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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who am I?

I am Blake.

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

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…

unesc

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

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…

29790413_348537602304211_1060464961021688688_n

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!

 

29683416_347407262417245_7257009333027083415_n

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

26857095_2296906710620957_1705623219_n

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!

DSC_0603

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!

 

DSC_0617

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.

 

DSC_0625

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.

 

DSC_0607

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!)

 

DSC_0609

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!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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