Written by: gary ogden
I have seen A LOT of zombie films. I’ve been watching them since I can remember and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. As a result, I reckon I have a pretty good idea of exactly what to do should I ever be involved in a zombie invasion – simply stock up on ammo and food, stick together, and always shoot for the head. Easy. I most definitely wouldn’t scream like a girl, start shooting at the ceiling, almost shit myself, and run mindlessly into a pitch-black room completely neglecting to help my friends whilst they are being horribly murdered and eaten alive.
Oh, maybe I would.
I know this because the other week I went on a ‘zombie survival experience’ in a shopping mall in Reading courtesy of www.wish.co.uk. Now, I’ve been to a shopping mall in Reading before and although I was most definitely faced with a thousand zombies on that particular occasion, they weren’t actually undead monsters who were trying to eat my brain. They were just pricks who wanted to steal my wallet. Luckily, I aimed for the head like my training taught me and I kept my money. Do not tell the police about this anecdote please.
However, the particular ‘experience’ I want to tell you about today was a full-on, immersive, professional movie-like adventure set in an abandoned shopping mall filled with ‘zombies’ (horror movie fans who dress up and do it for free) that involved me and an assorted group of other journalists careering about with BB guns like a crazed bunch of wimpy, well, journalists. IT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT. REALLY BLOODY BRILLIANT.
Let’s take you through the varying stages of boxer-brownness.
You start off in a ‘safe room’, with nice, safe things like crisps and biscuits surrounding you, before suddenly some bloke in full police combat gear bursts into the room shouting and, simultaneously, a little pocket of air bursts from your anus to accompany the word ‘SHIT’ that leaves your mouth. Brilliant: If that had made me jump, not sure how I was going to cope with undead killing-machines. These soldiers then take you through the situation (long story short – there are sodding zombies in this shopping mall and they want to rip your guts out through your arsehole) and get you trained up on the ‘weapons’. Oh, and you sign this:
Then, before you can even rearrange your privates or ask to go wee-wee, you’re thrust into the darkness AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE (obviously I would be) and things begin to slowly tighten around the gluteus maximus. From here on in it’s a breakneck charge through the empty shopping mall whilst really fucking scary zombies burst out from behind doors and make you lose all semblance of masculinity in record time – “I DON’T LIKE YOU GET AWAY FROM ME!! MUM MUM WHERE ARE YOU MUMMMYY?”
This ‘story-driven’ episode lasted around 45 minutes, and incorporated rogue military nutcases, a makeshift morgue that smelled like eggy-gufters, a CCTV surveillance mission and, of course, the shooting of many, many zombies. It was exhilarating, frightening but also (and luckily) hilarious – you’d not think that fearing for your life as you’re being chased by blood-thirsty bowel-hunters would be all that funny, but it really is. Mainly because they don’t actually rip your intestines out of your stomach and start chewing on them – that would be a bit much for the girls I think, so they had to cut it out.
After the first mission, it’s back to Biscuit City and the relative calmness of the safe room, where you stand about and steadfastly deny to everyone that the person crying in the corner of the old WH Smiths store was you. But you don’t have much time to gather yourself, before being thrown back into Hell in the next part of the experience: the solo missions.
Now, I’m used to solo missions, but they normally only happen in my bedroom and there are never any zombies involved, although sometimes I do end up in the corner of the room crying. Either way, this time the police leave you on your own to go up against the zombie horde. Good one, can’t wait.
The first mission involved the retrieval of a lost laptop filled with details of the viral outbreak; they hurl you into the mall blind and somehow expect you to find this tiny box without getting spotted by the zombies. Knowing my luck, the laptop was probably hidden in a zombie’s foreskin or something – they were definitely going to notice me trying to get it. So we split into two groups (stupid idea) and headed off up the stairs to the main shop floor (stupid idea) with me at the back of the group (stupid idea). It was all going rather smoothly – the team was on their guard, covering everyone’s backs, and the overall group mentality was one of shared optimism.
Well, some bastard forgot to cover my back didn’t they? All of a sudden I heard a zombie groan, followed by the girliest scream I’d ever heard, and I started to laugh because there were no girls in my group. However, I found it physically impossible to release this laugh, because I soon found that it was, in fact, me that was screaming the girliest scream I’d ever heard. Cool. Good job there weren’t any girls in my group: that hard-man swagger I’d created earlier by downing a bottle of water really fast would have been ruined.
I didn’t worry though, because I could offset the effeminate screech by facing the danger head on and protecting my team members by destroying the zombie mano-a-mano. Oh, oops, no I can’t because I’ve sprinted past all my team mates in a desperate and cowardly attempt to get as far away from the zombie as possible. Great.
It got a bit better though – I eventually pulled myself together and confronted the zombie lurch like a pro, firing on all cylinders and landing a number of sweet kills – at one point, I even interrupted a stealth exploration mission by running in first, guns-blazing and shouting: “LLLEEEEEERROOOOYYY JEEEENNNKKIIIINNNS!”
But nobody laughed. I’m used to it.
Next up, we had another mission in which we had to protect a scientist who supposedly held the cure for the zombie plague. Fair enough, I’ll try and protect him, but the minute one of those fat, rotting sods comes at me through the wall, Mr. Scientist can suck it – it’s every man for himself. Who cares if he holds valuable information? I know all the cheats for Doom, only a handful of people know them (IDKFA – all weapons and keys, if you’re asking).
Most of this mission involved tiptoeing around dark corridors and deserted shops, trying our hardest not to encounter any zombie activity, but after a while this became rather boring so we (well, I) decided to go and pump a few rounds into some zombie scum while tensing my neck and shouting. So I did just that. Didn’t last long though, because I ran head-first into a load of zombies coming up the stairs and had to swiftly change direction and sprint into a pitch-black room and hide. This worked for a bit, but then I dropped my flipping torch and a nice beacon of bright light shone onto the ceiling, alerting all the stinky bastards to my presence – needless to say, they ‘killed’ me.
Then it was all over, and it was back to the safe room to swap stories, eat biscuits and nip into the toilets to check for skid-marks. Overall, it had been an amazing day: completely surreal and like nothing I’d ever done before, and I’d recommend it to everyone. But here’s the downside – it costs £120 for the day.
It’s a bit of a bummer, but then the full experience lasts basically an entire day (we pussy journalists got a stripped down version) with a longer, movie-style experience (around 4 hours long), and a lot more individual missions. I’d say it’s worth the money; it really is an extremely realistic and authentic experience and the fact that it’s set in a real shopping mall only adds to the overall effect – it’s like living your very own Dawn Of The Dead. I’d go so far as to say it’s a must for zombie fans: you really won’t get anything like this anywhere else.
If you fancy giving it a go (and why wouldn’t you?) then visit the website here.
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