08/12/2018 – Faceless Ventures: Unwrapped

An image of a box looking not too dissimilar from that of the box from Hellraiser with the caption “Xmas is a time for giving. On the 8th December, for one night only, Faceless Ventures X will be producing gifts to be unwrapped. No details will be released prior to the show. This is for you to Unwrap.”. Faceless Ventures doing what they do best: building anticipation.

For those not familiar with Faceless Ventures, it’s rare for them to not release any information for their less extreme shows – Fraternity, Diary of a Deceased, and others all had the basic storyline revealed to us; this was not the case with Unwrapped which received a scare rating of ‘3’, which indicates that mild aggressive physical contact is used during the show.

After a lot of anticipation and nervousness, Emz and I arrived at the Mexborough Business Centre, Faceless Ventures’ playground. The anticipation didn’t have much time to build beyond that, as we were on the verge of being late: a quick toilet break, and we were in.

We’re led through very familiar corridors with two others, making us a group of four, before being led to the top of a very familiar staircase. We’re handed something – a jury pass – and are told to put it on. The stairwell door swings open and a member of the court escorts us to the court room which was made up of two lines of tables facing each other from across the room with a stand for the judge at one end of the room.

We were told to sit down, and we began pouring ourselves a glass of water, or at least tried to before we were back on our feet for the Right Honourable Judge as he entered his court room. We sat back down and the premise of the show was explained to us: it was a court case of Faceless Ventures vs the world: one by one, Lee, Sarah, Rosalie, and James all took the stand to plead their case, and it was up to us to decide whether they were guilty of crimes against the scare industry.

As each person took to the stand, we were given a little glimpse of four very different and very unique shows, some I have done, some I haven’t done, and others which have turned legend: Lee took us through the first scene of Diary of a Deceased, while Sarah took us through Primrose Unknown Project’s The Pit. we were then given a brief recess and a free drink on the house – a gross concoction not too far removed from a Virgin Mary. Once we were ‘refreshed’, Rosalie took us through a small game of HVRTING, with  James wrapping up the defendants case by taking us through one of the most psychologically demanding games in Cracked, all whilst keeping the show at a scare rating 3.

Once we returned – or rather was saved by Blake – Blake went on to explain why he does Cracked and the reasoning behind its creation and existence. The defendants were asked to leave the room whilst we analysed the final pieces of evidence, which included plenty of reviews from past shows (some of which came from here), as well as videos from ScareTrack‘s Mikey Stuart and Haunting.net‘s Taylor Winters, who each put their case forward for and against the scare industry: as a firm supporter, I found myself smiling and nodding along with what both had to say though it was refreshing and extremely interesting to hear my thoughts echoed by others in the industry.

The video was over and the defendants returned, along with all the actors who stood behind us menacingly – the one time I felt like something might go wrong. We were each handed a paddle with one side saying “guilty” and the other side saying “not guilty”, and after a few moments of silence we all made up our minds – not guilty. Suddenly, Pat Benetar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot blares out and I absolutely lose it and start clapping along whilst the cast of the show begin dancing and celebrating their decision to go free – who knew jury duty could be so entertaining?!

This bit will probably make the show sound like the show wasn’t inclusive of new people, but you can read Emz’s review here if you’re looking for a review from someone fresh – this really isn’t the case, this show just had a lot of meaning for me as 2018 has been pretty shite (as I’m sure it has been for you too), and it was an unexpected but entirely necessary and welcome gift to be reminded of all the good times I’ve had with the Faceless Ventures family and that no matter how shit it all can get, there’s always gunna be good times ahead.

 

Thank you Faceless Ventures for everything that you do – keep up the amazing work (even if I do think you should be found guilty for choosing that awful pic of me)! ❤

 

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08/12/2018 – Faceless Ventures: Unwrapped

02/06/2018 – The Great Escape Game: Abducted

I’m a lover of extreme haunts: from the attractions that strike fear into the hearts of those that utter the name of the attraction through to attractions that present the attendees with bizarre and uncomfortable scenes that come across as slightly comedic, I’ve enjoyed each one; however, this is the first time I’ve ever had an extreme escape room presented to me as an option to start an entire day of haunting, and I was so down to experience one!

Abducted is The Great Escape Game’s 18+ extreme escape room themed around a group of people (the players) breaking into an abandoned warehouse and finding a series of worn photographs, only the dates on the photos aren’t as far back in the past as you’d like…

What happens next is a blur of intense and forceful movements, being gagged with gaffer tape while blindfolded, then tormented by a sadistic, faceless, mass murderer who had been experimenting on their victims for a very long time. Locked inside their torture chamber, it was up to us to work together as a team in order to escape and save ourselves from the hellish nightmare!

Abducted has the perfect introduction to the escape room – the theatricality of the “haunt” element is done perfectly for first timers to extreme haunts and flows wonderfully into the escape room itself; there’s one jump scare that almost made me drop to the floors which I really appreciated, but unfortunately once that character leaves the room, you’re very much on your own – there are ample opportunities for the serial killer to come back and torment you, or to have another character appear to add another few jump scares or to really add to the stress of the room, but it’s not necessary.

The puzzles themselves are linear, in the sense that to get to the next puzzle you must first solve the current puzzle, with the pieces of the puzzles scattered throughout – team work is utterly essential to even have a chance in here as some clues need at least three people working together.

The theming of the room feels like it’s taken inspiration from movies such as Saw, Hostel, and The Human Centipede given how grotesque, dark, and dilapidated the room feels, with plenty of the standard torture porn props scattered throughout.

 

Despite the fact we technically didn’t escape (we ran over by 2 minutes), we had an absolute whale of a time and really got immersed in the game from the moment we put our blindfolds on. If you like gory horror movies and being manhandled, or even if you just want to try an extreme haunt, I’d very much suggest Abducted as a go-to experience!

 

02/06/2018 – The Great Escape Game: Abducted

28/04/2018 – Unescapable: Edith

Escape rooms are fast becoming a quick and easily accessible pass time in the UK, and with more and more escape rooms popping up the frequency of horror themed rooms are on the rise too! This time we’re at Unescapable’s horror themed room, Edith: after creating the first time portal, a scientist called Edith was sent through to scout what was on the other side and to make sure the portal was stable; unfortunately, Edith ever returned and all contact has been cut off – what is known is that she was trying to shut down the portal but met resistance… it was up to us to step up to the plate, shut down the portal, and hopefully not come into contact with whatever was stopping Edith (yeah no chance there!).

So now you know as much as we did when we first entered the room, it sounds ominous right? Needless to say, we were pretty nervous as we made our way through the time portal and into a decrepit, dimly-lit room beautifully decorated to fit in with the 1800s.  Electrical issues plagued us at inappropriate/appropriate moments depending on how you look at it, that left us in complete darkness at points which really didn’t help with basically everything we had to do. As we progressed through the games, things started to get creepier, especially the locked wardrobe in the corner…

After plenty of nervous laughter, jumping, screaming, flat out refusing to do certain things, and being forced to make unexpected decisions, we crawled back through the time portal and were welcomed back to 2018 by the scientist that helped us pass through!

Edith is an escape room like none I’ve done before: it not only requires players to be mentally alert, but also physically agile in order to survive (read as: hide) and make it out in one piece – much easier said than done when you’re constantly being hunted down by something that lurks in the shadows and watches your every move…

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Oh, and if you survive, find the Polaroid photo on the right hand wall with someone blacked out on it and ask for the story behind the picture.

 

28/04/2018 – Unescapable: Edith

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

27/10/2017 – Fort Amherst Halloween Horrors

hidden around the grounds and tunnels of Fort Amherst, Fort Amherst Halloween Horrors takes guests on an aggressive and full contact journey through a series of nightmarish scenes hidden in Fort Amherst’s buildings and tunnels before taking you back to roughly where you started your journey. Settling itself comfortably in the extreme boo haunt zone, the hour-or-so long show manages to plunge you into a completely immersive story where all manners of creatures are able to reach out, grab, touch, and move you as they want – an element that I feel really lacks in most haunts these days as it really does blur the line between knowing they can’t do anything to you and the little glint of worry as to what might happen, especially as people ended up in coffins, zombie-like creations ganged up on individuals, and demonic creatures held their victims in choke holds – and this was just the beginning!

All the scenes really grabbed my attention and had me completely immersed in the story line, but the scenes that really blew me away was the first scene with the demonic creatures stalking about the crowd as strobes flashed, the Church of Satan, and the correctional facility: having only heard of the name for the first time this year I had no idea what to expect as we entered these scenes but they really impressed me, especially the Church of Satan – I was really not expecting to experience a scene that was both intense and contrastingly ethereal at the same time! It’s really hard to capture the experience in words, but the location, sound, lighting, effects (what very little there were), and actors really just sealed the scene perfectly.

The costumes were absolutely incredible – I know that seeing a silhouette of some hairy monstrosity towering 8ft over you is scarier than the monster in question is lit up, but you could easily tell that the level of detail that went into bringing these beings to life was really precise, and I honestly wished there was a little more light just so that we could really take it all in (but then I love the finer intricacies). The actors that wore these costumes also need a mention, as without them the monsters couldn’t “live”, and the actors really managed to get into their character and bought them to life, which really made it possible to forget that you were wandering around Fort Amherst for the majority of it.

 

My first gripe is the fairground rides which, whilst are a neat addition, ended up spoiling a scene with it’s loud music and flashing lights when we’re meant to believe there are infected out to get us – getting rid of them would definitely increase immersion in this scene (and the actors’ voices would probably appreciate it)

The second is the group sizes – I understand the need to get huge groups through as it’s more scene based/immersive theatre, but some scenes started long before the last people in the group made it into the room: halving the group sizes would really make the show that much more intense and personal.

The final issue, and it’s a very small one, is to line the harris fencing in the finale so the guests going through to the finale can’t see those leaving the finale.

 

Despite the small gripes, I had an absolutely brilliant evening at Fort Amherst and I’m really glad that we were able to make it! Definitely worth doing in 2018!

27/10/2017 – Fort Amherst Halloween Horrors

26/10/2017 – Torment at Gunwharf Quays

Located in a huge purple marquee in the middle of Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays, Torment is a 10 minute haunt that takes its guests through a haunted house. Whilst there was nothing exceptional about it, it really managed to solidify itself as a strong attraction given its location – my main concern was going to be noise pollution from outside the attraction, but once we were inside all worries left and you could completely forget that you were in what looks like quite a busy area of Portsmouth! Using clever lighting and vast amounts of scenery, we made our way through the winding haunted house, meeting a vast array of strange characters, including one that crawled her way over to us before standing up in a similar fashion to Samara from The Ring, only to reveal a secret hidden passageway that led to an almost pitch black room that required the use of a rope to navigate – it was great to see an unhooded hooded section blend in so well! My favourite bit would have to be the utterly disorientating strobe maze right at the end – I have no idea how the actors are able to work in there, but they really did well!

Torment was a great little attraction that is clearly designed to be taken on tour, and it’s incredibly clever given how little space it takes up – I’d very much like to see something in a more permanent space as I can imagine their creativity exploding in a building.

 

26/10/2017 – Torment at Gunwharf Quays