31/03/2018 – Nightmare Asylum

So the haunt scene is slowly coming out of hibernation, and my friends and I were feeling really antsy to get our asses to a haunt ASAP and get our fix of scares! After spending a long time hunting for something, we stumbled across Nightmare Asylum in Nottingham: a haunt that’s only been open for a few days. We reserved our tickets the night before (30th) and continued on with out night.

The next day, we trek from Birmingham to Nottingham all hoping that Nightmare Asylum would be worth it whilst also thinking it was odd that we only reserved a ticket and didn’t actually pay for them, and we began to wonder if it was legit. We arrive outside a warehouse that looks like it could have been a small car repair shop at some point with a banner hanging above the shutters reading “Nightmare Asylum” – at least if this wasn’t legit, they spent a little bit on our demise…

We ring the number on the Facebook page and tell the receiver that we’re here – a few seconds later, a man steps out from the side of a building and beckons us in through the security fence and into a sizeable room with a kitchen in the corner; thinking this is part of the escape room (hold that thought…) I instantly start scanning the bare room for any signs of clues… nothing: turns out, it was just a break room.

We’re handed waivers and, in our naivety we blindly signed them (I haven’t learned from other times I’ve been handed waivers…), and we’re then given the basic run down on how the haunt works. The haunt itself is a peculiar blend of escape room, haunt, and maze all rolled into one: you’ll come across padlocks that need keys or codes to open them and you’ll have to find your way around the haunt blind, all while being tormented by invisible actors.

We’re taken back into the corridor connecting the entrance to the kitchen and our hostess pulls back an unassuming white curtain we must have ignored as we walked in, to reveal a stairwell covered in bloodstains and threats that lead up to a closed door. We’re handed a torch and we sheepishly climb up the stairs before opening the door and walking into the gloomy room in front of us; as we enter the room, the door behind us slams shut with a loud bang and we all scream. This, I’m afraid/amused to say, is very much how the rest of the experience went for us…

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Without giving too much away, but Nightmare Asylum is almost what it says on the tin: yes, it was an absolute nightmare and had us saying “I don’t like this” and pushing each other to be the first through the room whereas we’d usually be fighting to be at the front; however, there wasn’t anything themed around what I’d consider an Asylum – hell, there didn’t seem to be any theme or story behind it at all: it was very disjointed and almost like a horror movie game, but this really, really worked well and actually made it feel like it lasted a lot longer than it actually did (great once we got out, but not so great when we were in there).

The haunt is so strange I’m actually struggling to write this part of the review!

The actors know the haunt like the back of their hand, and you’ll know why I put that when you go. It’s a full contact haunt and you are grabbed and pulled at mercilessly throughout which, when combined with the situation you’re in, quickly becomes stressful and spooky (in the right way).

The only criticism I have is that some of the sounds didn’t properly sync up with what we were doing – I’m not entirely sure whether the audio is triggered manually or not, but a sensor or something that monitors the object the sound is meant to sync up to would definitely be a vast improvement. Usually I like seeing the sets a little more, but for some reason the way Nightmare Asylum is done currently, you really don’t need much light at all.

I have no idea why we were so scared throughout – looking back there’s nothing groundbreaking or mindblowing, but for some reason the “less is more” mantra really worked well for Nightmare Asylum, and with the team behind it, I really hope they’ll be scaring us for many years to come!

 

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31/03/2018 – Nightmare Asylum

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

24/10/2017 – The Howl at Mead Open Farm

By day a farm for kids, by night a terrifying series of attractions for adults: The Howl at Mead Open Farm hosts five haunts that all get under your skin and spook you silly!

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First for the night is Topper’s Twister, a delightfully deranged blend of circus and funhouse with plenty of terrifying clowns stalking through the attraction. With some amazingly used elements that make you feel unsteady on your feet and rooms peppered with lasers and swirling lights, this disorienting haunt is a great mixture of laughs and screams from everyone! With some great actors that are brilliant at improvising lines and finding the best hiding places, I was disappointed that an actor didn’t hide in the ball pit: it’s such a simple scare that’d catch absolutely everyone off guard – as the floor is on a slope, it’d be easy to reset each time too! A brilliant start to the night, especially if you’re in a small group!

 

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Still grinning from Topper’s Twister, our next haunt of choice was House of Hounds: a werewolf themed haunt! As a concept, werewolves are absolutely brilliant but so difficult to do, but The Howl really does it justice! I really appreciated that the characters became more and more feral as you progressed, the way the entire attraction was pumped full of smoke constantly, the use of chicken wire fences and solid walls to break up the haunt, the actors’ abilities to be threatening throughout, and the incredible finale, House of Hounds is an intense and terrifying experience! The only improvement I’d make is to try and hide the main smoke machine a bit better, and to move the strobe light from behind the final character so you can see it in all it’s glory.

 

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Hotel de Basquervilles was our next choice on the lineup: themed around a haunted hotel, this beautiful haunt really gets going from the moment the safety briefing ends! The whispering soundtrack that permeates throughout from nowhere really sets a creepy vibe that is broken by actors that spring from out of the most unlikely of places! Once again, this haunt is strongest in small groups as most of the initial scares are at the front of the queue, however the actors are brilliant at maintaining their character as the rest of the group passes. Before you know it, the haunt is over: there’s no real finale, which is a real shame seeing as the corridor you travel through feels like it’s just leading to another scene.

 

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Our penultimate haunt was The Shed, a haunt themed round, well, a shed and what you’d find in a shed. There was no real story or setup to this attraction as far as I could tell, but it was still a brilliant attraction that was extremely creepy and filled with feral beings that were extremely nightmarish! The atmosphere throughout was one of impending doom, and the effects and natural smells of the decorations within really helped add to that atmosphere! Absolutely loved the lighting throughout, and was really impressed and surprised by the clever re-hash of the chainsaw finale, a breath of fresh air that blew me away, if you know what I mean! Definitely my favourite haunt at The Howl, especially as it seems like the conga line rule is ignored (and quite rightly to!)

 

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Squealer’s Yard was our final haunt for the night. At first I was concerned about how good it was going to be as we were sent in as a group of 15 while every other haunt was sending us through in groups no bigger than 6 , though that really didn’t matter once you made it through the incredible opening scene! The group is split up, and you make your way through all sorts of scenes as you try to escape from the freaky cannibalistic creatures hiding within! A strong attraction that sees actors climbing all over set pieces and ad-libbing lines to freak you out as you make your way to a finale that really lets the rest of the attraction down, especially as the intro and most of the attraction is really intense.

 

Alongside the haunts, there’s also a few food stalls, a couple of roaming actors that felt like they blended in with the general public at points (I only saw two characters when walking about), and an undercover area with a stage for a band to perform on. I was aware of it being part of Tulley’s last year, and it’s definitely bringing some of the Shocktoberfest vibe with it, and I’m sure this festival style air will develop as The Howl becomes bigger and better: I was honestly surprised with how empty the attraction was, given the great ticket prices and amazing entertainment! Definitely one to visit, if you haven’t already!

 

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24/10/2017 – The Howl at Mead Open Farm

06/10/2017 – Tulley’s Shocktoberfest

Located in Crawley, Tulley’s Shocktoberfest is the definition of what a Halloween festival should be – spine chilling haunts, creepy roaming characters, and live bands and fairground rides all night, there really is something for absolutely everyone who goes!

As soon as you arrive, your ticket is quickly checked and you’re given a stamp as well as a slip that’s used by staff to mark when you enter a haunt: you then sift into the main hub of the festival with haunts lining the left hand side, a stage and food stalls on the right, and rides and even more haunts straight ahead: this year, Tulley’s boast seven haunts, a hayride, and a 3D cinema!

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After taking in all the sights, we decide to go to the first attraction of the night: Creepy Cottage. We were put in our own group of four (a nice little touch, I must add) and entered the house. Corridors snaked all over the place throughout this dark and dingy house, passing from room to room as actors charged, jumped out from hidden areas, and towered over us: nowhere was safe! From the makeup on the actors to the special effects were used to make it look like props had a life of their own, this haunt was a great start to the evening.

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Our next haunt was Twisted Clowns 3D. Last year only part of the haunt was in 3D; however, this year it was the entire thing. We were told to put on our 3D glasses and listen to the safety announcement, which had a sinister rhyming scheme that was informative but also added to the atmosphere. As we went through, the 3D effect was extremely successful: pictures jumped off the pitch black walls and disorientated us as we tried to make our way through the attraction, unable to see where some of the actors were considering their outfits blended in with the 3D effects – there was even a special element quite close to the beginning which had actor and guest alike jumping with fright! The music warbling through the air and the trippy 3D illusion definitely felt like a drug trip gone wrong, which was only exacerbated (though I loved it) by the vortex tunnel. Overall a great haunt, though the middle definitely got the majority of the scares for this.

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By this time, the sun had set enough for us to be happy to do the Horrorwood Haunted Hayride: sure it definitely doesn’t have to be dark for this to be great, but there’s always something about the cover of night that just adds to the experience. With a layout almost exactly like last year, this is the best haunted hayride I’ve done to date: the actors were creepy, the effects were as incredible as they were last year, and the experience as a whole was extremely fun; the only downside to the hayride is that it requires a decent group of passengers (moving vehicles where you’re not strapped in must be a health and safety nightmare which is ruined by boisterous people who think they’re being funny when they’re threatening to jump out of the trailer), and that the volume on the trailer itself needs to be much, much louder.

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VIXI, Helement’s replacement, was our next choice, given that it was now pitch black and hooded mazes seem to suffer when outdoors in the light. We donned our hoods and entered VIXI, led by only our sense of touch and a piece of rope that’s rather easy to drop. The special effects through the first bit were from Helements and didn’t really make sense in the context of VIXI, but the finale definitely made up for the bizarre mish-mash: we were greeted once again with Tulley’s expert attention to detail and theming as fire and loud bangs exploded around us, while strobes made it hard to navigate! I personally didn’t enjoy the hooded section, but the finale definitely made up for that: one piece of criticism would be that the drums didn’t fit in with the medieval vibe throughout the area they were in – a simple paint job or something would really finish off this area perfectly.

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Our fifth attraction for the evening was The Cellar, an extremely well themed journey into what feels like a run down basement in a house located in Louisiana. I’m pretty sure that this was almost identical to last year, but this didn’t detract from the experience at all – the scares came quickly (but only at the front), the strobe maze was disorientating and creepy (though I’d have loved for it to have been longer), and the whole aesthetic just gives off this grimy, dingy vibe. This is definitely not as scary as some of the others, however that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism – it’s still a beautiful attraction to wander round. Only improvements I’d make is for it to drop the conga line (as it’s the only haunt that has that requirement) and to extend the strobe maze (but I’m an absolute sucker for them, as you’ll soon find out).

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We were now down to my three favourite haunts from last year and the 3D cinema (which is new this year). Our next attraction of choice was The Chop Shop, a car repair service that hides a dark secret that will leave you in pieces! Once again, the actors and scenery was what we’ve come to expect from Tulley’s by now: intricate design with great attention to detail. The reason why this is my second favourite Shoctoberfest attractions is because one half of it is a complete and utter sensory overload of flashing lights, loud bangs and grinding sounds, heavy metal music, and the heavy stench of petrol: it’s a 10 minute long strobe maze that disorientates you so much that you’re sure you’re repeating the same rooms over and over again until you’re spat out at the end! The actors in this attraction are a mixed bag: as you start off, everything seems innocent enough with young girls with southern American accents drawl on about cars and the like until you hit the freezer where this “friendly” vibe is ditched and all the actors from this point onwards are huge intimidating guys that really know how to wield chainsaws and navigate strobe-ridden corridors – this was the one haunt at Tulley’s that actually had me feeling uneasy, as one of the characters loomed over me, chainsaw idling away at his side, as he stalked and breathed down my neck: I was glad when he turned back and left me alone! I love this haunt as it is, but if this were to be expanded, I’d absolutely love to see sparkers used to add to the illusion that the chainsaws could do harm!

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The Colony came next as the queue for it was right next to The Chop Shop’s exit. Themed around a post apocalyptic hive of beings, this haunt is beautifully decorated with lots of Fallout aesthetics and Borderlands sounds/quotes. The beauty of this haunt is that it utilises both inside and outside scenes which complement each other greatly and really transports you to this new realm. This haunt is laden with jump scares, though there were a number of scares that were more creepy (shout out to the female who runs down a pitch black corridor so that you only see her silhouette!). Unfortunately, this was my highlight of Shocktoberfest last year and a lot of it has stuck with me ever since, so it was quite obvious when scenes and routes were identical – having said that though, it’s completely breath taking if you’ve never experienced it before, especially the special twist on the finale!

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Finally on the list of haunts was our most anticipated attraction last year: Coven of 13. Themed around witches, this haunt was definitely the strongest attraction again this year: as soon as you step in through the entrance you’re transported into an 18th century witch hunt where angry witches stalk swamps, forests, and houses marked with runes. This also has an extension this year that just makes the haunt more attractive as a whole, and the change to the finale, while not as dramatic as last year, still had a strangely dark atmosphere and rather than fear, I experienced a slight amount of sorrow – something I definitely wasn’t expecting at Tulley’s!

 

The last attraction on the list was the 3D cinema. Not much can really be said about it as it is what it says on the tin. The effects were really good and really leapt out of the screen; however there wasn’t much in the way of a storyline and there didn’t seem to be any order to it. It’s fun, there are a few scares in it, and it’s cool that Tulley’s is the first scream park that I’ve been to that has a 3D cinema, but it really doesn’t compare to the level of detail, scares, and atmosphere in their live haunts.

 

Once again, Tulley’s has really sealed the deal in being a Halloween festival: the atmosphere throughout the park was electric and everyone there was buzzing from the energy, the roaming actors were a mixture of creepy and scary (and in the case of the nurses, utterly hilarious! Ask them for a little song if you can!), the bands performing really knew how to get the crowd moving, and all in all, it really looked like everyone was having the time of their lives: I’m glad I returned this year to review!

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06/10/2017 – Tulley’s Shocktoberfest

23/09/2017 – Hide & Shriek: Dead Centre

Roughly this time a year and a half ago, I found myself on the way to Southend Victoria to scope out this brand new attraction called Dead Centre run by Hide & Shriek, a relatively new company in the scare industry at the time. Soon enough, they’ve become a company I regularly return to not only because they’re on my doorstep and run year round, but also because I thoroughly enjoy what they do and I know that critiques will be taken on board and rectified for following shows, which is something that I thoroughly appreciate as a reviewer as while I do this for fun and for you readers’ entertainment, I also do it to help the industry improve somewhat.

 

Having said that, this might actually be my hardest review of one of their shows to date as I was both an actor and a participant, and knew a good handful of the actors within the attraction too but don’t worry, I’m not letting these bonds get in the way of my review – I’m still gunna be as harsh as ever!

 

On arrival at Dead Centre, our tickets were scanned and we took our seats on a bench in a semi-protected safe area whilst we waited for our turn: a two tier pyramid of barrels stood on one side of the shopping centre corridor and a wall with a screen built in displayed the title of the experience on the other, whilst eerie atmospheric music played on a loop that echoed throughout our little area, which emphasised the fact that we were completely alone in the shopping centre… or were we?

Soon enough, it was our time to enter the experience: we’re given the generic haunt brief (you are expected to run, no zombies will chase you on the stairs, etc) and we were sent down a service corridor. As we reached the end of this corridor, two shopping centre security guards, an Australian called Jake (though he insisted on being called Maverick and I am so down for that) and another whose name I forgot so I’m gunna call him Dan, welcomed and ushered us closer. He explained that the safe haven we were in has never come under attack thanks to the stringent security checks we have to go through – our first was to prove that we hadn’t been bitten and, rather typically, my small group of friends ended up having to do blood tests to prove we were safe – as it turns out, one of us was The Chosen One, someone whose blood cannot be infected by the zombies! Just as he had explained this, a loud bang as something hit the wall next to us got us moving into the next area.

 

We ran down another service corridor, chaperoned by the two guards that seemed to be a bit uneasy but continued to ensure us that we were safe and it was just probably another guard playing a prank. We soon stopped as we hit a set of doors whilst the service corridor continued off to the right, and Maverick gave us a quick demonstration on how to check for zombies by knocking and asking “are there any zombies?”, pausing, then saying “no” before moving onto the next – this is when I began giggling. He came back and confirmed that it was all safe with this dumb grin on his face whilst Dan just looked at him in disdain. We were then taken through the doors, across the floor of the shopping centre, and into another service corridor where we were told we’d have to go through the Loading Bay in order to reach The Reverend, who’ll know what to do with the blood.

 

On the way down to the Loading Bay we learned a little bit more about The Reverend, and both Dan and Maverick – both of whom were very new to this role, and by this point completely clueless as to what to do, though that didn’t stop them from trying to ease our fears (though I’m still giggling at this point). Maverick did his thing and checked for zombies before running back yelling “gogogogogogogogogogo” as quickly as he can: we’re led through another set of doors and Dan slams them closed behind us once everyone was in, then Maverick explained that he saw a mouse – his worse fear! The laughter continues.

 

We reach the loading bay and just as we pass a van, the alarm goes off and a small horde of zombies chase us through the loading bay and up a ramp and into another maze of service corridors and stairwells. Soon enough, we’re in a slightly more open service corridor where a cart full of water is sat, so we all take a bottle. Just as that happens, one of the service lift doors slams open and a disgruntled shopkeeper comes out and accuses us of stealing his water. The two guards start to fight him and the shopkeeper is left tied to a pillar, just as another small horde of zombies chases us down yet another service corridor and back into the shopping centre.

 

The aim of our mission changes from finding The Reverend to basically calling in a helicopter to rescue us, as the guards finally admit to not having a clue what to do. We make our way up several flights of stairs to the top of the car park where we were to lay down an SOS so a helicopter could come and pick us up. We reach the top of the car park and find a conveniently placed box that had some sheets in for us to make an SOS. Just as we finished, another car alarm went off and a zombie fell out of the car, chasing us down two levels peppered with other zombies before we finally went into another stairwell and went down to the shopping centre where The Reverend could be found.

 

We inch our way forwards to give ourselves a better vantage point to see if there were any zombies about and Maverick being Maverick did his own special check which had me absolutely doubled over in hysterics to the point where I was almost getting stitches from that rather than the running! We got given the all clear and I pull myself together enough to run from where we were stood to the Hide and Shriek shopping unit, where an odd character in a white vest, underwear, and doctors robe met us. He examined the vial of blood and confirmed it was good we came, and we were led into the pitch black corridors to meet The Reverend. We find ourselves back in another service corridor before we reach The Reverend’s door and are ambushed by another small horde of zombies, which we try to hold back with a wheelie bin though this was futile without four of us trying our hardest to hold them back whilst the rest of the group struggled to open the door.

 

Finally the door was opened from the inside by Maverick who had managed to disappear in the havoc and let us in. We re-entered the darkness and barricaded the door behind us. As our eyes grew accustomed to the dark, it became apparent that we were very much in a hospital/laboratory thing, the home of The Reverend. He introduced himself and reiterated that the blood could save lives, and he was determined to show us – he took us through to his back room where an infected lay on an operating table. People were picked out of the crowd, myself included, and we were given specific actions – one of us had to inject The Chosen One’s blood into the infected and the other had to take note of the heart rate as it was yelled out. As the infected was injected with the blood, he slowly came back to life and started convulsing uncontrollably: the lights went out and the infected had vanished! We were ushered into a seated area behind two sheets as the lights in the room strobed at an unpredictable rate, causing the shadows of the zombies to flicker across the sheets as they maul The Reverend. In the madness, the zombies were shot at and we were quickly ushered through more rooms before we found ourselves in an unused shopping unit. We were then told we just had to run in order to escape the hordes and find our own way to the next Safe Haven – the doors to the shop opened and we all sprinted to the exit of the shopping centre, laughing and cheering all the way.

 

Comparing this year to last year, there have been a huge amount of changes based on feedback from last year: the reasoning for going to each of these locations was clearly explained and followed a storyline, and they added a rather effective and well executed piece of theatre within their shopping unit. Alongside this, the shopping centre security guards that took us through the experience were a great touch, not only because army soldiers are done pretty much everywhere else, but also because they bought the trademark comedy to the show which definitely couldn’t have been done with soldiers.

 

Having said that, I do have a few criticisms (of which I know couldn’t be helped), but having chatted to others that had been through as well as the H&S team, it seemed to just be me that picked up on it: there was a lack of zombies. The Loading Bay scene had potential for a good 10 or so zombies to flood the area and make it really chaotic – this was also noticeable in the Car Park and the Service Corridor scenes, though the security guards yelling did add to the confusion a bit. It also would have been nicer for the zombies to get closer too as none of them really felt like a threat until the Finale chase where you had no choice but to weave in and out of them: we had a good ol’ run around the car park and the zombies had a decent enough area to chase us in, but they ambled about and were so scattered about the place that, had it been a real apocalypse, the 17 or so of us in the group could have easily just taken them out.

Continuing on the zombies, whilst I got the idea that in each of the zones the zombies were meant to get progressively more and more zombified, it didn’t really show – there were zombies that did they make up professionally and some that hadn’t, and whilst 99% of the time it wasn’t noticeable, it definitely was toward the end when we had our photo opportunities with them.

Also, something like fake barbed wire between the barrels and wall in the foyer bit right at the beginning of the experience would have been cool, but not a necessity.

The one final thing I want to shit on (in the nicest way possible) was the scene within the unit. I understand it’s a small area, but those bloody seats that were facing side on so you had to turn your head really didn’t do anything, and in fact kinda detracted from the experience a little as you had to hold an uncomfortable position for a short while. I’d have also had the lights flash a little bit quicker, but that’s just personal taste – the way the shadows projected onto the sheet really added to the visuals and helped soften the brightness of the strobes.

Despite these few critiques, I honestly enjoyed myself and whilst it wasn’t a scary experience, it sure was fun, entertaining, and hilarious! If it makes a return (and I hope it does), I very much urge you to go.

 

23/09/2017 – Hide & Shriek: Dead Centre

02/09/2017 – Hide And Shriek: The Seance Brave it Alone (Preview)

I’m starting to let my fanboy show with all these trips to Southend, especially as I went back to the sunny seaside town for another viewing of The Seance – this time, I was going alone!

Brave it Alone experiences offer the victi guest a new perspective on the experience as there’s no way to divert nervous energy, actors tend to feel like they’re picking on you and will get up close and potentially touch you, meaning the experience feels much more intense and personal without it being too “extreme”: if haunts were subject to ratings like films, boo haunts would either be rated PG or 12A, brave it alone haunts would be rated 15, and extreme haunts would be rated 18.

So after talking to Scott and George of Hide and Shriek, they mentioned that they were curious about running a Brave it Alone experience for Seance to see if they could do it, and me being the weirdo and sucker for a good scare, I jumped right on board and got a ticket for the first showing I could actually attend, which was probably not the best idea in hindsight as it gave the guys very little chance to up the scares.

I arrive at the venue already pretty nervous and wait for my turn. Beyond the doors at the back of the shop, I can hear muffled screams from the group before me which doesn’t exactly help settle my nerves: I begin to wonder why I’m doing it alone and then remember that this anticipation and fear is exactly why I’m sat here like a goon in a retail unit in a shopping centre with everyone staring at me through the window. The screen next to me quickly changes from the The Seance clip to the oh so famous Hide and Shriek introduction video (which is a thing of beauty in itself). The video finishes, the doors to the left of the screen open, and I’m led into the pitch black corridor awaiting me.

We come to a stop in front of the doors and in this inky darkness, it becomes incredibly clear just how alone this brave it alone experience will be. I repeat the escape word and head onto the set (this is honestly the only way I can describe it). I enter the house and take a seat at the table in front of the only playing card on the table. I really and truly am on my own from here on out.

A radio fizzles to life to the left of me and an all to familiar voice starts talking, explaining that the house is haunted and really setting the scene. At this point in time, I was truly tense: I kept finding myself talking to nobody, shuffling about, and trying to make light of the situation, but that doesn’t mean anything when there’s nobody about to react to the jokes – if anything, it only made it worse and I had completely forgotten that this was just an attraction put on by some friends.

What happened over the course of the next half hour was very much the same as the first round, though the beauty of the Seance is that you can sit in any one of those seats and get an entirely different show each time, and sitting at the head of the table with the open doorway behind you really really starts playing on your paranoia – at least the last time I did it, my back was to a wall! Whilst most of the effects remained the same in this run, there were a few extra additions that I really was not expecting, one of which actually managed to get a scream out of me, and it’s been a long time coming!

The Seance in a group is a good show in itself, but being alone in that pitch black living room with things bumping around you really does add a new layer to it and, whilst what I got was tense and jumpy, I’ve been told that come October they’ll have a lot more in store for those brave enough to enter! I very much look forward in returning to the house for a third time and seeing how it has developed since!

02/09/2017 – Hide And Shriek: The Seance Brave it Alone (Preview)