Arts Reviews

“Not For the Faint Hearted” – Review: Screamfest @ National Forest Adventure Farm

Kit Sinclair

It was a dark and stormy night – no, really; we could barely see out of the windscreen for the rain – when we bundled into my friend’s car and tried to calm our racing heartbeats. As we set off, we couldn’t be certain what the night had in store for us, but one thing was for sure: it was going to be one to remember. Kit Sinclair reviews Screamfest at the National Forest Adventure Farm. 

Nestled in the depths of the National Forest (but in fact fairly close to Burton-on-Trent), Screamfest is a 15 night horror spectacular – “not for the faint-hearted”, as my friend aptly put it. Now in its 11th year of existence, the event comprises 5 scare attractions, as well as live music, extreme stunt performers, fairground rides and a variety of street food trucks (watch out, as the rides and food incur an extra cost, which coupled with the price of a ticket could push this event beyond the average student budget).

There are around 136 live actors at this year’s Screamfest, and after receiving our wristbands that would grant us entry into the mazes, we were immediately confronted by a few of them. After one lovely fellow introduced us to his possessed clown puppet seemingly attached to his torso, we had a flavour of what to expect.

I loved the concept, execution and immersive experience, with the maze designers showing off all the tools at their disposal

We decided to jump right in (despite my friend’s heartbeat reaching 104bpm before we’d even entered an attraction), and headed to Freakout on Tour. Gripping desperately onto each other’s hands and coats, we stumbled around hopelessly lost in a mirror maze and threatened by demonic clowns at every turn.

Unofficial on the night polling that I conducted indicated that Freakout was widely considered to be the ‘worst one’ of the lot, although how scary you find this attraction is likely correlated to how high your fear of clowns is. Even so, could we now breathe a sigh of relief that the worst was over?

Of course not.

Next up was Hillbilly Joe’s Zombie Zoo, perhaps more fun than scary but with a lot of excellent interactive scares. “[The actors’] ability to ad lib is unmatched,” my friend mentioned as we left the Zoo, and I had to agree.

Two scares down and only one hour in, we thought it was time for some food. There was a wide array of offerings, including decent vegetarian options, and we settled down in front of the live performance area to enjoy our dinner and a freak show. Before we steeled ourselves for our third scare, we joined in on a raucous barn dance to burn off some of our dinner.

Next we headed off to fan favourite Love Hurts, this year announcing ‘last orders’ with its final appearance at Screamfest. The one downside of this scare was a very slow moving queue, which also meant that the attraction’s major payoff was somewhat spoiled before you entered. That being said, I loved the concept, execution and immersive experience, with the maze designers showing off all the tools at their disposal, including smells such as ‘sewer’ and ‘rotten egg’ (yum!).

After running away from the Bigfoot wandering around the farm, we checked out Insomnia, Screamfest’s newest maze. This was easily the most technically impressive maze, with optical illusions galore and impressive narrative storytelling. The award for biggest scare of this maze (and perhaps the night) goes not to the actors however, but to my friend, who terrified two members of the public by appearing unexpectedly in a doorway.

To round off the night, we headed to Creed Farm, an outdoor attraction set in a maize maze. This was easily the scariest attraction of the night for our group, topped off by a mad chase out of the maze away from a chainsaw wielding madman.

Thoroughly freaked out at this point in the night, we took a spin on a fairground ride, grabbed a delicious doughnut and headed home – spending the rest of the night looking fearfully over our shoulders…

Kit Sinclair

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of Kit Sinclair. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to these images.
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