In Haunt

By Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn

For Halloween 2020, brave members of the public were plunged into mind-bending mazes packed with horror-genre highlights and creepy features, with plenty of twists and turns along the way – under the title of Into The Dark, presented by For The Love Of Horror.

This was a socially-distanced scare attraction which came to Manchester’s B.E.C Arena from 31 October - 1 November. For Haunt Manchester, Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn (who previously reviewed For The Love of Horror’s 2019 Manchester Horror Convention here) went along…

Into The Dark

An account of Into The Dark

There’s nothing quite so humbling as to discover that you would not survive a horror film, particularly if you are an expert in the field. This kind of crushing realisation can only hurt. To celebrate Halloween this year, amid our very own gothic pandemic which has brought most communal pleasures to a halt, For the Love of Horror and Monopoly Events decided to bring the horror to us, quite literally, by way of their fantastic Into The Dark – immersive horror mazes set to scare! The premise is simple yet powerful in its execution: by having us re-live (and try to desperately escape) those nightmarish visions brought back to life in these mazes, we are confronted with a simultaneous rush of nostalgia (which all conventions trade on so well), while reimagining new ways to interact with and navigate our way through a series of beloved horror titles, their characters and iconic, weird spaces.

The five horror mazes, each one a veritable terror in its own right — including one extreme 18+ maze that is so anxiety-inducing it conjures all the dread usually reserved for a spectacular ending in a Saw film — were vividly and feverishly re-enacted, experienced now as a wanderer in an uncanny world, no longer assured the familiar safety as a knowing viewer but rather experienced as the confused and hesitant lost victim. My own quiet confidence to experience the maze as a fan was quickly and most assuredly destabilised by my complete disorientation from the offset. There was no comfort to be found nor smug assurance given— it is difficult to feel genuinely calm when the safe veneer of the film screen vanishes and you must confront those horror icons for yourself.

Into The Dark

My own particular pleasurable unease came from my never feeling fully secure in these weird and uncanny spaces: I knew I was being hunted, with Freddy Krueger’s laugh echoing uncomfortably close through its bending and narrow corridors, and, of course,  the undead villain occasionally springing into view when least expected! Equally unsettling was catching sight of Michael Myers’s staring face as it followed me blankly (and repeatedly) as I progressed further into the labyrinth’s centre. Jason Voorhees’s silence unsettled me once we reached Camp Crystal Lake, with its laser-designed set mimicking the feeling of wading underwater (a terrific installation), which only furthered the terror at being hunted with seemingly no escape in sight. This sense of insecurity and immersion was considerable, and while I laughed and giggled a lot to expel my unease once my freedom was secured, it taught me a lesson that is cruelly punished in all horror cinema: those who stand by in awe and horror, paralysed by doubt, fascination or inaction, are doomed in the first explosion of violence. It was painful to realise that I too would be consigned to that same fate!

 The maze design was superb and encouraged a dreamy, familiar feeling of recognisable places and spaces from iconic films. Beyond its great set building and design, the actors rose to their performances admirably (in obvious dedication to their love for the genre) and fully complemented and used the sets to enhance the experience wandering into their nightmarish spaces. From the tactile scents and crunch underfoot on the shores of Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th to the unimaginable horrors of Freddy’s boiler room (in all of its unpleasant disorientating suggestion), to the unrelenting and surprising progression of Michael Myers ramping up the adrenaline with his fleeting intrusions into my peripheral vision… the maze was a cathartic release to experience anew familiar horrors, now rendered too real and too close for comfort. I loved it.

Into The Dark

To exhibit any such Halloween delights during this pandemic is worthy of commendation; we need to release our shared horrors more than ever this year. Kudos must be given to the team at Monopoly Events and the For the Love of Horror crew for staging this immersive (and COVID-19-safe) experience at a time when familiarity and fun is needed most. Bravo – and thanks for all the nightmares!

To find out more about For The Love Of Horror, visit their website: https://www.fortheloveofhorroruk.com/ 

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