In space, no one can hear you scream. But in the less vacuous surroundings of central London, the shrill squeals of a 40-something man are all too audible.
I’m at the world-famous Madame Tussauds, where visitors in their millions come to rub shoulders and strike selfie poses with pop stars and presidents, movie stars and monarchs – or at least with their uncanny likenesses.
The attraction’s latest film-themed exhibit, Alien: Escape, has just opened its air-lock doors to the public and is included in the general admission price.
The anticipation alone is enough to get the pulse racing. Like the Alien: Covenant movie that inspires it, Alien: Escape is recommended for those aged 15 and over. Before entering, there are signs warning off those who have heart conditions, are nervous, squeamish or are pregnant (or rather “incubating life forms”). “There will be blood,” it promises. So, it was with genuine trepidation that I embarked on this mission into the unknown.
Welcoming us aboard the USCSS Covenant is Michael Fassbender in the guise of Walter, whose wax avatar – like the vast majority at Tussauds – requires a quick prod to ensure it’s not the real thing.
Taking you through the ship are crew members (who definitely are real, as the prod-test confirmed), who ramp up the tension by barking orders while others run past with looks of dread. A person cloaked in darkness surprises me with a well timed “Boo!” making me jump out of my skin – the oldest trick in the scare book. I give a small squeal and pretend it’s nervous laughter.
Smoke-filled corridors, blood-spattered doors, weird noises and strobe lighting add to the feeling of disorientation as we stumble across a series of gruesome tableaux from Alien: Covenant.
First, the gory remains from an unholy neomorph birth; then mucus-drenched alien pods; an unfortunate soul subjected to a face-hugging fate; and a final encounter with a towering xenomorph, poised to attack if you don’t exit sharply. For once in this snap-happy place, selfies are not an option.
And that’s it. Game over, man. Two minutes of mild terror and I’m through. But that’s just a fraction of the time we spent in Madame Tussauds as a whole – you can easily while away half a day here.
It’s just a shame that you are encouraged to rush through Alien: Escape, as it doesn’t really allow you to appreciate the top-notch work of Creatures, Inc, the company responsible for the monster creations in Alien: Covenant. Maybe a touch of animatronic action would also have upped the fright factor – the huge, eye-rolling Kong that presides over the Skull Island exhibit that follows is brilliantly realised.
But I’m not complaining. I appear to have emerged intact, with no acid-blood stains on my person and no discernible discomfort in my chest or stomach areas. If I wanted to, I could queue up and do it all over again. But somehow the option of having my picture taken with ET around the corner offers the promise of a friendlier close encounter.
Entry to Madame Tussauds is from £29 per person