Review: We (just) survived Scaresville... do you think you could handle it?
- Credit: Archant
Our journalists and a visual specialist were invited to check out the thrills and spills of Kentwell Hall’s haunted village...but what did they make of it?
Each year, a mysterious community appears in the grounds of Kentwell Hall where only ghosts, ghouls and spooky spirits reside; locals know it to be Scaresville. Brave visitors are welcome to wander around the village to explore the frightening goings on, and I, having been three times before, wanted test the nerves of my friends, Emily and Rachel. Keen to get straight into the action, we were pleased to enter The Unfairground - a waiting area full of fun-but-spooky stalls, hot food and drink, talented entertainers, and not forgetting Instagramable spots. Immediately, we tried our luck on the Wheel of Misfortune and shortly after tested our nerve playing hoopla, which was given a ghoulish twist. The Unfairground was definitely entertaining, but we were waiting for two hours because bad weather conditions had caused delays, which slightly killed our buzz.
Once our trio was called, we were paired with a group of six before collectively being escorted to watch a safety video and to listen to a brief. Standing single file with our hands on one another's shoulders, Emily led the way down a pitch black corridor and into the main event.
Various scares were disorientating. We found ourselves in misty rooms which made it hard to see ahead, crawling through a human-sized rat cage (disclosure: there were no real rats) and amongst an old-fashioned dentist who would mercilessly 'remove teeth'.
There were also a number of scenario-based rooms; one transported us back to the war and another required us to kneel in a church - both provided very different but unexpected scares.
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There is very little online about what actually happens at Scaresville - and this is intentional. There's a strict no phones policy so you cannot film any of the scares, and each year the organisers scrap, tweak and add new scares to keep it interesting for those who attend year after year.
"Going to Scaresville is like watching a film without seeing the trailer first. We like to keep as much as possible unknown, so you have no idea of what to expect. This might make a few people apprehensive about coming, but it definitely delivers a better experience," says Tobias Phillips, producer and director at Scaresville.
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Walking around the village, the group order naturally changed but the organisers have been mindful to vary how and when the scares are delivered. Not only did this keep us on our toes, but it brought the group together and promoted a team building experience. For example, when someone in the middle of the group was targeted, those who didn't jump most likely found it funny, so by laughing they were joining in.
Scaresville definitely has something for everyone. Whether your weakness is clowns, hooded figures or just being in small dark places, your boundaries will be tested - but chances are, you'll love it. Both Emily and Rachel were slightly apprehensive about paying the village a visit, but by the end we were all laughing, screaming and supporting each other through the moments of terror.
To ensure each scare is as frightful as possible, only certain scarers have speaking roles to help add to the mystery. Tobias says: "We don't like using too much speech, as we feel it can spoil the illusion. A voice tells you so much about somebody - their sex, age and even how they're feeling."
Although Scaresville attracts thrill-seekers, it is by no means a horror event. Each scare isn't intended to make you jump - some are designed to be frightening, whereas others are theoretical or funny. This adds to the rollercoaster journey that the organisers aim for, to ensure that each and every person has a positive and fun experience, rather than being too scared to function. The aim is to give people a harmless scare which they can laugh about with the rest of the group. This is a hard balance to find, but the organisers achieve it perfectly.
On an average night, Scaresville will have between 85 to90 scarers, most of who are volunteers. "We like the volunteer aspect because it means scarers are keen to come. When it's a rainy Monday night and people come to volunteer on their own volition rather than because it's their job, we feel they provide a better scare," Tobias shared.
If scares do get too much for anyone in the group they can either shine a torch or phone light on their face - a reassuring option to calm the unnerved.
Overall, Emily, Rachel and I unanimously agreed that Scaresville gave us an exceptional evening that we would undoubtedly recommend to friends, family members and co-workers. The organisers have worked hard to fine tune scares, which made this year's event the best yet. As always, the attention to detail was second-to-none, spanning the scarer's costumes, the grounds and the execution of the event.
The Unfairground is great fun. It's packed with spooky entertainment to help you get into the spirit of the evening, but some events come at an extra charge - as well as the food and drink, of course. I'd say you can comfortably spend 45 minutes to an hour in The Unfairground, but our two-hour wait did begin to drag.
In total, we were on the grounds of Kentwell Hall for three and a half hours: two hours waiting in the Unfairground and an hour and a half walking around the village.
Every staff member we came across was exceptionally helpful and friendly. The scarers never broke character and delivered truly believable experiences.
There are three toilets at Scaresville - two before the main event and one after - all were clean.
Although the prices fluctuate throughout the month, we all agreed that the event was great value for money as you receive unique experience and a whole evening's entertainment.
Upon arriving at Kentwell Hall, you drive on a patch of land where you're escorted to a place. It's quick, simple and easy.
As our group bonded well throughout the event, we were able to share the scares and laughter. This meant that pretty much every room was enjoyable as even when one of our trio didn't jump, we were able to enjoy the reactions of others.