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Review: The Pendulum (2018) – The Tom Sawyer Effect

We recently visited VAULT festival and ended up being subjected to The Pendulum!

We’re fans of VR. We know it’s a controversial subject right now, not just in haunts but roller coasters, video games and other forms of entertainment. To us, it’s a piece of tech that has a lot of potentially great applications; we even wrote a little blog post about it here. So when we learned of The Pendulum, an interactive experience blending virtual reality and immersive theatre, we were doubly interested!

The premise of the event is that you’re an agent possessing information that a shadowy organisation wants. And they very much intend on getting it from you! This info takes the form of a password that you are given when signing the waiver. In a neat touch, this password doubles as the safe word for the show.

Upon signing the waiver, you’re given an orange boiler suit to wear and instructed to sit in a solitary chair beside the entrance. Here, your wrists are bound together and a hood is placed over your head before you are led away to the interrogation chamber. Upon entering this room, your limbs are restrained in another chair and, with the removal of the hood, your experience begins!

What ensued was a combination of live action and virtual reality as we were pressed to relinquish the password. Refusal to do so earned us time in the Pendulum – a device that’s capable of reading your mind, extracting your worst fears, disappointments and inadequacies, rendering them within the virtual environment. After a period of time, we’d be taken out of the Pendulum and urged to change our minds. Of course, we didn’t! Each trip into the Pendulum revealed further layers of the story and those moments were truly engrossing.

If there was a failure to the show, it was in the ‘scary’ moments of the Pendulum. The VR sections were of the 360 video variety and, as such, were the least interactive element of the experience. To an extent, this was possibly a problem more with us than the show itself – we love VR stuff and have slightly elevated expectations after visiting The VOID attractions such as Ghostbusters Dimension and Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. That said, the VR was supplemented by some moments of physical interaction and, bizarrely, even smell! And there was one neat bit that we won’t spoil here except to say that it’s probably the most effective blurring of reality and fiction that we’ve experienced in recent memory!

Also on the VR side of things – the clarity of the audio really stood out to us! It was extremely noticeable as we perceived zero ambient bleed from the venue when we were within the Pendulum. It may sound like a relatively small detail to highlight but it definitely helped keep us in the moment.

Way more interesting than the VR moments was the story and its presentation within the Pendulum. This is absolutely an event that uses virtual reality organically (it’s essentially used as a torture device) and there isn’t a single second where you won’t feel fully immersed in the experience. The proof here was in the fact that our stay in the show felt way longer than it actually was – in a good way! For a short running time, the team have steeped the show in a narrative that could (and should) extend into other shows – we’d definitely like to see more of this world!

We feel like the guys behind this have gotten it right – making VR part of the show rather than an awkward segue. The inclusion of tech should work seamlessly with the story of the show and that’s absolutely the case here unlike in the case of Thorpe Park’s Ghost Train for example.


The blending of virtual reality with live-action.

The story.


The VR parts weren’t particularly scary.

Ticket Price: £11.50

Address: The Vaults, Leake St, London SE1 7NN


The Pendulum (2018) - The Tom Sawyer Effect
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money


The Pendulum is a great compact show offering a very unique experience that is definitely worth your time visiting.

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