*** Before we start, I just want to point out that this review is based on a preview night that has taken place a full two weeks before the event opens publicly. So anything mentioned below could change by the time that Contained Liverpool opens.
Update: we have since spoken to the guys behind Contained Liverpool and they’ve confirmed that changes have been made following the feedback coming out of the preview night, including the points that we’ve raised below. So if you plan on visiting, you’re likely to have an even better time now! ***
Fun is the word that first comes to mind writing this review. Contained was simply a hell of a lot of fun, pure and simple. Don’t get me wrong though, one member of our group was terrified throughout so it definitely brings the scares too!
I’m not really sure what I was expecting going into this event, I’d read the press release but was still uncertain of what Contained’s full story was. There’s a theme that pops up every now and again relating to demonic possession but every scene you encounter is pretty much standalone.
And when I say scene, I do mean scene! Contained isn’t really a typical haunt; in a way it’s ‘Dungeons-esque’ in that it’s a succession of fixed performances and only once that encounter has concluded can you move on. This means that it’s lower in impact scares than your typical maze (although, don’t worry, they definitely still pack them in!), going for something more actor-driven.
I really respected this for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an incredibly bold move. It requires an unwavering confidence in your material and the ability to seek out performers who are capable of delivering full scenes over jump scares, solo for the most part too. This is not the easy way to go about producing an independent attraction but it’s an infinitely braver (and more rewarding) direction to take. I think it takes a lot of guts to tackle this sort of production on an indie level so the creators have my full admiration for not only attempting it but pulling it off.
Second reason is that it provides customers with an alternative experience and I, personally, am super appreciative for that. I want my Halloween season to be varied with a mix of events rather than endless mazes. And something like Contained puts that choice out there. With the industry ballooning rapidly, it’s promising to see that people are forging their own paths and not just following what has gone before. In many ways, it was quite reminiscent of Madhouse Margate in that both events are wildly ambitious but successful in their goals.
To spin back to the acting, this was one Contained’s revelations. As mentioned, every vignette hosted an actor who delivered a self-contained scene before kicking you out of their room. There were maybe two or three sections that had more than one actor so, mostly, these guys were performing on their own to the group. And they accomplished it effortlessly. The team behind Contained were very savvy with the casting here – the whole event was so completely dependent on the performers that any misstep would’ve brought the whole thing crashing down.
It’s hard to pick out a favourite here but I was seriously wowed by the actress in the clown section. She was so hyper, reeling off her lines seemingly without a pause to breathe. And she didn’t slip up at any point. She truly became this frenzied clown character and it was just a joy to watch.
*** The next two paragraphs contain slight spoilers ***
The press release (that we posted here) mentioned a lot of intriguing things including the sacrificing of group members. This was no joke. We witnessed one of our gang get ‘murdered’ after she, unfortunately, lost the vote. The room in question presented us with five numbered voting booths – you had to press the number of the person you wanted to see be taken to the execution room. Now, I’m not entirely sure how this worked as the buttons didn’t provide any feedback but I’m going to give Contained the benefit of the doubt here!
There was another moment where someone could be sacrificed, this time by a vocal group vote. Both of these instances had actual consequences for us. We never saw the two that lost the vote again – for real! The way it worked was that the sacrificed person was traded with the unfortunate who had been thrown to the wolves in the previous group. So, by the time we stepped out of Contained, we left with two people that we hadn’t started with. It’s a really clever idea, one that we haven’t seen that often and definitely not as comprehensively as featured here. It’s just another demonstration that Contained Liverpool were taking their event very seriously and not just chucking out a run of the mill experience and calling it a day.
*** End of spoilers ***
Another fairly unique feature of Contained was the use of animatronics. We rarely see them in the UK, finding that they tend to only appear in the bigger scream park type events. I’m on the fence as to whether I like the idea of them in general. Problem I find with animatronics is that they tend to operate on cycles so they’re good for brief glimpses but if you linger on them too long, they lose their impact. They are good though for throwing oversized monsters into a haunt – with human actors there’s obviously a limit as to the scale you can achieve!
Contained Liverpool used their animatronics well, relegating them to background features in one room and using strobes in the other instances, disorienting us enough to not draw too much attention to the fact that they were animatronics. Whilst they were of a high quality (especially the nun!), given that they were all depicting human characters they did feel slightly unnecessary despite their evident craft.
One final thing that we need to mention – the press release touted escape room elements. I won’t spoil the few times that we had to truly interact with the environment but they were mostly a success which is a tricky balance when you only have a couple of minutes to play with. Contained kept it simple with a single, clear task that needed to be performed. The puzzles were unambiguous but challenging nonetheless! To my mind, this is probably the most successful application of escape room style features in a scare attraction so far. Don’t go solely for them as they’re pretty basic but that’s exactly why they work in this scenario.
Stepping out of Contained, we were of the mind that this was touching a five star event for us. It was unfailingly entertaining, displayed moments of ingenuity and sported a strong, engaging cast. However, there were two things that ultimately prevented us from leaning that way.
Our main issue was that each room felt pretty cramped. And it was apparent on a couple of occasions that, in its current configuration, five people is pushing the capacity of some of the spaces. We noticed it especially in the nun room where we were directed to sit on a bench. Only four of us could fit on it and that was with one of us half on/half off one end! The fifth person stood by the entrance, obstructing the actress from being able to shut the door to that scene’s room. There were also a few areas where we had to stand in a row and one of our group ended up awkwardly standing behind the rest as there wasn’t space for five people to stand side by side. Four feels like a more realistic number.
That said, a possible solution to this would be having designated ‘marks’ for guests to stop on. Save for a few moments where the scene necessitated us being in a certain position, we tended to stand wherever, sometimes in positions that were inconvenient for the actors. Especially when we were blocking the exit doors for each room! This often made for awkward transitions into the next scene as the actor had to occasionally struggle around us to open the door. Clearer positioning of the guests would help alleviate this.
The second problem was, in a way, tied into this. The ending fell completely flat for us as the way that we were huddled together made it unclear as to where we should be going. This was because two of our group were effectively shielding the exit but looking in the opposite direction to it. What should have been a bombastic end petered out as the actor eventually resorted to pointing us in the direction of our escape. Again, I think placing us (directly or indirectly) in the right spot may have prevented this from happening. Given where we ultimately exit, I don’t think the team want people dashing out of the building so it’s a tough balance but it was a little anticlimactic for us.
Despite those two issues, Contained Liverpool was an overwhelming success and if the team can somehow work on rectifying the problems that we encountered then it’ll be an even better production! We’d highly recommend putting this on your Halloween plans, especially if you feel like a break from theme park style haunts!
EVENT NAME - COMPANY
+ Strong cast
+ Fresh, varied experience
+ Innovative features
- Some spaces felt too small
- Ending lacked impact
Contained Liverpool is a great time, pure and simple. The level of passion poured into this attraction is evident, absolutely warranting a visit.
Address: 7a, Barclays Business Park, Wareing Road, Aintree, L9 7AW