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

22/12/2017 – Room Escape Southend: A Zombie Christmas

Southend Room Escape feature very prominently in my reviews: since my first visit to them for Down The Rabbit Hole over 6 months ago, they’ve change their escape room theme an incredible three times, with this visit being their fourth – it really is amazing how quickly they produce and create brand new worlds for guests to explore and inevitably get scared!

Donning Christmas cracker hats and sitting round the family dinner table in a winter wonderland, we’re told that Santa has come over with an illness which has changed his taste buds drastically (unfortunately for us), and that the chain that ties him to the spot will extend every so often, meaning there’s no place to hide: fortunately, singing Christmas songs seems to put him in a daze, meaning we are able to distract him for short periods of time. It was down to Ash (of Hide & Shriek), Michael Bolton (of ScareTour), Liam, and myself to solve the clues and save Christmas forever! Quite a scary precedent given how close to Christmas it was!
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The timer begins and we instantly pick up on a number of puzzles dotted around the room: we instantly gather all the clues we can get our mitts on and gather them on the table, completely wary of the zombie Santa sat barely 2 feet way from us in the corner.

What happened over the next hour or so was a mixture of confusion, yelling, plenty of singing, and eventually managing to solve the clues in order to save Christmas and escape!

Rather cleverly, the team had recycled the shack and most of the scenery from The Cabin, which, when coupled with the changes to the “outside” area, really made the escape room give off a Christmassy vibe – we had the cracker hats, all we needed were the corny Christmas jumpers!

The puzzles themselves were rather tough (despite what Bolton says in his review) even though we had all seen the same padlocks a number of times in their other rooms, there were a number of new and impressive puzzles, with a number of the puzzles requiring one of us to sneak past Santa whilst the rest deafened him with our tone deaf renditions of Jingle Bells over and over and over: the final puzzle with the baubles was by far my favourite puzzle, but then again I really enjoy intricate puzzles that require technology.

Even though this was easily their least scary escape room so far, it was still intense and riddled with moments of panic as we tried to avoid the evil Santa, and it was definitely an absolute blast! Once again, Room Escape Southend delivered another fantastic attraction with A Zombie Christmas, and I really cannot wait to get back down to Southend for Apartment 666!

22/12/2017 – Room Escape Southend: A Zombie Christmas

16/12/2017 – Scare Kingdom’s Christmas FestEVIL

The frequency of my visits to Mrs Dowson’s Farm are becoming more and more frequent: after learning about their out of season events during Jason Karl’s talk at Scare Kingdom, I made a point of attending Scare Kingdom this year for their Christmas FestEVIL event, in which we see the famous Manormortis evolve into a new and creepy yet fun Christmas themed attraction! Alongside Manormortis, and for the first time at Scare Kingdom, the impressive Body Snatchers opens its doors again, with Psychomanteum: BloodMASS, The UK’s sickest attraction, also opens its doors once again for those truly looking to be grossed out.

 

Manormortis – The House of Living Toys

Setting itself apart from the Halloween run, Manormortis brings another aesthetically beautiful world in which living toys are running rife and giving warning to all who pass through, though not all toys are friendly! With a nice twist on the pantomime theme and all the prose written in rhyme, this attraction removed itself from the jump scare scene and firmly planted itself in the creepy and atmosphere section of the haunt world thanks to its extremely theatrical nature and the actors within – huge shout out to the soldier in the courtroom and the ballerina for really bringing their characters to life! As with all Scare Kingdom attractions and pantomimes in general, some of the scenes and prose really toed the line with its content and whilst it could be said that it should be kept innocent, Manormortis did it with such confidence that it came across rather tastefully: got to give a round of applause to the Russian doll for putting up with my crap banter.

I truly loved this show as it didn’t feel like we were rushed through the attraction, meaning we were able to take in the beautiful sets and costumes; having said that though, some scenes did start a bit too early meaning that us lot stood at the back missed out on the beginning of some scenes or couldn’t hear the actor over the music, which is a shame. I’d have also liked the monster in the finale to have had more time in the strobe so we could take in the beauty of the costume.

 

Body Snatchers – A Christmas Presence

Stepping out of the gorgeous Manormortis, we follow the path through the entrance of Prey and instantly out the exit and straight to Body Snatchers, another stunningly themed haunt that opened its doors for the first time this Halloween. Themed around a seance led by the quirky and over the top Florence Cook, this attraction had a lot of potential and a real name to live up to, given it immediately follows Manormortis.

We step into the cobbled streets of what feels like a Sweeney Todd style London road and are welcomed by the hilarious Fishy Fanny who entertained and flirted mercilessly with the crowd, much to the amusement of the audience, who only became more amused as the famous Dougie steps out from the house and tries to bring the crowd back into the mood they should be in, with very little help from Fanny. With a huge grin on our faces, we enter the funeral home and meet Florence Cook who guides us through the Seance with great gusto and, as I’ve said before, over the top manner that you’d expect from actors in Pantomimes: we were shown a rather clever magic trick before being guided into the rest of the attraction.

Whilst I really enjoyed the two scenes described above, I feel like the rest of the attraction fell flat as soon as we ducked through the fireplace: we hit a corridor and an actor seemed to break character before splitting us up into twos for the rest of the haunt, which was identical to the Halloween season, except for the monsters hidden within just seemed to guide you to the exit of their scene and didn’t attempt to do much else. Given it was a funeral home that we were holding a seance in, there could have been a lot of exploration with malevolent spirits and poltergeist activity and such. It just felt like it had this beautiful set up into something rather elaborate and as impressive as Manormortis’ story, but nothing came of it, which was unfortunate.

 

Psychomanteum: BloodMASS

I both love and hate the NDA we sign upon entering this attraction, as I always feel like I’m writing the same review each time, but honestly, BloodMASS was what Snuffhouse Bloodbourne was if delivered under the Psychomanteum title: I spent the entire time going between feeling uncomfortable, gagging, and laughing through each of the scenes… right up until the finale where the actor actually said my name – something that always throws me off-guard and unnerves me (and now the whole world knows). BloodMASS was much grosser than the other two iterations I’ve done and felt like it lasted a lot longer than at Halloween, which is incredible as it never let up the whirlwind of filth and Debauchery that can only be found in Psychomanteum: there were certain scenes in there that I really didn’t expect despite being told what I’d be up against (I’ve got to be careful with what I ingest). Only improvement I could suggest is that certain elements be warmed up so they feel how they’re meant to feel – otherwise, as usual, I had a right blast and can’t wait for February!

 

16/12/2017 – Scare Kingdom’s Christmas FestEVIL

30/10/2017 – Cursed

On the penultimate night of my Halloween tour, I found myself pretty close to home at the Wat Tyler Centre, hidden away in Basildon – a rather surprising location for a scream park given how far removed it is, though probably a positive thing given how much light pollution there is surrounding busy areas. Shivering like I had just walked into an industrial freezer, we queued up to enter the park and after a lengthy wait, made our way in and up to our first haunt: Toy Shop.

 

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The first thing we noticed about Toy Shop whilst we queued was the music: it was rather creepy and crept its way out of the entrance rather well. We were sent in as a small group and eventually got split up so it was just us two going through on our own, which we really appreciated. The story throughout was consistent, and each actor really helped carry the story in the way they portrayed their character and the make up – I really loved the Coraline inspired make up toward the end too! It was also great to see a claustrophobia chamber given a new spin on it with the use of teddy bears – I’ve seen all sorts of themes done this year, but I think this might have to be my favourite as I’ve never felt more uncomfortable getting up close with teddies before in my life. It was a decent length haunt given the footprint available, with theming that was rather unnerving at points, to the point where I found myself completely distracted – the actors got a handful of jumps from me!

 

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Next up we chose the Work Chop, a Sweeney Todd style attraction wherein you enter a shop that hides a dark secret. The set up for the story was brilliant, especially the rather well hidden secret entrance to the rest of the attraction: the vibe suddenly changed from a run down cafe to a rather dark and atmospheric industrial corridor with very monochromatic lighting that only helped create tension, though the icing on the cake was hearing my name call out from behind the walls! The scares were almost entirely sound based, though this really worked for this attraction as your line of vision was almost constantly obscured by material hanging from the ceiling, though when these thinned out, what was left was these beautifully creepy paintings all over the walls and, at the end, a brilliant effect where smoke entered the room at ground height before being sucked up into the air by a fan – something I’ve never seen before, but really adored!

 

Third up was Festevil: a freakshow themed attraction with some rather clever elements. I loved how brazen this attraction was, as the first element you encounter is a claustrophobia chamber with strobe lights which left me wondering what other elements we might experience given that most attractions hide claustrophobia chambers deep in the attraction. What we did experience was a rather disorientating trip through a freakshow meeting all the general characters you’d expect to meet, following routes that I am almost certain doubled over each other somehow through rooms filled with light cubes growing out of the walls, and passing through bars that stretch around you. It was a really bizarre and trippy experience that really blew me away.

 

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We decided that we should drop in on the Nag Inn for a bit of a break… yeah right. Cleverly themed around the seven deadly sins, we were taken on a narrative driven tour through a decrepit inn filled with plenty of creepy actors, tense moments, and lots and lots of scents. Whilst it lacked in jump scares, the beauty behind this attraction was very much the way the actors interacted with us as we went through.

 

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We moved onto Contaminated, Cursed’s zombie themed attraction. This had a very strong introduction and a lot of instructions for the first scene that were very confusing and distracted us so much that we almost tripped over the first piece of scenery, causing much hilarity. We were then chased through bales of hay, past fire torches, and through a brilliant hay maze which had multiple routes through! We then ended up running down a dirt path before slowing down to enter a darkened forest with a handful of zombies scattered about in, though the weirdest bit was how quiet this area was, given that we were still in a scream park. The scene in the church was incredibly creepy and extremely well executed – I won’t say much more than that. This haunt was surprisingly lengthy, to the point where the scene would change and we’d expect it to just taper out into an ending, but it never did – there were even points that we thought we had taken a wrong turn and ended up lost… until we bumped into a zombie. For a haunt as long as that, I was surprised that the story was not only detailed enough for there to be a reason behind our actions but also for the story to be absolutely consistent throughout: we were told to find the church, and we did end up inside the church. My only critique is that the zombies weren’t entirely threatening and were very few in numbers – otherwise, an extremely strong attraction.

 

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Finally, we chose Cell 13, an absolute nightmare of an attraction that was extremely intense and dizzying. There’s very little story line to the attraction, though it definitely doesn’t need it as the characters are very much maniacal and you’ve just got to survive. Sadly, this attraction suffered a little from actors being a little lifeless and missing a final scene with the electric chair, though otherwise the attraction was still great – I just never felt threatened by the characters.

 

On the whole, Cursed really stepped up to the plate as the original plans for the night had fallen through a few weeks before, and I’m 100% certain they outshone the other attraction with ease. Definitely need more lighting outside the haunts so you could actually see where you were going and signs or a map to point you in the direction of haunts as we almost missed Contaminated, but otherwise the atmosphere was very relaxed, the roaming actors really read people well and easily spotted the wimps, and the group sizes through each haunt and batching was perfection – I’m gutted I didn’t get to Cursed last year, given it’s a stones throw from my doorstep!

30/10/2017 – Cursed

29/10/2017 – Room Escape Southend: Zombie Outbreak

After a handful of brilliant shows by Room Escape Southend and with only a year under their belt, this Halloween they decided to uproot their next and by far the biggest and riskiest escape room venture to date, as they move for one weekend only to Roots Hall Stadium just down the road. We all met up at Room Escape Southend as we always do for our briefing: after the scene is set and we’re armed with a notepad and pencil (with me writing the notes…), we were sent on our way in an attempt to save the world!

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Rather nervously, we all made our way to the stadium and as soon as we arrive in the car park the zombie onslaught began! For the next hour or so, we were given a mixture of both what you’d expect from an escape room such as mind bending riddles and puzzles, and physical activities you’d see in game shows like The Crystal Maze! It was exceptionally hard (especially the physical task!), and having the worry of having zombies burst into your area constantly nagging in the back of your mind really made this the toughest escape room the guys at Room Escape Southend has put on to date – whilst it was billed as a 2 hour experience, I’m glad that it wasn’t as it was definitely more mentally and physically demanding than I expected whilst retaining all the fun and excitement! A few more zombies would have gone down a treat, but despite the sparse numbers, they were very well spread out and there were a number of times they got a good scream out of our group!

Unfortunately, we didn’t escape: remember the physical task I mentioned? We failed there and missed out on one number – we could have cracked the code on the safe but in all honesty with the sheer panic that took place between that and the end of the show, we all completely forgot we failed it!

It was really a brilliant idea to move the escape room to Roots Hall as it really gave the team a brilliant space to play about and experiment with a few ideas – I’d love to see them do more here in the future, as running round a football stadium at night was brilliant fun even if we didn’t save the world!

29/10/2017 – Room Escape Southend: Zombie Outbreak

28/10/2017 – Broadwitch HauntFest

After my first rather impressive visit last year and after hearing of some improvements to a few of the haunts. I knew I had to make a return to see what had changed. We were under a lot of time pressure given that we had to get in and out again within the hour so we didn’t really get chance to interact with the roaming actors, however they definitely looked like they were on form with scaring people as they entered and queued.

 

First haunt of the night was The Edge, a beautifully gothic haunt with dark corridors, plenty of hiding spaces to keep you guessing, and some intense scares that come when you least expect it! Very much how I remember it last year, but still a great attraction nonetheless.

Next up was the most intense haunt at Broadwitch for me last year: MassAcre. As with The Edge, it was still very much the same as last year though there were a few moments where we caught the actors off guard and they missed their cue to get a scare and just didn’t bother, which was a bit of a let down. Still really love the finale teaser where you find out what’s coming up, but you still have another 5 minutes or so until you get there. Still my favourite corn maze to date, given the length and the scenes hidden within! Batching timings just need to be improved a little as we did catch up with the group in front a few times.

 

Thirteen Freaks was our next haunt of choice. Whilst some of the scenes from last year had changed, the scenes that hadn’t changed were definitely the stronger scenes from last year. The effects were brilliant too, though some of the timings felt a little bit off (though that could be because we’re so slow at walking through haunts). Themed around a freak show this year, it really stands out as the best haunt at Broadwitch this year: was really impressed with the effects inside, such as the tube train scene, and the clowns with mirror scene (which I thought I had figured out, but then I started to doubt myself).

 

The penultimate haunt for the night was Spooky Castle, a deceptively small haunt that really goes on and on, and I’m glad it does! With some really creepy imagery and some great special effects and a brilliant set piece that still gets me now (even though I knew it was coming up), this is a brilliantly fun attraction – jut need to delay a few of the special effects and it’ll be much much stronger.

 

The final haunt, as with last year, was Biometrix: Sub Zero. Last year I was rather disappointed by it given how it had won a SCAR award in 2015, but this year was so so much different and really goes to show how little changes can really make a haunt so much better. Intense, scary, and with some amazing effects and scares, it was really good seeing Biometrix (the name of the attraction last year) become as strong as I suspect it was in 2015.

 

Whilst Broadwitch doesn’t have a stage or open fires or anything else we’ve seen at other scream parks, it’s a very robust attraction that sticks to what it knows and does it well.

28/10/2017 – Broadwitch HauntFest