15/07/2017 – Frequent Fear Podcast: Fraternity

Conspiracy theories these days run rife. From Big Pharma to the Illuminati, people either believe or disbelieve. Me? Well, I wasn’t a believer, until recently…

Back in March, GNG Entertainment posted “Five years ago, for the first time in the UK, we asked the question ‘how far is too far?’. This year, we find out!” with a picture of the word “Fraternity” in a Greek stylised font. Five years before, for those that don’t know (and I didn’t until late last year) refers to Project Fear, which sounded like a short if intense and extreme haunt where guests entered alone and were subjected to a number of horrible tasks designed to make you uncomfortable, and boy were they successful! Alongside this, the Frequent Fear Podcast released an entry, revealing Lee Conway, Gary Crompton, and Sarah Wilson were the masterminds behind the show, with the podcast exploring the set up of a haunt, its complications and their solutions, in a transparent manner; soon enough, concept artwork began surfacing.

 

Jump to the beginning of April: a Dr Henry Issac, out of the blue, decided to follow me on Twitter. Why’s this a big deal? Well, whilst the Twitter account exists, it is rarely used and just sits there (seriously, follow me on Facebook if you want to be kept in the loop). A quick scan of his profile and I see the word “conspiracist” in the About Me section and smile to myself. Why was a conspiracy nutter following me, and what was The Ordre d’Elysium? I dig even further into his profile and it looks like his previous accounts had been taken down with no reasoning. I got the urge to follow him back, and with one click of a button my entire life changed.

He began posting cryptic and almost inspiring quotes, in a similar vein to that “hang in there!” slogan printed over a picture of a cat struggling to hang onto the branch of a tree. It was amusing for a conspirator to be posting these kinds of things, but that soon began to change: he started explaining that the name of the Fraternity was the Ordre d’Elysium and that he had spent decades following them after discovering a piece of parchment he had found whilst looking into theories on the Holy Blood and Holy Grail, which promised people unlimited power and riches. We explained to Henry that a scare attraction called Fraternity had just been announced, and he was confused at first: what were the Frequent Fear Podcast doing, and how could they ever be linked to the Ordre d’Elysium? We didn’t know: we all knew the guys behind the attraction personally so it didn’t make any sense to us and we shrugged it off to begin with, but seeds of doubt had been sewn, even if nobody wanted to admit to it.

A number of days passed with us chatting about conspiracy theories to Henry, and we explained that we wanted to help as we were now curious as to what was going on – wouldn’t you be the same? With the initiations happening once every decade and with 2017 being the next opportunity, we placed all our trust into Henry and leapt into the unknown. He shared the parchment with us as a test to prove ourselves and our loyalty to him: it was our first riddle, our first step in finding the Ordre. This parchment somehow found its way onto the Fraternity website with the text “Ternion will start your path, and lead you through degrees to the promised land.”

 

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Collectively, and with no help from Henry other than being told to look into the Priory of Sion, we began looking for anything that’d point us in the right direction, obsessively scouring the text for anything strange written within such as words capitalised when they shouldn’t be, letters that seemed out of place for whatever reason, that sort of thing. Theories soon began surfacing and grew with each passing hour, growing to the point where we were looked into astrology and planetary alignments in order to help solve the riddle, but to no avail: we were unsuccessful. Despite the lack of success, Henry showed mercy and uploaded a video to YouTube explaining the extremely complex solution, which revealed the dates of the initiation – was he impressed with how much effort we put into solving the puzzle? Who knows: we were just happy that our efforts seemed to have impressed him enough for him to extend an olive branch.

One of the group shared the date Henry uncovered with Lee who confirmed that those were the dates, and asked how we found out. Naturally, we explained that a Dr Henry had contacted us and told us it was an initiation ceremony and had deciphered the dates from the image: Lee laughed it off, saying he was just some conspirator nutjob and to ignore him. Had we known what we had let ourselves in for, we probably would have followed his advice.

A few days pass, and nothing was heard from Dr Henry. Maybe we were being played and it was someone getting his rocks off to us solving weird riddles for him, when three of our group received an email from magendavid1897@gmail.com, each entitled “Getting closer to initiation” with an encrypted message. The sender referred to themself as “Deep Throat”, but after a little research on the internet, we settled on the notion that the username referred to the Star of David, which made an appearance in the parchment Henry found.

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The binary was the first to be decrypted – a simple binary to text conversion helped with that; however, the other two proved to be much, much harder. Many methods surfaced and none of them worked, making us worry that DT had used multiple layers of encryption. Finally, LEIGGS1910 was uncovered to reveal “SCHOOL 1910”, but we didn’t get round to being able to solve the repeating numbers puzzle.

Alongside all this codebreaking, we were constantly in communication with DT in order to figure out just who we were dealing with. Whilst we never got more than a name, we did learn that he/she was born inside the Ordre and that before each initiation, this highly secret society opened communication channels to the outside world with the permission of the Elders, though DT hadn’t consulted with them and found him/herself in great danger. DT soon started to worry that we wouldn’t figure out the final code as we reached out for help, and we got a new clue “Mechesburg 01709SE4700”, which we deciphered to be Mexborough. We also started getting nicknames DT would use to address us by, based on Greek mythology – some of which had rather grisly meanings behind, and we soon started to worry that not only were the Ordre onto us, but the Ordre had very specific plans in place, and these nicknames were an insight into what to expect. We all began questioning each other, wondering if our actions would be paid for by someone else within the group.

DT fell off the face of the planet. We tried everything to get in contact, but never heard anything back, until one member of our group got the following: “Tomorrow for 30 mins the window will open. If I get the chance I will inform you all 15 minutes before with a call out. Initiation is around the corner.”, and several members got what looked parts of a waiver detailing what we might be subjected to throughout the initiation after we put the emails in order, the most interesting being that we would be given a ceremonial gown. As promised by DT, one of us received a text message stating that DT had inserted a glitch in the Ordre’s website which would take us to a page where we could gain entry to the initiation. Nothing stood out to us when the webpage loaded, so we resorted to randomly clicking about, hoping that the glitch would be that simple – jackpot! We sent this information to Lee, Gary and Sarah once again who were absolutely clueless as to how we were able to get tickets when tickets weren’t available for another three days, though our sales were still to be honoured.

DT sent through another text message saying that another glitch was being added so we could learn more about the Ordre, and as promised, the glitch was live. This time, we were re-directed to a “Contact Us” page, which most of us eagerly filled in, asking for more information.

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A day passed and DT came back to us with an aire of panic in their email, stating to not use the Contact Us page on the site, as any message would be sent straight to the hands of the Ordre’s security officers – it was a trap, and we had all fallen for it! Fortunately for us, there was a chance that we could have those emails intercepted should we be able to decipher three codes in a week, and that the importance of this is “more important that life or death”, which panicked us greatly.

 

Soon enough, one of our group was sent an email with the first clue – it was a simple morse code which we deciphered in a matter of hours, which translated to “THIS IS A TEST CODE.”. We received confirmation, and the next cipher was sent:

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Once more, theories flew about and grew faster than wildfire, only to be halted dead in their tracks. A secret Facebook chat for everyone in the group, sans Henry, was created as our trust in the “Doctor” began to wane – whilst he was trying to be helpful, he always stated the obvious, and it began to feel like he was trying to ride our coat tails, and we weren’t having that. We got the understanding of the riddle but just couldn’t apply it, hell, I even tried to write a piece of VBA in Excel that’d help out in some way, but even that was unsuccessful! Finally, the code was cracked, revealing a passage from Ezekiel: The turn is come unto thee, O inhabitant of the land; the time is come, the day of tumult is near, and not of joyful shouting upon the mountains. We sent this back to DT on the third day, and it was confirmed correct and the final cipher had been sent.

The final clue was written in Braille, so a quick look at a few converters finally helped us work out the final cipher – it turns out that JFK almost gave away the Ordre’s existence in a speech he had made in April 1961! With no help from Henry once again and him now throwing out his own mad theories on why we’re having to break these codes for DT, we realised that we had never actually seen a picture of Henry, and our suspicions were raised even higher: we decided as a group that anything relating to the Ordre we get, we discuss in the Facebook group away from Henry just in case: our trust for him hit an all time low.

 

One final cipher came through, with the promise of an honest answer for three questions we ask:

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If you’re sat there staring at the screen and scratching your head, you’re as clueless as we were. We figured the number 10 had something to do with it and the letter “C” where the two lines intersect with each other were relevant, but we tried all sorts of encryption methods and codebreaker websites in order to solve the puzzle, but we just couldn’t. It took days for us to finally figure out how to solve the clue (you create 10 columns and starting with the “C”, you put a character in each column horizontally, then read the text vertically) and send it off to DT, unbeknown to Henry – we felt that Henry shouldn’t know as he’d ask all sorts of questions and might even attempt to send the questions off behind our backs.

DT fell silent once again, this silence lasting a week before Henry pointed the silence out. We urged Henry to get in contact with an encrypted message of his own seeing as he was under the Ordre’s watchful eye, but he didn’t. We were worried that DT had been caught. Another three days passed and a video from DT herself was sent, begging us with all the desperation she could muster for help on the real reason why she decided to reach out to us, but she never explained what.

We finally received confirmation that our answer for the final cipher was correct and that we were allowed three questions. After painstaking debate, we decided to ask what makes OdE so dangerous, what’s it like to be a member, and finally, whether we could trust Henry. We were told to wait for a few days so DT could get her thoughts together, before signing off as “Magen”.

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Another long silence passed before Henry uploaded a video to his own account – he’s never posted there before, on’y in ODEWatch. It looked like he had been trapped in a building and was trying to escape, his breath heavy as he ran from room to room, banging on windows looking out over nothing, trying to attract some attention, then it ends. ODEWatch spurs back to life and questions were raised once more. We contacted DT to see if she could help, but we got no response. We waited.

The next day, Henry posts: Hello this is Origen. Shit! We were rumbled! Henry in all his stupidity, hadn’t put a password on his phone and got caught! We texted DT to see if she could help. We got a response almost instantly: “Thank you for letting me know, I’ve confiscated Magens phone too. Origen.”. Double shit! We had no way of finding out if either of our cohorts were OK. We could do nothing but attend the haunt and hope that we wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Dr Henry.

The event drew near and after a 4 hour journey to the initiation site, we meet up with three other hopefuls in the car park. We receive a call and get invited inside. We enter the building and take a seat. We’re about half hour early, so we grab a drink and take a seat on the sofas in this huge hall, absorbing the deafening silence when we’re not talking, and the echoes when we do speak. Slowly, more hopefuls arrive. A smartly dressed boy of maybe 11 enters through one of the double doors leading off from the hall and announces “can James Collins follow me please”. I rise to my feet, taken slightly aback by the assertive tone coming from a child and step forward with a nervous laughter from myself and the rest. I follow in complete silence and enter through another set of double doors. I’m handed a waiver and get told to read and sign, which I do. I’m then beckoned beyond the table where the waiver signing takes place by the boy and get taken into a darkened stairwell.

 

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A chair sits facing the stairs as they descend with a piece of laminated paper stuck to the wall next to it, and a basket beneath. I’m told to read and follow the instructions: disrobe to your underwear, put on the t-shirt, sit on the chair, and ring the bell. I disrobe, my heart in my throat, and slip into the t-shirt, which reaches down beyond my underwear. I place my clothes in the basket provided and take a seat. I take in a breath and ring the bell three times, the chimes echoing up and down the stairwell as I sit back in my seat. The chimes vanish to nothing and time slows down. From the darkness, a shadow appears. With an outstretched hand, I am beckoned. I descend the stairs at a pace similar to the gesture from the shadow with my footsteps bouncing off the walls. I’m taken by the hand and led into another room: the initiation began…

Most of what happened after this can’t be shared; however I was bathed, anointed, asked to prove my trust in the Ordre by a member with dozens of mousetraps, and eventually being reborn into the society in a journey that was both serene and yet chaotic as my path crossed those of Dr Henry and Magen. 30 minutes later, I’m sat blindfolded in front of a cloaked figure speaking in what sounded like Latin as a warmth spread through my wrists. The figure stops speaking and the blindfold was removed, revealing the mark of the Ordre where the warmth was moments ago. I am welcomed into the fraternity by the cloaked figure, my new Brother, and am guided to a door where I’m told never to talk about the Ordre before being shoved through it and back into reality – initiation complete.

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15/07/2017 – Frequent Fear Podcast: Fraternity

14/07/2017 – Southend Room Escape: The Cabin (Preview Night)

After the roaring success of its predecessor (Down the Rabbit Hole) and with a SCAR Award under their belt, the team at Southend Room Escape quickly began boasting about their brand new addition to the growing list of horror themed escape rooms: The Cabin. We were invited to a preview night to give the room a test run, and I’ve still not entirely decided who was tested more: us, the actors, or the room!

Inspired by the legend of the Blair Witch, participants enter a long forgotten cabin hidden deep in the woods where a number of people had been vanishing, and it’s down to the participants to solve the clues and save the kids from their impending doom!

From the moment we stepped into the building, it was clear to see why they needed two weeks to redecorate! The scenery was absolutely incredible and as soon as the front door opened, it was easy to believe that we were in an old abandoned lodge. A dead radio in the corner fizzled to life and explained the rules, and we left the starting line… albeit very slowly.

We spent the next hour sweating over the most easiest of easy riddles, trying (and succeeding!) to hack locks and clues (much to our detriment…), and even trying to appeal to the actors soft side in order to get a hint on how to solve the clues (you really need to have your thinking cap on for some of these), and screaming as we’re attacked by a benevolent force as the claustrophobic cabin and intense darkness were used against us.

Once again, the team at Southend Room Escape weaved their magic and bought their universe to life in their little pocket of Southend. This is truly not for the feint of heart, and really does require everyone in the team to be able to cope under stress. We will definitely be back later on in the season to see the full show (clues were being changed after we left, so don’t ask us for clues!) and to see if we can best our time!

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14/07/2017 – Southend Room Escape: The Cabin (Preview Night)

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