02/06/2018 – Faceless Ventures X – IUXTA MORTIS (private show)

Cracked – Survival Experience is a notorious event in the UK haunt scene, which has slowly started making ripples in the world haunt scene as they teamed up with the legendary Heretic Horror House to create two of the most intense, violent, disturbed shows imaginable, Cracked vs Heretic; IUXTA MORTIS comfortably sits itself between these two shows in the Cracked mythos.

A set of stairs lead down to two doors. I step through the first and close it behind me. Knocks on the next and I’m guided inside. A white face stands before me, then blackness – my vision is taken from me. A hand gently takes mine and leads me into the room. I kneel. My vision is returned and I come face to face with a gas mask, which embraces me. I’m guided onto my back and my vision goes again. Silence, except for a bit of white noise and the sound of movement. A voice breaks the white noise: Blake’s. I live his life, or rather, death. Buried, alone but not, mourning.

On my knees again, the mask removed. The stoney faced woman from my time in Cracked 2.0 caresses my face and begs me to see the real me. A baptism by blood before ice stabs at my face – I panic but hold my breath. A mirror and a reflection: “Can you see yourself, Blake?”. Who am I?

Vision is lost again, and the gentle hand guides me through the dismal apathy. I lie down for the doctor as a wave of serenity washes over me. I begin laughing as I see shadows get extracted from my stomach, though this laughter soon fades. My head’s immobilised as the shadow of the doctor looms over me. I close my eyes and get told off: I need to see this.

Darkness consumes me again. The hand takes me to a room, and I’m sat down and handed a piece of paper: I read. “I am Blake”. My world is ripped from beneath me as I stare up at my demons – a choice, as heaven and hell do battle. I continue to read as my angels and demons go to war. I’m rushed out.

Au revoir sight: I’m back on my knees in the gas mask. Blake embraces us, thanks us, and we leave.

 

Who am I?

I am Blake.

02/06/2018 – Faceless Ventures X – IUXTA MORTIS (private show)

09/03/2018 – DotDot.london: Somnai

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What are you waiting for? Come and #SleepWithUs.

Sweet dreams.

09/03/2018 – DotDot.london: Somnai

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

 

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

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

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

21/10/2017 – Chessington World of Adventures Howl’o’ween

After hearing about Chessington World of Adventures putting on a Halloween event, I was extremely curious as to what they’d do. When I added them to the huge lineup, I hadn’t had much exposure/experience/whatever with kids haunts (except a backstage tour of Spooks in the Straw), so thought it might be something a bit different, and I was glad I added it to the lineup after doing House of Monsters, Alton Towers’ very own kids haunt.

Unfortunately for myself, I only had a limited amount of time at Chessington as I had to make my way across London in order to catch the next leg of my journey, so I wasn’t able to experience Trick or Treat Wood; but from what I could hear and see when walking past it, it looked like great fun with some very enthusiastic actors to boot!

My first haunt at Chessington was Creepy Caves Unearthed, a haunt created with young teenagers in mind. I’ve no idea what young teenagers they did their market research on because I honestly could not believe how intense the haunt was! The storyline is well thought out and very captivating from the get go, with some amazing actors delivering the narrative (though I’m not sure why they had American accents, but you know, just a minor detail that has no negative impact on the attraction itself) and scenes and sets that compliment the story being told. The theatrics give way and all hell breaks loose as you’re sent through the creepy caves in order to survive as mutated humans come charging toward you from absolutely everywhere! The finale had a very nice twist as well, with some more scares as you’re chased out of the attraction!

Parents, please please PLEASE take note of the age restriction! Whilst Chessington is a family friendly attraction, Creepy Caves Unearthed does not fall into this category: it is honestly as intense as some of the haunts I’ve done aimed at adults, though it’s much shorter. When we were waiting for our timeslot, we were seeing kids coming out in tears! I was extremely impressed with the attraction, and really couldn’t find much fault with it – the time you do it doesn’t have any effect as you’re all indoors anyway, the actors really got into their roles and managed to make me jump a few times, and the sights and smells really popped and stood out, making Creepy Caves Unearthed a brilliant addition to the park!

 

After taking a bit of a breather to calm down, I moved onto Curse of the Lost Tomb, a story driven show that mixes theatre with a few scenes that mimic an escape room. All the actors inside are extremely captivating and really fit in with their scenes well, improvising lines and interacting with the audience beautifully as you make your way through. Whilst not rated as too scary by the theme park, it can be very tense at points as there’s quite a lot of flashing lights, an eerie atmosphere, and a finale that used some effects that I really wasn’t expecting! Great fun for the whole family, but as with Creepy Caves Unearthed, definitely take the age restriction into consideration as younger guests might not enjoy it.

 

Overall though, Chessington World of Adventures has put on a series of fun and brilliant shows and haunts, and plenty of roaming characters that will thrill you with their amazing moves! Well done to everyone involved!

 

21/10/2017 – Chessington World of Adventures Howl’o’ween

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

30/09/2017 – The MacGuffin Project

Back in 1865 the great MacGuffin circus was the talk of the town. It’s owner decided that he would step out of the spotlight and let his son take his place; however, much to his father’s dismay and disgust, the son had no interest in running the circus, favouring inventing. Sure enough, the son created this incredible machine that monitored the entire circus: the machine became too powerful and overthrew its creator and completely destroyed the whole circus, leaving it to rot. 150 years later and intrepid adventurers are given the opportunity to step inside the abandoned circus to figure out what went wrong…

 

From the moment you step inside The MacGuffin Project’s building, you are transported into their world: pipes and lights in cages line the wall, bunting hangs from the box office facade, jaunty seaside songs waft through the air, and the face of The MacGuffin Project all welcomes you not only inside the retail unit, but also their world – it’s very easy to forget that you’re in Bournemouth and not in this steampunk universe.

Once we had signed our lives away and stored our belongings we knocked on the entrance door, which swung open as an assistant threw himself out of, making us all jump, before welcoming inside. We watched a short video in the style you’d expect to see in early era of videography – sepia tones, warbled sounds, that sort of thing, before the video went wrong. The assistant excused himself and in his absence, the video continued though this was even more themed to the 1800s – muted sound, sepia tone, glitches from where the reel had burned and warped itself from heat, the whole lot.

Another door swings open, making us all jump once again, and we’re taken through to the room where The MacGuffin Project was created. We were told where to start, and the countdown began: 58.5 minutes later, we pulled the final lever: we succeeded in our mission!

Whilst this escape room isn’t inherently designed to be scary, there are definitely some jumpy bits throughout that caught us off-guard, and the whole atmosphere and story that developed throughout the show was definitely creepy: from skeletons of animals through to scribbles hidden throughout, through to the audio and lighting, it was incredibly easy to find yourself lost inside this universe for the time you’re in that room. The theming doesn’t falter at any point either – the artefacts found inside all have reason to be in there.

The detail I love about the puzzles is that it’s not all combination locks: without trying to give too much away, it’s almost like taking part in The Crystal Maze but all the mental and physical skill challenges are all rolled into this one room and you’ve got an hour to figure everything out. Cryptic, I know, but I really don’t want to detract from how clever the room is, especially as the puzzles all flow into one another and you’re constantly re-using

The little piece of detail that I really loved (that most escape rooms don’t do) is that small puzzles build up to a big puzzle, which then feeds into another puzzle somewhere else in the room which really added to the flow as everything fell into place. My favourite detail, and this is just me being a great big geek, is that the entire room runs itself: all the puzzles you solve are all monitored by a computer that lets you know when you’ve done something right and triggers the next part of the game, which is really incredible and honestly mind-boggling when it comes to some of the puzzles being solved!

If you’re ever in Bournemouth, or you want to try an escape room that blends puzzles and immersive storytelling into one, get yourself to The MacGuffin Project!

 

30/09/2017 – The MacGuffin Project