17/06/2017 – Hide and Shriek: The Seance

A few month’s after Hide and Shriek’s last endeavor Delectably Dead, I found myself in Southend once again for their brand new show titled The Seance. Based on a true story, a group of up to six hauntees (that’s you, dear reader) enter a rotting old house to take part in a private seance in order to unravel the house’s dark and mysterious past, and, hopefully, survive!

Having done a few seance themed haunts previously, I was intrigued to see how Hide and Shriek would explore this serious genre whilst still keeping their trademarked humour in tact; however, bar the pre-show briefing video (spot on as always!), they’ve completely abandoned their humour for this show and by amazing use of lighting, sound, and incredibly detailed scenery, created the unnerving and tense atmosphere you’d expect when trying to contact someone from beyond the grave.

We follow the instructions given to us before entering the show room and take our designated seats at the table, the tension already getting to us, and wait. A radio fizzles to life and a voice explains that we’ll be performing the seance ourselves with his direction. A medium was chosen, and the seance began…

What happened over the next half hour was something I’m having trouble describing. It was incredibly intense, unnerving, and extremely immersive to the point where even I was worried of what was behind the locked door! The absolute beauty of this haunt is that you feel isolated from the real world and completely vulnerable, even though you’re just sat at a table – here were definitely times where I’m sure there was more than just us two in the room. Another incredible thing is, even though you might be in a group of 6, everyone will have their own “version” of events, as the special effects are everywhere in the room!

For a company that has only been around for 18 months, Hide and Shriek have really pulled something special out of the bag with The Seance and are well and truly paving the way for experimenting with new ideas and new attractions, and I look forward to following and supporting them wherever they go. For the established producers out there: be worried, these guys are about to get huge!

17/06/2017 – Hide and Shriek: The Seance

20/05/2017 – Down the Rabbit Hole

Bare with me here, it’s one thing reviewing a haunt where the theming is constantly changing in the 15mins or so you’re in there and a completely different ball game to review what happens for an hour in a room.

Going back a few years, I was lucky to get to take part in what I believe was the first escape room in the UK. it was tough and stressful, and whilst I had fun, I wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing again. Sure, since then I’ve done other events that had escape rooms, but they weren’t *pure* escape rooms – they usually had a piece of theatre which made up for the escape room bit for me.

Anyway, a friend won two tickets to Down the Rabbit Hole and invited me along, teasing that it was a scare escape room and that other reviewers had given their previous escape room fantastic reviews, so I rather happily accepted

We arrive at Escape Room Southend and had a chat with Wayne (one of the owners) about upcoming shows whilst the previous group finished up. Once they were out, we were ushered in and realised that we’d be trying to escape on our own – probably not the greatest idea seeing neither of us are any good with puzzles!

So the story is the White Rabbit got infected with a virus and, rather foolishly, escaped down the rabbit hole and back into Wonderland where he began to infect the other residents: it was up to us to solve the clues, escape, and release the antivirus! After a few nervous glances as we realise how screwed we were, we were taken through to Wonderland and the game began!

We started off like headless chickens, grabbing bits of random scenery that we thought might be of some help, figured out where all the puzzles were and what locks linked to what clues, then brainfarted as we looked at each puzzle. Bit by bit, and with a gentle push here and there, we slowly managed to digest and solve each puzzle, even whilst being tormented by the infected.

This single room escape is, without doubt, the best I have ever done. It was stressful, tense, challenging, and the things coming from both of our mouths as we were subjected to the horrors of Wonderland were utterly hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time! The puzzles themselves were a little above our IQ level, but we managed to escape with just under 90 seconds to go! I definitely had a blast in there, and will definitely be back to see what they have hidden within their walls over the next few months! A big well done to the team there for living up to the hype!

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20/05/2017 – Down the Rabbit Hole

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

Scare Kingdom Scream Park are back once again with another fantastic haunt hidden within the walls of Manormortis, and the final show of Snuffhouse Alone!

 

Hyde and Seek

Themed around the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, guests are bought into the dark and dingy world wherein a secret elixir, created by none other than the doctor himself, gives the person imbibing it the gift of eternal life with some unfortunate side effects, which the doctor wasn’t shy about demonstrating on an unfortunate victim. Soon enough, the victim had turned and we were rushed away from the pair and into the main attraction.

 

As we progressed we encountered a range of characters, from an old and rough scullery maid through to an overtly camp (and utterly hilarious) aristocrat, all of whom added their version of the story into the fold until you were so immersed that you felt you were playing a detective in a murder mystery movie, all while Jekyll’s previous victims lunged at us from the hundreds of hidey holes dotted around the manor. It all came to a head when we managed to get into the wife of Dr Jekyll’s bedroom to talk to her about something before she sent us on our way to find her maid, and before we even knew what was happening, the lights went out and a strobe light flickered, illuminating Mr Hyde before he disappeared into the night again.

 

This was, for me, my favourite story to be played in Manormortis. It had absolutely everything that is needed for someone to go in, get spooked, come out, and laugh and talk about after. From the hilarious Aristocrat with his “crossfire” skit (it has been a long time since I laughed like that) through to the creepy priest, almost everyone’s character was on point – unfortunately the lawyer in the upside down room and nursery fell short just a little in comparison to how strong the other characters were. Otherwise, everything about the characters was perfect!

On top of this, the bit I loved the most (well, bits – they kinda go hand in hand) was the storyline. How I bloody love a storyline, and to get me so immersed t(o the point where a character said “come closer” and I did in the 15 minutes we were in there) just goes to show that a haunt can provide scares and story, and because each scene lasted a good few minutes, we were able to actually look around and take in the beauty of Manormortis, which is usually missed as everyone gets rushed through.

Overall, Hyde and Seek was an absolute blast of a show that blended comedy, scares, and downright sexual acts together tastefully to provide one of the greatest haunts I’ve experienced at Scare Kingdom.

 

Snuffhouse Alone – Bloodborn

Snuffhouse is, as many people know, an extreme attraction that costs an extra fee to take part in. Lasting roughly 10 – 15 minutes (depending on if you use the safeword), victims are at the mercy of The Tormentors who, as their titles imply, are there to make your life hell.

This is the first and unfortunately last time I took part in Snuffhouse Alone, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out! With an all female cast, some fantastic reviews from the last few runs, and the knowledge this will be the only time I would be able to take part, I stripped down to my t-shirt and jeans (hey! It’s cold up there and I didn’t think I’d be able to participate!) and stepped in the queue.

From the moment I entered Snuffhouse, I was hooded, bound, teased, degraded, interrogated, beautified, and generally abused, but I couldn’t help but grin all the way through from what I had just experienced or what I was told to do, it was just an absolutely fabulous run with some fantastic ideas and clever tricks that I’ve not experienced before in a haunt!

Fortunately for me, I can’t do any of the eating scenes (yay for chronic illnesses! (I’ll let you decide if I’m being serious or not there)) so I didn’t get the “full shebang”, but what I did experience is the perfect introduction to the extreme haunt scene, and I would have thoroughly recommended it to anyone who has ever wondered why extreme haunt fans like their extreme haunts. I totally regret not going back through!

 

Overall, Walpurgis Night was an absolute blast, and it’s such a shame that it didn’t run for more than one night to allow more chance of people to see those two absolutely stunning haunts.

 

 

29/04/2017 – Walpurgis Night: Half Way to Halloween

29/04/2017 – Pasaje Del Terror, Blackpool

The first time I had ever experienced the Pasaje Del Terror brand was about a decade ago in Malaga: a friend and I were on holiday and we decided to go to Tivoliworld in the afternoon and stay through until midnight (the park opened at like 2pm and closed at midnight in order to escape the heat), we were both the thrill seeker types, and this was conveniently in the same place as we were so it seemed like a stupid idea to miss it; unfortunately, I thoroughly hated it and swore myself that I’d never visit the brand again, even though the London Pasaje is literally on my doorstep.

This changed, and I’m glad I was persuaded to go.

The first thing that struck me was its theming – even in the queue the theming was on point and really helped set the tone as you could see people looking about and shuffling their feet nervously as we waited to be summoned. Our time came, and we entered down the twisting staircase with a soundtrack saying “leave!” and “get out!” and other various phrases on a loop. We were given the bog standard haunt rules, the door opened, and we entered the blackness…

There were a number of things that thoroughly impressed me throughout the haunt, with the most impressive being the characters: every character, whether they spoke or not, were extremely captivating and had everyone in our group eating out of the palms of their hands, and used their surroundings well whether that was hiding in the shadows or using strobes to create extremely atmospheric and almost dreamlike visuals that make you wonder whether or not the character was real.

The scenery throughout was also fantastic, from narrow and incredibly dark corridors to a chapel with a priest (of sorts) inside, the amount of detail in each individual scene was spectacular and never let the scene down.

Unfortunately, even though the haunt was much stronger than I remember the Malaga haunt being, there were some downsides: if you were at the front you missed out on a lot of scares, which really sucks as there were two scares that I had no idea happened nor how it happened until a friend at the back told me and it sounded like a great scare (though I hasten to add that there were a number of scares that really were unexpected and even made me jump). On top of this, the scene inspired by the Halloween movie series could have had the effects trigger button hidden better and the scene itself could have been darker when the button was triggered. Finally, whilst the scenery between scenes was fantastic, the graduation between scenes really needs to be thought out a bit better as they were jarring at points and left me questioning why the transition was even dreamt up.

Overall, I enjoyed myself this time through. It’s short, but it delivers some really detailed scenes that most horror movie fans will identify and enjoy, though it’s definitely aimed at people who are new to the haunt scene. Definitely worth visiting if you’ve got a spare half hour and you’re close by.

29/04/2017 – Pasaje Del Terror, Blackpool

24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

It has been a long time since I last saw or heard anything from the depths of Southend as Hide and Shriek went silent shortly after their Halloween plans, which had me a little worried as there’s very little in the way of haunts down in Essex and they’re one of my favourite event organisers, so when Delectably Dead came onto my radar, I was all over that like a zombie on brains!

From what I knew about the show before entering, I knew it was going to be a mix of theatre and dinner at the same time. I did one in Disneyland or something years back that was themed to cowboys and you got served dinner whilst stuntmen did acrobatics and all sorts on horseback, so I was kinda basing my judgement on that: I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the intent was to completely immerse you from the second you stepped into the event. We were served drinks in the function room next to the room Delectably Dead was hosted which had caution tape wrapped around pillars and amusing signs dotted around the walls, and when the main doors opened we were given a little booklet that we had to fill out which was also riddled with Hide and Shriek humour (which I absolutely love).

Once we had filled out our rations booklet, we took our seats on our designated table, which was unfortunately further away from the stage than I had liked but we can’t win it all, I guess? Anyway. Looking around the room at the theming on the tables, in the rations book, and on the screens dotted about the place, it was clear that there was a lot of inspiration from the Fallout game series which I highly commended and actually got loads of positive feedback from friends when I showed them the pictures. If you can imagine sitting at a diner with caution tape stuck to the tablecloth whilst hanging industrial/miner lights flickered on and off to simulate being run off a generator, whilst 1940s/1950s-esque music played on repeat in the background and the characters wandering around whilst introducing themselves to you, you’d kinda get the bizarre mixture of haunt meets dining experience feeling.

The room filled up to the brink with a bizarre demographic: the ages ranged from their teens right through to their 40s and maybe 50s, wearing either t-shirt and trousers or smart casual. It was clear that it had bought the dining experience crowd and the horror/haunt crowd together in a room for an evening, which was absolutely lovely as we found ourselves making fantastic friends with people dotted all throughout the room during the course of the event.

Soon enough, it was showtime! The characters all popped into action and the generic zombie story began, with lots of thrills and spills, and a surprising amount of violence and rude language, which was surprising seeing as the other Hide and Shriek events I had been to definitely lacked these – definitely not a negative point as all the actions and language had its reason to be there. Not long after the show began, we got treated to Hide and Shriek’s trademark introduction video (I won’t lie, I was looking forward to this). For those that have never been to a Hide and Shriek event, it’s basically the generic safety briefing you get just as you’re about to enter a haunt (don’t touch the actors, they might touch you blah blah blah) but done in the style of the show, with lots of humour. I really and truly hope they never get bored of these, because I absolutely love them!

 

I guess this is the bit where the it gets tough to write about the event because it wasn’t a haunt, it wasn’t immersive theatre, it was a dining experience. For those that don’t know what that is (I didn’t know until 24 hours ago either), it’s basically a theatre show with a number of intervals dotted throughout in which you get given a chance to eat, go to the loo, top up your drink, have a smoke, etc. As someone who came from a haunt/theatre perspective, it really didn’t work for me – it felt like just as we were getting immersed in the show, we were ripped away from it to eat.

In my opinion, there were three different factors that ruined the experience for me. I’m not including the immersion issue above as that’s not an issue with the show per se, it’s my expectations coming from the haunt/theatre scene as opposed to faults in the show.

The first is the volume of the actors: whilst they did well to project their voices so that the ~200+ people could hear them, it was nigh on impossible to hear and understand what was going on through entire scenes in some cases due to the positioning of the actors and the general background noise (and not-so background noise, in some cases) from the audience. I’d suggest radio throat mics that hooked into the same PA system the projector and TVs were using.

The second is alcohol. I get that it’s nice to have a drink when you’re out at a theatre show, but there were some incredibly drunk people there that were yelling at inappropriate moments and generally treating it as if it were a pub, which the actors tried to combat but drunks are just complete and utter cunts at times, and none were more cunty than the cunt that was sat on our table yelling out the most vile shit I’d only expect at a Britain First rally. The actor receiving the abuse dealt with it in a fantastic manner and manged to keep himself composed extremely well, but fuck me I have no idea how she woke up this morning with just a hangover! The worst bit is, there were bouncers at the only entrance to the room that should have seen she was just getting drunker and louder as the event progressed and could have stopped her from re-entering the room for being too drunk, but all they did was give her a warning. I get that she had spent money to be there, but so had another 200 odd people and the last thing we wanted was to hear a load of racist bollocks instead of the show. I’d have either had a dry event or limit the alcohol to a bottle of wine between two people, with the bottles sat on the table, and then the bar open at the end. This could have potentially saved the actors from having to scream and yell so much that they were getting hoarse voices by the end of the show.

The third point is the number of people. Where we were sat (Zone E) was the opposite side of the room from where the action was taking place. With the two factors above and having a number of bodies obscuring our view, we had no idea what was going on and honestly started getting bored of sitting there trying to figure out what was going on, and only a handful of times would an actor come by our table for the briefest of moments – I feel sorry for the tables that were right at the back by the bar, it’s hardly surprising that they were just drinking and having their own little fun. I’d definitely consider having the number of tables one row, or maybe two rows, deep so that everyone is included in the show and it’s easier to follow.

 

 

Moving onto the positives of the show, the amount of detail in the very minimalist scenery was incredible – the posters that I mentioned in the bar were placed in the advertisement spaces in the loos, the little jokes on the ration book and in the intro video, the little stickers on the food, it all had something amusing that related to the apocalypse and zombies, and really added to the dining experience side of the event.

Also, from what I could hear I’d honestly say that without the dining experience bit and with the right crowd, this would have been a really tense and gripping piece of horror/thriller theatre. The combination of live actors and video really meshed well together, and really pulled off the horror tropes and paid homages to pioneering people and movies well. Sure it’s “another zombie show”, but the level of dedication the actors poured into their characters was so high that it would have been easy to have believed everything they said and for it to feel like it wasn’t just “another zombie show”, which actually really made me sad that all this effort was poured into the show only for it to be ruined because it felt like people couldn’t give a fuck about the show.

 

On reflection, I’m happy to chalk this down to a bad audience as all the other Hide and Shriek events I’ve attended have received nothing but praise from me in the past, though I don’t think I’ll be returning to another horror dining experience in the near future.

 

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24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

10/02/2017 – Valenterror

The Christmas period sucks for haunters. Sure, I did Zombie Infection at the beginning of December (though apologies for no official review, was feeling burnt out after the Halloween season) but that was still over 2 months ago, so I was super excited when a group of friends said they were up for Valenterror at Scare Kingdom!

Scare Kingdom is one of my staple haunting grounds (ha): the scenery is fantastic, it’s set far away from everywhere else which adds to the creepiness, and there’s not been one haunt there that I’ve thought negatively of, so when the opportunity arises I’ll be there in a heartbeat (haha, goddamn these puns).

Anyways, this visit was for their Valentines event, aptly named Valenterror (see where the pun went yet?). Manormortis opened its doors for one weekend for brave couples to enter the haunted manor armed with just one lone glowstick and face the zombies that hide inside.

Upon arriving outside Manormortis we were met by Dougie, the resident grave digger, who explained to us that he was just digging up bits of bodies to sell on a popular well known auction site, when all of a sudden the bodies started moving about on their own and that they had all been trapped in Manormortis: he also pointed out that one of us would be entering alone.

We enter the attraction and I get handed a glowstick – my friends decided to throw me under the bus and give me the satisfaction of going through the haunt alone (won’t lie, it was absolutely *great!*). I ducked through the fireplace and started my slow and winding journey through the pitch black corridors with a glowstick that did absolutely nothing to light my way, though the zombies had no problem finding me: I was charged at, had zombies appear in front of me from nowhere, and slowly stalked from behind – these zombies knew exactly how to work the darkness and their little lights to create some fantastic jump scares and illusions that’d give everyone the heebie-jeebies, including myself!

Travelling through a haunt alone is really bizarre – I usually use other people as a source of distraction from anything that might make me jump, but I couldn’t depend on that this time, and there were a few scenes, one including a painting, that caught me by surprise even though I had seen them all in action the previous times I had been through!

We, or rather, I, finally made it to the end scene (which hadn’t changed since Halloween), and anyone that knows about it knows what to expect; let me say it is a completely different ball game when you’re on your own and getting some lovely one on one time – it’s been a long time since a boo haunt made me nervous, and that actor really hit the nail on the head.

As quickly as it started, it was over, which was a shame because it was great to be able to walk around a haunt on your own and get all these personal interactions with nobody else around, especially in a haunt as special as Manormortis, which I feel is a side effect of the lack of lighting as there’s so much to see in there when everything’s lit up – there were definitely scenes that really fell short due to the lack of lighting, though the corridor of wine bottles was actually much, much more claustrophobic with the lack of lighting and being alone. If I had to choose a favourite scene, it was either the wine cellar or the tunnel after the boiler where I was charged at by a zombie.

All in all, I definitely had fun and enjoyed myself, even though there were a few negative comments, not that you could really do much about them – long haunts with short through-puts are few and far between and aren’t too popular, and glowsticks never have and never will be a fantastic torch, but I’m glad I managed to experience my first glowstick lit haunt, and to get the 2017 season started!

10/02/2017 – Valenterror

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise to anyone that’s been anticipating this review, especially the cast of 139 Copeland Road: I was seriously ill for the event and just about managed to drag myself along, and since I’ve literally not had the energy to get round to writing this up.

 

Anywho, on with the review!

 

After the sheer intensity of Séance in Birmingham a few weeks earlier, 139 Copeland Road suddenly appeared on my Facebook feed, and with only a small number of likes and a rather captive backstory, I knew I had to go to it one way or another. I spoke with a few friends and managed to get tickets for the same show as my friend from Europehaunts, who frequently flies to the UK to experience the shows here. With much excitement, we counted down the days until the show.

 

As I explained above, a few days before I had a flare up (I’ve suffered from Crohn’s disease since 2014, and it’s rare for me to admit it so publicly but I very much have reason to), which included intense stomach cramps that are unbearably painful, which almost made me give up my ticket; however, I didn’t: I got dressed (readas: put clothes over my pyjamas) and headed off to 139 Copeland Road.

 

I got to Hackney Wick station and punched in the postcode on my phone, and began following the instructions, half forcing myself to just go and get it over and done with. After getting lost despite being stood right outside the venue, I bumped into the guy from Europehaunts who seemed to have his head screwed on more than me as he instantly saw the venue: a derelict house.

 

We approached 137 Copeland Road, showed our tickets, and were let inside, where we were greeted by the sights of a completely gutted house, an absolute skeleton of what we’d consider a building. Music wafted through the air while floodlights splashed light across the walls, which were decorated with newspaper articles, pictures, police enquiries, and all sorts of information about seances and the family that lived there.

An eccentric man dressed as if he had stepped out of a steampunk fantasy novel explained the story of 139 Copeland Road: Mary, a single mother of two, had been living at 139 Copeland Road. She had been a school teacher, a much loved figure in the community. One night in 1974 however, a house fire led to Mary and her two boys burning to their deaths. The bodies were never recovered. Since then, the house has stood empty, partly due to the derelict state, but even more so because of the rumours. The sightings.

As soon as he wrapped up the story we were led into 139 Copeland Road, which was just as derelict, if not moreso, than the building we had just come from, and even upon entering there was something not quite right about the house. We were invited to take a seat at a table that had a lightbulb dangling from the rafters above, dimly lighting what felt like would have been the living room before the fire, whilst the Medium set up the seance with an offering of food, candles, and a picture of Mary, whom we were trying to contact. The light dangling above the table was turned off, leaving us bathed in the light of the three candles. We all joined hands, and the seance began.

Over the course of the next half hour, all of us at the show were completely encapsulated in the seance; lights would flicker, objects would vibrate and shake, and even though at a subconscious level I knew it was fake, I could have sworn there was someone stood directly behind me, staring at the back of my neck – something that Europehaunts also felt.

We found ourselves rushing around this decrepit house, our paths lit only by two of the smallest and dimmest torches ever, as we try to unravel the secrets that 139 Copeland Road held: we soon learned that the fire was no accident, and there was something much darker and sinister lurking in the shadows.

Though that entity sure wasn’t the only thing to be hidden in the shadows: there were points where we were plunged into pitch black, huddled in a corner as all sorts of noises rattled around us, making everyone feel claustrophobic. In one room, we were stood with a faint ticking noise that grew louder and louder from the loft, which became more and more consuming the louder it got – the ticking was the most intense and attention grabbing noise I’ve ever heard in my life, then it stopped. We all stood there in absolute silence, waiting.

As the show drew to a close, the experience became more intense still, as the guy who set the scene ended up disappearing in front of our very eyes, and we were chased out of the building by a roar that somehow chased us all down the stairs: the finale, an absolutely mindblowing scene that used the chaos as a perfect cover to transport items from where we were to the sinister entity more than 10 feet away from us, which was incredibly impressive. We were soon chased out of 139 Copeland Road and onto the streets, where we all took a moment to sigh and decompress before laughing at how immersed and scared we all were.

 

Well, what can I say? This has to be one of the best pieces of immersive theatre I’ve ever experienced – I don’t usually get sucked into a story within 10 minutes of the show starting but this got me perfectly – I even forgot that I was in pain for the entire show, which is absolutely incredible!

Despite there being only a handful of actors, each one played their parts perfectly – the Medium did a fantastic job of acting exactly like Mediums do on Most Haunted and the like, the guy that set the scene was really easy to listen to and believe, and the plant that I suspected was a plant at the beginning actually had me fooled once the seance began, and the sinister entity used the strobes perfectly to seemingly glide across the room at numerous moments in the event (though a black zentai suit would have been a bit creepier).

Considering the only effects that were used were flickering lights and speakers (probably triggered from 137 Copeland Road), the company behind the show were able to quickly and effectively suspend reality and create an entire world within the walls of that house. I’m glad that I forced myself to go despite being ill, as I know I wouldn’t have forgiven myself for not going.

One eensy-weensy criticism was that the speakers in the bedroom and living room were easily visible (if you knew where you were looking) and the two strobelights used at the end could have been moved so that they were hidden behind the beam where the dividing wall was (can’t explain it any better unfortunately – sorry!).

I look forward to hopefully seeing more from the creators of 139 Copeland Road, as they are definitely hitting the nail on the head when it comes to immersive theatre.

 

20/11/2016 – 139 Copeland Road