Category: UK

2015, Attractions, Haunted Attractions, Horror, UK

Guest Post: UK Adventure 2015: The London Dungeon

On my way to Cardiff, my friend Mason and I passed the London Dungeon just near the London Eye, self-billed as ‘the ultimate thrill-filled journey through London’s murky past.’ I was instructed by Oni Hartstein to return to it once I was back in London, and when breakfast plans went awry Sunday, I opted to give it a go.

Alone.

ld1

ld2

There are multiple dungeons in various locations, including Blackpool, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and San Francisco. The London one advertised 1,000 years of British history fit into 90 minutes split up into 18 shows and two rides, and promised to be a mix of both funny and scary.

Personally, I’m forever iffy about anything where you have no actual clue what you’re getting yourself into. It could be fun, but an hour and a half inside this one building? How much of a ‘ride’ could one have inside this building? What constitutes a ‘show’? And how scary is ‘scary,’ given the doors open out onto a popular tourist area in broad daylight? There were a few dozen imponderables.

Standing in line to get in helped answer my final question: a mix of pre-recorded video and animatronics made it look as though a madman was trying to axe his way into the line. Already a promising start.

When you first enter, your group is taken into a room with blank backgrounds and places to stick your head through and make terrified faces with no context. Once you’re done there (and trust me, the results at the end are rather interesting), you’re sped along into the first show — within the Dungeon, a ‘show’ is essentially a one- to two-person scene performed in front of or amidst your group, bringing to life one of the more gruesome bits of London’s history. This could be in a torture chamber, under the Houses of Parliament on the 5th of November, in a plague doctor’s house, or in a pub in Whitechapel. There’s light audience participation, most of it comical and only playfully insulting, and the gore (such as it is) is left primarily to the imagination or only described.

In fact, a lot of things are left to the imagination, and that’s where this dungeon was at its best. There is one entire room — the Sweeney Todd scene — that takes place completely in the dark, with no live actors to speak of once things get rolling. Everything is sensory, using sounds, tactile effects, and sense of motion. It was legitimately the most terrifying span of time I spent in there, with a close second being one piece of the Jack the Ripper arc of scenes. (Strobes were used in that bit, which are bad for me in excess, but they were used sparingly twice for effect and it was an impressive effect.)

The actors overall are extremely entertaining and able to carry their scenes quite well. In reference to the promise of ‘funny,’ yes, there was a lot of humour present — especially with the judges toward the end, who were extremely quick on their feet and whose entire scene is built around audience participation. Many of the actors have also mastered moving silently in the dark, which is both impressive and terrifying. And the way they execute any jump-scares is far more fun to me than just sticking them behind a curtain with a can of pennies. Any jump-scares either lead into a joke or a continuation of the scene, rather than just being there to fill in any dull stretches.

As to immersiveness… when they promise the ‘sights, sounds, and smells of London,’ they aren’t kidding. They actually do pay attention to everything. Even and especially the smells.They’re not enough to make you gag or feel ill, but they are very honest indeed about replicating the smells of rivers or plague-ridden villages. And the ambient noise is well-handled, too. It’s where it needs to be.

The aforementioned rides? There’s one at the beginning and one at the end. One is a water ride where you’re surrounded by execution imagery (including a projection-faced animatronic of Henry VIII played by Brian Blessed); the other is … well, it’s a bit of a drop. While neither is screamingly high-tech or innovative, they’re matched to their respective parts of the attraction quite well.

Honestly, I’m not a big haunted house fan these days because it’s always a matter of them wondering how many times they can make you jump and shriek. This was much more chiller theatre than haunted attraction. It was scary when being scary was convenient or useful and didn’t distract you from the story. Best of all, many of the scares were psychological, and you’re definitely conditioned over time to expect certain things to happen when the lights go out. I personally prefer that far more than six dozen sitty-up corpses (there are some sitty-up corpses, but still).

End result: it certainly did not feel like the dragged-out 90 minutes I feared, and even as a definite not-fan of being jumped at by costumed strangers, I enjoyed the experience including the scares rather than in spite of them. A few skewed projections on some of the animatronics (something that could be fixed with the occasional nudge) did not ruin the experience, and I fully intend to go back next year and drag people with me.

Visit the London Dungeon website for ticket prices and package deals, videos, photos, and more.


Originally published on The Dennison Collective. Visit her blog to see more.

2015, Film and TV, UK

Let’s Help Ace Make Her Sci Fi comedy adventure!

Hey guys! LET’S GET THIS DONE! Sophie (Aldred) Henderson (Ace from Doctor Who and a true supporter of (Re)Generation Who and the fans) is kickstarting a Sci Fi comedy called Strangeness in Space. She’s very close to getting it funded. Let’s show her the love us American fans have and take it home for her! They are only £5000 from their goal!

“Strangeness in Space is a new comedy sci-fi audio adventure for adults and children alike; created in the spirit of ’80s kids’ shows.

The series is written by, and stars, comedy duo Trev and Simon who for a decade dominated Saturday morning TV with their mad and unpredictable world of comedy, sketches and silly games on BBC1’s Going Live! and Live & Kicking. They Didn’t Do Duvets, or Perms or Discs, but they DID Swing Their Pants!”

2014, Attractions, Geeky, UK

(Re)Generation Who blog levels up, MD’s Doctor Who Convention brings you exclusive fan content!

Let’s talk about some interactive theater that’s in the UK, guys. YEAH!

dwe_crystals-500x333

BIG NEWS! The (Re)Generation Who blog (you know, the Doctor Who convention that I am the Showrunner on) is partnering with many official folks to bring you fan content and interviews that no one else will have! Bookmark and subscribe over there because here is just the first installment.

The first is an exclusive interview with Doctor Who Experience writer Joseph Lidster:

‘I want every visitor to feel how every companion feels on the day the Doctor comes crashing into their lives.’

[He] has brought us closer to the worlds of some of our favourite TV shows as the writer of John Watson’s and Martha Jones’s blogs. Now he’s helped to re-imagine Cardiff’s Doctor Who Experience, taking it from an interactive attraction to a fully immersive adventure.

Read our interview with him on the (Re)Gen blog and get a look at what’s inside the Experience!

2012, Attractions, General, Guest Post, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks, UK

Guest Post: Islington, London: ScareCon 2013

Guest post by RollerColster. All photos are copyright of Stephen Candy Photography.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here on Onezumiverse, and haunted attractions here in the UK are going from strength to strength year on year with more popping up in every possible corner of the country. There’s still some way to go to catch you guys up in the States but there are some very exciting things happening this year with some of the larger scale attractions and quite a few innovative smaller attractions that I hope you’ll enjoy reading about over the coming weeks.

One of the biggest events of the year (apart from Halloween itself) is ScareCON – We attended back in June but I felt it was such an important part of the build up to Halloween that I just had to write a piece about it. Here you’ll find the absolute cream of the crop of attractions run over here in the UK as well as a quite a few familiar faces from across Europe and worldwide. The majority of the attendees are from the industry but the event is a must do for anyone who has a keen interest in the running of any of the attractions and also offers a few hints as to what’s new for the coming year.

We arrive bright an early to a bustling venue – The Islington Metalworks in London. In previous years the event has moved around but the location this year really added to the charm of the event. Rather than feeling like a big corporate event, the quirky atmosphere of a building steeped in so much history really brought something new this year.

We arrived just as Kernow Scare Attractions – one of the UK’s leading production companies began their talk. A small company that has grown from pretty much nothing in a small space of time. They are producing some impressive frights and are well known on the UK music festival circuit. They talked about producing haunts on a budget and all the pitfalls in setting up a brand new haunt – fascinating stuff!

Next up Katie Hastings talked about what its like to actually work as a scare actor inside the mazes. Katie is one of the most established scare actresses in the UK and is well respected throughout the country. Her current role is show captain for The Sanctuary at Alton Towers – one of the UK’s newest and most impressive mazes. Her show reel reads like an A-Z of the business. Her talk is engaging and honest, rather than glossing over everything, she tells us the real story of the scare maze, the exhaustion, the illness and not to mention how to cope with abusive guests.

Andrew Porter is at the forefront of maze design, having cut his teeth with some of major players in the US, he has brought his knowledge and experience over to UK soils. His talk is all about breaking boundaries of what can be done on a budget and the importance of attention to detail. It’s an enlightening talk and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Over in one of the workshop rooms, I took part in a prosthetics workshop conducted by Silicone Kitchen, it’s quite a large group but there’s lots of help and good advice given. My piece actually ended up looking pretty damned awesome with a little help from the experts but I’m left thinking that my clumsy fingers really aren’t cut out for the SFX make-up business!

Back in the Seminar hall, Lee Fields of Zed Events talks about one of the most exciting attractions we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing to date – Zombie Manor House (and also Zombie Mall), armed with an air-soft gun you’re given limited ammo and taught the basics of SWAT training, it’s one of the most immersive activities we’ve tried (its literally as close to real life Resident Evil as it gets) and a talk which we were desperate to catch. Lee focused on the health and safety aspects of creating such an experience and also about finding the right location, not only was the talk insightful but it also fueled our hunger to get back to the manor house for some more zombie killing action!

Over the past couple of years, there seems to have been a surge of city wide chase games where players pay to take part in an interactive story which has them running around a whole city chased by zombies or monsters. Scott Jenkins from More Is More (one of the companies at the helm of these kind of games) talks of the issues they faced when populating a city full of monsters. He also focused on the importance of creating something unique and innovative in order to get people talking.

Next up, Sean Boon, Hampshire magician gives a workshop on the essentials of social media and the importance in getting it right. Despite having used social media for years it was a great refresher course and although aimed at new users there was still loads of bad habits we had maybe fallen into over the years!

Pete Cliff creator of The Sanctuary at Alton Towers Scarefest talked about how they created such an immersive attraction. Its very clear how much passion and focus Pete has and how it all transferred into the maze. It’s arguably the biggest success story of 2012 for UK haunts.

Andrew Walker from Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights event took to the stage next and mainly gave an overview of the event talking about how they’ve created some of the most unique attractions and how some have worked and talked openly of why others didn’t. He hinted at big things to come for 2013, a big revamp of the event was in order and a teaser image left everyone in the room talking for the rest of the day.

Tom Swift creator of Hop Farm Freak Week talked about how he’s created one of the most successful events in recent years. Again offering innovative attractions he talked about the operational aspects of running a large scale haunt but dropped the bombshell that Freak Week wouldn’t be returning for 2013 and that he was going to focus on bringing one maze into the public eye – Pitch Black – arguably one of the event’s strongest and scariest mazes – we’re really looking forward to this one in 2013!

Of course, we couldn’t get around it all, in fact our biggest criticism of the event in 2013 was that there was just so much to see and so many people to speak to. Over in the trade show, the experts showed off their products including surprise guest Bobbie Weiner – legendary makeup artist with credits such as The Walking Dead and Titanic to her belt to name just a few. We felt like we could’ve talked to her for hours. A familiar face to the event, it was a pleasure to speak to Paul Davies of Tollbooth Music – one of our favourite speakers of ScareCON 2012. Another favourite at the trade show were the guys at Haunted Lantern – a clever product which we hope to be seeing more of. To mention everyone would take forever but with such a friendly atmosphere it’s easy to get lost amongst the stalls!

We took a short break ready to get ready for the evening, the Scareball is one of the highlights of the event, with the day drawing to a close the emphasis is on party with a capital P! Everyone makes an effort to get dressed in some unique and inventive costumes. The night is kicked off by an impressive demo from the Haunted Lantern crew, before the weird and wonderful “Gorelesue” show is brought to life on stage in front of our very eyes. A mixture of magic, comedy and dance plays out and is a fantastic way to end the day. The party continued with everyone dancing into the early hours.

But it didn’t end there for us! Whilst most of the guests heading back to their comfortable, cosy hotels we had signed up to take part in The Vigil – the newest part of the event. In previous years ScareCON has hosted ‘Scarerooms’ but this year took the rulebook and ripped it to shreds. With one massive building to explore, we were sent off in groups to contact the spirits that lay dormant in the shadows of the Ironworks. Throughout the night, bar staff had been briefed on stories from the building’s past which all helped to make for a completely convincing experience and even though I was in on one of the secrets of the evening, I felt terrified from start to finish. So many thing happened and to shorten it all into a paragraph really doesn’t do the experience justice but with the release of ‘Scare Room 5’ – you can see the whole thing here:

Please be aware due to the nature of the video it contains strong language.

ScareCON continues to grow from strength to strength and we can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.