Attraction Review: Scaresville - The Haunted Village

Photo of Scaresville Flaming Sign
Yay, the first new-for-me Halloween event of 2019 and as always with these things it's one I've had my eye on visiting for a while now. Scaresville is a haunted village that mysteriously appears in the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk every October according to their website, and was nominated for the 'Best Multi-Part Scream Event' Scar Award in 2019. Basically being based in the south of England this was a haunt I'd been hearing increasingly more about as the years have gone on so this year I decided to finally bite the bullet and get my butt over there!

Photo of Scaresville Skull Bike

Photo of Scaresville
An interesting thing to note for me about Scaresville is that it isn't the traditional kind of scream park I'm used to with a few separate mazes across a farm or field. Instead it's one long trail set across the entire Kentwell Hall estate with various scares and scenes along the way, and so in that aspect I'm having to do my review slightly differently to how I usually would. So instead of giving my standard 'scary pumpkin' rating as I would for each horror maze I'm going to break the event down into its various aspects and rate those instead, which will hopefully result in a clear and concisely communicated opinion from me but I literally make these things up as I go along, so who knows! Anyway, on to the review.

It's always intriguing pulling up to an event I haven't been to before as similarly to how I approach new parks and coasters I tend not to do too much research into what lays ahead for me as I like things to be a surprise. That said, this review will indeed contain spoilers so bear that in mind before reading on!

So the way Scaresville works is you do the whole trail in groups of up to ten, and while you wait for your allocated time slot you get to hang out in the Unfairground. Something to note here is that unfortunately due to the horrific weather some of the power supply had been affected for our visit. The team were tracking about 30 minutes behind which we were kept aware of multiple times throughout the time we were waiting our turn which was really great of the team. The rest of the attraction was able to get back up and running but unfortunately the Unfairground wasn't as lit up and active as it would usually have been. But nevertheless we had a fun time hanging out in this area, interacting with the roaming scare actors including a truly creepy Alice who sauntered around looking away with the fairies and staring with a glazed expression on her face! There were also a bunch of cute photo-opportunities and sideshow games for us to entertain ourselves with while we waited which we took full advantage of! The hostess of the area was also super fun too, calling out random horror movie themed questions in exchange for sweets or drinks vouchers.

Photo of Scaresville Scary AlicePhoto of Scaresville Scary Alice
The way this whole area operated was great. Having timed slots with such small groups could easily have been a disaster and ended up with people getting irritated waiting for their turn, but the way Scaresville distracted us with the games and live entertainment meant that the Unfairground becomes less of a stop-gag and more an integral part of the whole event experience. Our time there was certainly enhanced by the fun we had hanging out in this section and I think due to the non-stop nature of the attraction proper it could have felt slightly unplayed without the Unfairground. Like I say, we didn't get to experience this area in its true glory due to the technical issues but it was a fun time nonetheless and I could certainly see this being a 4 or 5 pumpkin experience if it was in full show mode!

Photo of Scaresville Unfairground

Photo of Scaresville Wheel of Misfortune

The sets throughout Scaresville are fantastic fun throughout and really go out of their way to maximise their assets. They do not try to communicate a theme that would be unobtainable on the smaller budgets these kind of events operate on and they're all the more effective for it. But just because the setting is rustic does not mean for one second that we don't get a full breadth of different horrific scenes to enjoy. In fact quite the opposite - many of the sets we wandered through during the event were very much leaning towards the surreal end of the spectrum which is something that really caught me off guard. One of the first sets we entered was a Roswell/Area 51 style alien autopsy scene which communicated the sci-fi vibes through the use of UV paint and medical-style set pieces. Something the event really use to their advantage here are the bare brick walls - combined with the Bioshock style costumes/masks of the actors in this section the resulting effect is really creepy and unsettling - like Jack the Ripper meets Plan 9 From Outer Space!

Following this we entered another really disorienting space with a Babadook style creature within - the whole space feels distorted and warped. It reminded me a lot of that scene from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the room gradually gets smaller and smaller. Incredibly claustrophobic and bewildering which disturbs the senses and perception allowing for a more effective scare when the moment was just right. I adored this room, it was like being inside a music video from The Cure and I was marvelling at the effective use of scenic work and how such a simple idea could have such a huge impact in terms of delivering an unnerving atmosphere for a scare.

The last set I'd like to mention here is the clown/carnival scene. Yes, I know that this isn't the most original of themes but hey, people are scared of clowns so I'm by no means against going after a crowd-pleaser! What caught be by surprise here was how it felt so realistic - before entering the indoor 'funhouse' section of the attraction we wander through caravans and dressing rooms that truly feel like we're wandering around backstage of a circus that's just rocked into town. And again, that's a huge benefit from using actual 'found' items as opposed to trying to recreate those items with theming - the result is a gritty, horrific realism that only serves to add an extra layer of dread to the scene. It felt like wandering through a real horror movie set and the set-dressing was impeccable - very impressive!

Onto something a little more difficult for me to critique. I appreciate that all attractions tend to have a very different style in what they want their actors to deliver in terms of experience. What I will absolutely praise here again were the roaming actors we encountered in the Unfairground section. These guys were so much fun - interactive, exciting and scary. I also really enjoyed the Captain-Spaulding-but-not ringleader dude who introduced us to the attraction proper. Very dry, very Essex (which I very much appreciated!) and very much set the tone for the kind of experience we were about to endure. Again, the gritty realism of this character set a great atmosphere for us to begin our journey.

From here on out we found the actors to be very hit and miss - some were fantastic and had really effective, well-rounded characters with motives and storylines. The mad dentist we encountered really felt wild and out of control, like we were in the presence of a truly dangerous maniac. The post-apocalyptic warriors who loomed down over us when we found ourselves in some kind of fighting pit were super aggressive and scary, yelling at us and calling out their lines with such passion and vigour that we truly felt part of their world. Even the drill sergeant - again very dry but that absolutely added to our enjoyment of this character, he felt incredibly realistic and again added to the believability and therefore immersion of the attraction.

My gripe was with the rest of the cast we encountered. I'm unsure if this was the direction they had been instructed to act upon, but many of the actors didn't really do any scaring of sorts, they just kind of followed us around slowly and got really close. I completely appreciate that everybody scares differently, and I in particular am quite hard to scare, but a lot of this did not feel purposeful and came across as confused and unenthusiastic. It was a really pity to bump into clowns who just stood in the corner doing nothing, or creepy cowgirls who simply followed us and didn't do anything to try and amp up the scare. It's a shame as when the actors were good they were really great and enjoyable, it's just these other few who seemed to let the side down and failed to take advantage of the great sets and atmosphere they inhabited for the night.

I'd love to see more character work here with the actors as given the talent and performances given by some of the other cast it's clear that the cast of Scaresville have the capability to deliver great scares, I just think some work needs to be done to ensure the same level of quality is being delivered across every scene.

Never in an attraction have I experienced so many innovative and unexpected scare tactics. As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have done my fair share of scare events so when an attraction does something I've never seen before in a scare or gag I'm always impressed, and I'm pleased to report that Scaresville delivered not only one but SEVERAL scares and gags that I'd never seen done before, which had me beaming from ear to ear as I recovered from the fright. I'm going to reiterated again here that this section will contain spoilers so please skip ahead if you do not wish to know the gory details!

Something Scaresville loves to do is send you wandering through horribly twisted and narrow corridors in the pitch black and believe me when I say it is unnerving as fuck - especially when you're leading the group as I was! How they achieve such darkness is a marvel and my heart was pounding in my throat as I manoeuvred every twist and turn, arms outstretched anticipating a scare around every corner. And they somehow manage to make them all different too - some have vile squishy floors, some have sections that force you to crouch down on all fours, some have dead ends with doors that open to reveal a cruel rhyme which forces you to completely turn around. So, so simple but so, so effective.

Another wonderful gag I adored was set inside the cottage of some kind of voodoo shaman, who invited us chanting into his home and encouraged us to gather around a huge round table and all place our hands upon it. I fully expected the table to levitate or something but NOPE. The whole room filled with fog as the shaman continued to chant a dreadful chant then BOOM - table pops open and a horrific creature popped out and scared the absolute shit out of me. Love, love, LOVED this gag, completely side-lined me with the semi-distraction of the potential levitating table. Brilliant stuff.

The finale was fantastic too - again Scaresville here have taken a pretty standard scare attraction trope (crazy hillbilly pig-farmers) and completely turned it on its head. We're lulled down a corridor chased by the sounds of squealing hogs and end up locked in one room with many doors. As we try to look for an escape we soon realised that every door had a solid wall behind it and as the panic began to build a creepy lullaby style song began to play. Before we even had time to fathom what the bloody hell was going on all hell broke lose as the back wall slid open and revealed a hoard of chainsaw wielding maniacs pouring into the confined space with us. At this point the opposite wall split open to allow our group to flee into the night as the attraction reach its crescendo. SO GOOD!

But my absolute favourite gag of the entire night and something I haven't been able to stop thinking about since involved a chapel, an angel and a bungee cord. We were invited into the creepy chapel and invited to take a pew and stare up into the eyes of a stone angel hanging above us. I had noticed its creepiness as we entered and wondered where Scaresville had purchased such a realistic looking animatronic - it was blinking and everything! As we knelt on the vile squishy padded floors and stared up as the horrific figure nothing could prepare me for the SHOCK OF MY LIFE as the chords of chapel organ filled the air and the angel CAME TO LIFE and FLEW down straight towards us. Sooooo awesome, so unexpected and so, so terrifying! Excellent.

Photos of Scaresville
All in all we had a truly brilliant night at Scaresville - The Haunted Village. It's something completely different to any scare event I've done in the UK before and despite the attraction lasting close to two hours it never once felt like it was dragging or dull. The sets are creative, interesting and unique and the scares and gags delivered are very original and impactful. It's by no means the highest budget, most detailed or most technically advanced scare event but it absolutely delivers a terrifying and most importantly fun experience and if you live in the south of the UK I'd absolutely recommend paying Kentwell Hall a visit this Halloween season.

Talk later xoxo,