When this one dropped onto our radar, we couldn’t help but feel strong Resident Evil vibes. Per the synopsis, we have a mansion and a shady firm, topped off with a viral outbreak of the zombie kind. The synopsis could basically double for the esteemed Capcom game’s plot with the substitution of a few minor details.
And once we stepped inside the building, those influences were evident. The Mansion was full of small nods to the classic videogame. Our first ‘proper’ stop once inside the mansion was in an expansive hall, soundtracked to a sound-alike ‘safe room’ track from the franchise. Then there were the G and T virus and Tyrant references and the fact that the experience threw us into so many rooms full of taxidermy animals! Plus an ending that escalated in true Resident Evil fashion!
Moving on from that – The Mansion was a B movie brought to life. The plot isn’t going to win any awards, it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an experience that’s crafted to make you the star of your own zombie movie. There are a few things we daren’t discuss here but it was surprising just how strong the opening was – our eventual entrance into the building was very much as you’d expect – i.e. not via the front doors and fraught with danger! They did a cool thing in those opening scenes that may not be entirely original to scare event stalwarts but then they double-downed on it, playing with that expectation slightly! Even the way that we were handed the guns was very much ‘in the moment’.
We try not to do it too much when writing reviews but feel that it’s worth drawing comparisons to other zombie events that we’ve done. Surprisingly – we’ve only been through two, Zed Events’ The Mall and Hide and Shriek’s Dead Centre. The Mall was closer to The Mansion for the obvious inclusion of weaponry. In that sense, The Mansion felt way more urgent with the show kicking off in bombastic fashion the very second our host left us! We expected a drawn-out opening where we were repeatedly fed rules and slowly processed but received the exact opposite!
Without a doubt, this event’s ace in the hole is the venue. It’s completely unique and it surprised us at just how much of the building we were able to explore. The show very much played to the strengths of this location too with most areas being underlit and the groans of unseen zombies echoing through the hallways.
The relative darkness was sometimes a double-edged sword though. At points, it was frustrating when trying to navigate certain pitch-black areas and attempting to read pieces of information. This was somewhat mitigated by the presence of torches on the guns although some were missing completely and then others just weren’t working. As mentioned, at some points this was appreciated from the perspective of maintaining an edgy atmosphere but less so in the moments when it was just too dark to be able to reliably step forward. We reckon that everyone should be given a torch, if just for the assurance when going up and down some of the many stairs! It’s then the guest’s choice if they decide to use it.
Going back to that brilliant dour ambience – one of our favourite moments took place when the group had to split into three. Reducing the group size was an instant bonus – we ended up in a three resulting in less toe-stepping and greater freedom to move around.
And then we faced a problem!
Picture the moment; night has fallen and we find ourselves in an expansive room, lit solely by the moon. We creep between displays featuring all manner of stuffed creatures. It was eerie without the threat of the undead!
Our passage was halted by the presence of a zombie in the adjoining corridor. Shooting it would’ve attracted others as well as the mansion’s guards. What ensued can best be compared to the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park. It felt like five minutes was spent ducking behind cabinets, backtracking and diverting as the solitary zombie found its way into the room and stumbled around, blindly on the scent of something. It was a brilliant moment of distilled horror, reinforced by that unrivaled setting.
So a couple of things that we think could be improved on. One is most definitely the acoustics. Especially the scene where we first encounter the main villain – being perfectly honest, I could only make out about every tenth word in this scene. Obviously, the location doesn’t help in this sense but this should be worked on, even if its just a case of repositioning actors. The sound gets lost very easily in those cavernous rooms!
The other main issue that I personally had was a lack of agency. To an extent, the handholding is a facet of this particular subgenre, as we experienced in the other events mentioned earlier. That said, the attempts of giving us some freedom in The Mansion didn’t really land.
As they currently stand, the escape game elements mentioned are slight and appear to have little bearing on the eventual outcome. We had the distinct impression that the finale was going to happen whether we succeeded in those moments or not. And, even when we did have tasks to undertake on our own accord, we were still very much guided.
We suspect that the venue is probably the main reason why we can’t just be left to explore freely but, all the same, we did miss not having something similar to that free-roaming scene that we experienced in The Mall. Accepting that the venue may not be that conducive to just letting guests run wherever they please, the escape game elements need to carry more weight. Remove the handholding and somehow have our success/failure inform the ending – having someone’s life be in our hands for example.
And then, given that our favourite moment came from when we were split up, we would’ve liked more of this – just simply for logistics. There were one or two times where scenes dragged simply because of the number of people moving through them. There was an awesome sequence (seriously awesome – we’d love to talk about it but it’s best discovered for yourself!) that took place on the upper levels of the building that went on far longer than it should have done just because of the number of bodies that they had to deal with. We obviously understand that there is a pricing issue here so small groups overall aren’t possible lest it be four times the cost but that section where we were split up suggested there are potentially creative ways of handling the group size.
But this also brings up a good point. Funnily enough, Dead Centre was £40 and The Mall was £120. The Mansion falls bang in the middle of these two at £80 and feels like it is the best-priced show as a result.
Fundamentally, we had a great time at The Mansion. That location is truly something to behold and the story made sure our time inside was varied. We think the snags that we came across in the evening are easily resolvable and would expect that they’ve been ironed out by the time the event returns next month. And they’re not dealbreakers – just features that would make the overall experience smoother. We’d definitely recommend this if you’re nearby. If you enjoy the zombie shooter subgenre, The Mansion is reasonably priced and has an unbeatable setting. And keep up those little Resident Evil references!
The Mansion Review - Zombie Infection
+ Pacing rarely dipped
+ Stunning location
+ Great set pieces
- Interactive elements lacking
- Acoustics made some parts difficult to follow
The Mansion is an action-packed two hours of B-movie fun with a spectacular location to boot! If the idea of shooting zombies in a creepy mansion appeals - book tickets now!
Ticket Price: £79.99
Address: Wollaton Hall, Nottingham NG8 2AE