2019-11-16 – Horrorland (Barcelona, Spain)

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We had long left the city of Barcelona behind. Winding roads carving through mountain terrain, snowy peaks in the distance, a distinct chill in the air. One more hairpin corner, and suddenly we are confronted with an imposing cooling tower, once part of a functioning hillside nuclear plant. Now part of Horrorland, this tower would loom over us for the entire night – quite a sight to behold. Read More

2019-10-25 – Scare Kingdom Scream Park

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It had been almost two years and a half since I last set foot on the parking lot of Mrs Dowsons Farm. Scare Kingdom had been the place where I had come looking for my bimonthly fix of extreme, hands on horror, the battleground where my rivalry with Mr Black usually climaxed in spectacularly wet and dirty fashion. The masked tormentors have retreated in the dark ever since, but we were more than happy to roam the grounds once again, and to see which Halloween treats the park had in store. 

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Our tour started off with The Parlour, an introductory scene where the group attempted to contact the spirits that haunted Scare Kingdom. The enthusiastic actor within deserves praise for the performance, but being just a single standalone scene without a real popping climax, it ends up being somewhat forgettable. Still, a nice and fun way to start batching people through the attractions. 

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We quickly continued to The Paradise Foundation – concept wise the most interesting attraction out of the lineup, for me personally. A plastic surgery clinic gone completely mental, a place for the rich to enhance their self image, with less fortunate individuals providing what was needed. Evidently, we were to be the latter. This walkthrough featured a couple of standout scenes (fat harvest!) and creepy, theatrical performances. A continuing problem we have in Scare Kingdom – but sometimes the quite elaborate monologues can be a little hard to hear over the soundscapes. We did get the general gist of it though – our body parts were for the taking. The most memorable thing about this maze though is the delightfully chaotic and intense finale, generating a full on panic in our group, with multiple people stumbling over each other trying to escape a couple of bloodthirsty characters. Definitely got the adrenaline pumping – and probably my favourite moment out of the entire event. 

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Manormortis was up next, once again tormented by a different spirit – the place seems to be an absolute hot seller on ghost Airbnb. Phantom nun Marie Lairre had taken control over the Haxenghast manor this October, a number of paranormal investigators were trying to get to the bottom of it, and we were caught in the middle of it all. As usual, the stroll through Manormortis was pure eye candy, less intense and full on, but an absolute sight to behold. A smoke filled finale room with a bright red horizontal laser plane, while impressive, maybe didn’t fit in completely with the theming, but with the jump it managed to deliver, we can easily forgive that. Damn nuns. 

 

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Sitting in the middle of the lineup was Blitz – a deserted chapel providing sanctuary from World War 2 bomb raids. The building this maze is housed in usually holds the weaker attraction in the lineup, with just tight, black corridors, no theming, and a number of peekaboo windows providing scares. We adored the facade of the haunt this year, but inside the story sadly was the same. A single flashlight for our group of eight, creatures wearing gas masks popping up and yelling boo, tight corridors, and not much else. That is, until someone charged me from straight ahead, catching me completely off guard and delivering an intense and aggressive close proximity scare – without a doubt my biggest jump of the night. Balaclava-wearing giant, I applaud you.

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We made our way to Body Snatchers: Sweeney Todd. After the dark emptiness of Blitz, this maze picks the theming up again where Manormortis dropped it, guiding us through a Victorian setting filled with meat pies, close shaves and ready-made coffins. A very pretty walkthrough once again, with some fun bits where the actors got a little touch happy, reaching out and grabbing us through the metal bars they were incarcerated behind. The finale gave us a classic bright flash encounter with the demon barber, a tried and true method for a reason, but hardly a huge surprise.

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Next, we were funneled into the Hoodening – the annual hooded maze. Three years ago, the last time we were at Scare Kingdom for Halloween, this actually was a pretty intense ride, with actors tearing and grabbing at us. And – it should be, it’s the closing piece of SK’s main lineup. The introduction set the scene nicely, and the moment we pulled the hoods over our faces, we were immediately struck by the chemical, alcoholic smell of the fabric, an amazing touch. Unfortunately, as soon as we started walking, nothing more happened than a gentle leg stroke and a barely noticeable breath past my ear. After enduring this for a while, the hood was unceremoniously taken away, and, that was that. Very much meh. 

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Luckily, Scare Kingdom always has a final trick (or treat) up their sleeves with the upcharge Psychomanteum. A lot has been said and written about this attraction, and we were pretty excited to finally, after all these years, give the “UK’s sickest attraction” a go for ourselves. Halfway through the waiver signing, this already infamous phrase was muttered: “You cannot touch the actors, but don’t worry, they won’t touch you either.” Excuse me? Whatever the reason for the no touch rule, I soon found myself crawling into Psychomanteum – and well, I won’t spoil what happened within. Sexual and adult themes, yaddayadda. It did feel a little underwhelming. It was funny, for sure, and it did leave me wondering what would have happened if the treats had been tricks, and vice versa. Was I intrigued enough to fork over another six pounds to find out though? Not really. Having heard glimpses about what had happened previously in these quarters, and having Snuffhouse as a reference myself in terms of what this final upcharge addition could once be, it felt very turned down – and I can’t help but wonder what the point is of boasting about having “the sickest attraction” if it gets a little tamer each year. I think it was just a single scene short of being worth the admission price – it definitely was something else, I did enjoy the moments within and had a few laughs, but in the end Psychomantrum failed to shock me, and I would have loved just a little more time in this depraved world. Also, a chainsaw finale? 

 

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So, Scare Kingdom, as a whole, was a bit hit and miss. Paradise was a nice addition to the lineup – and I can’t complain about Manormortis or Body Snatchers, the environments are so nicely themed, and they feature some class actors and fun scares. On the other hand, the barrenness of Blitz feels a little out of place, The Hoodening was tragically boring – especially as the finale maze, and Psychomanteum could use a bit of lengthening and/or spicing up. We really appreciated the theatrical introductions to all mazes, setting the scene and story. The concepts are very well presented, and there’s always a little bit more to it than just the typical haunt tropes. Also, batching is brilliant, you can be sure you’ll never run into the next group. But, some intensity has been lost over the years, and it’s a noticeable setback for us. Still, I feel Scare Kingdom would be on the list again, should we be around again in October times – there is an undeniable quality about the event that I really enjoy, it’s clear a lot of thought has been put into the presentation and the variety of experiences, and it always is a blast exploring these corridors.

 

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2019-10-25 – Screamhouse Preston

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As we were planning our mini UK haunt trip, Screamhouse Preston suddenly popped up out of nowhere. A first run for this event, with nothing specific to distinguish it, apart from a mention that the team from the now defunct Ghoulies Haunted House was involved. Now, we sadly never got to experience Ghoulies – it had been on our list for 2019 – but we heard so many friends raving about it – enough reason for us to make a quick stop in Preston to see what this Screamhouse was all about. Read More

2019-10-24 – Farmaggedon

We had always known Farmaggedon as the start of the UK Halloween season – with our Facebook feeds becoming a barrage of creature selfies and scantily clad dancing girls. This year we finally had the chance to visit this rock & roll horror playground ourselves, and Farmaggedon didn’t disappoint. Read More

2019-06-15 – Scream Camp

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The sun had been up for a good few hours, slowly starting to warm our soaked and chilled bones. Behind us, an idyllic sight, hills of luscious green grass, a couple of horses staring at us in disinterest. The few of us, staggering our way towards civilization. Covered in mud from head to toe, war stripes on our cheeks, wearing shirts that had been spray painted, drawn upon and ravaged – unrecognizable from the pristine white state they had been some ten hours ago. Our Uber driver pulled up – a miracle he even found us at all. His face said it all. Read More

2019-05-18 – CRACKED 5.0

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I find myself at the bottom of a crate. My right hand and lower back are stinging, toxic pins and needles setting my skin aflame. I’m folded double, the cumulative weight of at least three people forcing the air out of my lungs. I try to keep my body tension, pushing every muscle to the maximum, so the little space I have for myself doesn’t collapse any further. In my right ear, someone is screaming she can’t breathe, her voice getting more panicked by the second. In my left ear, someone else, whispering “You can do this. You can do this. It’ll be fine.” On the outside, tormentors are kicking the box, pressing us further down. And in the back of my mind – a little voice, going “what if I would pass out now?” Read More

2019-05-02 – The Waldorf Project – Chapter 4: BARZAKH

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Lying prostrated, my forehead rests on someone else’s back. My hands, on the cold factory floor, filthy and caked in dirt. Every now and then, black fingers run through my hair. In the distance, I hear the vague sound of rain, through the ever-present thundering drone. As I lift my gaze, an altar, hidden by clouds of fog, but faintly illuminated by a blue hue. Mysterious silhouettes, water cascading down from the sky. Read More

European immersive horror in 2019 – Preview.

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. Read More

2018-12-08 – Faceless Ventures – Unwrapped

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Would you ever attend a show if you knew nothing except for the title and the company producing it?

That is the exact question that sparked through the minds at Faceless Ventures (FV) when they unleashed Unwrapped on the world – a show they called “Our gift to you”. And indeed, apart from a mysterious promo image and an intensity rating of three (mildly aggressive physical contact), every participant remained in the dark – right up until the point they were allowed inside the venue. Read More

2018-10-17 – CreepLA – AWAKE

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Let me just jump straight into this one. You know that feeling after you wake up from a dream, one that was so vivid and made perfect sense at the time? You get out of bed, and at the breakfast table, you try to recount that dream, and your story just falls apart, things don’t make sense anymore, you feel the details just slipping through your fingers? Desperately trying and failing to convey some profound meaning that you don’t quite remember? This year’s iteration of Creep LA, AWAKE, was all about dreams and nightmares, and here’s me, sitting in front of my laptop, feeling like an idiot because recounting a dream never really works. Read More