House of Horror 2018: Wonka’s World Reviewed

Dubbed St Andrews’ premier Halloween event, the House of Horror Charity Gala has continued to spook and delight guests year upon year, relying mostly on its wacky themes and staple fairground ride. This year was no different to the rest – but is that such a good thing?

Golden Ticket in hand and leopard ears firmly planted on my head, I ducked into St Andrews’ habitual event spot, Kinkell Byre, out of the wind and rain. It was not until I passed the (I must say very smooth-running) cloakroom and emerged into the cavernous main space however that I knew I was in ‘Wonka’s World’, and was greeted with a free chocolate vodka shot. At first, the atmosphere seemed buzzy and busy, with the bar set-up seeming to operate well – but a closer look at the dancefloor suggested the event was not at its full capacity, to say the least.

Despite this initial setback, I began to relish the fact that, with the dancefloor slightly emptier, there was more room to break out some (questionable) moves. Another problem soon became clear though – the music. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but however great the DJing was, it did not seem suited to a holiday like Halloween which is usually so campy, on-the-nose, and full of cheese. Though everyone had probably heard “The Monster Mash” quite enough at pres, surely this was the one night of the year we were allowed to indulge in such guilty pleasures?

Even aside from this admittedly personal quibble, the bizarre audio setup did not help the situation. Placing the booth in the middle of the dancefloor can often really forge a connection between music-makers and audience, but not if the speakers are blasting their tunes from the corners of the room. This encouraged the guests to rave into the dark nothingness, instead of circling the centralised DJs, resulting in a very unsettling relationship dynamic and drawing attention to how sparsely populated the space was.

Even when I wanted to take a break outside, I was attacked with a cascade of rainfall. Though the miserable weather was of course no fault of the event, preparations should have been made for the equally miserable smokers who were left drenched and devoid of shelter. The energy of a friend of mine dressed as the electric-type Pikachu was especially depleted.

Overall, it seems the sweetness of Wonka’s factory did not come through as much as I would have liked. However, the reasonable cost of the event, considering that it ran quite like many balls nearly double its price, definitely softens this blow, and the ride proved an exhilarating break to the problems mentioned above. It must also be said that I had a fabulous evening regardless of these issues, with buses and bathrooms running well, the bar being reasonably priced and the general vibe of the event feeling buoyant and animated. If the committee reflect on these problems to curate a slightly better experience next year, I don’t see why House of Horror can’t become one of the best-value ticketed events in town.

Photos by Samantha Chinomona.