Before this event, people will know I have not always been the biggest advocate of “extreme” attractions. I didn’t see the appeal, and I definitely didn’t understand the appeal of doing them. Though... that’s a lie, I do understand, but I was never that drawn to these sorts of events beyond a morbid curiosity as to the psychology involved in such events (hello psychology degree!!). Which, I guess, is similar to the drive others have to participate; to see if they are able to survive, to understand their own psychology better, to push their limits. All admirable things to want to achieve, and amazing if they can be achieved whilst at an event designed to scare you, as a scare fan!
Faceless Ventures are the producers of such shows as Cracked, Hvrting, and Fraternity. They have developed a rating scale for their attractions, to give participants more of an idea of what to expect, and I guess to draw new participants in whom may not have much of an idea what they developed as a company, but whom wanted to see if they could survive. And I use the word participants purposefully. You’re not a passive audience in these shows; nor are you given such an active role as to feel like you’re one of the cast. You’re a guest whom enters a show, knowing you’re going to be subjected to scares, like in your average, run-of-the-mill scare attractions, but that you’re going to be subjected to them personally. You’re going to experience something that may well have been tailored specifically for you; an experience that has been fabricated based on knowledge of you, depending on whether you’ve attended previous attractions with them, or perhaps some snippet of information you’ve shared in the event without realising, or in a conversation with the fantastic creators when you were drinking at the bar with them at ScareCon
What Lee Conway, Sarah Wilson, Rosalie Woodward, and James Holman create are, simply put, masterpieces of suspense, and intensity. I’m came into Unwrapped with a week until the event, courtesy of @Scareflix & Chill’s James Collins. We made the 4hr drive from the South East to Doncaster, for the Unwrapped event, discussing what we thought was going to be involved, discussing previous events (James has had the good luck to act in some of Faceless Ventures’ previous events, as well as participate), and just chatting scare attractions! Arriving outside Mexborough Business Centre, we were taken through with two other people, and this was it!! Such an intimate event!! We were missing a participant, but this didn’t affect our experience at all!
As we were led through to a door to the basement of this very unassuming building, we were met with a very stern young lady whom gave us our ID badges. Jury ID badges. We were lead down into a small, cold basement room, decked out like a courtroom. We were given water, and told to sit. Straight away we’re back on our feet for our Right Honourable Judge. Did I mention that this was bloody hilarious, as whom should walk in but my wonderful friend and fellow scare attraction creator, Toby Brandon, of Twins of Evil Scare Attractions, whom only days before had been telling me how he was gutted he was missing this event, because of the 5hr drive! Little. Git.
I’m already laughing. Nervously, hysterically giggling may be a better word. I’m a nervous laugher. This is something that the rest of my group became only too aware of, I’m sure, as the court case was to continue. So, our Judge explains to us we are here to deem if the creators of Faceless Ventures were guilty of crimes against the scare industry.
Suddenly, “Unwrapped” took on a whole new meaning! And I realised I was about to be subjected to 45 minutes of testimony in the Faceless Ventures unique style. What I was to experience was not one attraction, but elements of the 4 creators’ favourite events; Diary Of The Deceased, The Pit, Hvrting, and finally, Cracked.
Opening statements were made by the Judge, and by the Defendants, throughout the event. Video clips were shown; one depicted the “laughter” that Faceless Ventures brought to their participants, the community. A significant moment for me in this was a clip of Hvrting, where one of the future participants to this event, waiting above, was slapped across the face. At the time this shocked me, and I drew the loudest gasp whilst others around me laughed; this was the first time I had seen clips of the events, and something about a woman being slapped, in what sounded like a very hard fashion, by a male host, was shocking. Later I heard the full story of this, and actually, it wasn’t as shocking as it has appeared in this clip, but that’s just it; the creators of Unwrapped, the creators of Faceless Ventures, knew this was possibly one of the most shocking clips. There is something very personal about being slapped across the face. The clips of Cracked didn’t phase me; people being electrocuted? They were laughing through it!!! But that slap. It ended in silence on the clip. Very clever, and it created this air of uncomfortableness, at least for me, not knowing what was coming next.
But I digress. What I mentioned before was I experienced not one, but five attractions last night. Unwrapped was the wrapping paper holding these four extra experiences, and each of them was fabulous!
Starting was Lee, and as he opened the door, to lead us to where it all began, his playful, creepy giggle of “Play with me”, may haunt my dreams for a while!! He disappeared through a doorway, and as I rounded the corner, Lee had disappeared, and instead, a young lad stood instead, and led us to his safety fort. This, I was later told, was a scene from Diary Of The Deceased. The lad built tension amazingly!! A true star in this show! I could have killed him for turning his torch on and off, but he did an amazing job of putting me on edge from the get go!! Creature that haunted him attacked the fort, and we were lead out to face them, and escape back to the safety of the court room.
Next, Sarah. The carer of the events, the woman responsible for our comfort and safety. Though not last night, that was left to her daughter! Sarah brought us forward, explaining the events they created would not work if it weren’t for trust. We were hooded, and blindfolded. “Don’t let go of the rope” were her last words to me, and I was pushed into empty space. The rope went round corners, and, I THOUGHT, through a tunnel (apparently no tunnel... who knows what kind of a laugh the actors were having with me adamant there was a tunnel over me!!), and then, that dreaded moment you expect in hooded mazes. Freezing cold hands trying to take the rope off you.
“Let go of the rope.”
“No. She told me not to.”
“No. She told me not to.”
Nails start to dig into my hand, that has a now deathly grip on the rope. A frustrated giggle from one side as the hands start yanking on the rope, James’ highly amused cackle on my other side as he realises what’s happening.
“Let go of the rope.”
“No. She said keep hold of the rope.”
A shove to my back I’m not expecting and I’ve dropped it and my hands are against a wall. James’ laughter suddenly disappears. I’m spinning round and round. Hands flailing and then the rope is back, but strong hands have decided I’ve been enough of a pain, and I’m somewhat roughly pushed along the last of the rope maze.
At this point, I should say I don’t like being hooded. Things over my nose and mouth panic me a bit as I feel like I’m suffocating. I pushed through, but I was shaking a little at this point. When I say I was roughly pushed through, it wasn’t rough rough; it wasn’t a friendly guidance by any means, but I didn’t feel unsafe. The hands were firm, but they weren’t there to hurt me. They were there to get me through to the court room. So ended my experience of The Pit.
Back inside, a drink was offered.
Never accept a Faceless Ventures drink. It’s probably some spicy, cold tomato drink, and it will make you want to gag. I quickly switched back to my water, thank you very much!!
Next, Rosalie. The most... flamboyant of our defendants. All for the entertainment! Mm hm. Ok. Yup. Thanks for bringing me into a version of Hvrting!! I won’t lie to you. I can’t decide if they had warned them to go easy in me, as the biggest critic and skeptic of Faceless Ventures events, or whether I was just the LUCKIEST bitch in the run!! Inside, a baby version of Hvrting was offered. This I believed, having witnessed the video clips of people duct taped to chairs, and the one lady being slapped. This version had all the same rules; find the resource cards, do over your fellow players in the game, only one may leave. I received the following cards; SPECIAL - Pass your next Hvrting card to someone of your choosing, Peg to the nipple (of course I passed it along! Sod that!), SPECIAL - Double punishment on your next Hvrting card, Peg to the nipple. I got away with all the pain to be inflicted upon me (negating the time the same male host of the infamous video clip wrapped his hands over my shoulders and squeezed, which at this time were up around my ears with tenseness!), as the door knocked as I was handed the peg. My colleagues in this mad card game, however, not so lucky. Press-ups that if not completed to specifications resulted in a paddling, hot wax poured over a chosen body part, the nipple peg, blindfolding, and just... a spanking just for fun!! Two two individuals whom were spanked; it was loud, it caused stinging hisses, and one individual decided he was enjoying himself far too much, I’m sure, as he goaded the male host to spank bare flesh due to his bravado. This was, and I’m going to state this clearly for those, whom like me, are critical, or skeptical, was completely caused by his own actions, knowing, as all good scare attraction fans do, you get out of an event how much you put in. A fundamental law of getting the most out of whatever attraction you’re going through.
We were lead back, and finally, the one individual I felt sure I should be most fearful of, and actually, I was right. James. The man whom at the very start had accidentally on purpose, I am sure, started to call himself Blake. A name I’m sure many are familiar with; the gas masked guide of Cracked. A man whose face adorned much of the tattooed skin of previous participants of Faceless Ventures waiting above.
We were mobbed as soon as the defence ended. We were marched out, and thrown up against the wall. Arms out. Head down. Feet back. Heels up. On your toes. Lift your head. Hooded. Head against the wall. Hands off the wall. Heels UP. Spread them wider. Hands on my shoulders as a blindfold was put over my face again. Head on the wall. Feelings of someone tall, pressed right up against me, nose against the back of my head; uncomfortable. Breath quickening, because suddenly, I’m completely out of control of this situation. I’m balanced, on my forehead against the wall, on my tip toes, with a tall person right behind me, and I’m trapped. The hood makes me feel like I can’t catch my breath. I’m yanked back onto my heels, and away from the wall. Spun round, round, round. As I’m spinning I’m told to count 5 minutes. We all are. Hold our hand up when we get to it. I start counting.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.
My hands are moved out, up, down, tapped, patted, up, down, I’m turned this way and that.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30.
My arms are lifted straight out in front of me. If I shift them, they’re put back.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 60.
Someone leans onto my outstretched arms. They tap a tune. I’m focused on my numbers, I’ve done these exercises before, courtesy of a dad whom coached me in rugby as a kid making me strengthen my shoulders this way, I’m good, I can cope!!
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 90.
My arms are moved to above my head. It’s automatic, even in this short time, to just leave them where they are put.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 130.
My hands are placed together above my head.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 150.
I hear footsteps, really loud, come down stairs right in front of me. My hood is grabbed, alongside my mohawk (completely by accident in this case I believe) and yanked, being removed in the second try. Blake. That gas mask, is what is looking at me. He tells us we have been mislead. That his minions have been played by the court to show him in a bad light, that he is nowt but a guide to people’s salvation. And I believe him. I realise, as he directs us back to the court room my hands are still clasped above my head!
And so, closing statements. With a little help from ScareTracks Mikey Stuart, we are told to cast our judgement.
We all vote Not Guilty.
And as I am scared witless by poppers going off in my ears, and Lee sexy dancing on the table, I question why? Why did I, the imposter, the outsider, the skeptic, the critic, decide not guilty? And I realise, it’s because this has all just been an amazing experience into my own skepticism, my reasons for avoiding this company’s events for so long. Yeah, there were Easter eggs for the devoted, but this event was for me. It was for me to question my criticality of the events. It was for the outsider to realise what they were missing. And, I quote, in summary.
“If that was a 3... I’ll be back.”
Review by Emz Warren -Themed Entertainment Creator and Scare Actor.