On Thursday 11th October the TPG team took our annual trip to the Nation Forest Adventure Park in Burton-On-Trent to attend Screamfest, a scare park consisting of five mazes as well as various entertainment and street theatre.
The event has been going for many years and continues to grow season after season. This year, there is one change to the lineup in the form of a new maze called ‘Insomnia’ based around a child's nightmares. This replaces Soul Seekers, a previous maze at the event that was extremely popular amongst visitors to the event
The other four mazes, Demonica, Dia De Las Muertos, Love Hurts and Freakout were at the event last year and the whole team was excited to see if anything had changed.
Screamfest sees some changes to its food and drinks offerings. The permanent food outlet has now become ‘Crumpet’s Chippy’, serving Fish & Chips, Sausage, and Pasties as well as mushy peas and curry sauce for the perfect complement to your meal.
There was also a new bar this year, as opposed to the temporary beer truck that was at the event last year. The more permanent looking feature still served three beers from ABK, a brewery specialising in German-style beer as well as serving Cider and Wine. There were also several temporary food vans throughout the event offering sweet treats, burgers, hog roasts etc.
Throughout the event, there were lots of roaming actors there to scare the living daylights out of you whilst you are outside of the mazes meaning that nowhere is safe! The actors ranged from axe-wielding maniacs to twisted fairy tale characters, who all seemed delighted to scare the guests. As well as roaming actors, several shows took place during the evening on the stage in the main hub area.
New for this year were two new games stalls, offering the chance to win your own Screamfest ‘Survivor’ T-Shirt. The first game was a zombie head toss where the guest must throw a zombie head into a hole, much like the traditional basketball games you might see at various theme parks across the world. The other game was a bottle smash game where you needed to break a bottle lined up on the wall by throwing a baseball directly at them. We had a go on both and definitely found more success on the first, winning ourselves one of the great quality T-shirts.
Step through the portal into the world of Demonica, which was new for last year and previously we did not have the best experience, apart from the initial pre-show there was not a lot more to say due to the maze predominantly taking place in black rooms with windows for actors to jump out and scare guests walking through. This year we were surprised to see a familiar face at the entrance of the maze, a familiar face for those who have been through The Sanctuary at Alton Towers.
Our group was let into the pre-show room and shortly afterwards the door opened and we were into the maze. The maze is the same as last year, in terms of layout and style, however, seemed to be a lot darker this year, which caused some confusion when getting around the maze, occasionally being pounced on by the various actors throughout.
We found this maze to be better than last year, with better acting and a darker atmosphere, however, we would prefer a highly themed maze with detailed theming and a developed and integral storyline as we feel there is still very little story expressed throughout the maze due to the lack of theming.
Dia De Las Muertos
Come one, come all and celebrate Dia De Las Muertos (Day of the Dead), this maize maze has been at the event for many years and received a new theme last year based around the Mexican festival, which we were very impressed with during its inaugural year.
We jumped on our trailer and headed towards to the maze, whilst being chatted to by the sensational senorita and showing off a couple of our dance moves whilst Despacito blares out the vehicles radio until joy turns to fear as an urgent news bulletin comes over the airwaves as it is discovered that some notorious gang members have escaped. Our trailer eventually comes to a stop and we are sent into the village to enjoy the festivities.
The story is the same as well most of the theming throughout, which is still of great quality, there was also fantastic acting throughout a couple of good scares in places, we think that Dia De Las Muertos is a great part of the lineup and we hope it remains.
Roll Up, Roll Up, One and all and come see the Freak Show, Freakout is a staple of Screamfest always entertains and there's not much more I can say about it that I haven’t said in previous reviews.
For those unaware, Freakout is the events clown-themed, curtains maze where guests make their way through a twisted circus full of chaotic characters and is not so much about scares but more about laughs (unless you are scared of clowns, in which case, good luck to you!) as this maze features a lot of interaction between yourself and the inhabitants of the circus allowing for lots of memorable moments.
This maze has been at the event for many years and always provides fun memories every time we enter the big top, and if you fancy taking a trip to the circus, just remember… Don’t honk his hooter!
Looking for love? You are in luck as at the Diced Heart pub there are regular speed dating sessions hoping to help you find your soulmate! (at least that’s what it says on the posters).
Love Hurts was new for 2016 and has been at the maze ever since and every year has been praised for its immersive story and theming, it was even voted as one of the Top 10 scare mazes of 2016 according to Terror Attractions.
The story is based around the famous speed dating sessions put on at the Diced Heart pub hosted by Professor Heart, however, once you enter the bathroom stall, it's clear that it's not you that is here to find the love of your life, instead he has been luring people in to find his!
As mentioned above, Love Hurts is an immersive attraction with a heavily integrated story and one of the best attractions that has ever been at Screamfest. We love every time we step foot into this maze and this year was no exception.
Insomnia was the new scare maze at screamfest for 2018, based around a young girl called Tabitha who is suffering from recurring nightmares about a boogeyman like creature.
Insomnia is an unconventional UK scare maze due to it not being a constantly flowing experience. As you enter the maze you are faced with an acted out scene that takes place as you walk through, however at points throughout the maze you are held so a scene could be played out to you which if timed well allows a consistent storyline for all members of the group, however, during our experience some of our group at the back missed out on the scenes due to being let into one room too late which meant they missed out of some of the story.
Once being introduced to Tabitha, you are transported into her dreams and experience what she is dreaming and how the creature is dominating her dreams, this includes dreams such as the creature assuming the form of her mother.
Insomnia is an extremely ambitious maze due to the staggered nature and trying to tell an immersive story throughout. When the timing was right this was extremely successful and provided many scares but if you were in the wrong position you could end up joining the scene too early and missing important story dialogue, this is no different to missing a scare in any other maze but means a bit more when it is projecting a narrative and story building elements.
Overall, Insomnia is a fantastic addition to the Screamfest line up and is a triumph direct from the mind of Andrew Porter, famous for several other successes for Screamfest as well as being involved with several successful projects for Merlin Entertainments. We look forward to seeing Insomnia next year as we are almost certain it will return and once the timing issues are resolved this maze could be one of the best scare mazes in the UK.
Screamfest has taken it up another notch again this year and is starting to become one of our favourite events of the Halloween period, providing frights and fun for every member of the team that visits. We are excited to see what next year brings for the event and are sure it is going to improve things even more.