28/04/2018 – Ghoulies Haunted House: Ghoulies X

For the first time at Scareflix and Thrill, this review is a collaboration from James, Frankie, and Liam.

After learning about Ghoulies Haunted House from the recent SCAR award announcements, we decided to trek all the way up to Liverpool to experience Ghoulies X, an extreme haunt that features state-of-the-art animatronics, masks, costumes, live actors, and special effects – we simply couldn’t refuse the sound of this!

On the way to the attraction we soon began to question our nerves despite having done other extreme attractions in the past – we just couldn’t (and still can’t) figure out why we were so scared, but there was something about Ghoulies X and the Facebook advertisements that managed to rattle us to the point of considering a refund as we got closer and closer to the attraction, and our doom.

After some reassurance and peer pressure from everyone, we all gritted our teeth and signed the waiver. We stood in front of the famous Black Gate waiting to be let in, only to hear a gravelly voice yelling out to be fed from beyond. The gate opened and we all took in a deep breath before reluctantly stepping into the first corridor, which set out the haunt’s plot perfectly as we navigated our way through. We approached the red door – our door – and pause, grimacing to each other before I pushed the handle down and opened the door.

As soon as we enter through the door, the experience began: we instantly met two of the characters who had absolutely no issue invading our personal space and ensuring we’re as uncomfortable as we can be. After a rather brief introduction (most of which was missed by James as he was too busy being harassed by ghouls within the wall), we were selected and roughly moved from room to room, separated but still as a group to be tormented; the attraction was taken to the next level when the ghouls broke the fourth wall by addressing us all by name!

Soon enough, chaos broke out around us and we were soon screaming in shock and crying with laughter as we passed through what can only be described as an unnerving acid trip from hell: the actors engaged in strange conversations with us about famous murderers as Frankie was wearing a t-shirt from the Museum of Death in LA, all while Liam was being tormented by the dentist and I was being freaked out by the clown! The engagement with the characters is unmatched – we counted maybe 5 characters in total, though it definitely felt like a lot more than that as the actors were able to jump a scene in order to get ahead of us without us even noticing they had vanished!

After passing some really impressive animatronics that had us yelling loudly, we enter an extremely intense finale that had the safe phrase on everyone’s tongues. Soon enough, it finished: we were pointed toward a double door and climbed the staircase with the biggest grins on our faces, as we enter the Ghoulies bar, which is almost a haunt in its own right!

Ghoulies X is a missing valuable link in the extreme haunt industry: the sets are very basic, but it’s not the sets you’re really paying attention to: it’s the actors, all of whom use the right amount of aggression and force when interacting and moving you about. It’s clear that everyone involved in the attraction is passionate about horror and haunts as each character had their own personality and they all really played up to their character when we were in their scene while the other characters took a slightly more passive role. Alongside this, each dialogue felt absolutely genuine from all the characters and it felt like you were able to respond to questions and make comments and the like – James was (jokingly) offered candy floss and cocoa as he waited for his turn in the finale!

Ghoulies X is the most aggressively funny extreme haunt that assaults all your senses in many different ways, which will leave you screaming in both fear, laughter, and sometimes both! We dare you to take on the ghouls hiding in Ghoulies Haunted House!

We’d like to say a mega thanks to John, the creator and owner of Ghoulies Haunted House for coming out at the end of the night to chat with us – it was a pleasure to get to chat to you! We look forward to bumping into you again soon!

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28/04/2018 – Ghoulies Haunted House: Ghoulies X

28/04/2018 – Unescapable: Edith

Escape rooms are fast becoming a quick and easily accessible pass time in the UK, and with more and more escape rooms popping up the frequency of horror themed rooms are on the rise too! This time we’re at Unescapable’s horror themed room, Edith: after creating the first time portal, a scientist called Edith was sent through to scout what was on the other side and to make sure the portal was stable; unfortunately, Edith ever returned and all contact has been cut off – what is known is that she was trying to shut down the portal but met resistance… it was up to us to step up to the plate, shut down the portal, and hopefully not come into contact with whatever was stopping Edith (yeah no chance there!).

So now you know as much as we did when we first entered the room, it sounds ominous right? Needless to say, we were pretty nervous as we made our way through the time portal and into a decrepit, dimly-lit room beautifully decorated to fit in with the 1800s.  Electrical issues plagued us at inappropriate/appropriate moments depending on how you look at it, that left us in complete darkness at points which really didn’t help with basically everything we had to do. As we progressed through the games, things started to get creepier, especially the locked wardrobe in the corner…

After plenty of nervous laughter, jumping, screaming, flat out refusing to do certain things, and being forced to make unexpected decisions, we crawled back through the time portal and were welcomed back to 2018 by the scientist that helped us pass through!

Edith is an escape room like none I’ve done before: it not only requires players to be mentally alert, but also physically agile in order to survive (read as: hide) and make it out in one piece – much easier said than done when you’re constantly being hunted down by something that lurks in the shadows and watches your every move…

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Oh, and if you survive, find the Polaroid photo on the right hand wall with someone blacked out on it and ask for the story behind the picture.

 

28/04/2018 – Unescapable: Edith

31/03/2018 – Nightmare Asylum

So the haunt scene is slowly coming out of hibernation, and my friends and I were feeling really antsy to get our asses to a haunt ASAP and get our fix of scares! After spending a long time hunting for something, we stumbled across Nightmare Asylum in Nottingham: a haunt that’s only been open for a few days. We reserved our tickets the night before (30th) and continued on with out night.

The next day, we trek from Birmingham to Nottingham all hoping that Nightmare Asylum would be worth it whilst also thinking it was odd that we only reserved a ticket and didn’t actually pay for them, and we began to wonder if it was legit. We arrive outside a warehouse that looks like it could have been a small car repair shop at some point with a banner hanging above the shutters reading “Nightmare Asylum” – at least if this wasn’t legit, they spent a little bit on our demise…

We ring the number on the Facebook page and tell the receiver that we’re here – a few seconds later, a man steps out from the side of a building and beckons us in through the security fence and into a sizeable room with a kitchen in the corner; thinking this is part of the escape room (hold that thought…) I instantly start scanning the bare room for any signs of clues… nothing: turns out, it was just a break room.

We’re handed waivers and, in our naivety we blindly signed them (I haven’t learned from other times I’ve been handed waivers…), and we’re then given the basic run down on how the haunt works. The haunt itself is a peculiar blend of escape room, haunt, and maze all rolled into one: you’ll come across padlocks that need keys or codes to open them and you’ll have to find your way around the haunt blind, all while being tormented by invisible actors.

We’re taken back into the corridor connecting the entrance to the kitchen and our hostess pulls back an unassuming white curtain we must have ignored as we walked in, to reveal a stairwell covered in bloodstains and threats that lead up to a closed door. We’re handed a torch and we sheepishly climb up the stairs before opening the door and walking into the gloomy room in front of us; as we enter the room, the door behind us slams shut with a loud bang and we all scream. This, I’m afraid/amused to say, is very much how the rest of the experience went for us…

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Without giving too much away, but Nightmare Asylum is almost what it says on the tin: yes, it was an absolute nightmare and had us saying “I don’t like this” and pushing each other to be the first through the room whereas we’d usually be fighting to be at the front; however, there wasn’t anything themed around what I’d consider an Asylum – hell, there didn’t seem to be any theme or story behind it at all: it was very disjointed and almost like a horror movie game, but this really, really worked well and actually made it feel like it lasted a lot longer than it actually did (great once we got out, but not so great when we were in there).

The haunt is so strange I’m actually struggling to write this part of the review!

The actors know the haunt like the back of their hand, and you’ll know why I put that when you go. It’s a full contact haunt and you are grabbed and pulled at mercilessly throughout which, when combined with the situation you’re in, quickly becomes stressful and spooky (in the right way).

The only criticism I have is that some of the sounds didn’t properly sync up with what we were doing – I’m not entirely sure whether the audio is triggered manually or not, but a sensor or something that monitors the object the sound is meant to sync up to would definitely be a vast improvement. Usually I like seeing the sets a little more, but for some reason the way Nightmare Asylum is done currently, you really don’t need much light at all.

I have no idea why we were so scared throughout – looking back there’s nothing groundbreaking or mindblowing, but for some reason the “less is more” mantra really worked well for Nightmare Asylum, and with the team behind it, I really hope they’ll be scaring us for many years to come!

 

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31/03/2018 – Nightmare Asylum

09/03/2018 – DotDot.london: Somnai

I’ve never been happy with myself – I always knew I had the ability to do more, see more, be more. OK, that’s a lie: I’m very happy with myself and strive to push myself as much as possible; however adverts have been popping up on Facebook and around London advertising this brand new service that’ll help me uncover my true potential by accessing my subconscious at will, with only acute death as a potential side effect. What could go wrong, right? … right?

 

With absolutely no information available bar a website selling tickets and a few posters with double edged slogans such as “sleep with us”, I very much read into this as being an intense horror experience where things go horribly wrong and you end up in a nightmare landscape, tormented by nameless entities that want nothing more than to cause suffering due to the imagery and mystery surrounding the event: instead what I found was quite the opposite.

 

Somnai is, at the core of it, an immersive theatrical experience that mixes live action, virtual reality, film, and scents and sound in an attempt to completely immerse you in what can only be described as a cyberpunk sci-fi movie with a slight Black Mirror undertone, just without the dystopia that’s usually prescribed to the genre, and it does it exquisitely once you accept that you need to don virtual reality devices and may end up in waiting rooms due to the nature of the show; having said that, as soon as we entered each scene I was very much back in and immersed in the world once more.

 

From the moment I handed my belongings over to the moment I left the building, I was in awe at what I experienced during my hour-ish long show, from the story and how it played out through to the incredulous amount of technologies used – it’s rarely a good idea to rely heavily on technology given how temperamental it can be, but the team at Somnai are taking that risk and, when the technologies work, it is an absolutely beautiful  and overwhelming experience.

 

What are you waiting for? Come and #SleepWithUs.

Sweet dreams.

09/03/2018 – DotDot.london: Somnai

08/03/2018 – The Tom Sawyer Effect: The Pendulum

Located in the tunnels beneath Waterloo train station in central London, The Vault Festival puts on a series of shows and immersive experiences that spread far and wide across all mediums and genres; this year, one stood out in particular: The Pendulum by The Tom Sawyer Effect. Billed as “a hyper reality horror experience blending virtual reality with immersive theatre”, there was no way I could turn this down – even if I am a sceptic of virtual reality.

It’s time for me to experience The Pendulum. I arrive in the tunnels and am greeted by the usual hustle and bustle of the underpass: a mix of people hanging about outside The Vault itself, street jugglers, professional photographers, and graffiti artists litter the tunnel, creating create this electricity that buzzes through the air but always seemed to be dampened as if it’s only for the select few in the area.

An usher arrives and asks if I’m here for The Pendulum – “Yes” – “Follow me”. We walk down the tunnel and away from the main hub of the festival in complete silence despite my best attempts at striking up a conversation, which unsettled me a bit. We approach a completely unassuming door right at the end of the tunnel and I’m ushered into the blackness, where someone is sat at a table with a sizeable waiver and a pen. I’m asked to read the waiver and backstory and sign on the line, and I do. I’m then handed a red boiler suit and am instructed to put it on and take a seat on the chair off to the side. The usher approaches and covers my head with a cloth, and the experience begins.

What happens over the course of the next 20 minutes is difficult to put into words, but there’s no hyperbole in synopsis: from the moment I was guided from my seat into the 5 metre by 5 metre room where the one-on-one experience is held, I was completely immersed in their universe. Sure I didn’t think that I was this super hacker the interrogator was talking about, but that’s not the point: the actor had me eating out of the palm of his hand for the entire show; not only that, but the way in which the virtual reality was used wasn’t jarring at all as it has been in other attractions – it had a legitimate reason for being used.

Despite me erring on the side of caution with regards to virtual reality (never work with computers, animals or kids in show biz!) and having unfortunately experienced tech failures during haunts that rely heavily on it, I was very much expecting it to be dreadful: I was proven wrong, and man am I happy about that! I don’t want to go into too much detail as there’s a lot that you need to experience for yourself, but the most bizarre and jarring (in a positive manner) thing was that the room went from being 5 metre square to a tunnel that looks about 10 metres deep and 50 metres wide.

 

The Pendulum is a truly impressive piece of theatre that is quick to immerse you in its universe and make you question what you perceive as reality, from the story through to the actors to the technology used, it is a real pleasure to see and experience something of this calibre – well done to absolutely everyone involved!

08/03/2018 – The Tom Sawyer Effect: The Pendulum

16/01/2018 – Take Me Home: Horror Within

Walking up the stairs toward Take Me Home’s Horror Within, I had no idea what to expect: I’ve done haunts with the tiniest possible floor space possible that have really packed a punch and left a mark over the last few years, however when I heard that there would be live actors inside the impossibly small room looming from the balcony above, I was curious as to see just how this would work.

We were ushered inside and told to take a seat at a table in this gloomy early-1900’s drawing room, smoke hanging still in the air to create a haze. As we’re all sat and made comfortable, we’re asked to turn off our phones and tuck our belongings in under our chair and we wait as atmospheric music washes through the room, trying to stir up a joke with each other which are followed by short-lived nervous chuckles as nobody had any idea what to expect, myself included: the lights went out and a music box dances its way through the darkness…

What happened over the course of the next hour is really hard to fully encapsulate in words: I could tell you every little detail, every line that was said, every glance over the shoulder, but that just wouldn’t carry the same weight that the atmosphere created by the Take Me Home team managed to create: I can’t speak for anyone else in this performance but I was very much eating out the palm of all the actors hands throughout the performance.

Given that this was the premiere performance, I was a little concerned as to how rough it was going to be as I had spoken to the producers they were entirely, and understandably, nervous themselves; however the actors took this all in their stride and rolled with whatever hiccup had happened, which lessened the impact of the issue entirely – something that definitely isn’t easy, especially when some of the pieces were narrative!

There are a few changes that I’d make that I thought might have a better impact which have already been passed onto the team but won’t be posted here as they’d give away elements of the show that are best left unknown: having said that, if the actors can see that the audience is really eating out of the palm of their hands, definitely draw out poignant sentences and embellish motions more. I very much look forward to returning to see the full show later this week!

The world within the four walls of Jacob’s drawing room is so beautiful and rich that it’s entirely easy to forget the outside world exists at all: the actors and effects blend beautifully together to create an atmospheric and haunting show that’ll stick in your mind for a very long time!

 


 

UPDATE: I’ve just returned from my second showing of Take Me Home: Horror Within and I walked out just as impressed as I did the first time! A lot has changed: entire scenes have gone, new effects have been introduced, and what worked in Tuesday’s show has been improved on since, and the actors have really settled into their characters which made their interactions much more believable: I was thrilled when I found out the show has been extended and I urge you to go, even if you’ve already experienced it!

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/takemehomeplay/

Tickets: https://www.thebroadwaybarking.com/sales/genres/drama/take-me-home–horror-within

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16/01/2018 – Take Me Home: Horror Within

13/01/2018 – Room Escape Southend: Apartment 666

Three weeks after getting spooked silly by a zombie Santa, Room Escape Southend had completely gutted their winter wonderland theming along with the cabin that’s been stood for the last two iterations of their room escapes, and has been replaced with an ultra modern flat: Apartment 666.

This has to be the toughest room that Room Escape Southend have put on with puzzles being rather complex and spread out across the apartment, which is only made harder as portals between the two dimensions open…

I’ve deliberately left this short and sweet as it’s only in its second day (at time of writing) and I really don’t want to give too much away, but the Room Escape Southend team have really worked their arses off to bring you what is an intense and testing escape room that’ll leave you screaming and ducking for cover as you work your way out of the room!

 

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13/01/2018 – Room Escape Southend: Apartment 666