's incredible what the Broadwitch team have managed to do with these spaces and how they've transformed them into being so immersive and detailed. The darkness of the containers combined with the great set design and theming leads to a really creepy and claustrophobic feel throughout, meaning you find yourself very hesitant to turn the corner into the next scene fearful of what might be waiting for you on the other side.

Again, some fantastic scares here! The scene with the car crashed into the side of it is particularly clever - you're so distracted by the car and how it managed to smash its way into the side of the bloody scene that you completely bypass the fact that there's a vampire crouching on top of the thing waiting to pounce on you! Oh, and the final scare in the hospital scene is really great, really didn't see it coming and I absolutely shit myself.

With a name like Spooky Castle you'll forgive me for thinking that this one might have been on the tamer side. In fact, it was the complete opposite! I know I'm getting repetitive with this, but my god what they've managed to do and create with this space is absolutely magnificent. The storyline of this one is really interesting and makes for some really unique scares and visuals - essentially it's set in 1940 and some naughty teenagers break into the long abandoned castle to play with a ouija board - thus unleashing the Victorian ghosties. And it's so much fun - typical Victorian haunted house goodness complete with creaking wardrobes, terrifying visions appearing on the walls and spooky ghostly children.

The best part for my by far though was the air raid ending. As you exit the castle you see a giant unexploded bomb has landed and you're rushed into the Anderson shelter before it sets off. There's something just so unnerving and sinister about the sound of those air raid sirens and I do love a bit of a WW2 theme in a haunt - massively underused and so something of a novelty when we do get it as a rare treat.

It would be so easy for a farm based park to stick to more rustic themes and essentially use found items from around the place to create their haunts. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with attractions that do do that, but there has to be an extra second of appreciation to take when parks like Broadwitch create something like Biometrix Sub Zero. Essentially what we have is a Terminator situation set in a very sci-fi vision of the future where an army of scientifically enhanced soldiers are turned against their creators. The vision and premise is utterly fantastic, and once again the theming is absolutely without fault. It's very clear what is happening, that we're in some kind of military/experimental base and that shit is going down. The lab rooms are particularly fantastic, all tubing and ExtraTerrorestrial style broken glass and fog. Atmospherically terrifying.

The let down for me with this attraction was that there weren't really any scares in it for us, which was a shame. I partly put that down to the group in front of us being extra extra slow (we tried to hold back and give them a sec to get ahead but we always ended up catching them up) but the actors in here didn't much? Whereas all the other attractions were very high energy the Biometrix team were very slow and spent more time staring at us or playing with our hair than actually scaring? Maybe it's because I've built up a slight bit of immunity for this kind of thing but sadly, despite its awesome theming and premise, Biometrix didn't do it for me.

After our visit it's easy to see why Broadwitch Hauntfest is so praised at the Scar Awards. Being a smaller event, it's not one I see myself visiting year in year out, but if you enjoy detailed set design, interesting use of space and parks just having fun with innovative scares then definitely check this one out!

Talk later xoxo,