Scarefest has returned to Alton Towers Resort, promising a range of Halloween fun and thrills from spooky family fun, to thrilling scare mazes. With a brand new fourth scare maze joining the line-up, alongside the return of some award winning attractions, and Scarefest classics, TowersTimes has been given unrivalled access to bring you an exclusive view on what 2017’s event has to offer (some of the information and images in the article below may contain spoilers).
The newest addition to the Scarefest line-up is The Welcoming: Be Chosen. Based around a mysterious group who are angered by people abusing the world’s natural resources and usually inhabit the woods around the village of Alton, guests are invited to join the group as they host a festival to celebrate their own interpretation of Halloween, reconnecting with the earth, and celebrating the crossover between the living and the dead. Right from the start, the maze creates a certain air of mystery about exactly what guests will encounter, something which ties in nicely with the concept of the mysterious group you are joining in the maze. Throughout the maze the theming and attention to detail is consistently impressive with a number of set pieces along the way, with the actors using the set to full effect to create plenty of scares. The transformation of the space has been extremely well done with it being almost unrecognisable from its previous use – even the former Pirates of Mutiny Bay stage has been fully integrated into the maze. With the maze being the ‘prequel to SW8’, there are also a number of nods towards the Resort’s new wooden rollercoaster, with several sets of runes and the rollercoaster’s logo scattered throughout. The maze also includes a short hooded section, for which guests are given a hood prior to entering the start of the maze. Whilst handing guests hoods prior to entering ensures it doesn’t interrupt the flow when they come to the hooded section, for some people having to hold onto their hoods for the first part of the maze was slightly distracting. There were times when the precise story in the final sections of the maze was not 100% clear, although this was perhaps more the case when in a larger group which therefore meant those towards the back might have missed something said that aided the story. One of the stand out elements of the maze is the soundtrack. Produced in-house, the lively track plays throughout the queue-line and into the maze and gradually crescendos as you make your way to the hallowed grounds of the group and enter the finale where it is determined if you have been chosen. The Welcoming: Be Chosen is another strong addition to the Scarefest line-up, and one which continues to demonstrate the high production values of the Resort. With the Mutiny Bay Courtyard set to become a new food and beverage outlet for next season, it will be interesting to see if the maze will make a return next year.
Returning for a second year, is 2016’s debut attraction, Altonville Mine Tours: Uncover the Legend of the Skin Snatchers. Whilst the central storyline remains faithful to last year’s version of the maze, there have been a number of small changes and improvements, including a re-worked elevator scene, and a new ending which is a marked improvement on 2016. As with last year, the actors make full use of the highly immersive sets to deliver a range of scares, and the narrow corridors build the suspense as you make your way through the disused mines. The Haunted Lantern technology also makes a return with some adjustments to the settings to help further build the sense of tension and anticipation as they flicker or are even turned off completely.
Scarefest staples, Sub Species: The End Games, and Terror of the Towers: What Lies Within, have also made a welcome return, with both retaining their central storylines. Sub Species: The End Games has received a couple of changes, the most notable being the return of a second ending, although this is slightly different to the alternative ending seen in the maze’s debut year, and both endings feeding into the same exit point making it a far more consistent experience. Terror of The Towers: What Lies Within has remained largely the same for 2017, although some sections have been made much tighter which helps to give a much more claustrophobic feel to the maze, whilst the end strobe section now feel much more disorientating. As in previous years, both mazes contained some excellent performances, with Sub Species: The End Games going particularly out their way to split guests up and increase the intensity.
All three mazes set within the Towers complex this year now offer dedicated baggage holds prior to entering each maze, a move which means maintaining the flow through the mazes is much easier as guests are not encumbered by large bags which may hinder progress in certain sections. With the The Welcoming: Be Chosen located in Mutiny Bay, some guests have found the location away from the Towers hard to find. The additional maze has not been included in the standard maze combination ticket and has also not been available in advance with Annual Pass discount which sets high expectations for the attraction. However by the second Saturday the maze had completely sold out for the day suggesting guests are keen to ‘Be Chosen’ this Scarefest.
Family maze House of Monsters makes a welcome return for its second year, meaning guests can once again join a monster hunting vlogger on their quest to discover the truth about residents of a disused house. Whilst the characters you encounter, and the sequence of rooms remain the same, there have been a number of changes to help improve the flow of the story. Gorgle the Mummy now has Venus, a giant meat eating plant making its home in the Greenhouse which can easily be viewed as a character in its own right and helps create a much improved scene compared to the shower used last year. The ending to the attraction has also been revamped with it now being a much more distinctive maze style ending featuring drop panels, plant tentacles dangling from the ceiling, and even some nods to past scare mazes. This new ending is more lively and energetic compared to last year’s version, something which might test younger guests, however overall House of Monsters still provides a great balance of fun and scares with strong performances throughout.
Alongside the mazes, the Resort also has Freak Show, the circus themed scare zone located on the path between Spinball Whizzer and X-Sector. This year sees new set pieces, and new characters, all of which provide a perfect mix of fun and frights. The zone also includes one or two surprises for those lucky enough to be in the zone at the right time. It is perhaps a little bit of a shame that 2017 has seen just the one scare zone, with Dark Apocalypse being particularly missed from Forbidden Valley, and also means there is a limited amount for younger teens and those who may not feel quite brave enough for the mazes.
Of course no Scarefest would be complete without a selection of family entertainment, and 2017 is no exception. The Alton Ancestors have arisen once more, welcoming guests to Towers Street at the start of each day and performing their own unique dance routine in their regular flash mobs. Between performances the Ancestors provide some fantastic interaction with guests helping to create a fun and spooky atmosphere right from the start of the day. Later on, the Ancestors also take over Gloomy Wood making the area come alive. The Freaky Four are also back with a range of shows throughout the day, with this year featuring an additional stage for Skelvin’s Spooky Storytime located alongside the Trick or Treat Stage, both set on the Front Lawns opposite the entrance to CBeebies Land. Franklyn, Patch, Skelvin, and Phil, along with a few friends provide lively and fun shows which the whole family can enjoy and which always draw a crowd.
As is traditional, the Resort has been decorated with a range of suitably spooky decorations. Towers Street is adorned with pumpkins, bunting and scarecrows, whilst giant pumpkins are once again dotted around the park for guests to take their photos with. The Halloween fun isn’t just confined to the Theme Park, with the Resort’s hotels hosting a full programme of evening entertainment, headlined by the Fabulous Scott Family.
Scarefest 2017 is certainly another impressive offering from the Resort, with the addition of The Welcoming: Be Chosen continuing the high standards seen in recent years. The second weekend of the event saw the Resort particularly busy which was reflected in significant wait times for the mazes. However, there is no doubt that the Resort are continuing to build on the successes of previous years, and across all of the shows and attractions the performances and production values are of a very high standard.
Will you be visiting the Resort for Scarefest this year? Make sure you share your thoughts and have your say over on the Towerstimes and SouthParks Forum. As the 2017 season nears its close, TowersTimes will continue to bring you all the latest news.
*All images within this article have been taken with full permission and cooperation from the Resort. Photography within the mazes during normal operation is strictly prohibited.
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