Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days of Halloween: Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse 2013

Greetings, Phantomaniacs! It is time once again for my annual recap of my trip to Atlanta’s greatest Halloween attraction, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse!

Before I get any further, I want to make sure you know that I work with one of the creators of AZA and have known him for years. I consider the guy a friend and a great talent. But that does not mean I’m going to do any turd polishing. If you read my recap from last year, you can see that I’m pretty straightforward about the zombie shoot. While I admit that I probably tend to go a little easier on folks that I know, I still try to be as objective as possible.

Also, I won’t be spoiling anything here. There are two walk(run)-throughs at AZA. A mystery haunt and “Return of the Curse of the Undead”. I’ll discuss them both, but only in as much detail as I feel is absolutely necessary. And for those looking for a straight review; well, this isn’t really it. This is more of a narrative of AZA and the events surrounding it. Honestly, all you need to know is that it’s a unique attraction that has to be experienced to be understood.

Every year we look forward to the night we can go to AZA. We find a sitter, get a group together, load up on adult beverages, and head out. Only this year I was working Monstrosity Championship Wrestling at Six Flags and then heading straight over to AZA, so I – for the first time ever – experienced AZA stone cold sober.

Side Note: I was discussing this with someone the other day. I don’t know what this says about me or my perception of the world or my mental health or whatever, but I enjoy almost everything to a greater degree when I have some alcohol in my system. I think it’s from being raised in such a massively uptight household and being pretty uptight myself. I feel like the straight edge people or folks who don’t drink or whatever must just be freer spirits than me. Or they aren’t actually having fun and just don’t realize it. I dunno. My point here is that booze is great.

I was all kinds of sweaty and gross after four hours of walking around a wrestling ring outdoors in four layers of clothing and a wrestling mask:
So after the show I went to Queen of Crunk and Bear’s place to take a shower. I cannot possibly express how much I appreciate them letting me do this. There’s a shower at Six Flags, but I’m just not a guy who does public showers. Plus, I have learned something absolutely fascinating since I have been working the MCW shows at Six Flags – the combined smell of zombie paint, sweaty humans, twenty different kinds of aerosol deodorant and twelve different kinds of colognes creates the worst smell you could possibly imagine. This stench is the Voltron of olfactory nightmares, with legs formed from Drakkar and CK1, arms from Right Guard and Axe Body Spray, a torso of pure human ass funk, and a Blazing Sword of Hi Karate. The head is made from Quozzy Quozzborne’s eyeball sweat. It would take a giant Robeast made of nothing but Febreze to even put a dent in that stinking miasma.

So I really didn’t want to hang around. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even change out of my gear on Saturday because I knew I was going straight to somewhere I could change.
Queen of Crunk and Bear live in what appears to be a huge military complex with a fancy central garden and pool. The apartments are super nice and their auxiliary shower is great. After I showered and put on fresh clothes it was pretty close to the time we were all supposed to be meeting at AZA and I hadn’t eaten yet. I told Bear I was probably going to just go to McDonald’s and he got this look on his face that healthy people get when you tell them you’re going to McDonald’s. Well, healthy people and food snobs (I believe Bear is more of the former). He said there were plenty of better places to eat that were just as close and gave me a list. I thanked him and acted all excited about eating at some place better than McDonald’s and then went to McDonald’s. And super-sized my meal.

I texted Mrs. Troublemaker to let her know I was running a little late and she said that they were, too. She was coming down with Beau and Sally since she’s seen my act and doesn’t need to be sitting around a hot arena all day watching me sweat. 
 
We had agreed to meet at the paintball facility where AZA is staged at 8 PM. I got there at about 8:30 thanks to my GPS deciding to direct me out onto 85 and then 285 rather than taking me through downtown. I felt like that was wrong, but I have a terrible sense of direction and no ability to judge proximity, so I didn’t fight it. I did spend the drive wondering how I ever managed to get anywhere on short notice prior to owning GPS-enabled devices. I remember getting lost a lot and making lots of turns.

Pro Tip: Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is a fun and amazing Halloween experience. Essential, I’d say. But they are there to make money. As such, they realized a couple of years ago that they could charge for parking. So remember to bring a few bucks cash for that. I told the attendant I thought it was ingenious. He said most people didn’t feel that way. I’m all for capitalism.

The AZA compound is basically a massive block of offices. When you arrive you will see a central area with t-shirts, snacks, and picnic tables. To the right of that is ticket sales and further right is the entrance to the mystery haunt. To the left and all the way around the side are the Zombie Killer and Return of the Curse of the Undead attractions. I won’t be talking about Zombie Killer this year because I wasn’t crazy about it last year and, quite frankly, funds are super tight right now. Between all of the normal October expenses and how much it’s costing me to work MCW this month (yeah, you read that right) I just didn’t have the extra to spend on what might or might not have been an improved zombie shooting experience. That’s not even considering the fact that Matty has loaded this month and next month up to be the most expensive in the history of the MOTUC line.

But there was no way I was going to miss out on the two main haunts. “Return of the Curse of the Undead” is a sequel to 2012’s excellent slightly Evil Dead-themed adventure. I was excited about returning to that world. But the main draw of 2013 had to be the mystery haunt. I had heard whispers that this was some amazing new innovation in haunted houses. Everybody I know that was working AZA was very excited about it and – most amazingly – I hadn’t heard anything.

Once the rest of the crew arrived – Mrs. Troublemaker, Beau, Sally, Queen of Crunk, Bear, and Little Nikki – we got our tickets and went straight to the line for the mystery haunt, which was marked only with a slightly ominous “?”.

Pro Tips: The perfect number of people for a group at AZA is ten. If you can make your group that size you will have the best time. Otherwise you run the risk of having douchebags merged with your group. By which I mean the sort of people who walk through a haunt pointing out that everything is fake or just generally not getting into it. I don’t know why these people spend all that money just to be a drag and clearly not be entertained, but they are out there. And you do not want them in your group. We had seven and got lucky with both haunts. The people added into our group were all fun.

Have fun. Go in with an open mind and let the experience take you away. If you are cynical or don’t like to have fun, maybe you should just stay home and fold laundry or shine shoes or something.

Be ready to spend a long time in line. We bought our tickets around 8:45 and didn’t leave until a good bit after 11. Neither of the haunts take more than about fifteen minutes. But they are totally worth the money and the wait.
 I’m not going to say anything about “?”. To reveal even a little tidbit about it would be to say too much. It is awesome and innovative and I predict that other haunts will be attempting to mimic it for decades to come. You must experience it this year. And don’t try to find anything out. Just do it. I doubt I’ll ever see anything so innovative again in the world of haunts. 
Return of the Curse of the Undead” continues last year’s story of a strange cult occupying the woods behind the compound (and much of the interior). Upon entering you are greeted by a fella named Toby and a psychic who bears a striking resemblance to a certain young lady from earlier in the narrative. This pair lays down the basic story of what happened in last year’s “Curse of the Undead” and Toby says he’s leading tour groups through the woods to look for ghosts and other paranormal occurrences. These two were a hoot and a holler; Toby in particular. The characters you meet in the haunts provide a large portion of the fun of AZA. You like Toby – useless as he is – and you like psychic girl, so it works to the benefit of the narrative when they do things or when things happen to them.

This time around the haunt starts in the woods.

Pro Tip: You will be running a lot at Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes and be ready for action.

Pretty much as soon as you are immersed in the trees, shit goes bad. Even though “Return of the Curse of the Undead” is a bit more of a standard storyline and isn’t a carefully guarded secret like “?”; I don’t want to give too much away. There’s a lot of fun to be had and plenty of ghastly surprises. The final scene features a satisfying conclusion and a couple of great monsters. 
 
I know I didn’t go into a whole lot of detail, but I think it’s best if you just go to Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse knowing one thing – it’s an experience unlike any other. No other haunt is so immersive. No other Halloween attraction features the narrative qualities and cinematic structure of AZA. That’s not to say that other haunts aren’t fun and don’t have something to offer, but this one is a singular experience. I would not consider my Halloween season complete without a visit.
Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween
I’m changing the format a bit this year in order to more accurately portray SyFy’s schedule and also to preserve my sanity. I had the genius idea to cut and paste the schedule directly from SyFy’s page rather than typing it out in my own format. This has saved me an awful lot of time and also means that individual episodes are listed rather than blocks of programming like previous years. So what I’m going to do is provide commentary where I feel it is needed rather than posting next to every single entry. Don’t worry – you’re getting the same amount of hilarious, then kind of funny, then labored, then thoroughly disenchanted Phantom content. Just in a different way.
Like last year, I am covering the programming from the time this posts until the time of the next post. That means that on Fridays you are going to be treated to a shit-ton of this stuff.
Let’s do it!
Oct 21 11:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Chain Letter
This is a decent movie with a silly premise. Or maybe it’s a silly movie with a decent premise. I’m not even sure. I do know that the opening scene is a lot of fun of the “They’re not really going to do that, are they?” variety.
Oct 21 01:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie The Collector
We saw the sequel – The Collection – before we watched this one. Both are excellent movies that any horror fan needs to see. They have a very Japanese feel but are purely Western creations. Don’t go looking up synopses. Just watch them. Not only are they great flicks, they’re total owners and can be bought for cheap. Do it.
Oct 21 03:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings
Oct 21 05:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines
Speaking of cheap, both of these chapters of the series about backwoods, inbred horror appear to have been made for about a hundred and fifty bucks. Not each – both of them. I love the first three movies, but these two – which I believe were filmed at the same time – are awful. The makeups look terrible and the stories are incoherent.
Oct 21 07:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
I forgot to mention it any of the many other times that SyFy has shown this movie this year, but you should check out Mark Patton’s Jesse's Lost Journals for some pretty interesting works that are meant to be companions to the movie.
Oct 21 09:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Fright Night (2011)
Oct 21 11:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days
Oct 22 01:30 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Toolbox Murders
Pretty good flick, pretty much on par with Tobe Hooper’s latter-day works (take that as you will). I haven’t watched the original, so I can’t comment on how well done or necessary this remake is.
Oct 22 03:30 AM Scare Tactics Genie In A Beer Bottle
Time for more Tracy!
Oct 22 04:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 22 06:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 22 08:00 AM Scare Tactics The Screaming Room
Can I find a video of Tracy Morgan screaming?
Sort of.
Oct 22 08:30 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Toolbox Murders
Oct 22 10:30 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Primal
- Phantom

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