14/10/2017 – Faceless Ventures: Diary of a Deceased

A dead body. A diary with all but four pages ripped out. This is the fractured story of John Doe and his encounters with monsters and noises in the dark.

We descend the stairs to the morgue silently, as instructed. A nurse stands to greet us silently as a heavy atmosphere descends around us: in her hand is the Diary. In a melancholic and calm tone, she begins to explain how John Doe and his diary came into her care. She opens the diary to the first undamaged page and begins reading.

We are instantly transported back to John’s childhood, led by his former self. We hide in a den and play a game of Noughts and Crosses; a safe space, the child explains, from the things outside. We relive his night time routine, then it goes dark. Do you hear noises in the dark? We do. They get closer and closer. We escape.

Back in the morgue. We meet John’s love interest; they met in America where she was studying at the time. We enter a room with American flag and bunting, a shadow facing a huge American flag as The Last Post plays. She told us how she didn’t believe him when he told her about the noises, but that all changed. A speech begins to play, growing in volume; the American anthem joining the aural intrusion. Nightmarish creatures appear from the darkness, creeping around, tormenting us, disembodied by flashing lights that allowed them to move unnaturally. The shadow facing the flag leaves the room, and everything returns to normal. What is normal anyway?

We’re back in the morgue. We’re told to follow the voice as a hauntingly beautiful and overwhelming rendition of My Immortal wafts through the air. We follow the voice: in front of us, John sits, arms upturned to show his bloodied and slashed wrists: an unknown figure looms over him, singing his swansong, mourning. In death, his childhood and love are returned to his past: the only gift left to give is death, which was given to us.

Up the stairs and back to reality. Is this the end, or merely the beginning?

 

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Diary of a Deceased has truly left me stuck for words: I know for a fact that what I experienced could never be transposed into words: it was intense, haunting, and utterly beautiful!

What sets this apart from other haunts/attractions is that it relies heavily on the narrative and the actors ability to set the atmosphere in each scene, which they all did perfectly! From the whimsical and lighthearted atmosphere when visiting his childhood and playing games through to the melancholy of his relationship, through to the soul crushing end of John Doe, it was impossible to not get sucked in!

The one tiny piece of criticism I have is the haunt ending – I loved what it was trying to portray, and it portayed it well; however, some more effects such as a wind machine and strobes would further push the idea.

Despite the one little teeny-tiny improvement I could think of (and that’s all it is), this production definitely set the bar high for future immersive theatre, as people were moved to tears in the 30 minutes the show lasted. I cannot wait to see where this goes, if it goes anywhere: as a singular story it is perfect, but as I somberly climbed the stairs leading away from the morgue, I was definitely craving more! Well done to everyone involved!

14/10/2017 – Faceless Ventures: Diary of a Deceased

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

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

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

21/10/2016 – Yorkshire Scare Grounds

After a quick re-shuffle of haunts due to timings (I really didn’t plan this tour at all…) I found that we had a date missing a haunt, so we decided to sneak this one in!

We were put in a group of 12 and were sent on our way through the scare grounds…

 

House of Arachnia – Mutation

The first haunt on the tour played on the fear of spiders. The character setting the scene was rather quiet and the voice he put on made it hard to understand what the story was, but I figured it had something to do with spiders taking over a house due to all the cobwebs everywhere.

It was a very basic haunt with few characters, most of which didn’t make sense whilst in there, but the bedroom scene has a really neat little trick that was kinda cool.

What was disappointing was that all the scares were aimed at the first person in the queue, meaning we got nothing right at the back and we started to get bored.

 

Forest of Freaks

As the name suggests, this theme was freaks in a forest. The forest itself was perfect for these clowns to run around without being seen, and they did that extremely well, but as with the haunt above, all the scares were aimed at the front of the queue. By this point we were so bored at the back that we started making the rest of the group jump to entertain ourselves.

 

The Chapter – Order of the Raven

With a sinister feel, I found this long-ish haunt rather interesting: we were constantly ducking between indoor and outdoor scenes but as with all the other haunts at this attraction, all the scares were aimed at the front of the group.

On a more positive note, the Raven’s costume was really impressive!

 

Lockdown – They’re Out!

This is where the haunts seemed to pick up a bit more.

Greeted by a soldier, we were given a nice long intro story to the haunt that set the tone. From actors that were hidden in plain sight through to the zombies banging on the fences as we went passed, it was a disorientating and complete sensory overload that had us on edge: we especially liked the use of water in this haunt as well! The only issue I had was the zombie wearing glasses: it just kinda broke the illusion a little.

 

The Tomb – Afterlife

This was, by far, the strongest haunt there. Themed around Ancient Egypt, we were led into a tomb that’s protected by a curse that comes to life as you progress through this clever and innovative haunt! The scenery throughout was incredibly detailed and at points it was impossible to tell the difference between a prop and an actor, which played to our disadvantage in the strobe maze! The tomb corridor was the highlight of the haunt and the attraction!

 

The attraction started off rather weak but definitely improved as you went through. If you do decide to go, try and work it so that you’re at the front of the conga line to get the most scares, and toward the back if you’re jumpy.

 

Also, definitely have a photo taken in their photo booth, and take a look around the gift shop – one of the actors draws as a hobby and was selling some pictures when we went through, and I got this amazing picture of an evil blue critter that I absolutely love!

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21/10/2016 – Yorkshire Scare Grounds

20/10/2016 – Hallowscream at York Maze

As I arrived and started queuing up to get into Hallowscream, it was evident that the theming and roaming actors would be very strong throughout – I was not disappointed! From fantastic visuals through to performing actors chasing after their victims, there was lots to see and be scared by upon entry.

The first place we went to was The Stumble Inn to get a drink. Themed around zombies, you can chill out (as best you can) in the Inn with a hot drink and watch some fantastic dance routines in this incredibly themed bar.

 

Reincornation

This was the first haunt of the night. Themed around clowns and funhouses, it really wasn’t clear (unless you visit the website) what the story of the haunt is. Having said that, there were some great elements hidden within, including a leaning room, a bottomless pit room, and a vortex tunnel that was strong enough to make everyone fall over. A well themed maze with some great ideas, but the lack of story upon entry and the huge group meant that we heard the scares coming before they repeated.

 

Barnageddon

As with Reincornation (above), there was a complete lack of story so I honestly have no idea what this haunt’s theme is; however, I did enjoy the way the haunt was themed, and really loved the use of water in there. As with Reincornation (and you’ll see there’s a bit of a trend here), the dispatch times need to be bigger and the group numbers need to be smaller as we caught up with the groups in front of us and I could see the actors weren’t getting their full scare potential. This would have been a really strong haunt if we hadn’t have queued up in the attraction itself.

 

The Flesh Pot

This haunt is the strongest attraction there. Themed around a psycho farmer that killed people and put them into pies to sell, The Flesh Pot has some very creepy scenes and some fantastically executed jump scares, but the thing that made this great is that we went through in a smaller group, meaning all the scares got all of us the first time – this was the only haunt to make me jump the entire night!

 

The Difference Engine

This was a very interestingly themed haunt. Based on some-sort of computer, you travel through a series of very sterile rooms that are laced with mirrors that was almost disorientating, add that to your group being split up and you’re in for one confusing ride! I loved the idea of being split up at various points during the haunt, though there were some great missed opportunities for jump scares.

 

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Set-wise, this set was incredible, especially the entrance to the haunt! I was gobsmacked by all the sets, actors and effects throughout this entire haunt as every little bit worked well and executed almost perfectly: the only thing that could have finished this haunt off is something similar to the weeping angels.

 

Overall, I’m a little disappointed with this event; it was far too busy around the haunts and the queues looked absolutely massive – I’m glad we had RIP tickets as I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t make it around all the haunts in the “normal” queue. Having said that, the roaming actors and theming throughout the general area was fantastic.

20/10/2016 – Hallowscream at York Maze

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