Compared to some, I may be a recent convert, having only started reading his novels in 2015, but I am now a fully-fledged Stephen King fan, utterly obsessed with his novels, adapted TV shows and movies. I’ve even set myself a near impossible task, to try and read everything King has written in strict chronological order. So far, I’ve read everything from ‘Carrie’ right on up to ‘Cycle of The Werewolf’. Some stories were better than others but the reason why King is such a gifted writer, is that you are certain to get lost in his mesmeric storytelling and absorbing world building.
When I first read ‘IT’ for the first time, just a few months before “Chapter One” was released in cinemas in September 2017, I was immediately hooked, and really felt like I was also living in that world with the Losers Club back in the late fifties. Not only is Stephen King’s ‘IT’ my favourite novel of his, but also the best horror book I have ever read, and believe me, I’ve read a lot of horror novels! Despite being a hefty 1,000+ pages, no scene or chapter feels wasted, except you know, for that controversial sewer scene that I won’t go into now!
When I heard there was going to be an immersive experience ahead of the release of IT: Chapter Two located underground in London, there was no way I could let this fantastic opportunity just pass me by, and even more surprised to find out the tickets were free! So of course when Jumpcut, a now award-winning film blog (had to get that in there!), offered me the chance to attend and cover the event for them, well of course I jumped at the chance.
As the evening arrived, the nerves started creeping in and I was feeling a great mix of excitement and anxiety; I just hoped I wouldn’t shit my pants as soon as I entered the funhouse of horror! A quick tip for anyone attending, leave your large bags at home – security check everyone as they go in and you’re unable to take bags in with you.
I was then filled in on the filming policy – basically you can record videos and take photos as much as you like, the only part of the tour that was forbidden to do this was from the moment you step into the house on Neibolt street, as it was the main attraction and it would be a shame to spoil the surprise for Pennywise’s next batch of unsuspecting victims…
Once you’re through security, you’re presented with your first challenge; to earn your admission ticket and enter through the massive clown’s mouth entrance. Your options are taken straight from the funfair, where you can either fire a water pistol until you explode a balloon or play a hook-a-duck game. Of course everyone’s a winner here…or a loser depending on how fearful you’re currently fearing about the experience that awaits!
Once that admission ticket is won, the real fun begins. Before crossing the little bridge into the Carnival of Clown Hell, we were instructed by one of the tour guides that if any of us at any time started to panic, feel nauseous or generally feel like it’s becoming a bit too much for us, all we needed to do was shout the safe word “FIREFLY” and someone will come to rescue us and pull us out of there. As if I wasn’t already terrified by this point, the idea that a safe word might be needed somehow made it even worse.
Describing anything else that happens on the tour in too much detail would of course ruin some of the big surprises, shocks, and scares that happen along the way, but all I will say is that this experience was truly terrifying, but a hell of a lot of fun as well. Some scares during the experience are really creepy and intend to make you jump out of your skin as much as possible, but feel rest assured that you don’t get grabbed or touched in any way. The creative team behind this immersive and incredible experience want you to have a great time after all, and that is clear from the start. As you progress, each set becomes even more breathtaking and beautiful to explore, especially the Chinese restaurant and the outside view of the house on Neibolt Street.
The only disappointment from the experience, is that it just was not long enough. Lasting only 15 minutes, it could have included a lot more characters and many more jump scares than it actually did have. The whole tour relied solely on Pennywise and Georgie to frighten the utter crap out of you…which they did, don’t get me wrong, but as a fan, I would’ve loved even more!
My recommendation is also that you try everything, confront your fears, and really make the most of your experience. On my journey, I came across a jack-in-the-box that said “try me”, but in the moment I was too freaked out to follow its request, but now I wish I had! If you are lucky enough to go to this, really make the most of it, fully immerse yourself, and just remember if it all gets too much, “FIREFLY”!
Despite the minor quibble of it not being long enough, this is still probably the best, and most terrifying 15 minutes you could have, and for fans of the first film, Stephen King’s world, and all those anticipating the upcoming Chapter Two, this is an experience not to be missed.