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ATTRACTION REVIEW

Unwrapped Review (2018, UK) Faceless Ventures

A Christmas present from Faceless Ventures

Unwrapped was a show that arrived at the right time for us. After experiencing some of the L.A. immersive scene, a similar theme kept popping up. That of grand concepts and ruminations as though every event of that ilk had to address some deep issue or seek to provoke thought. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, sometimes it’s nice to step out of a production with a truly different perspective on things. But, doing a few in rapid succession, we were definitely in the mood for something less ‘heady’.

And, being honest, we weren’t sure that Unwrapped was going to provide in that department. The last show that Faceless Ventures (co)produced, Interieur, very much fit into the type of event that we’ve described above. So, naturally, we arrived with plenty of expectation that this was going to follow a similar path.

Instead, we got what can best be described as Faceless Ventures’ ‘Scream’. A totally self-aware production that acknowledged the facets and controversies of their work whilst seeking to deliver a context for it all.

Billed as a gift for the fans, the framing device was an excuse to take guests through a substantial ‘greatest hits’ of Faceless Ventures’ history. Now, there was the potential for self-indulgence here and, with that, a risk that the show would alienate anyone but devoted fans of the company. We don’t believe either was necessarily the case in this particular instance. The only show of theirs appearing during Unwrapped that we had attended in its full form was Diary of a Deceased. But we were aware of the others and knew enough about them to recognise that they were likely faithful replications. But, even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe with the exception of the Diary segment, these were all experiences rather than scenes – a story-free taste of what each event offered. More important was that each piece was distinct (although the ‘The Pit’ and ‘Cracked’ felt quite similar with the exception of Cracked adding the psychological element to its scene).

There’s a lot of direct references to the production company here – that’s because the team are effectively the main characters in this show. Playing themselves in a courtroom setting, each member is called to the stand to make their case to us, the jury, concerning the accusation of their so-called crimes against the scare industry.

For a little background, there’s a fair bit of controversy around ‘extreme’ attractions in the immersive horror world. The number of views our review of a small Southend escape room attracted, just by the virtue of sharing the same name as the UK’s most controversial event last Halloween season, was evidence of that. It’s something that we plan on looking at with a series of editorials but it essentially boils down to the school of thought that they’re not ‘scary’ and more akin to endurance tests and things of that description. There’s a lot more to it but these attractions are very much considered the black sheep because of this.

Now, to an extent, we actually agree with some of the dissenting voices – I have absolutely no desire to subject myself to ‘I’m A Celebrity’ or ‘Tough Mudder’ style gauntlets. I personally have nothing to prove to myself nor do I feel the need to do so. If it’s marketed as a challenge to see how long you can last, I’ll likely pass. But, I have little issue attending these shows if I perceive there to be some sort of craft to the event.

That’s where the naysaying arguments fall down and what Unwrapped sought to explore – the idea that these shows are more substantial than what they’re reduced to in some circles.

And that’s it. With little subtext, that was Unwrapped. Faceless Ventures explaining why they do what they do and demonstrating this via action rather than sincere words.

Our enduring thought upon exiting Unwrapped was that it was a classic case of preaching to the converted, it’s the sort of show that demands a more diverse audience than it had. There was some guest agency in the finale but it was, unfortunately, a fairly redundant inclusion. The outcome was a foregone conclusion and resulted in a bit of backslapping that, though definitely earned, wasn’t the result of Unwrapped itself winning the hearts and minds of the people. Everyone that stepped through into that court had long ago made their mind up, way before they’d bought a ticket to Unwrapped.

It’s probably the show that Faceless Ventures should try and tour – just the prospect of being able to experience a (very) abridged version of Cracked surely would be enough to pique curiosity. And speaking of Cracked, I think there are other benefits to exposing a wider audience to an iteration of Unwrapped. I’m still very on the fence about participating in the full-bodied version of Cracked, something I’ve previously discussed with the team. But, the task that Faceless Ventures chose to showcase Cracked presented a side to that show that I hadn’t really considered before. It wasn’t physically taxing – some disorientation and fear of failure were enough to make this a tense part of the show! I think this opportunity to offer people a sample of events that they’d never dream of doing could be a good way to sell Unwrapped. It definitely has legs and, as mentioned, it needs to reach those who are maybe less familiar with the company and events that take things ‘one step further’.

All in all, Unwrapped was something refreshing, a 45-min show that chucked in a bit of everything and wrapped it all up in a fun, meta-narrative. The fact that we didn’t have to ‘dig deep’ was very much appreciated this time around. And I’ve always been a fan of short-form works such as flash fiction so the bite-size tasters selected from Faceless Ventures’ repertoire was very appealing to me! I’m not sure I’d want to see the company lean so hard into fan-service again as it’s a concern that they could begin to alienate newcomers which would be a huge shame. But, as it stands, Unwrapped could totally work as a gateway show. Rather than hide their intentions behind philosophical meanderings, Faceless Ventures straight-up said what was on their minds and delivered 45 mins of immersive horror without pretence. You have to appreciate such a bold and brazen move!

Unwrapped - Faceless Ventures
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money
4

Summary

+ The meta-narrative
+ Illuminating regarding perception of 'extreme' productions
+ Mini experiences were a unique concept
- Risk that continuing on this path could begin to alienate

Unwrapped was, once again, something that we weren't quite expecting and further proof that Faceless Ventures aren't happy just treading water. Every time we attend a show of theirs, we get something completely different!

Price Paid: £30
Address: Mexborough Business Centre, College Rd, Mexborough, S64 9JP
Website: http://www.facelessventures.co.uk/unwrapped

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