Alton Tower's Scarefest 2012 Review: The Sanctuary, Carnival of Screams and TOTT What Lies Within

Well honestly this year has been a bit more disappointing in last in terms of satisfaction, which I pin on various reasons. Must say though, it was pretty decent, but ultimately more should have been got out of that day. From being a complete AT enthusiast, I have to say, I am rather disappointed they do not fail stoop more downhill each time I visit.

We visited on a Saturday (27th Oct), therefore Alton would be inevitably overcrowded as hell itself, plus overall AT seems to have nosedived even more into the floor since last year. I noticed there is now such a thing as an £85 Fast Pass ticket, and now the ridiculous notion of having a fast pass for TOTT for £5 from last year has now been upped to £10. What kind of lunacy is it to pay these fares on top of regular park and maze tickets? Especially when TOTT is a free attraction?

Queues were horrifically long for everything, and it was beyond freezing. Which, to say there is no shelter for queuing park goers, is extremely cruel on AT's part - as they do not even expect their own employees to endure this weather (at least, for the amount of time people are waiting in queues). Writing this, the day after, I am still in shock from the cold, which I do not think is justified for the experience I had. You are not getting value for money spending extra on mazes on top of the park ticket, as there is no time at all to go on any rides/attractions apart from the scare mazes. However you are forced to purchase a park ticket in order to experience these mazes regardless, as they are located in the park. So its a win-win for AT and you will never get your money's worth.
Old news, rant over.

Onto the scare mazes!

The Sanctuary was an impressive replacement of the Boiler House maze, however I did enjoy BH last year, despite the complaints from the rest of the group about lack of actors yada yada. The sets for both Carnival of Screams and Sanctuary this year were extended and pretty impressive if I am honest. Introductory hosts at the beginnings of both COS (carnival clown barker) and Sanctuary (Dr Harman, which I found made the atmosphere eerily realistic, considering he was in the video featured on several televisions when queuing for Sanctuary) were a brilliant addition and set the mood very well.

Carnival of Screams, this year, actually felt like you were walking through a genuine outdoor carnival (although it was bitterly cold). I loved the variations in surroundings (especially with the ranging from outdoor barker, to the spots room, to the living puppet room - which had made a reappearance from 2010, and the marionette room, which I also remember from 2011 COS). My only complaint with this particular maze is that the amount of actors seemed quite sparse, or if there was, I wasn't aware of them. Although the wait was generally unpleasant, I liked how the queue was located next to the lake not far from Towers Street as it looked incredibly sinister by night, with escaped FX smog from COS pouring onto the water surface.

The Sanctuary, after your induction pep-talk thingymajig, opened up into this immense living room which looked like something taken straight from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Girl, Interrupted. It was dingy, dark, realistic, and bloody fantastic. A couple of crazed patients flew out from behind furniture, and terrorized the more vulnerable members of our conga-line-formationed group. During Sanctuary there was a corridor section, Stage 2 "Marmalisation", that involved sensory scares - water, wire whipping your legs, and air drying, plus a peculiar brainwashing type video playing on screens as we walked through. There were constant references in the attraction to 'not go downstairs' (quite specifically I remember it etched on a stone somewhere in the queuing area) presumably, as that was were the unspoken abuse against patients was taking place in this dystopian-esque institution. Downstairs did turn out to be quite terrifying indeed. First of all we were led into a red lit operating theatre and were threatened by a psychotic surgeon with a mouth clamp, (who thankfully seemed to take a liking to my friend). Not long after, following this assault, I was split from my party when our whole conga line was divided in two at the end strobe maze. I was then left to lead the other half through a frantic journey through the cage, encountering some very eager frenzied inmates hopping about in front of us, and through spaces in the mesh walls.

TOTT remains somewhat consistent as last year, the only difference was the queue route, as Sanctuary also was based in the Towers. Still good quality maze however enjoyed it less as there was nothing particularly new or memorable about it, there seemed to be less improvisation that stuck in my mind from actors than last year, but, I can't knock TOTT for keeping up its standard in terms of creepy and beautiful sets, extensiveness in length, and the standard surprise/shock scares you get no matter where you are located in the group. Zombies! Scarezone this year, similar to TOTT, did not leave as much as an impression as I remember, maybe even slightly less well done this time, as there seemed to be less zombies and with the change of location, it was marginally shorter overall. However the sets did not disappoint as they were near identical to the Zombies! scare zone from the previous year's Scarefest, which was very good (a route exploration past broken down vehicles and through a makeshift 'bunker' with one or two zombies located inside).

I left feeling indifferent after this year's event, in stark comparison to last year which I had quite a lot of enthusiam for Alton Tower's Scarefest. The general atmosphere was better as there were more people in costume, which is expected really as it was closer to Halloween, however admittedly less intimidating than donning a clown costume alone among hundreds of visitors all in normal dress.Thus, overall, I think that the actual Scarefest mazes have been improved, but the whole 'waiting for hours in the deathly frozen weather' and 'overpriced to colossal proportions' section of this day out, which, took up the greater percentage of the day, is what really needs to have some swift improvement. Taking into consideration the actual weekend day, and the fact we went during the October half term, probably were major contributors to queues. But honestly I think my point still stands about overpricing - the fast tracks for TOTT should definitely be removed, as it causes massive backlog in the queue. AT I can only hope, improve their standards for next year.

Overall rating: 6.5/10

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

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