The haunting grounds are set in a decrepit 108-year-old warehouse facing Suzhou Creek, and on the long, winding walk there, you feel yourself straying further and further from the safety of a quick rescue. At least that’s how I felt when contemplating whether or not to run away from Shanghai Nightmare, now the world’s largest haunted house.
Maybe a little introduction is required: Shanghai Nightmare began last year – a plot hatched up by 26-year-old American-Chinese Gan Quan and his girlfriend Xu Jiali, who left their jobs at Intel to make nightmares come true.
Last year’s gig proved so successful that a second round was inevitable. This year, they collaborated with Erebus Haunted Attraction – the Guinness record holders for longest walk-through haunted house ever. The haunt took two masterminds, 20 workers and one month to build. 40 actors are ready in full costume with the help of special effects to deliver what Shanghai Nightmare website calls, “Thrilltainment”. Beware of the warning they extend to those brave enough to venture ahead:
Prepare yourselves for the most heart wrenching, nail biting, and scream inducing experience
All of that, combined with the scaretastic reviews from other publications, made me seriously contemplate opting out of the whole “thrilltainment” idea. Quan’s encouraging smile might have helped, if he wasn’t dressed as one of the undead.
The anticipation was working its nefarious magic, and I found myself envying the crowd outside for not having to go in immediately (lines were a good hour long). Steeling my nerves, I locked arms tightly with my companions and barged inwards. At least I knew I had a safety word to scream out just in case. Too bad it wasn’t “AHHHHHH!”
Once inside, my group was faced with eight doors – we chose one path and made our way into an elevator. After a hesitant walk into our first room, we were greeted with the much-publicized (from their advertisement video) girl from The Ring. Ok, they’re right. It does cause a heart-in-throat thrill.
Unfortunately… or maybe fortunately, that was about as scary as it got. The rest of the walk proved relatively uneventful and much of the time is spent walking in darkness. A couple of great moments were capable of inducing some “Oh! I remember that movie!” moments, but few garnered the bloodcurdling screams Shanghai Nightmare had guaranteed. I even got a few laughs in for the whole experience (props for using special effects but a few are just too hilarious!).
Maybe it’s because, even though I stay as far away from American scary movies as possible, I know the clichés. There were some scream-worthy moments, but more were what I would call “entertaining.”
So if you’re looking to piss yourself, the haunted house here isn’t quite up to the standards of those in America, or the London Dungeon, not to mention the ones in Japan that can leave you practically scarred for life. But maybe that’s for the better? Shanghai Nightmare’s ‘Wimp Board’ already has 173 people who’ve screamed the safety word anyhow.
Shanghai Nightmare is worth a trip over to Suzhou Creek for the experience and a little lighthearted Halloween fun, but don’t let the hype get your expectations too high up.
Shanghai Nightmare is located at 1295 Nan Suzhou Lu, near Chengdu Bei Lu, 南苏州路1295号. Get tickets here. 120 RMB for regular entry. 300 RMB for VIP access to cut to the front of the line.