22/10/2016 – Scare Kingdom

 

Voted UK Top Rated Scream Park for the last four years and my personal favourite from last year, the multi-award winning Scare Kingdom Scream Park is back once again for it’s eighth year of fear with a slew of new attractions!

 

Mallum

As always, Scare Kingdom welcomes all who dare enter with a spooky scene to set the tone, and they delivered once again! With a cursed relic, an ancient evil is summoned to scare you out of your skin! Whilst a fun idea, the green light from a light on the ceiling of the room took away the creepiness a bit, but the jump was still rather effective.

 

The Sickness

I love a good medical themed haunt, and I loved this. A very strong story to set the scene, then in we went to discover the dark and disturbing characters behind an underground experiment that saw an infection spread through a hospital like wildfire! With some extremely strong scenes including a much scarier scare used in The Sanctuary at Alton Towers, this is a very strong start to the haunts! Keep an ear out for the heart monitor as you go through, this was an incredible level of detail that is easily missed if you don’t know it’s there!

 

Manormortis

The haunted house to end all haunted houses is back once again! Tricked out to the nines, there is so much to see and take in that you can have multiple run throughs and still see things you didn’t see the first time! This year, a diary was discovered that details an extremely sinister story of the supernatural. With scenes that involve séances and other creepy contact with the spirits hidden in the manor, scares come at you from every which way as you hear more and more about the story as you venture further inside. Watch out for the finalé, it’s sure to scare you out of your wits!

 

The House of Gaunt

From the most decorated of all the haunts at Scare Kingdom to the least (not including Black Death, which I’ll explain later…), The House of Gaunt tells the story of a creepy collection of dolls coming to life. This sparsely decorated and almost pitch black haunts uses jump scares to get you, and even though the jumpscares are repeated all the way through the haunt, it gets you every time! It’s not got much to it, but it was still enjoyable and an interesting theme to have.

 

666 Brimstone Place

From creepy dolls to satanic cults, 666 Brimstone Place sees the return of Hell in 2015 with a new story; having said that, it still delivers an eerie vibe with some rather shocking and almost controversial imagery that we’ve only seen Scare Kingdom dare to deliver, and I loved it! Whilst the rest of the haunt seemed to lack something (maybe the strength of the last three haunts set the bar high), there were a number of scenes that were absolutely fantastic – I’m glad that the finale still remains in tact, as it’s still one of the strongest endings that Scare Kingdom provides

 

Black Death

Scare Kingdom bring their own hooded haunt this year: themed to the black plague, this haunt is littered with coughing and spluttering sick victims of the plague. I’ve never been a fan of hooded haunts as I don’t feel that being hooded adds anything to the experience, and even though it was a full contact haunt (whilst the others aren’t), it still had a lot of room for improvement – I was constantly worried I was going to tread on one of the actors or walk into the person in front of me, and avoiding that became my main focus, rather than being scared. Maybe I’m just picky; others going through were definitely scared, but I just couldn’t get immersed in the story.

 

Snuffhouse: Alone

After doing Snuffhouse: After Dark earlier this year, I half had an idea of what to expect, and after reading the disclaimer and watching people come out dripping wet, I decided to skip this attraction as it was cold enough without the water.

 

Overall, Scare Kingdom is an impressive attraction with some incredibly strong haunts and characters (shout out to Dougie and the drunk female wandering around the bar – sorry I didn’t get your name!) that really needs to be experienced at least once in your life, as everything is on point. I will definitely be back next year to see how Scare Kingdom evolves and attempts to trump another extremely strong year!

 

22/10/2016 – Scare Kingdom

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

For a while, I struggled to find something horror related to do as all the haunts we knew of were closed or not operating that day, but that changed when I was given a bit of information about an immersive short called “Séance”. I love the paranormal as a theme, but it’s extremely hard to get it right, especially when you’re running a live actor haunt and all your “ghosts” are, well, alive and breathing. Séance, however, did not have that problem.

As soon as we arrived, we were led to a shipping container placed just outside the main building which amused us as we were expecting a haunt of somesort. We took our seats around the table placed in the middle of the shipping container and put our headsets on, and the journey began…

Using 3D surround sound, you are taken on an immersive and chilling journey into the spirit world and into the depths of your own imagination, where nothing is quite what it seems…

19/10/2016 – Séance at Birmingham Rep

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

Scaresville, based on the grounds of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk, is a 90 minute horror experience that takes you through multiple haunts and scenes designed to creep and freak you out in what is described as a haunted village.

Celebrating 10 years of Scaresville, we were told to expect the very best of the previous years’ haunts along with some frightening new scenes, and they were definitely not lying!

Upon arriving at Scaresville, you’re held in an unfairground where you’re able to buy food and drink to warm your bones before you’re led off to have said bones terrified out of you! It had a lovely atmosphere, but it definitely felt like it was lacking roaming characters and sideshows.

Our number was called and we were led up an almost pitch black path to the safety announcements where we were given the safety briefing (one that every hauntee is familiar with), then we were let into our first haunt, and our journey began…

What’s different about this haunt compared to the stuff we usually do is that the scares never let up: all the haunts and scenes lead into each other so once you start you never stop moving, and whilst there are nice long countryside treks at points (which is absolutely beautiful when lit by the full moon peeking between the clouds), the scares never stop – between the creepy scenery and roaming actors, you’ll be laughing and screaming constantly!

Usually, I’d split out the review based on the individual haunts, but there’s so much to see that by the time we got to the seventh or eighth haunt, we had forgotten what we did in the first! Well… not really. There were so many amazing bits in that first haunt that it stuck very prominently in my mind, even 3 days later!

Set wise, all the haunts had their own theme that aided in the stories they were trying to set, some of which I’ve never seen before in the 10 years I’ve been haunting which is refreshing! We especially liked the use of fire and torches used in the outdoor scenes, the water used in the indoor scenes, the use of absolute darkness, the shipping container… there were so many scenes and effects that we loved that if we were to share them all here, we’d ruin the entire event!

There were a few niggles here and there that I have with the haunt: there was a distinct lack of entertainment in the Unfairground, there were no smell effects used, and the lack of music between the scenes made it feel a little empty, but otherwise I absolutely loved it and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good scaring this Halloween!

 

PS: If you haven’t been warned already, bring your wellies!

16/10/2016 – Scaresville at Kentwell Hall

14/10/2016 -Broadwitch HauntFest

October is here and the Halloween haunt season is in full swing!

 

The first, and extremely spontaneous haunt (I planned this 4 hours before the gates opened) of the season was Broadwitch HauntFest! Based in Southfleet, Kent, this attraction boasts 5 haunts that range from creepy all the way through to terrifying!

 

Spooky Castle

spooky-castle

Our first haunt was Spooky Castle, where an ancient evil dwells within, preying upon people that step foot in its halls. Spooky, right? Right! This deceptively small haunt takes you on an eerie journey through the castle, where you meet all sorts of creepy characters, most lurching from extremely clever hiding spaces built within the intricate theming! If you enjoy an evolving story and lots of creepy scenes, this is absolutely perfect for you, and will definitely catch you out with some of the scares, including a new twist at the end that we weren’t expecting, which was refreshing!

 

MassAcre

massacre

This is a haunt hidden away toward the back of the park in a cornfield. I’ve never been a fan of outdoor haunts as there’s too little control (i.e. lighting, nature, etc), but let me tell you, this completely blew my mind! The haunt itself is a great use of space but is sparsely themed, but that doesn’t detract from the haunt itself – the corn leaning in on you as you walk through is creepy enough – small shacks and sheltered areas are dotted around to break up the haunt which allow for unexpected scares: the first screamer definitely set the tone, which felt like a bit of a gamble but it definitely paid off tonight!

 

Thirteen

thirteen

This haunt, whilst not as strong as the first two, definitely had a lot going for it – the opening scene was rather disorientating and claustrophobic, which only got darker and darker as you progressed – soon enough we were groping about, trying to find our way whilst trying to ignore the strong smells coming from the next room. The scenes themselves were fantastic, stimulating you sense of sight, smell, and sound to bring you an entertaining haunt; the only downside is the transition between the scenes, but what they’ve done is fantastic – kudos to the clown who made me jump so much I almost fell down the stairs!

 

The Edge

the-edge

A very sudden change in theming for this next haunt: vampires! I have honestly never been a fan of vampires and find them hard to be scary, but this detailed haunt took us through gothic catacombs infested with bloodsuckers determined to drain us of our blood. From homages to Nosferatu through to Van Helsing, these creepy bloodsuckers came at us from every angle in order to get our necks! This haunt is worth a trip through if for the ending alone!

 

Biometrix

biometrix

We saved this for last as it received a SCAR award in 2015, but I was honestly rather disappointed with it. The concept is a great twist on the army/genetic modification gone wrong theme, but with the lack of actors and theming, and the recycling of scares, what could have been an amazing haunt fell flat on its face – definitely needs more smoke and/or strobe lighting/lasers in the long corridors to break it up a bit. Even though this reads negatively, it wasn’t a waste of a haunt – I still enjoyed it, but there’s a lot more that could have been done to really polish it off.

 

Whilst not part of the haunts, the roaming actors were alright except for Judy from Punch and Judy who is AMAZING! But seriously, all the roaming actors were extremely creepy in their own ways and were greatly welcomed by the general audience and everyone they interacted with.

 

Despite the minor gripe with Biometrix, as a whole, the event is extremely professional and well organised, with a great team of actors and front of house staff that kept us entertained the entire time we were there. Definitely worth a visit!

 

 

14/10/2016 -Broadwitch HauntFest

16/04/2016 – Hide and Shriek: Dead Centre

In a short space of time, Hide and Shriek has grown into one of the bigger boo haunts outside London and theme parks. Created in 2015, the company has gone from strength to strength in bringing an immersive horror experiences that is easily available to the masses.

With very little hype surrounding Dead Centre I had no idea what to expect from the event at all. Hints were dropped in the email we received, but absolutely nothing more than “you will be running” was given away.

I arrive at the Victoria shopping centre and flashed my ticket to security, who opened the door to the centre. Upon entering, I’m bombarded with rather creepy, almost Saw-like music and a darkened shopping centre, barricaded about 20ft in. We’re told to wait to one side for our timeslot to be called forward.

Eventually, our time approaches and we’re given a waiver to sign as well as a patient form which asks for our blood type and allergens (my favourite being human flesh). We hand back the forms and we’re immediately checked for cuts and bruises by a doctor before being moved into the first scene of the show.

As with all zombie break-outs, it starts with a virus. We’re given a more extensive test as a trio of soldiers watch over us with eagle eyes from behind masks. We all pass except for one, then everything went horribly wrong…

A medic appears from behind us and the chase is on! Remember when I said most events only require a light jog? This breaks the mold: We sprinted as fast as we could to keep up with the medic who takes us on a journey that traverses fire escape routes, car parks, service routes, and the mall itself – all of which are void of any and all life, including the undead!

The zombies were absolutely fantastic – if they weren’t jumping out at you from a hidey hole, they were lurching toward you at a disturbingly quick pace: they were also able to open doors, much to our/my surprise and horror!

After being chased across various car park levels, we find ourselves inside running back down to the ground and into a pitch black room where we had to wait for a little while, which gave us all a bit of time to get our breath back from sprinting everywhere for 20 minutes.

We’re then treated to the longest run of our lives to the Hide and Shriek shop. We’re taken into the back, guided by the medic’s rather creepy UV flashlight. We’re then handed two torches and sent on our own way through this part of the show – we had to navigate through the back corridors using only the two torches. Easy right? Nah. It wasn’t.

I was holding one of the torches and the other was in another woman’s hand, so we led the way. It started off really easy – slowly moving from room to room, peeking around each door frame before entering the room, then both of our torches malfunction: mine shuts down entirely, and the other torch would only work if you hit it. We were in almost pitch black, trying to grope our way through corridors and rooms so dark that you genuinely couldn’t see the hand in front of your face!

We made it through and met up with our medic, or rather, he found us and helped us through the rest of the blackened corridors and back to the shop floor when we realise that one of the group had gone missing! After a small, unsuccessful, search and rescue mission we’re pointed across the shopping centre floor, which was littered with a handful of zombies. Following the medics orders, we charge through a few upturned benches and through the zombies to the finishing line, to everyone’s relief.

 

I had a few minor negative points that, whilst they didn’t detract from the event all that much, I did end up questioning them on my journey home.

Firstly, the characters at the beginning of the experience definitely lacked an air of authority. We had made it to the safe house, and whilst checks were done, they were taken lightly and the doctors/nurses were joining in with jokes – I’d have expected them to be a little more stern and sterile with the signing of the waiver and showed our tickets (I’ll excuse the security guard as I couldn’t tell if he was mall staff or an actor).

Secondly, we were told that we would need to make it to the roof of the car park to wait for the pick up, but when we were taken back inside and down into the shopping centre, it wasn’t clearly explained why our destination had changed. Also, there was no explanation as to why we couldn’t just keep going up the first stairwell we reached – maybe some zombies coming down from the above levels would have killed that thought.

Thirdly, whilst the finale was new and unique (I’m far too used to being chased from behind), it definitely lacked something. I wouldn’t say it was anti-climactic, but it wasn’t as explosive as it could have been. Maybe if a handful of zombies had chased from behind as well as from the left hand side so we’re made to go the route we’re meant to, it would have been better.

Finally, the show seemed to end just as we were getting sucked into the story. I appreciate it’s hard to create a huge story in such a tight space, especially when the space is open and there’s a risk of other groups crossing paths at any time, but the 30 minutes didn’t feel like it was long enough to really get in the role.

 

HAVING SAID ALL OF THAT THOUGH, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and it was clear to see from everyone else (including the pessimistic 14 year old whom was genuinely entertaining whist standing in the dark) that it was a fantastic event.

I have a few favourite aspects to our trip:

Firstly, the medic was a credit unto himself for remaining in a sense of panic throughout the entire event. I didn’t buy into it to begin with, but as time went by, the sense of urgency was definitely there.

Secondly, oh my God they had the ENTIRE shopping centre to play with! Do you know how awesome that is? Like that’s more space than the theme parks get! The fact that there was no obvious path through the show was definitely a treat – we were checking the door windows on all the floors to make sure no zombies would come bursting in to try and attack us.

Thirdly, what I’m nicknaming “the corridor from hell”. Having to find our way through complete and utter darkness was insanely disorientating which only made it more hellish. The two torches shutting down as they did, whether it was planned or not, definitely added to the experience! If they’re rigged in some way, they were a fantastic investment!

Finally, the scene with the chaser zombie was definitely terrifying – I rarely jump at these events, but you got me good and proper chaser zombie! (I’d write more so the directors knew which bit I’m talking about, but I don’t wanna give that bit away. Scott/George: Drop me a message if you wanna know!).

Honourable Mention: the Alien Escape poster in one of the stairwells for making that event a meta event that could have happened if the apocalypse didn’t happen. I’ve no idea if it was intended this way, but I found it hilarious.

 

All in all, I had an absolutely fantastic evening despite all the sprinting we did. Walking out of the shopping centre, I was grinning from ear to ear and absolutely buzzing off the adrenaline! An incredibly strong second show, and I’m glad that a third date was added! I will definitely be returning for all future events to see them grow from strength to strength.

 

Note: We had a group photo taken at the end of the event, so as soon as I receive that I’ll post it here. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

16/04/2016 – Hide and Shriek: Dead Centre

09/04/2016 – Goosebumps Alive!

Viewer beware… You’re in for a scare…

 

That’s what I’m told as I load up the print-at-home ticket Saturday morning. I must admit, there was no way I could be scared of this. Sure, A Night at Terror Tower and Escape From the Carnival of Horrors terrified me as a kid, but 20 years on I had learned that the monsters we believe in are all in our head: these monsters were all trapped in the magnificent R. L. Stine’s.

 

Until yesterday.

 

So, I arrive in London with 20 minutes to find the notoriously difficult to find The Vaults under Waterloo. I use Google Maps to try and find my way, but they led me to this strange hand car wash that was extremely busy for 20:00. I ask someone where it is and they point me through the car wash, after eyeing up what I’m wearing and asking if I’m here for “the meet”.

 

I can understand why I was asked. I was in my cyberpunk gear: top and trousers from Cyberdog, a hoodie from Resistanz and leather jacket over the top, and my beautiful Demonia’s that look like biker boots, only with spikes and bullets attached.

IMAG0394

 

It was hardly a surprise that they ask me. The more surprising bit was I said “yeah,” automatically, “but I need to find The Vaults first”, which kinda made me feel like a character from Borderlands for a brief moment. The car wash attendant pointed me down the car wash and said “that way” so I tentatively walked backwards through it (avoiding getting wet!) past a load of high end, souped up cars with windows tinted darker than whats legal and neon strips beneath them. It was mad!

 

I exited the car wash and the cars continued to queue, one of them rigged up to a sound system that was blasting out hip hop and everyone was standing around admiring each others rides – it was genuinely like walking onto the set of The Fast and the Furious! I kept my head down as to not draw attention to myself (the clothes were already doing enough for me) and I see a family walk into the arches, so I tactfully follow them.

 

A little down the road, past a load of people playing football with a tennis ball, skateboarding, biking, and graffiti-ing (is that even a word?) I see a lone sign labeled “The Vaults” with an arrow pointing to the entrance. There was a guy sat outside playing with a smoke machine and a green spotlight they had obviously planned on using, but the smoke machine wasn’t working. A shame – I hoped this wasn’t a precursor to how the event would run.

 

I flash the person my ticket and they hand me a card with a silhouette of a crow on a purple background, then point me into the experience.

IMAG0411

 

I enter the venue and take a look around. We’re in a bar, lit by a mixture of flickering lightbulbs and LED strips splashing a camp yet slightly unnerving series of greens, reds and ultraviolet light across the walls. The bar serves themed food (Say Cheese and Die Toastie) and drinks (Monster Slime), as well as some adverts about the creators of the masks within the show. I order myself a coke and wander around, looking at the masks while listening to an array of head-nodding rock, trip hop and pop – anything from The Kooks to The Gorillaz was played in the 20 minutes I was in there.

Soon enough, we’re moved to another room. We flash our tickets and the announcer smiles creepily at us, counting us audibly as we go through whilst warning us that any photography beyond this point will get us escorted off premises. It’s another, more themed bar: the famous Goosebumps drips adorn 3 of the 4 walls as well as the bar, while green LED lights shine down the walls behind them, giving off the famous Goosebumps vibe. The fourth wall is a mural to one of the purple goo characters from the books that I can’t quite remember the name of. It stands maybe 10ft high and 20ft wide – it was a real sight to behold, and simply added more fuel to my excitement.

I wander in and make my way over to the corner. I’m doing this alone (as I like to do sometimes – how people react in these kinds of events can really show their true character and I quite like watching this transformation), so I take a seat at a table on my own and continue drinking my coke. I notice, as I scan the room, that there were placards hanging from the lighting rig, each one lit up by a lone spotlight from the other side of the room, each showing a symbol from the card. I look at the table and noticed the symbol on the table too – it was then I read this creepy message on the back of my ticket, and realised that I had inadvertently done what I was expected to do.

IMAG0412

The lighting suddenly changed, and the experience began. I’ll not go into too much detail and will avoid any mentions of scares because where’s the fun in knowing what to expect, right?

The first scene begins with everyone in the room. Someone in the audience goes crazy and begins telling his story. Using some incredible surround sound and story telling, he made us all live through what he was going through. The room goes dark, and television screens flicker to life around the room, playing the infamous TV show introduction.

Silent, hooded characters then came to collect each of the four groups one by one. We all get the gist of what they want, and in we go.

This first bit was very very clever and almost executed perfectly. All four groups were split up and taken to different rooms within the vaults, the corridors between each room painted in an off-kilter manner that slowly change to match the story you’re about to be told.

There were 4 in total stories themselves were about 10 minutes long, and were basically a condensed version/adaptation of one of the many books; most well known, but a few that were completely new that went down a similar vein of the Goosebumps stories – each had a mixture of absolutely fantastic storytelling with no more than three characters who all made it incredibly easy to get sucked into the story  (and all had fantastic improv skills – kudos to the Cuckoo Clock guy!), and some jumpscares that even I didn’t predict – one of them even got me to yelp and jump back in surprise!

Between these stories, we got put in what could only be described as a holding pen. It was dark and cramped, and there was no obvious way out – it was impossible to turn everyone back too, as we had just descended a good 7 feet: the longer we waited, the more the nerves started to kick in. I was fortunately at the front so knew what was going on, but the guys at the back had no idea, and started to panic more (even though we told them there was no way forward).

All four groups are reintroduced after these five experiences for a handful more experiences, a few of which continued on the story from the very beginning, but all of which were very creepy and interactive at the same time: there was a lot of nervous laughter as we, the audience, became the actors in one of the scenes. In another we’re forced to watch from a number of different angles, which I had never experienced in immersive theatre before. No matter what the scene was, the actors were absolutely amazing and were easy to believe, though one of the scenes made it feel like we were in this strange 1950s pantomime (though that didn’t detract from the experience at all).

The last scene is absolutely amazing. The masks, the props, the sounds, the lighting, the story were all on point, and not even I predicted how it’d end! As I said earlier, I’m not going to go into any more detail than that as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 

What did I think of it? I honestly had an absolute blast. The actors all did an absolutely fantastic job and really made the characters we were interacting with believable, especially in the heat they were dealing with and never broke character (check your coats in at the cloakroom – it gets extremely hot in those vaults!).

The way it works is absolutely incredible too – I won’t give the game away, but the actors in each scene control their entire environment. They’ve really pushed the way that theatre, especially immersive theatre, works!

The stories that were told were Goosebumps to a T. It was easy to tell which story the scene was from (though remembering the name of the book was impossible after 20 years) and it had the camp yet creepy atmosphere all the way through, even between the scenes.

Goosebumps Alive is billed as a 16+ event on the website, but I feel that 14 year olds that can handle a good quick jump scare or two would absolutely love the show – just make sure that they are ready for it before going, as it’s not nice for the child or the rest of the group to be dragged through something they don’t like. Once you leave, you’re out for good.

 

I will definitely be on the look out for more tickets to this show, and I’ll definitely be dragging some friends along too!

09/04/2016 – Goosebumps Alive!