Another new event for 2020 and one that on paper would offer something a little bit different as Horrors of the Wild took place inside Twycross Zoo near Atherstone in Warwickshire. The prospect of a scare event inside a zoo, in the evening, definitely intrigued us and we were interested to see how it would operate whilst still being mindful of the animals’ welfare.

On arrival you’re prompted to enter the main building to sign what should be a mostly unnecessary waiver, ‘I promise not to enter the Tiger enclosure’ type of thing. Inside there is also a restaurant as well as a gift shop and the usual facilities. We normally wouldn’t comment on those, but they had a very cool leafcutter ant exhibit above the sinks.

After that, we entered the main queue which was suitably socially distanced and had a 15 to 20 minute wait before entering the zoo. COVID precautions were covered well. Batching seemed decent at the start, with a healthy amount of time between groups. Sadly, this didn’t work in practice as the group behind kept catching up with us, and even though we let them go ahead they somehow kept re-appearing behind us.

We loved aspects of the concept behind the event, there were clear moments where we had some slight educational scenes as snippets of what happens for real in poaching and illegal animal trading were presented to us. With some tweaking, we felt this could really come to the fore and would fit really well with the event.

The most notable, fun, entertaining and scary scenes definitely felt more front-loaded to the first half of the event and there was some well-executed jump scares as well as more theatrical scenes. The longer scene with the bushmeat butcher was a clear highlight, and a few more interactions and scares certainly hit the spot. Sadly, the remainder of the event didn’t hit the same high spots as these sections.

There were plenty of long-ish walks where nothing would happen, and we had to be guided around the bespoke route by hi-vis wearing officials. It’s completely understandable but did detract from the immersion. If they had been in character as game wardens fighting the poachers, this would have been great. Also, we’ve nothing against long walks either if the scenes in between are suitably great, but as the consistency petered out towards the end it wasn’t to be the case.

The actors on the whole did a good job, some better than others, but we see no reason why with a bit more prep and training this can’t be great across the board. Scenery and props were mostly limited to the existing environment, and in some of the narrower areas worked really well. One tunnel towards the end was great. Where the areas were open it was easy to spot people from a distance even without a torch (not really needed), so there’s not much the actors could have done in the circumstances.

We ended up leaving through the gift shop after a disappointing finale about 30 minutes after entering, not the 60 to 90 minutes advertised. Given the long stretches where nothing happened, we felt that it could have packed in a few more scenes and scares to turn what was a reasonable first event into something great.

There’s certainly plenty of potential with Horrors of the Wild at Twycross Zoo and we’d love to see it invested in and improved upon for next year, as we felt with some smaller tweaks, they could have a decent scare attraction on their hands and could actually offer something a bit different with the theme and location.

Author: Steven