With Halloween just around the corner, horror films are being dusted off and making appearances in households across the country. Despite fighting the urge initially, many of us will usually end up screaming at the characters on our TV screens with commands like, ‘Don’t go in there!’ or simply ‘Just run.’ We learnt this response at a young age, with our experiences dating back to our days of pantomimes and fairytales – ‘He’s behind you!’. Of course, every scenario is easier when you’re removed from it, but have you ever wondered how you’d cope in one of those scary stories? You could soon find out as X Scream returns to the Rhondda Heritage Park this October and is here to test you.
As an immersive horror experience, the theme for this year’s tour is ‘Once Upon a Time’, drawing on famous fairytale characters but transforming them into something much more sinister. Imagine adaptions of stories made famous by the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and even Disney.
Set in the old colliery site which is eerie in itself at night, we had no idea what to expect, especially after reading reviews online which talked about the horror that was likely to face us over our 40-minute tour. Lighting is very sparse throughout, with no cameras or masks allowed and real-life actors are ready to pounce on you at any stage, and yes, they are allowed to touch you.
These real-life actors here need some recognition because they were what truly helped to bring this experience to a whole other level. From start to finish, they all really engaged with the groups, from the introductory storyteller who helped set the scene of the tour before terrifyingly screaming profanities at us as we scrambled out of the door of his hut, to Red Riding Hood’s wolf who hunted us in the forest, to the Child Catcher who popped out of the shadows to steal a member of our group, each experience was tenser than the last. Side note, be prepared to face Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It, so if clowns terrify you, maybe give this tour a miss. Or alternatively, tactically sprint past this character as fast as possible.
Of course, you’ll have more interaction with some of the actors than others at different points of the tour. This includes a blood-thirsty executioner who will line you up and put a bag over your head before marching you into the unknown and the Mad Hatter who’ll invite you to his tea party and quite frankly, they’re all mad here. Much of the tour is built off anticipation, never knowing what to expect or what will pop out next. This was only worsened when we were taken into a lift down into the heart of the mines, where we were met by rogue princesses, Michael Myers and more, with many of our group members scrambling to move out of the way of threatening characters and avoid being at the front and therefore the first victim to face the fear of the unknown.
But for me, the scariest part of the tour was its finale. I won’t give any spoilers away because everyone should experience it with the same surprise that I did, but it certainly had me running for the exit. The whole tour was incredibly tense throughout, leaving me constantly on edge, making me jump on more than one occasion and with many moments filled with nervous laughter. This is a great tour for the thrill seekers and those who are looking to do something a little different this Halloween. So, it’s no wonder why this has become such a popular event in South Wales in recent years. But be warned, it’s not for those who are particularly nervous or claustrophobic. Yet, despite giving me one hell of a fright, I’d do the whole experience all over again next year.
The Once Upon a Time event will be at the Rhondda Heritage Park for 11 nights, 18th-21st and 25th-31st October. Tickets are priced at £22.50 each (plus an online booking fee) and is recommended for those aged 16+.