This year there was no Fangoria party, we were too busy, sorry. So we took the opportunity to see what the rest of the country does for Halloween.
First we visited Thorpe Park’s Fright Night, which was, y’know, OK. They had 4 ‘mazes’ (that’s what you call walk through horror shows if you’re cool, like us), All with really good themeing, lighting, sound and (seemingly) loads of actors to jump out at you and go "BOO!". And that’s the problem, most of the mazes just seemed to lack narrative and pacing. They did have a back story if you cared to read about it or listen to an announcer as you file in but this all got a bit lost with actors simply jumping out at you and generally being a bit spooky, which made each maze feel a little pointless. That said it was all still jolly good fun, and all the normals in the crowd seemed to be pretty much terrified (we’re somehow broken, we can’t seem to get scared anymore, or maybe we’re just tough).
Next we headed north to Alton Tower’s Scare Fest. It’s only their second year of putting on a Halloween event but they definitely seem to have their hearts in it. They only have one maze actually inside the park, Terror of the Towers, and this is set in the ruins of Alton Tower’s house, so the set is instantly pretty sweet. Also they have nice little points in the maze where actors stop you and interact with you to play out scenes in the narrative (yup, they have a story, yay!) so you don’t feel rushed through. The acting is really quite good and the the maze itself is well paced with a big special effect finally. The poor chap behind me spent more of this scene cowering on the floor clawing and my back trying to get out. Bless him.
Alton Towers also have 2 more mazes outside the park you have to pay extra for, which take some degree of trudging round odd roads and going round the back of buildings to find, which only adds to the excitement. One of them, Boiler House, was good, but a bit more like Thorpe Park’s offerings, the other one, Field of a 1,000 Screams, was frickin’ awesome: Right, so last year there was a zombie outbreak in the small village of Alton, it was quarantined and fenced off from the public (this is a really nice tie in to last year’s maze and is made to feel real by a crackling radio tuned to the local station giving out warnings and easy listening music as you enter the maze), so we journey up through to the edge of the fence and a deranged Alton local invited through a hole and into the village. The hole thing is set in a proper corn field, you walk through a narrow passageway that has been cut out of the corn, all the time hearing zombie moans and growls from the surrounding pitch black corn (oh yeah, this maze only operates at night). Again they have various scenes with different characters to play through the story and help protect us from the zombies who are now hot on our trail. The finale really is great, and I won’t go into in great detail in case they do it next year but involves being locked in a small wooden cabin with zombies busting through the walls and one zombie in there with you. IT ALL KICKS RIGHT THE FUCK OFF.
So next we headed further north to a place called Farmageddon. I’m just going to wait a while for the brilliance of that name settle in. … OK then – it’s a work of art isn’t it? It’s set on a Farm (you guessed that bit) that’s normally all cute and fluffy for kids. I guess the attendance drops off in the winter so they re-invent the place into this Horror-fest thing, with 2 pretty slick mazes, one of which felt like it must be permanent it was so well built, and about 3 thousand local Liverpudlian teenagers a night, all 127% pumped for horror goodness. I’ve never felt more part of a baying mob in my life. If people chickened out of a maze they were announced by the hosts, and then jeered and boo-ed until they went running into the toilets crying. I’m not making this shit up. OK so we had to queue for 3 hours in total during the night (Freddy and friends kept us entertained though), but you can see how this place is only just starting out. As with Alton Towers, it’s only their second year, they only had one maze last year, and with the "tens of thousands of people" turning up in just a few weeks, I’m sure they’re going to up the anti next year.