Tuesday, October 19, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19: Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse

I don’t know about you, but the Troublemakers had a pretty awesome fucking weekend.
On Friday, the wife and I celebrated our five-year anniversary at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse with JTW and his lady. Saturday was my annual showing of the cinematic abomination that is THINGS, and we had three new victims to corrupt this time. On Sunday we had Lil’ Troublemaker’s birthday party. 
He won’t actually be three until the 27th, but we’ll be at the greatest place on the planet that day, so anybody showing up will be hanging out with Varis and Otis. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
While it is a bit difficult to pick out the best part of an overall great weekend, our experience at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse on Friday night wins. It is one of the best things I have ever done. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but I didn’t bring my actual camera. These were all taken with my shitty phone camera. Also, there are no shots of the actual walk-through because they don’t allow it and I wouldn’t even if they did because I hate spoilers.
While this article is sort of going to serve as a review of the attraction, it’s going to be a bit sparse due to the fact that I want every single one of you to go and experience AZA and I want you to do it spoiler-free. That may sound like an odd thing to say about a Halloween attraction, but trust me – you want to go into this thing as uninformed as you can this year, because next year it’s likely to be such a huge event that it just won’t be a surprise any more. I’m talking Travel Channel special huge.
Before I get into the bloody, necrotic meat of things, let me give a review for folks who want to experience the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse absolutely clean and spoiler-free:
The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is the ultimate Halloween experience. You should go do it as soon as you can and your Halloween sucks if you don’t experience it. This thing makes Netherworld look like Disney World and Chamber of Horrors look like the Nantucket Polka Hall of Fame.
Okay, that’s my very slightly hyperbolic splash paragraph, but seriously – AZA is something that you truly experience and feel a part of. You know how at the end of most haunted house attractions some guy chases you outside with a chainsaw? This whole fucking thing is like that. Go do it.
And now for a slightly more thorough review.
!Warning: Minor spoilers may follow!
The box office opens at 7:30. I would probably arrive at about 7:00 if we had time to go again (which I totally would – Gnoll and Angry Matt haven’t been and I would love to go with them). I do, however, think you should wait until about 8:30 to arrive if you haven’t already been. Let’s just say that you will start to be immersed in this world before you even enter the actual attraction, but they seem to (understandably) wait until dusk to really get going. Your wait will be a little longer, but I think building up your anticipation and adrenaline for the event is beneficial. The more worked up you are beforehand, the more fun you’re going to have. If you just walk right in cold, it might be slightly less effective.
Once you do arrive, you are greeted by a massive and foreboding facility that easily looks like it could serve as the base of operations for a post-zombie apocalypse group of survivors. If not for the trailer serving food and beverages, anyway. Or the festive Halloween-themed porta-potties behind it. 
But I can’t argue the decision to have eats and facilities on the premises – if we hadn’t needed to get back to pick up Lil’ Troublemaker we would have definitely enjoyed a little post-zombie picnic.
There are two separate events offered by Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. They have the actual walk-through attraction for twenty bucks and a zombie shooting range for fifteen; though you can do both for thirty. And you should.
There is a cash-only merch tent in front of the building selling very nice quality t-shirts and a poster, but you can also buy them from the ticket booth inside if you need to use plastic. There’s a good chance you’re at least going to want a shirt afterward.
Once you’ve purchased your admission from said ticket booth, you head over to the queue area and get in one of eight lines to wait for your guide. 
Line # 3 looked ominous.
There are military-looking personnel walking around, and you’ll see them more frequently as the night goes on. From what I observed they would take a group of around ten people in every ten minutes or so. If you can get ten people you know to go together on one night I would suggest doing so. It helps the experience if everybody in your group has the same mind-set. We had a few that brought down the tone a bit. Nothing terrible, but I could have done without them.
As I mentioned above, you’ll get military personnel from inside walking through from time to time. While we were standing in line, however, I got a very different experience. I was standing there talking to Mrs. Troublemaker about how if anything was going to happen, I wanted it to happen to me first (I lucked out and got in the front of our line, which was exciting until later when it didn’t matter) when I sensed a presence behind me. I turned around and saw a crazed, long-haired redneck holding a snub-nosed revolver to his head.
Hey buddy, got any bullets? I’m all out and I sure wish I had some more…”
It was none other than the hardest working man in Atlanta, Shane Morton.
I’ve mentioned before that Shane is an acquaintance of mine due to a mutual friend, and also how much I respect the guy’s showmanship. I knew he was part of the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, but I really wasn’t sure if he was behind it or just helping out. All of the decoration on the exterior suggests he’s pretty heavily involved.
I hated to do it, but I had to get him to break character and tell me a little about what was up. He told me how much they’re learning every single night and how different things were then even from when they opened a couple of weeks ago. It turns out AZA is his and one other guy’s baby (I can’t remember the other name he mentioned, which makes me feel bad) and Shane proclaimed that it’s the greatest thing he’s ever done. The man was clearly proud of what he has accomplished, and he damn well should be. I told him that next year they needed to have cameras at various points throughout so that when people left the walk-through they could buy pictures of them getting scared, like the Disney parks do with Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith ride. I think that would be awesome and a great way to turn even more profit. I would’ve paid fifteen bucks for a picture of zombies scaring the shit out of us.
Shane dropped a little more knowledge – they’re moving about 1,000 people a night through the thing and he is also currently working on a horror porno – and asked me to call him when we were done and let him know what we thought. He then raised the pistol back up to his temple and moved on.
Shortly after that one of the things I mentioned that help sell the illusion happened. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s pretty great.
And then our guide came to get us (removing the thing above that is a line marker and not a giant dildo), telling us we needed to move quickly if we wanted to live. He brought us to the entryway and explained that we needed to listen to our guides and move quickly. Moving quickly was clearly going to be a running (no pun intended – well, maybe a little) theme that night. Once everyone confirmed that they understood (some in our group, it would turn out, were lying) he ushered us into the facility where we were greeted by a long, dark corridor that was just intimidating as hell.
And that’s where I’m going to stop with the detail. The second you walk inside you are immersed in this new world of zombies. You spend a portion of your time navigating through the hallways of the building being chased and assaulted by zombies. Then you move outside to a different and surprising experience. This is where we ran into Shane again, this time in full-on redneck survivor mode. He recognized me and Mrs. Troublemaker as soon as we got within range and immediately started accosting her. It was pretty awesome.
Over the course of the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse you are going to need to move fast and pay attention to where you are going, as well as the things your guide is telling you. I wouldn’t suggest hanging on to anybody else too tightly unless they’re your significant other (or your date). I was the head of a people-train consisting of me, Mrs. Troublemaker, JTW’s lady and JTW; and apparently Mrs. Troublemaker took Lady JTW down more than a couple of times while trying to avoid zombies. I personally saw her leap over one like Kobe going for a two-pointer. Apparently there was another instance that involved Lady JTW going headlong into a barrel of toxic waste when my wife juked to avoid it. I’m telling you – the Hawks could do worse than putting Troublemaker on the back of a jersey.
After a harrowing outdoor experience you move back inside. Naturally it is even more intense since you’re nearing the end, which is actually a big, movie-style finale. It’s pretty fantastic.
There are a few things you should know.
  1. You really are going to be hauling ass sometimes. It gets pretty intense.
  2. You might get some fluids squirted on you. Don’t worry – it’s just water. Under no other conditions would I have been thrilled to have something squirted in my eye, but on this night it seemed like almost a badge of honor.
  3. Take a flashlight when they’re offered – it’s blast.
  4. Take the candy.
  5. The zombies don’t touch you, but you really, really feel like they’re going to some times. That limitation on their zombie-ness is handled very well.
  6. Don’t forget to go to the shooting range after your walk-through. We didn’t, but I could see how it might happen with all the excitement.

Speaking of the shooting range, I forgot to take pictures of it. I will go into a bit more detail of how it works, though. There isn’t a whole lot to give away about the awesome fun that can be had from shooting zombies in the face.
After you exit the walk-through (likely running and screaming), you head to the other side of the facility. There is a area off to the left with a couple of military-types standing in front of a counter with about eight paintball guns laying on it. In front of this is a large area littered with tires, barrels and crates. Once it’s your turn, the military-type (ours was a sweet little thing that would be right at home in a Capcom video game about shootin’ zombies) will instruct you in the use of your sidearm and let you know that you have twenty rounds, so you had better aim for the head. Once those twenty are gone, the zombies better be too.
At first I was disappointed because there are a bunch of large plywood zombies standing around and I thought those were our targets. I got it – you can’t very well be shooting people in the face with paintballs – but I felt a little let down. Then the girl gave the signal and zombies with impressively large heads started shambling out from behind the wreckage. The large heads were due to the fact that zombie faces had been constructed on top of paintball masks. Now I got it.
It was a ton of fun shooting at live targets, but I have to say fifteen bucks might have been a little steep. I think fifteen with the option of five bucks for twenty more rounds (and getting back in line, which was negligible anyway) would be reasonable. Of course, if you buy it with the walk-through it’s only ten.
Overall, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is an absolutely fantastic experience. I am proud that we have something this innovative and cool in Atlanta. Once we were done I called Shane and told him how great it was. I also mentioned that I was nervous about what it would cost next year since whatever it was, they would get away with it. This is a great value for the dollar and an absolute must for any folks who love Halloween and all things spooky.
5 out of 5 Shambling Corpses

Until next time, stay creepy


  1. That was a good review, I intend to see the zombies next year.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks! You should definitely check it out next year. It's an amazing time. AZA is in the top 3 contenders for best thing I did this year. Find out in January if it wins! Right here on...