The name Spookyworld doesn’t particularly have you quaking in your boots, in fact, it conjures up images of a nice family event with a few people dressing in sheets making poor ghost noises. In the space of a few short hours our opinions had somewhat changed.
We’d originally planned to visit before our trip to Florida last year but had to abandon the trip due to just not having the spare cash to go. This year we were keen to go and see what we’d missed out on.
Applejacks Farm is set in Warrington and by day is a family based attraction hosting a whole manner of attractions, with the emphasis on “edutainment.” However at Halloween they really go to town with putting on a party, bringing together a daytime that incorporates family fun into the spooky proceedings and a night time which although the rating states ‘Age 6 and over’, we suspect was definitely for a more teen/adult audience. We drove down the long winding road to the farm which really did set the atmosphere, as in the distance floodlights beckoned through the mist giving quite an eerie sight.
We pulled up and instantly realised just how busy it was! To our amazement, the entrance made from rows of corn which towered above us really gave the impression that we were about to set foot onto a horror movie set. We queued patiently and before long we were in with our tickets. The entrance price gives you entry to each of the three attractions once although you can buy extra tokens to go through them again later for a very reasonable price.
Our first stop was the “Haunted Hayride” … this should have been a nice and easy trailer ride to break us in to the evening gently and get us in the mood through some woods with a few coloured lights, maybe a few creepy noises here and there …
Or so I thought! We set off on our journey laughing and joking, quite unaware of what was in store for us. Our journey wound through the woods, and offered some impressive scare and diversion tactics. Being stuck on a trailer with literally nowhere to move meant the actors had you just where they wanted, as they jumped onto the sides threatening everyone. The Haunted Hayride had some really unique scares which had us jumping out of our skins and a few sections where we were wowed by what we experienced. The finale featured a man wielding a chainsaw literally inches away from my face and a few other sections really had our hearts beating. The actors really got into their roles and were full of energy … something which we really weren’t prepared for! The only thing which spoiled it for us somewhat was a younger group who were telling us what was going to happen at some points and spoiling the surprise. Our second ride was just as good and despite knowing what was coming it was nice to see the action from a different angle and we still managed to jump !! Our favourite section of the ride had a 4×4 pull up beside us the driver sounding his horn and firing a shotgun as an actor jumped from it onto our trailer … quite a unique and impressive idea.
We headed towards the “Haunted House” but on the way got distracted by the “Trick Or Treat Maze”, a simple fence maze but lit up offered a great atmosphere with people getting lost for what seemed like ages. Although there were no actors inside the maze there were a few moments where your mind started to play tricks on you. The maze was great fun as people up on the bridge (the exit) tried to help people by shouting out directions, this only seemed to get us more lost but did provide a few laughs along the way.
Over at the Haunted House a huge queue was building so we quickly joined, it did move fairly rapidly though, and time flew thanks to a great actress dressed as a zombie who wandered up and down the line creeping up on people when they were least expecting it. At one point I managed to have a staring competition with her as she refused to move after I’d taken a photo of her. Needless to say she won and I was left feeling particularly creeped out.
We got to the front of the queue and some girls were worried about leading the group, of course by some level of either generosity or pure stupidity I said I’d lead the group. The maze itself is a labyrinth of shipping containers laid back to back and themed to make each room. It’s a very claustrophobic feeling and it’s surprising to see what they’ve done with the inside. There are some great set pieces which really seem to work and sections where you’re literally in darkness feeling around for your way out in sheer panic.
Because of the nature of the maze and it’s construction, once you are in there’s no way out apart from working your way straight through to the end, which adds to the anxiety of going through, but can also cause a few problems. On our second turn we met up with the group in front who had a much younger guest with them who was getting severely disturbed by the maze and was virtually hysterical (hence our negativity about the age rating) which meant that many of the scares were spoiled for us somewhat. I felt sorry for the actors who were put in a tricky situation of having to decide if they should go easy on the child and spoil it for everyone else or terrify everyone and possibly scar the child mentally for life. Essentially it’s down to the parents who should have known their child’s limits before entering the maze but I guess these kinds of attractions are still new in the UK so some people naturally won’t know what to expect and as this child was most likely over the suggested age, parents would naturally assume that it would be appropriate.
One really positive thing we felt about the Haunted House was that each set had been constructed in a way that there was plenty of scope for diversity for the actors with plenty of hiding places. This meant the second walk through was as fresh as the first, as you had no idea what to expect.
After an extremely intense, yet welcome walk through experience, we wandered around Spookyworld for a while taking in the sights and sounds. A wooded area had been well dressed with various spooky themeing. It was really well done but we felt could have easily benefited from an actor or two. I suppose the attraction needs to appeal to everyone and offer various levels of scare.
A wealth of activities were available, including a Rollerdisco and Pumpkin carving which although we didn’t experience looked to have been enjoyed by everyone taking part.
The final maze was “The Field Of Screams” and we were eager to experience this! We love corn mazes as we love the natural ambience of them and this was no different. The corn maze at Applejacks is slightly different to those we have experienced before with a healthy mix of indoor and outdoor sections. There’s no expensive anamatronics at all, and it relies purely on some really clever simple scares which work exceptionally well. The highlight for me was on our second go through, where our group had split into two, the first (who had confidently assured us that they were slow and steady, and had no interest in running away) ran through the maze at a ridiculous pace, whereas we held back and took everything in, letting the actors reset themselves for us and another couple, who had similar ideas to us. This gave a very personal and terrifying experience, which ended in a finale of feeling round in the pitch darkness of an indoor section of tight corridors and hearing the roar of a chainsaw a few feet away from us! Naturally we ran …. as the chainsaw guy chased us by torchlight for what seemed like an eternity, and our group all collapsed in a heap completely disorientated as to where we were and where to go. For me it’s one of the most terrifying mazes I’ve experienced this year, purely for its high octane ending.
One thing I’ve always complained about in mazes is costumes, I’ve often said that people in latex masks aren’t scary. Spookyworld have somehow managed to prove me wrong. Some of the costumes throughout the event weren’t the most elaborate or expensive we’ve ever seen but the interesting thing is that the actors weren’t using the scary costume to provide the scares but instead really threw themselves at the role and their actions and gesticulations were what was terrifying; this is something which really should be commended.
Overall Spookyworld was a pleasant surprise. We found it to be exceptional value and has offered some of the best scares we’ve had this year. We loved the effort that had been put into the event and will be eager to get back in 2011.