It’s dark. Something yowls inhumanly to our right. Something else gibbers to our left. We shuffle through the darkness, barely breathing.
A shape scrabbles nearby, no doubt ripping and tearing at one of our comrades. Then shit gets real. The lights snap on and a throng of slathering dead things suddenly spot us. Teeth are bared. Screaming, everybody thrashes toward the safety of base camp. Most of us get out alive…
Total Film has stumbled straight into a zombie apocalypse. Sweating, terrified, unbelievably thirsty, we’re holed up in a tiny room in a zombie research facility with 17 of our ashen-faced buddies, wondering how the hell we’re going to get out of this in one piece.
It’s not a real research facility, of course. We’re actually at Bunker 51 in North Greenwich, where we’ve been invited to confront our fears of 1) the dark, 2) guns and 3) flesh-munchy things for the Zombie Experience London, a three-hour test of our cunning, wit and ability to stay alive despite overwhelming odds.
It’s all in aid of TV show Helix (above), which is out on DVD and Blu now. Produced by sci-fi legend Ronald D Moore (Battlestar Galactica), the show stars Billy Campbell as a scientist working at a research centre in the Arctic, where a deadly virus is turning people into zombie-like ‘vectors’.
The show has fun playing around with zombie lore (the virus is spread through deadly contact, but there's also a chance that the infected can recover) and doesn't skimp on the scares.
Dressed in a black jumpsuit, we’re about to get the full Helix treatment. We're led into a briefing room and informed by a blood-splattered scientist that 400 of his undead patients have escaped their restraints.
Variously referred to as ‘biters’, ‘walkers’ and ‘necrobiological entities’, the zombies we’re about to face are driven by the primitive reptilian part of their brain and they’ll stop at nothing to get their nashers around our nubile flesh.
So, yes, armed with the zom-knowledge gleaned from Zombie Flesh Eaters and Night Of The Living Dead, it’s our job to take them out.
After a few weapon training sessions (pellet guns, paintball guns and, best of all, LASER GUNS) in which TF just about manages to hit the paper target, we’re tipped headfirst into the mayhem.
The ‘zombie movie’ rules have been updated in compliance with health and safety standards. There’s to be no shooting above the chest (in a sly twist, our special ‘Z-Kill’ pellets only work if they’re aimed at the torso) and our laser guns are set to stun.
We’ll save the surprises, but with a fun narrative that involves terrifying tasks in dark bunkers and all-out shoot-offs, this is full-on and not for the faint hearted.
It’s also genuinely scary. At one point, a zombie comes rampaging toward us, screaming like a banshee, and Total Film nearly voids its bowels before desperately humming ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and dropping it with a laser blast.
After three hours of zombie hunting, everything comes crashing to a head in a way that ensures you’ll end the experience screaming.
Afterwards, we’re emotionally and physically exhausted. Bright side? If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, we know exactly what to do.
Helix is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
Find out more about the Zombie Experience here.