alt=”Carmilla,-credit-Hammer-House-of-Horror-Live-Illamasqua-Prangsta” width=”1024″ height=”871″ class=”alignnone size-large wp-image-736″ />The word Hammer to any horror fan instantly conjure to mind decades of beloved classic iconic British horror movies. From The Brides of Dracula to The Mummy, Hammer Film Productions dominated the film market between the 1950s-70s. Most recently the brand returned with a vengence with 2012’s ‘Woman in Black’ film adaptation, but since then had been noticeably quiet. So when we were offered the chance to check out Hammer’s new ‘House of Horror : ‘The Soulless Ones’ an immersive theatrical experience, how could we turn it down?
Set at the suitably atmospheric Hoxton Hall in East London – ‘The Soulless Ones’ gave little away in their preview blurb (something which is always keeps events interesting) so we were intrigued to see what was on offer. With talk of vampires and bloody rituals amidst dusty vaults and bed chambers we were already hugely excited to be hopefully venturing into something wicked and wonderful for the evening. Having visited immersive theatrical events such as Philip Pullman’s Grimms Fairy Tales, Secret Cinema and Alice Underground we couldn’t begin to image what kind of dark surprises the team have up their sleeves.
It’s a little bit of a disappointment whilst we wait outside to have two smoking crew members discussing loudly how one of the main actors keeps ‘missing her cue’. But still, this is early in the press run and allowing for slips we enter into the hall. The actual hall itself is stunning, an 1800s music hall dimly lit which oozes with the ambience of a Penny Dreadful. Prior to being moved into the actual hall section you’re handed a dark cloak by one of the crew members. It’s an interesting touch but could’ve been more immersive by having it passed by someone in character within the hall itself. It feels a little jarring in the bright spot lights of the foyer.
It’s evident a lot of work has gone into the setting the stage for The Soulless Ones. We venture into lavish bedrooms, a dark wood chip covered crypt – and a puppet filled music hall . The actors too portray their parts well and fit the ambience with some fantastic costuming. The main issue with The Soulless Ones is there’s simply so much going on, and it’s impossible to fully comprehend the full story of all the characters in such a large scale performance. Quite often we found ourselves walking from room to room when suddenly you’d hear a commotion coming from somewhere a floor below you. As we (and multiple others) dash down to find out what was happening, you enter a room only to find whatever was happening has finished and you’re left wondering what key part of the story you’ve missed. Also, as so many people are following characters there’s inevitable ‘bottle necks’ as people attempt to get into each room. Sometimes being left in the queue outside. Other immersive theatrical performances often give the appearance of an ‘open world’ to explore, whilst you’re gently guided from room to room, or you’ll catch a performance that’s being repeated never missing the story. But as each performance in Hoxton Hall is only told the once, then if you miss it you know there’s no going back and you’ve missed that part of the show. Which can be frustrating.
There’s an interesting story to follow though if you’re able to watch the key plot points. Eventually we ended up staying mostly within the main music hall room itself which had the significant part of the larger scenes play out. It would’ve been great to have had scarier scenes though, and maybe tipping a nod at the Hammer of yesteryear. Amidst London’s theatrical show’s such as ‘Ghost Stories’ and ‘Let the Right One In’ and in particular for Hammer ‘The Woman in Black’ there’s been a real wealth of frightening live theatre of recent years. In all truth, nothing we saw within the performance was particularly unnerving which was a shame considering the brand behind it.
All in, this is a brave attempt at doing something different by the Hammer team and it’s good to see the attempt at pushing the envelope within the immersive theatrical scene. With a little more emphasis on the horror this could be something very special indeed.
Grab your tickets today for Hammer Horror : The Soulless Ones at https://www.hoxtonhall.co.uk/hammer-house-horror-live/