The Vibes Tries: Pepsi Lost in Karak

The Vibes Tries: Pepsi Lost in Karak

The pop-up horror experience at Hauntu in the Linc offered some scares in the comfort of KL

MALAYSIANS, more than most, like a good scare. Being scared is one of those involuntary reactions that comes out of us when we are shocked out of nowhere or are rendered uncomfortable by an eerie atmosphere where anything is possible. It’s a subconscious impulse that links us back to our ancestors of aeons past.

Taking place at The Linc in the heart of KL, the Lost in Karak pop-up event ran from May 26-30 and was sponsored by Pepsi. The event itself was run by Hauntu, an interactive horror house experience based in the shopping centre.

They offer a theatrical horror experience with professional actors playing characters that guide the audience along and a foreboding ambience to keep them on edge.

This past weekend, 11 members of The Vibes (including guests) made the hazardous trek into the urban hellscape that is Kuala Lumpur… just kidding, the only thing hellish is the traffic… and the heat… and the humidity.

At the last minute, we were joined by a lady whose friend had cancelled on her so she needed to tumpang with another group. Hmmm, how curious.

From the outside, the pop-up space didn’t particularly look that big, though the banging and assorted loud noises heard from the outside made it seem foreboding enough. Of course, being located inside a shopping mall during the middle of the afternoon requires a wilful suspension of disbelief.

In fact, an audience that’s in on the artifice is necessary. The unreality of the situation is so precarious that any scepticism will pop the bubble of the world being constructed within the four walls of the space. There needs to be a buy-in amongst the audience.

Welcome to the jungle

The narrative of Lost in Karak involves a pandemic (sounds familiar) and a research team from the fictional Penawar Nasional (that’s where the audience comes in) venturing into a haunted forest – by an abandoned highway outside of KL – in search of a rare flower with healing properties that will fix everything.

Going in we were told that at some point we would have to make a decision on whether to take the flower and save humanity, which would doom the forest, or to leave the flower behind and doom humanity instead.

After a rather quick deliberation, the choice was simple… “F*** the trees.”

Speaking of the trees, probably one of the best aspects of the Lost in Karak is the set design, or how the environment is set up. The ceilings are low and the lighting is appropriately dim. There are leaves and trash on the ground. Swaying trees that are real enough. It’s also in a quiet part of the mall so there isn’t much in the way of outside noise intruding in to pop the bubble.

The first area is a wrecked bus that can just barely fit all of us. The research team has met with an accident, and our driver, an older man, is slumped over the steering wheel. The floor of the bus is a mess with leaves and random items.

Contrary to what some of us thought, these items were not left behind by former Karak-goers, but are part of the set dressing.

Once the driver wakes up in a daze, all bloody, the game is really afoot. This is also where the horror tropes come into play.

There’s a dark and mysterious jungle and now the driver wants volunteers to come with him to find something outside. But quickly enough, there’s more banging and he has to leave… because reasons. He climbs up the emergency roof exit and passes back a beaten up silver case before getting yanked out of there.

After another quick round of loud noises, we are introduced to Garhan, our friendly neighbourhood tribal guide. As he will be with us for most of the story, the actor playing him has to juggle his performance, keep us interested, as well as herd us around so that we’re not just acting like headless chickens.

He brings us to the next area, through the jungle to his humble abode. This area is probably the most well thought out because there is a lot of detail and it’s pretty believable as a home, or at least a movie version of one.

Garhan also has to do a fair bit of exposition to describe the situation with the village that is protecting the rare flower, the village chief who is extremely not into outsiders, as well as why he himself has decided to help us, despite the apparent dangers. Toss in some exorcism action and you’ve got a stew going.

Speaking of stew, Garhan concocts a potion to protect us all from an evil spirit that is apparently working with the village chief, Tok Rasne. The use of real worms is a bit unsettling, if that type of thing weirds you out.

But before things become too comfortable, the cabin is rushed by a handful of angry villagers, draped in vegetation and tribal attire, as well as acting a bit extra. Garhan gets us to hide in all sorts of places – I was in the closet with four others – but it’s for nothing as we’re led back into the room for a dressing down before being forced to follow them to the village.

We’re in the endgame now

After a few twists and turns through the cabin and the woods we finally meet Tok. Unfortunately, Garhan meets a rather grisly end as he is strung up and is sacrificed to the big bad Begu Rimba, the big bad spirit ‘protecting’ the forest from outsiders. Begu’s inhuman nature and the villagers’ crazed behaviour, as well as the darkness establishes the necessary ambience.

This lets Tok give his monologue on what’s wrong with modern society and why he doesn’t want to help by sharing the flower.

However, having been rushed from location to location, the adrenaline, or at least the initial fear is starting to wear off. By now we’ve begun to figure out all the tricks and patterns of the show. It’s just natural, especially when you have this many people huddled together.

(The rest happened within the span of a couple of minutes.)

We’re now at the grand tree with all the forbidden flowers, as Tok gives us a song and dance (not literally) about the jungle, he starts to gesticulate wildly to the point that one of us starts to freak out.

Curiously, the one person flipping out is the lady who joined the group solo. And she is really going nuts. She’s going so hard that the villagers and even Tok drop character and ask us all to calm down while they lead her away like it’s some medical emergency. It’s all a big WTF moment.

Of course, as we stand around we realise it’s quite obvious that she was a plant since the beginning, for shock factor and whatnot, and all in all it was quite effective.

But as she’s led away, we’re interrupted by Miriam, dressed up in Indiana Jones cosplay. She’s very much still in character and really wants us to extract the flowers. We do so, only for Tok, Begu, and the villagers, along with our now possessed former fellow researcher giving chase.

It’s a short chase as we turn a corner, open a door, and we’re out. We’ve escaped Karak, and that’s that.

Post-mortem

Ultimately, it was a quick 30-minute session that was immersive, scary and eerie for most of the show, before it piled on with a few too many twists in the final stretch.

The shock twist of the planted actor in our midst was done quite well, though some of us interacted with her throughout the show and figured something was up early on. However, the flipping back and forth of the villagers being in character, breaking character, to going back in character was a bit of a narrative whiplash for most of us.

The ending was also quite abrupt, and outside of the decision of whether or not to remove the flower, there wasn’t much in the way of narrative branches, at least based on recollection.

As a performance arts showcase, it was entertaining enough, and the set design with its three main areas was effective in setting the mood. It was not attempting to be an escape room but was more interested in telling this fictional story of a village gone mad, and in that sense was successful.

All in all, the creators were able to make a lot out of the limited time and space available. As the first event to be staged since the end of the pandemic, it’s a reminder that things are slowly but surely going back to normal. It’s a reminder that everyone could use a good scare now and again.

source – The Vibes

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