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!

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

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