22/12/2017 – Room Escape Southend: A Zombie Christmas

Southend Room Escape feature very prominently in my reviews: since my first visit to them for Down The Rabbit Hole over 6 months ago, they’ve change their escape room theme an incredible three times, with this visit being their fourth – it really is amazing how quickly they produce and create brand new worlds for guests to explore and inevitably get scared!

Donning Christmas cracker hats and sitting round the family dinner table in a winter wonderland, we’re told that Santa has come over with an illness which has changed his taste buds drastically (unfortunately for us), and that the chain that ties him to the spot will extend every so often, meaning there’s no place to hide: fortunately, singing Christmas songs seems to put him in a daze, meaning we are able to distract him for short periods of time. It was down to Ash (of Hide & Shriek), Michael Bolton (of ScareTour), Liam, and myself to solve the clues and save Christmas forever! Quite a scary precedent given how close to Christmas it was!
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The timer begins and we instantly pick up on a number of puzzles dotted around the room: we instantly gather all the clues we can get our mitts on and gather them on the table, completely wary of the zombie Santa sat barely 2 feet way from us in the corner.

What happened over the next hour or so was a mixture of confusion, yelling, plenty of singing, and eventually managing to solve the clues in order to save Christmas and escape!

Rather cleverly, the team had recycled the shack and most of the scenery from The Cabin, which, when coupled with the changes to the “outside” area, really made the escape room give off a Christmassy vibe – we had the cracker hats, all we needed were the corny Christmas jumpers!

The puzzles themselves were rather tough (despite what Bolton says in his review) even though we had all seen the same padlocks a number of times in their other rooms, there were a number of new and impressive puzzles, with a number of the puzzles requiring one of us to sneak past Santa whilst the rest deafened him with our tone deaf renditions of Jingle Bells over and over and over: the final puzzle with the baubles was by far my favourite puzzle, but then again I really enjoy intricate puzzles that require technology.

Even though this was easily their least scary escape room so far, it was still intense and riddled with moments of panic as we tried to avoid the evil Santa, and it was definitely an absolute blast! Once again, Room Escape Southend delivered another fantastic attraction with A Zombie Christmas, and I really cannot wait to get back down to Southend for Apartment 666!

22/12/2017 – Room Escape Southend: A Zombie Christmas

16/04/2016 – Hide and Shriek: Dead Centre

In a short space of time, Hide and Shriek has grown into one of the bigger boo haunts outside London and theme parks. Created in 2015, the company has gone from strength to strength in bringing an immersive horror experiences that is easily available to the masses.

With very little hype surrounding Dead Centre I had no idea what to expect from the event at all. Hints were dropped in the email we received, but absolutely nothing more than “you will be running” was given away.

I arrive at the Victoria shopping centre and flashed my ticket to security, who opened the door to the centre. Upon entering, I’m bombarded with rather creepy, almost Saw-like music and a darkened shopping centre, barricaded about 20ft in. We’re told to wait to one side for our timeslot to be called forward.

Eventually, our time approaches and we’re given a waiver to sign as well as a patient form which asks for our blood type and allergens (my favourite being human flesh). We hand back the forms and we’re immediately checked for cuts and bruises by a doctor before being moved into the first scene of the show.

As with all zombie break-outs, it starts with a virus. We’re given a more extensive test as a trio of soldiers watch over us with eagle eyes from behind masks. We all pass except for one, then everything went horribly wrong…

A medic appears from behind us and the chase is on! Remember when I said most events only require a light jog? This breaks the mold: We sprinted as fast as we could to keep up with the medic who takes us on a journey that traverses fire escape routes, car parks, service routes, and the mall itself – all of which are void of any and all life, including the undead!

The zombies were absolutely fantastic – if they weren’t jumping out at you from a hidey hole, they were lurching toward you at a disturbingly quick pace: they were also able to open doors, much to our/my surprise and horror!

After being chased across various car park levels, we find ourselves inside running back down to the ground and into a pitch black room where we had to wait for a little while, which gave us all a bit of time to get our breath back from sprinting everywhere for 20 minutes.

We’re then treated to the longest run of our lives to the Hide and Shriek shop. We’re taken into the back, guided by the medic’s rather creepy UV flashlight. We’re then handed two torches and sent on our own way through this part of the show – we had to navigate through the back corridors using only the two torches. Easy right? Nah. It wasn’t.

I was holding one of the torches and the other was in another woman’s hand, so we led the way. It started off really easy – slowly moving from room to room, peeking around each door frame before entering the room, then both of our torches malfunction: mine shuts down entirely, and the other torch would only work if you hit it. We were in almost pitch black, trying to grope our way through corridors and rooms so dark that you genuinely couldn’t see the hand in front of your face!

We made it through and met up with our medic, or rather, he found us and helped us through the rest of the blackened corridors and back to the shop floor when we realise that one of the group had gone missing! After a small, unsuccessful, search and rescue mission we’re pointed across the shopping centre floor, which was littered with a handful of zombies. Following the medics orders, we charge through a few upturned benches and through the zombies to the finishing line, to everyone’s relief.

 

I had a few minor negative points that, whilst they didn’t detract from the event all that much, I did end up questioning them on my journey home.

Firstly, the characters at the beginning of the experience definitely lacked an air of authority. We had made it to the safe house, and whilst checks were done, they were taken lightly and the doctors/nurses were joining in with jokes – I’d have expected them to be a little more stern and sterile with the signing of the waiver and showed our tickets (I’ll excuse the security guard as I couldn’t tell if he was mall staff or an actor).

Secondly, we were told that we would need to make it to the roof of the car park to wait for the pick up, but when we were taken back inside and down into the shopping centre, it wasn’t clearly explained why our destination had changed. Also, there was no explanation as to why we couldn’t just keep going up the first stairwell we reached – maybe some zombies coming down from the above levels would have killed that thought.

Thirdly, whilst the finale was new and unique (I’m far too used to being chased from behind), it definitely lacked something. I wouldn’t say it was anti-climactic, but it wasn’t as explosive as it could have been. Maybe if a handful of zombies had chased from behind as well as from the left hand side so we’re made to go the route we’re meant to, it would have been better.

Finally, the show seemed to end just as we were getting sucked into the story. I appreciate it’s hard to create a huge story in such a tight space, especially when the space is open and there’s a risk of other groups crossing paths at any time, but the 30 minutes didn’t feel like it was long enough to really get in the role.

 

HAVING SAID ALL OF THAT THOUGH, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and it was clear to see from everyone else (including the pessimistic 14 year old whom was genuinely entertaining whist standing in the dark) that it was a fantastic event.

I have a few favourite aspects to our trip:

Firstly, the medic was a credit unto himself for remaining in a sense of panic throughout the entire event. I didn’t buy into it to begin with, but as time went by, the sense of urgency was definitely there.

Secondly, oh my God they had the ENTIRE shopping centre to play with! Do you know how awesome that is? Like that’s more space than the theme parks get! The fact that there was no obvious path through the show was definitely a treat – we were checking the door windows on all the floors to make sure no zombies would come bursting in to try and attack us.

Thirdly, what I’m nicknaming “the corridor from hell”. Having to find our way through complete and utter darkness was insanely disorientating which only made it more hellish. The two torches shutting down as they did, whether it was planned or not, definitely added to the experience! If they’re rigged in some way, they were a fantastic investment!

Finally, the scene with the chaser zombie was definitely terrifying – I rarely jump at these events, but you got me good and proper chaser zombie! (I’d write more so the directors knew which bit I’m talking about, but I don’t wanna give that bit away. Scott/George: Drop me a message if you wanna know!).

Honourable Mention: the Alien Escape poster in one of the stairwells for making that event a meta event that could have happened if the apocalypse didn’t happen. I’ve no idea if it was intended this way, but I found it hilarious.

 

All in all, I had an absolutely fantastic evening despite all the sprinting we did. Walking out of the shopping centre, I was grinning from ear to ear and absolutely buzzing off the adrenaline! An incredibly strong second show, and I’m glad that a third date was added! I will definitely be returning for all future events to see them grow from strength to strength.

 

Note: We had a group photo taken at the end of the event, so as soon as I receive that I’ll post it here. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

16/04/2016 – Hide and Shriek: Dead Centre