Hop Farm Fright Night’s Freak Week
Hop Farm‘s acclaimed 3rd Freak Week starts on Thursday 25th October, and as a special Halloween treat Best for Film was invited to partake in a sneak preview of their 2012 attractions by the sponsors of the event, online movie and TV streaming service blinkbox. Featuring a crawl around a storm drain, psychotic clowns and some rather lovely mills, this farm-based horror experience delivers everything it promises, plus a whole lot more.
Located in the Kent countryside, Hop Farm is a 450-year-old site which is principally famous for the Hop Farm Festival that runs every July. The Freak Week Fight Nights are a recent tradition, but the favourable reviews and the 2011 Screamie Award for Best Seasonal Scare Event have raised the profile of the attraction for this year, and the organisers are expecting numbers to double from last year.
Horror events are fairly rare affairs in the UK. We appear to prefer our horror in the form of pasty jewellery-adorned ‘psychics’ on TV, which is really quite a shame. Halloween is such a big holiday in the US that it is comparable to Christmas, and as such scare-attractions attract a lot of business. Just about every town has at least one seasonal haunted house, and it’s not uncommon to find family-run haunts of the most unusual variety; apocalyptic streets, haunted corn-mazes and snake-infested swamps to name but a few.
It’s quite gratifying that the UK is finally getting into the act, and the Hop Farm Fright Nights are an excellent example of how fun Halloween can be when us stoic and stuffy Brits loosen up a little.
My own personal hell begun when were picked up in limousines, including a rather fetching converted hearse. A bit of a tight squeeze to be sure, but it set the tone of the evening as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the macabre. At the farm itself we were kept entertained by performers, including a pair of ‘undertakers’, a poetic puppeteer with fox’s head as a hat, and a lovely zombie-dressed dwarf who studies art in London. I loved it.
The first attraction we shuffled over to was The Hatch, the “world’s first horror-themed crawling maze” and Hop Farm’s poster attraction. Not for the faint-of-heart or the weak-of-knee, the ride provided the novel experience of crawling through a terrifying air duct, an experience previously limited to the children in Jurassic Park. It is rather difficult to retain any dignity in an attraction where a stranger stares at your arse while it trembles in shock, but nothing ventured nothing gained. At least now I know what it feels like to be a TV dinner. Deeply singular and a lot of fun, The Hatch is a terrific draw for the park.
The other attractions I was able to try were the Fun House – a clown filled maze that genuinely kicked my flight-or-fight response into gear, and the Slaughter House – chainsaws and bits of meat flooding a traditional mill house. Although I did not get to try Quarantine or The Underground, they have been received very well, and have been updated from last year.
I especially enjoyed our interlude, where the 20-or-so group of adults that we were, now all lightly inebriated, enjoyed a ride on carousel over 100 years old. This gorgeous and ancient machine creaked and clacked along, and although it didn’t get nearly as much momentum as, say, the carousel scene from Strangers on a Train, it certainly felt just as exciting.
For the finale of our evening, we were led out to a shack in the middle of the dark open field for a special screening of The Cabin in the Woods. With an open bar and classic theater seats, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, especially since I had never seen The Cabin in the Woods. Little did I know what was about to befall me.
After attending the toilet, in which I had to dodge hands coming out of the floor to grab my ankles, and flashes of a demonic face behind a 2-way-mirror, I settled in, eagerly awaiting the climax of the movie. Unfortunately, it was time to catch the last train home. The lovely and dedicated members of the Hop Farm Fright Night team decided to let us know this by running into the screening room in full costume, screaming obscenities and wielding chainsaws. With a mighty crash a pig-faced man threw over the table holding 40 or so wine glasses and we fled from the room, only to find the corridor leading to our escape was now plastered with living cockroaches. Crunching gingerly over the poor buggers and mashing them permanently into our shoes, we bundled ourselves back into the limousines, and freedom. A fitting end for such an enjoyable evening.
I highly recommend Hop Farm’s Fright Nights. They’ve hit just the right balance between fun and terror, which makes it an excellent night out for a group of friends, a family of a generally strong disposition or people with a sick fascination with he macabre. Truthfully, there’s nothing too scary here – believe me, I’ve been to haunted house attractions abroad that drained me entirely of my pride, but I’ve not been to anything so enjoyable.
I’ve still yet to watch the last 10 minutes of The Cabin in the Woods.