The end of another year of immersive horror. The Faceless Ventures team flew over to LA for two intense and emotional nights of Cracked vs Heretic. Next to that, they produced a second Cracked show, where attendees got a glimpse of Blake Ciccone’s past and future, collaborated with the LA-based HVRTING for a tongue-in-cheek extreme card game, and with the Belgium-based Quietus Horror for Intérieur. Quietus was a newcomer this year, emerging on the scene early 2018 and creating several versions of Facsimile, an experience where participants explored a house and met the twisted mind that lived within. Speaking about twisted minds, October saw Heretic Haunted House flying in and working alongside Brutality in Switzerland once again, treating their guests to a warped nightmare for almost eight hours in VIVISEKTION: The Invitation.
I actually did not review two of my favourite shows in 2018. One of them was The Willows, a dinner experience by JFI Productions, the creators of CreepLA, set in a gorgeous mansion in Los Angeles. The night beautifully succeeded in giving all guests a personal, intimate experience, and got thoroughly creepy as the evening progressed. I had such a good time and felt myself being fully immersed in the home of this odd, odd family. Dates have been announced until April 2019, so if you find yourself in LA and you haven’t seen the show (or one time wasn’t enough) – don’t miss out. The other one was #bedrUmplaI by Keight Leighn. The show maybe did not emanate the vibe I usually seek out, but I had heard so many great things about her acting that I could not pass up the chance to see it for myself. I found myself chilling in a bedroom, talking about what I wanted most in life and what was holding me back from getting exactly that. There was a weird dream logic permeating the half hour I was there, but going along with all of this came surprisingly natural – I felt completely at ease. Most of all, the show succeeded so well in bringing about a feeling of, well, lying on your bed and having a long, deep conversation with your best friend, back when you were a teenager. A very specific type of nostalgia, and it affected me deeply. Next to that, Keight’s cat made a perfectly timed appearance when I was taking in my surroundings, bonus points right there. I walked out of the house with a weird, wholesome feeling that lasted for the rest of the evening. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I really, really loved Bedrumplai.
There’s always stuff that you don’t get to see in this world of immersive horror, alas. Definitely, my biggest regret this year is not being able to see Exoskeleton, by Heretic Haunted House. Guests wandered the desolated surface of an abandoned planet, looking for signs of life, communicating with a disembodied voice, and eventually discovering what was stalking them in the shadows. It was a blend of horror and sci-fi that really appealed to me, and I can only hope I’ll get to see a version of it one day. Another offering by Heretic that I sadly couldn’t experience was Midnight Killer 4, the end of the MK saga. Haunting called the show a “cinematic journey into the mind of a killer. It was beautiful, it was haunting, and it was frightening.” It concluded an ambitious series of shows that each blended into each other, following the story of a knife, being passed through the hands of several murderers. Finally, Miasma created Into Great Silence. They have had me intrigued every single year, and this year’s dark exploration of greed and power was no different. Fingers crossed that 2019 will be the year I’ll be able to make it over to Chicago to see for myself.
Enough about 2018 – what follows is an overview of upcoming experiences in Europe. Some of them are set in stone, others have been announced but remain without a fixed date, and some of them are just rumours at this point. Either way, the shows below are all connected by the idea of immersing their audiences in a different world, and thoroughly creeping them out while doing so. Keep in mind, as we saw with the preview article for 2018 – dates are bound to change, shows might be cancelled, and a whole lot more will be added. Always check the official websites and social media of the companies themselves for the most up to date information. Without further ado:
January 23rd – March 17th : VAULT Festival (London, UK)
We visited VAULT last year and were blown away by the huge variety on offer, for super affordable prices. In 2019, they have over 400 different shows for you to choose from, and we strongly urge you to check out the program for yourself. We very quickly flicked through the whole, easily selected over twenty shows that caught our interest, and then trimmed it down to this shortlist – based on the combination of dark subject matter and immersion. Do note that among others, a bloody horror comedy with a live metal band (The Milkman Cometh) and a eighties musical mashup of Dream Phone and Scream (unsurprisingly, Scream Phone) did not make the cut, but they sound like absolute treats.
Séance (Jan 23rd-March 17th) and FLIGHT (Feb 20th-24th). Darkfield has a knack for putting people in pitch black shipping containers and scaring the wits out of everyone with an intense, sonic performance. Positional audio immerses the attendees in the unfolding situation – we’ve been hugely curious about these shows, so lend your ears to Darkfield, we surely hope to visit ourselves.
Escape the Jacket. (Jan 23rd-March 3rd) Last year, we failed miserably at escaping from The Lifeboat, a half hour mini escape experience by Mostly Harmless, but we did have an awesome time in those moments before our demise. This year, they challenge you to strap yourself into the Magician’s straight jacket and battle your past over thirty deliriously tense minutes, in a team of up to four players.
The Incubus. (Feb 6th-March 3rd) The Tom Sawyer Effect follows up last year’s The Pendulum with a new horrific combination of virtual reality, live performance and physical sensation. A dark psychological exploration of your inner selves, one psyche at a time. TSE is looking for subjects willing to open their senses and experiment with their own subconscious. Some of the initial test audiences have reported layers of relaxation and even revelation, while others have reported a dark descent and visions of a strange hooded creature that bears similarity to the Incubus of Victorian psychoanalysis.
The Church of the Sturdy Virgin (March 6th-17th). Dank Parish welcomes audiences to their temple of all things macabre and mortiferous. In their words: “The Church of the Sturdy Virgin is a surreal, immersive journey exploring our connection with death – inviting you, our initiates, to teeter on the brink of uncertainty, to choose the manner of your descent into the void and to discover your own funereal wishes and rites for our modern age. Take a turn with us down the boneless corridor, past the vale of tears, towards the light and back to the void. Explore the coroner’s hovel, liaise with the medium in the Garden of Remembrance, taste the shifting insubstantial mists of the graveyard, resist the temptations of the formaldehyde smoking embalmer and assist with the writing of wills, eulogies and obituaries for your fellow initiates… and for the more courageous… maybe you’ll follow that skull-grinning phantasm, sable-clad, beckoning from the deepest, dankest shadows.” Sounds like fun, right?
February 16th – Faceless Ventures – Born in Blood (Mexborough, UK)
Faceless Ventures teams up with photographer Nick Hardy for this free art exhibition in the Mexborough Business Center. The event will combine elements of art, photography, story reading, performance and immersive theatre, allowing attendees a glimpse into the insanity of Abarise, the mythological state comprised of every neurosis and insanity, every human trauma and suffering. The immersive theatre element will be a small, five minute taste of what is to come, as Faceless Ventures plans to bring the creations of Nick Hardy to life in a full immersive horror show later this year.
March 23rd – Quietus Horror – O V E R T U R E (Belgium)
A new season, a new exploration. We are happy to be able to announce the general theme of the next line of Quietus shows: Diabolus in Musica. Selected guests will encounter a classical pianist, haunted by his past, pouring his pain into song. In the second half of March, only a handful of guests will get to hear him perform for the first time. The storyline of this test show and following smaller events will ultimately converge in a larger show, scheduled for November 2019. These shows are full contact, invitation only, and will be part concert, part immersive horror experience. Contact Quietus Horror if you want to register your interest – they will invite you personally for attendance.
April 6th – Faceless Ventures – Cruelty (Mexborough, UK)
Another one by the prolific creators of Faceless Ventures, this time in collaboration with Mikey Stuart from horror podcast ScareTrack. This show is rated as a 3 on FV’s intensity rating, featuring “mildly aggressive physical contact”.
We live in a time of instant gratification. Through social and on-demand media, people are transforming into sick and repressed beings.
We will create a theatre to rid the audience of their technological subjugation and liberate each individual. There will be no barrier between performer and audience: You will see, feel, smell and taste the uninhibited, raw emotion of what will unfold around you.
For 40 minutes CRUELTY will take over all of your senses.
April 13th, May 18th – Cracked Survival Experience 5.0 (Secret Yorkshire location, UK)
After two years of intense confrontation with Heretic’s Adrian Marcato, Blake continues his experiments. Ten participants per night will endure psychological and physical challenges for over four hours, in what Faceless Ventures calls “Europe’s most demanding event”. After months of evaluation on a secret player’s page, guests will be collected from a secret pick-up point and thrown into a multi-sensory journey, pushing them to their limits. Cracked is rated as a 5 on the FV intensity scale, ‘Anything goes’ – and given our previous experiences, that indeed is no lie.
This event is sold out.
April 19th – May 12th – The Waldorf Project – Chapter 4: BARZAKH (London, UK)
The Waldorf Project is one of those experiences that immediately captured our interest when we found out about them. Their performances are centered around the Japanese concept of ‘Amae’ – which translates as a ‘temporary surrender in perfect safety’ – exactly what we have been seeking out over the past few years. Originating as a multi-sensory dining experience, they claim to have involved into a ‘daring experiment in consciousness transformation’. It might sound vague, but if you take a moment to research their experiences, the images speak for themselves. Their third chapter, Futuro, appeared to exist somewhere in the space between radical immersive art, full contact horror and experimental gastronomy – something that might not appeal to all, but I for one am looking forward to finding out exactly what that entails, given the chance.
At the end of 2018, they were able to translate a part of their concept to a massive festival experience – using artificial intelligence tech to conduct an empathy engineering experiment involving 4200 people, at the Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand. In the spring of 2019, creator Sean Rogg should be ready to unleash the fourth chapter: BARZAKH. The word derives from Persian and means ‘obstacle’, and it designates a place where the soul resides after death, experiencing its own heaven or hell. Not much else is known, but we are definitely keeping our eyes open for more info.
April 13th and onward Postponed until September – Variant 31 (London, UK)
Opening mid April in central London, Big Dreamer Productions are in the process of creating what they call Europe’s largest immersive gaming experience – and given the following, they might actually be right about that. Set in seven buildings that used to make up a chemical company, with 35 floors and over 25000 square feet of space, Variant 31 is an immersive survival game where you are the star. Work in teams to solve group challenges or forge your own path to freedom by completing personal objectives. You’ll experience over 90 minutes of adrenalin-pumping live action, utilizing custom wearable technology to alter your surroundings, unlock hidden pathways and encounter one-on-one actor experiences. Audiences will have the ability to traverse the environment however they choose to, and with over a thousand possible routes, no two experiences will be the same.
No survival game would be complete without something that’s after your blood, and that’s where ravenous creatures, hunting for their own survival, come into play. You better be fast, or very good at hiding, because this is a full contact event, and these creatures will stop at nothing to track you down. Variant 31 features a cast of over a hundred performers, so there should be plenty of surprises around the corner.
It sounds like a very exciting, ambitious event, blending immersive horror with a game-like experience. Tickets start from 39 pounds, and the show will run year round from Thursday to Sunday.
After Dark Helsinki – Unnamed show (Helsinki, Finland)
After Dark Helsinki is one of those production houses in Europe that we haven’t got the chance to check out yet, but 2019 might finally adjust that situation. As of yet, details and specifics are sparse, but the team in Helsinki is planning a spring show the first weekend of May, and they are intending to bring in a very special collaborator. Nothing carved in stone just yet, but if stuff goes their way, consider our plane ticket to Helsinki booked.
Apart from that, if you are in the region, be sure to check out their website, you never know when they might have an event on, these guys have their horror heart in exactly the right place, as far as we are concerned. Oh, did we mention they often operate out of an old, disused slaughterhouse? Well, now we did.
UPDATE: This show has been indefinitely postponed. Creators hope for an Oct. 2019 date.
May-June: Dotdotdot – The War of the Worlds Experience (London, UK)
After creating Somnai’s experimental sleep clinic last year, Dotdotdot returns with an immersive, high-tech rendition of The War of the Worlds. Featuring Jeff Wayne’s music along with immersive theatre, virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and more, visitors will find themselves into the well known story, set across a 22,000 square foot setting, for almost two hours, including a break in a themed bar. After running away from those tripods, you would want a cocktail as well, I guess.
We got to admit, this announcement had us pretty excited, the subject matter in combination with immersive theatre and high end technology does sound really enticing. Point is, that tech has to be utilized in a way to complement the experience, and VR can be notoriously iffy. In Somnai, this sometimes turned out to be a problem, and for us, the show fell short from its promises. However, everyone deserves a second chance – if Dotdotdot manages to pull this off, we’ll be over the moon!
May-September (selected dates) – Scream Camp (Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience a real life horror movie? Well, here’s your chance! Scream Camp is a frightening, overnight horror experience that will have you screaming, hiding and crying in fear. Throughout the night, join in the horror games and challenges or sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows – but remember, nowhere is safe.
This full contact horror camping event will last for over ten hours throughout the night, with guests being torn out of their tents to endure the wrath of the Farle family.
Scream Camp initially sold out within weeks, but another date, July 6th, has just been added – so act quickly! Marshmallows are included, a guarantee that the UK weather will behave, alas, isn’t. Rain or shine though, the Farle family members will be pleased to make your acquaintance.
October (date TBA) – Brutality Haunted House – EISKALT (Switzerland)
Brutality holds the underground aspect of their immersive horror art in high regard – which means you will have to put the work in if you want to be part of their very select Inner Circle. We do not know a lot about their plans for 2019. Currently, Brutality is in the process of conducting micro shows at various intensity levels – experiences with one audience member, one performer, set in one room. The only way to see these visions is to be part of the Inner Circle, and to be chosen by them.
The creators did confirm two bits of information. Firstly, Brutality is planning to introduce tailored shows, where single guests or small groups will have the chance to decide what exactly they wish to experience. Secondly, they are working on an October show, called EISKALT – but the specifics are very much shrouded in mystery for now. Still, we are very excited about the prospect of more underground Swiss horror.
Their website is the only place they will announce future plans and simulations. To be considered for participation, you need to contact the organizers about access to the Inner Circle. If selected for an experience, they will invite you.
November (date TBA) – Quietus Horror – Diabolus in Musica (Belgium)
A series of smaller shows, following an eccentric pianist, will converge in this experience. Selected guests will be allowed into the show in small groups, but should expect to find themselves all alone at times. Again, not much has been revealed at this time, but given the theme and the track record of Quietus Horror – we expect a full contact horror experience, with a strong emphasis on music and narrative.
December (date TBA) – Faceless Ventures – Unwrapped 2019 (Mexborough, UK)
December 2018 brought the first rendition of Unwrapped, a show by Faceless Ventures where they won’t give specifics at all. Consider this their present to their fans, for them to unwrap and discover. In 2018, Unwrapped turned out to be a nostalgic and fun anthology of previous FV shows, but with some very real issues at heart. What 2019 will bring, obviously, is a mystery.
Year-round Full Contact Haunt Fun
Wherever we are, we always try and seek out some local scare attractions – and that’s exactly how we came across Nightmare in Budapest, in Hungary. Lost in a dark neighbourhood, running late, in a city where you don’t speak the language – rest assured that the buildup to actually entering the show was already tense enough. As soon as we walked in, it immediately became clear that “no touching” rules wouldn’t apply here. The entire experience felt way more interactive than your usual boo-scare haunt and the full contact elements are executed with professionalism – we couldn’t have spent the night any better. In fact, our visit lead to the first scare review we ever wrote. Nightmare in Budapest operates year round and organizes special events once or twice a month. An escape room is also in the works. As far as we are concerned, a must whenever you’re in the city and are looking for a break from all the spas and ruin pubs.
We never got the chance to visit ourselves, but we’ve heard great things about Fear House in Prague, in the Czech Republic. Next to a standard tour, they offer a full contact Hardcore tour, and their website even offers a ‘hardcore kidnapping’ option. The experience operates in the basement of a horror-themed cocktail bar, which really sounds right up our street. Guess we’ll have to do a city trip sometime soon?..
The UK has its very own full contact haunt in Liverpool, with Ghoulies Haunted House. Again, we have not been able to pay them a visit just yet, but we hear it’s an absolute assault on the senses, where guests have no idea whether to wet themselves in fear or laughing, and ultimately just decide to do both. Operating on Fridays and Saturdays, they offer a somewhat kid-friendly tour until 8pm, and after that, all bets are off in Ghoulies X. The organizers also operate a horror-themed cocktail bar and occasionally run special events.
UPDATE: Ghoulies has unfortunately closed its doors.
Work in progress and undated experiences
I’m fairly sure we aren’t even half aware of what 2019 will bring, but we do have two more shows to share. First, after all the fun they had playing extreme card games, Faceless Ventures plans to continue their collaboration with the LA based HVRTING, and bring some more full contact, satirical horror ideas to the UK. We have no idea what that entails exactly – but know that Hvrting introduced their LA audience to an extreme day spa, a VR extreme haunt and a kidnapping Uber service, so anything is on the table.
Last, most most certainly not least, our buddies at Scare Addicts announced that they are chipping away at a show idea. They claim it’s something they haven’t seen done before, not conventionally scary, but definitely something an adventurous scare audience will be able to appreciate. Consider us interested, and bring on 2019! FYI, if any airline would like to sponsor us, we would in fact be interested. Just saying.