24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

It has been a long time since I last saw or heard anything from the depths of Southend as Hide and Shriek went silent shortly after their Halloween plans, which had me a little worried as there’s very little in the way of haunts down in Essex and they’re one of my favourite event organisers, so when Delectably Dead came onto my radar, I was all over that like a zombie on brains!

From what I knew about the show before entering, I knew it was going to be a mix of theatre and dinner at the same time. I did one in Disneyland or something years back that was themed to cowboys and you got served dinner whilst stuntmen did acrobatics and all sorts on horseback, so I was kinda basing my judgement on that: I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the intent was to completely immerse you from the second you stepped into the event. We were served drinks in the function room next to the room Delectably Dead was hosted which had caution tape wrapped around pillars and amusing signs dotted around the walls, and when the main doors opened we were given a little booklet that we had to fill out which was also riddled with Hide and Shriek humour (which I absolutely love).

Once we had filled out our rations booklet, we took our seats on our designated table, which was unfortunately further away from the stage than I had liked but we can’t win it all, I guess? Anyway. Looking around the room at the theming on the tables, in the rations book, and on the screens dotted about the place, it was clear that there was a lot of inspiration from the Fallout game series which I highly commended and actually got loads of positive feedback from friends when I showed them the pictures. If you can imagine sitting at a diner with caution tape stuck to the tablecloth whilst hanging industrial/miner lights flickered on and off to simulate being run off a generator, whilst 1940s/1950s-esque music played on repeat in the background and the characters wandering around whilst introducing themselves to you, you’d kinda get the bizarre mixture of haunt meets dining experience feeling.

The room filled up to the brink with a bizarre demographic: the ages ranged from their teens right through to their 40s and maybe 50s, wearing either t-shirt and trousers or smart casual. It was clear that it had bought the dining experience crowd and the horror/haunt crowd together in a room for an evening, which was absolutely lovely as we found ourselves making fantastic friends with people dotted all throughout the room during the course of the event.

Soon enough, it was showtime! The characters all popped into action and the generic zombie story began, with lots of thrills and spills, and a surprising amount of violence and rude language, which was surprising seeing as the other Hide and Shriek events I had been to definitely lacked these – definitely not a negative point as all the actions and language had its reason to be there. Not long after the show began, we got treated to Hide and Shriek’s trademark introduction video (I won’t lie, I was looking forward to this). For those that have never been to a Hide and Shriek event, it’s basically the generic safety briefing you get just as you’re about to enter a haunt (don’t touch the actors, they might touch you blah blah blah) but done in the style of the show, with lots of humour. I really and truly hope they never get bored of these, because I absolutely love them!

 

I guess this is the bit where the it gets tough to write about the event because it wasn’t a haunt, it wasn’t immersive theatre, it was a dining experience. For those that don’t know what that is (I didn’t know until 24 hours ago either), it’s basically a theatre show with a number of intervals dotted throughout in which you get given a chance to eat, go to the loo, top up your drink, have a smoke, etc. As someone who came from a haunt/theatre perspective, it really didn’t work for me – it felt like just as we were getting immersed in the show, we were ripped away from it to eat.

In my opinion, there were three different factors that ruined the experience for me. I’m not including the immersion issue above as that’s not an issue with the show per se, it’s my expectations coming from the haunt/theatre scene as opposed to faults in the show.

The first is the volume of the actors: whilst they did well to project their voices so that the ~200+ people could hear them, it was nigh on impossible to hear and understand what was going on through entire scenes in some cases due to the positioning of the actors and the general background noise (and not-so background noise, in some cases) from the audience. I’d suggest radio throat mics that hooked into the same PA system the projector and TVs were using.

The second is alcohol. I get that it’s nice to have a drink when you’re out at a theatre show, but there were some incredibly drunk people there that were yelling at inappropriate moments and generally treating it as if it were a pub, which the actors tried to combat but drunks are just complete and utter cunts at times, and none were more cunty than the cunt that was sat on our table yelling out the most vile shit I’d only expect at a Britain First rally. The actor receiving the abuse dealt with it in a fantastic manner and manged to keep himself composed extremely well, but fuck me I have no idea how she woke up this morning with just a hangover! The worst bit is, there were bouncers at the only entrance to the room that should have seen she was just getting drunker and louder as the event progressed and could have stopped her from re-entering the room for being too drunk, but all they did was give her a warning. I get that she had spent money to be there, but so had another 200 odd people and the last thing we wanted was to hear a load of racist bollocks instead of the show. I’d have either had a dry event or limit the alcohol to a bottle of wine between two people, with the bottles sat on the table, and then the bar open at the end. This could have potentially saved the actors from having to scream and yell so much that they were getting hoarse voices by the end of the show.

The third point is the number of people. Where we were sat (Zone E) was the opposite side of the room from where the action was taking place. With the two factors above and having a number of bodies obscuring our view, we had no idea what was going on and honestly started getting bored of sitting there trying to figure out what was going on, and only a handful of times would an actor come by our table for the briefest of moments – I feel sorry for the tables that were right at the back by the bar, it’s hardly surprising that they were just drinking and having their own little fun. I’d definitely consider having the number of tables one row, or maybe two rows, deep so that everyone is included in the show and it’s easier to follow.

 

 

Moving onto the positives of the show, the amount of detail in the very minimalist scenery was incredible – the posters that I mentioned in the bar were placed in the advertisement spaces in the loos, the little jokes on the ration book and in the intro video, the little stickers on the food, it all had something amusing that related to the apocalypse and zombies, and really added to the dining experience side of the event.

Also, from what I could hear I’d honestly say that without the dining experience bit and with the right crowd, this would have been a really tense and gripping piece of horror/thriller theatre. The combination of live actors and video really meshed well together, and really pulled off the horror tropes and paid homages to pioneering people and movies well. Sure it’s “another zombie show”, but the level of dedication the actors poured into their characters was so high that it would have been easy to have believed everything they said and for it to feel like it wasn’t just “another zombie show”, which actually really made me sad that all this effort was poured into the show only for it to be ruined because it felt like people couldn’t give a fuck about the show.

 

On reflection, I’m happy to chalk this down to a bad audience as all the other Hide and Shriek events I’ve attended have received nothing but praise from me in the past, though I don’t think I’ll be returning to another horror dining experience in the near future.

 

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24/02/2017 – Delectably Dead

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

13/05/2016 – The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast

Yesterday marked two very special occasions: the day that Jason Voorhees kills a load of people, and ScareCON 2016!

For those that don’t know, ScareCON is a one day convention dedicated to the world of haunted attractions, ranging from independent haunts, low budget haunts, home haunts, all the way through to the tens of thousands of pounds events held at theme parks. For one day a year everyone gets together to showcase their stuff, and this year we were lucky to have the opportunity to experience Screamland’s (Dreamland’s) The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast!

 

The Final Cut

This haunt is themed around the silver screen, where you become the star of the show: you enter the cinema screen and are soon transported through the screen and into the movie world!

Going through the uniquely themed maze you enter a series of zones dedicated to a different classic horror movie, from werewolves through to Frankenstein, and even an electrifying Jekyll and Hyde transformation scene to close the maze

Whilst not scary, it is definitely a very jumpy maze that leaves you guessing where the scare will come from. There are some cheesy bits to it, but this doesn’t detract from the haunt – overall a very strong experience and definitely one for those that enjoy horror movies!

 

Dead and Breakfast

Leading straight on from The Final Cut was Dead and Breakfast, a more theatrical haunt with a stronger storyline.

Themed around the bombings in the 1940s, you enter the Better Days bed and breakfast and check in. You’re taken to your room and are warned of ghostly goings on, then everything starts to go wrong…

With a very clever multi-layer storyline, a load of creepy masks, and scene changes so slick you really believe you’ve moved without moving, this haunt was less jumpy and more creepy, although there were definitely some excellently executed jumpscares!

 

Both of these haunts were absolutely fantastic in their own rights, and are some of the strongest themed attractions I’ve experienced. As they lead into one another, I think Dead and Breakfast should have been first and lead into The Final Cut, though this doesn’t detract from the event. I will definitely be back to review The Paradise Foundation later this year…

 

13/05/2016 – The Final Cut and Dead & Breakfast

23/04/2016 – Cracked-Survival Experience

“Explain your experience in three words”.

 

I’ve always been a fan of being scared. I’ve done most of the title holding rollercoasters residing in the UK and have attended countless haunts over the last decade, and whilst they were fun, I knew I was safe at all times so the scares didn’t really get to me – I needed an extreme haunt.

What is an extreme haunt? Unlike boo haunts (the kind of haunts at theme parks where someone jumps up and yells “boo!”), Extreme haunts are generally physically and mentally demanding, and require the guests to be the main characters of the story. Generally speaking, you will be armed with a safe word, be put in a very small group (with some making you go through alone!), and sent on your not-so-merry way.

About a year ago, I discovered a few extreme haunts in America and read all the reviews I could on them, trying to figure out their stories and what happened inside: I needed to do something like this, that made the scenario you’re in feel real.

 

Out of nowhere, I get a message simply saying: “look up Cracked Survival”.

 

After a bit of Googling and Facebooking, I find myself requesting access to the New Recruits page – a page specifically set up for the promotion and general chit chat around Cracked from those that have been and those that are interested in going. When asking about what took place inside, everyone kept their lips sealed, or responded with “we are all Blake” – a rather cryptic message.

 

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up buying a ticket for a friend and myself (I definitely wouldn’t have shown my face if I didn’t have someone I know with me). As soon as I had paid for the tickets, I found myself being added to a secret group with other attendees where questions were asked of us over the course of three months, allowing Blake to slowly and surely embed himself within all of us. As each question was asked, I found myself trying to analyse them, try and find out what was in store for us and break the game before the game got a chance to break me. Blake’s presence grew.

 

Friday 22nd April came around, and at 19:00 on the dot my phone vibrated. “Dear Subject 3, it is now 24 hours until Cracked: Experiment 2.0 begins.” My heart skipped a beat and my hands went clammy. I stood with my friend in the middle of London at rush hour on a Friday night, workers rushing to catch the earliest train how they could, partygoers heading to their first venue of the night…. and us two, heading to a hotel way up north to experience something that only a handful of people have experienced before us.

 

Saturday day was surreal: it was almost like being in purgatory. We had a low key day watching stuff on TV and YouTube, generally saving energy before the big event. 18:00 eventually comes around, and we go to meet the two other subjects in our group. 18:45 soon came around and we headed off to the pickup location, speculating what could happen to us. We round a corner and immediately meet a stern faced woman. Any sense of joy dissipated quickly. We handed her any earthly possessions we had on us and, get directed down a dirt path and the experience began…

 

Within minutes of the event starting, our meager group of four were slowly being chipped away, bit by bit, in the middle of the countryside by Sarge (a character you do not want to be on the right side of, let alone the wrong side) who worked us until we were lying breathless on the floor at his feet, before being loaded into the back of an army van, and bound and hooded and taken to the real location.

Over the next 90 minutes, Blake, Sarge and the small army of assistants continued to erode at our physical being, the assistants making sure we did exactly what Sarge wanted us to do, to make sure we wouldn’t cut corners or to correct us if we were doing wrong. I found myself saying “sorry Sarge” more and more as my body slowly broke down.

After doing one particular task that I failed miserably at, I get punished and I crack: I scream the safeword and I lay there absolutely disappointed with myself. My time was over.

Blake was instantly there along with one of the assistants offering their hand to help me up, and I’m guided away from the rest of the group (who continue on with the tour for another 2 hours before cracking – see her review here).

I meet the stoney-faced woman from the beginning of the experience at the top of the stairs, except she had dropped the cold, clinical persona and was absolutely sweet! She asked how I was physically and mentally, asked what happened to make me safeword, then offered me a hot drink, though a bottle of cold water was much more appealing. I took the bottle of water and shook Blake’s and her hand, and made my way outside to my chariot back to the hotel whilst they returned to torment the remaining subjects.

 

Photography by PastaCore Alternative Photography

 

It took almost two hours for the adrenaline to finally clear my system – I went on a good hour walk just to try and figure out what I had gone through, but I just couldn’t: there was just far too much to process. I was extremely disappointed that I cracked at something so basic – I found out after that I was extremely close to getting into the next scene, and all I needed to do was choose a better way to vocalise my panic: the safeword really and truly was not the noise I wanted to make.

That night I managed to get to sleep at about 02:30. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see Blake’s mask there, almost as if it had been permanently imprinted in my mind’s eye. I finally do find myself passing out, though the sleep wasn’t very fitful as the fatigue was quick to set in.

Cracked is an extremely fast paced, intense, and uncomfortable haunt. It is designed to push you to breaking point and beyond. You need to be both mentally and physically tough to survive the full six hours, and realise that your worst enemy in there is not who you think it is.

 

“Explain your experience in three words”

I am Blake.

23/04/2016 – Cracked-Survival Experience

15/04/2016 – Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later

I’ve heard a lot about Secret Cinema in the past with most, if not all, reviews being extremely positive; however, I had never wanted to visit them due to the movie selection… until now.

 

After its release almost 15 years ago, a new movie bought new life into the zombie genre by bringing Jim, a simple courier, out of a coma and into a deserted UK populated by the infected. Since then, it has grown so huge that it formed a cult following so big that Secret Cinema decided that they would explore the post-apocalyptic horror that is 28 Days Later.

 

After joining the official event, my facebook feed exploded with posts, pictures, and short clips advertising the event: I’ve followed several new pages set up just for this event that spoof some very British institutions, ran a “home test” to see if I had been infected, and even signed up on the NSH (that’s National Service of Health) website and watched (fake) news reports from the BBCC explaining what’s going on.

NSH

The day of my appointment came around. I met up with my sister who also had an appointment at the same date and time, got changed into our costume (the best bit about Secret Cinema is that you must dress up) and made our way to Canada Water station, getting odd looks from the commuters as they headed home from a hard week at work.

 

We arrive and instantly join the crowd of patients as they trickled from the station to the event. We arrive to an army-controlled environment with speakers blaring out a repeated quarantine message as we’re sent from post to post, being asked for our appointment card, having our bags checked, and being asked to put our phones in a sealed envelope (we don’t want the illusion of the apocalypse ruined!)

 

We’re handed an appointment card and got told to remember it, else we wouldn’t be admitted to the treatment centre. We’re then led inside, and the experience, our treatment, begins…

 

Secret Cinema went beyond the movie with a very clever set-up that uses effects that I have yet to see be used in boo haunts. The scenery and the actors blended well together to create a fantastic atmosphere that was easy to lose yourself in, though the large groups definitely detracted from the experience, especially if the narrator is quiet. Despite this, the guys at Secret Cinema effectively took you through some of your favourite scenes from 28 Days Later and left us feeling rather happy and amused.

 

As this is a big event that needs to be accessible to everyone, do not expect anything extreme or challenging. There are some points where it can be very tense, but there’s nothing beyond the general immersive theatre/theme park horror mazes except running, there is a lot of running.

 

All in all, despite having high expectations of it being terrifying (we had a lot of ideas that would have made it scarier), it was still a fun and enjoyable night.

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I would also like to give a huge shout out to the army personnel that helped my sister find me at the safe house – it was an absolute delight that you went above and beyond in remembering her and her description of me, and calling out to us!

 

With endless love, we left you sleeping. Now we’re sleeping with you. Don’t wake up.

15/04/2016 – Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later