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Midnight Syndicate

  • Posted : September 19th, 2014
  • Posted in Misc

One of the highlights of our first weekend was not a haunt but a live show, one we had waited almost six months for. “Midnight Syndicate Live – Legacy of Shadows” debuted this September at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio for the park’s Halloweekends event. Ed Douglas and Gavin Goszka formed Midnight syndicate in 1997 and have been the soundtrack to our nightmares ever since.   Last weekend we got an opportunity to sit down with the guys after their first few performances.

Haunted Attraction Review : How did Midnight Syndicate get started?

Midnight Syndicate: We started in 1996. We both love instrumental music, the paranormal, and horror so this was a logical progression. The goals has always been to create soundtracks to imaginary films. Albums that blend movie score music and sound effects with strong production values designed to transport listeners to worlds or movies of their own creation.   Our goal was also to create something that would set a genuinely creepy atmosphere for serious horror fans and haunted houses as well stand on it’s own for fans of gothic and dark instrumental music. We hit our niche. At the time, there was nothing quite like us out there.  Back then especially, when people thought of Halloween music there was the “Monster Mash,” vintage sound effect story discs, the “Halloween” soundtrack, and that was about it. We think we had a hand in changing that. As we began to have success more artists started trying their hand at it. Now the community has really grown. As for us, we’ve been releasing studio albums every year or so in addition to scoring several actual horror films and producing the film, “The Dead Matter.”

HAR:Is there a reason why you have not performed live until now?

MS: The biggest reason was our production schedule.  We never had a long enough break in between albums and projects to design a show that we really wanted to do. A lot of factors have to come together at just the right time to make this show at Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends happened. We couldn’t be happier about that.

HAR: How did the Cedar Point Show come to be?

MS: We knew we wanted to start doing a live show so we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds. Midway through the campaign Cedar Point contacted us about a potential partnership. Cedar Point was one of the first theme parks to use our music when we started out and we’ve been working with Cedar Faire parks ever since so teaming up with them made complete sense. Plus, as Clevelanders, it’s our hometown park.   We grew up here so to able to perform in Cedar Point is just a thrill. They hooked us up with an incredible cast, crew, and theatre. We both agree that the execution of the show has met or exceeded our expectations.

HAR: Your production team included Robert Kurtzman and from SyFy’s “Face Off”, David “House” Greathouse and Beki Ingram. How did they get involved?

MS: Well we’ve been working together for a long time, starting with Bob’s movie “The Rage.” We’ve known House for even longer than that. So they were all a key part of this project from the very beginning.   A while back, House conceptualized and directed our first official music video, “Dark Legacy.” In the video you see the two of us playing up on stage. That was the first time we had ever done that. Filming that video, that moment, was just one of the catalysts that set this live show in motion.   Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps, Beki, House, and Gary Jones handled all of our makeup FX and designed our keyboard rigs.   House also directed one of the music videos you see in the show.

HAR: Did you work along with the design team to come up with the concepts for the show?

MS: The basic show concept actually came from the first Midnight Syndicate multimedia concerts Ed produced back in 1997. After the basic script was completed and approved, the key phase of us getting together just like we do for an album and hammering out the details of the show began. There were a lot of creative contributions from both of us, resulting in a show we’re very pleased with.   The set was designed by Jason Blaszczak and Screamline Studios.   Jason has been working with us for over fourteen years now so we always seem to be on the same page creatively. This time was no different and the set came together beautifully.   Jason was also was assisted brilliantly by artists Chris Virgilio and Mike Hach.   We also teamed up with the forces at 529 Films, a local film production company that produced the music video for our song, “Lost.”   They did incredible work with all of the video segments as you’ll see when you watch the show.

HAR: What haunt were the opening scenes shot at or where the actors from?

MS: For this show, it was a combination of the Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory and Bloodview Haunted Houses.  We have a long and great history with the Bloodview. We even shot footage for our first multimedia production there back in ’97. The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse is also one of our favorite haunts.   We even hired one of their artists, Bill Morrison, to design our first haunted attraction registry poster.   One of the things we love in haunted houses is detailing.   Akron has always excelled at that. Giving you the total picture right down to dust and spider webs.

HAR: We have some questions from the fans. Andy Maxwell wants to know if there are any plans to tour?

MS: Yes.   It is absolutely our intention to perform live in other areas around the country and the world.

HAR: Another follower, Jonathon Flores wants to know if you have ever creeped yourself out while creating your music?

MS: Well, we don’t really scare ourselves because the music is a part of us. However, I did have an “unnerving moment” while working on “The 13th Hour.”  On that album, there is a track called “Last Breaths.” I had a good set of headphones on and was listening for pops, during a final once over. I was kind of zoning out when one of the ghostly sounds caught me off guard making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  At least then we knew we had done our jobs and accomplished the feeling we were going for.

HAR: We have described your music, and some of our readers have as well, by comparing what Trans Siberian Orchestra is for modern Christmas music, Midnight Syndicate is for Halloween music. How would you describe your music to someone not familiar with you?

MS: We’ve been getting that comparison more and more over the years and it’s such a great compliment. We are the soundtrack to your imagination. Our music is designed to lay out a blueprint for a world or a setting that the listener can then take and run with.   The possibilities are endless.

HAR: We did notice some people with smaller children getting up and walking out.

MS: We do have the sign out front that says “may not be suitable for younger children” and they’re going to be adding a second one this weekend.   This show is definitely intense at times.   It’s also completely different from any of the other shows in the park (or in many amusement parks we’re told).   It’s not light-hearted or necessarily for younger audiences. Our goal was to create a genuinely creepy experience. If you like to get scared then this is the show for you. There are fans that come to the Halloween events that want something a little more intense so we feel like we are satisfying that crowd with this show just like the haunts here do.   The response to this show this first weekend has been overwhelming.   A lot of people are really enjoying it and a lot of people are coming back two, three, or more times to see it again.   That’s great especially since many of those audience members are new to Midnight Syndicate.

Thank you Ed and Gavin for taking the time for the interview. Thank you Bryan Edwards for arranging the interview. And thank you to Shawn Marie Stitak for the awesome pictures.

 

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Halloweekends 2014

  • Posted : September 19th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

What do you get when you combine creepy haunted houses and scarezones with some of the scariest thrill rides in the world?  You get Halloweekends at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  Halloweekends has grown since its introduction in 1997.  Then the event was open just three weekends with only two haunted attractions available.  This year it offers twelve attraction for eight weekends that started last weekend on September 12.  We had the opportunity to walk through all twelve including the kid’s friendly House on Boo Hill.

Family friendly fun
Beside the night time chills, Cedar Point offers day time family fun with Howl-O-Palooza which includes trick or treating, corn stock and hay bale maze and a foam pit.  While we did not participate, we did walk around to see what they had to offer.  We were both impressed with the trinkets and candy that they were giving out.  Besides Howl-O-Palozza, Cedar Point. offers a haunted house for the pint sized frighteners, House on Boo Hill.  While the attraction did not have any “screamsters”, it did have some nice special effects and good detailed rooms to give the kids 12 and under a chance to walk through a haunted attraction without getting scared.  Parents that we talked to seemed pleased with the variety of activities available for their children.

The more chilling Halloween activities include haunts, scare zones and a variety of shows  which run from 6 pm to midnight. These activities are included in park admission, however we highly suggest getting a Fright Lane Pass. For an additional $60, Fright Lane pass holders not only receive front of line admission to the haunted houses but they are presented with skeleton keys. The light up skull lanyards get you access to bonus rooms in each haunt. Our group found the skeleton key rooms very entertaining. Some of the rooms contained challenges and others just required that you find the “key” to make your way out of the room. These rooms just add another level to the Halloween fun. The bonus rooms also featured some of the best actors in the park. Also be advised that Halloweekends can get extremely crowded so the Fright Pass may be the only way to make it to more than two or three of the haunts.

Haunted Houses
The newest haunt was Hexed, a witch themed house in the Gatekeeper area of the park. The first room is breathtaking with a very detailed gothic style parlor. The acting in this house was good also and the witches knew how and when to surprise the patrons.   Zombie High School, located in the front of the park was long and offered a few startles but was the weakest in appearance.  The bonus room had you eating and drinking strange concoctions including bugs which made it very interesting.  Eternity Infirmary was the most disappointing.  Both the acting and the bonus room was not the best of the evening. However, we did enjoyed G. A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate.  This house was well detailed and had some good startles.  Its bonus room was the most fun.  The strongest haunt of the evening was the wax museum Eden Musee.  The acting both in the haunt and the bonus room was outstanding.  The bonus room actor was so good that it was hard to tell if he was acting or not.

Scare Zones
The newest  scare zone was Tombstone Terror-tory, a western themed area with zombie cowboys and skeleton horses. One of the most visually striking areas was the steampunk themed Menacal Mechanical Screamworks which had some really beautiful props and costumes but not the best places for startles. Patrons walked through a voodoo swamp in Blood on the Bayou.   Our favorite of the scare zones was Cut Throat Cove. The pirates got some good startles among the vast collection of props that includes remenants of the old pirate ride. The biggest negative here was too much fog. This scare zone had the strongest actors when it seemed that generally the better “screamsters” were inside the houses. The biggest disappointment in the scare zones was CarnEvil. The circus theme should have lent itself to some good scares because who is not creeped out by a clown. Members of our group enjoyed the carnival barkers. There were a few interesting “freak show” characters and cool circus posters but the actors were weak and lacked energy. I’m not sure if this was because we walked through at the end of the night, but it was the first weekend.  CornStalkers, a corn maze, had some great hidden startles.

Midnight Syndicate LIVE! Legacy of Shadows
The only show we saw was Legacy of Shadows.  It is a multi media assault combining live music, actors, and video.  Midnight Syndicate really out did them self with this 20 min show which included singer, Emily Viancourt, a Cedar Point performer.  Her haunting vocals combined with Ed Douglas and Gavin Goszak melodic instrumentals brought to life the music that myself and countless other fans have been yearning for all these years.  This show is a must see and one of the highlights of Halloweekends.  We highly recommend seeing it however, we do warn that it may be too intense for younger audiences.  It is worth the wait.

Our final thoughts

The last time we visited Halloweekend was in 2004 and I can say that we were impressed with the vast improvement Cedar Fair has done with this event.  While the acting was par, several of actors did stand out with their performances.  The sets, both in the haunts and outside in the scare zones were outstanding.  The shows offered a variety of entertainment.  We were pleased that they offered options for younger children. This combined with the parks world class coasters gives a full day of fun for the whole family.  All things considered we enjoyed the event and look forward to visiting again.

 

Bloodview Haunted House

  • Posted : September 13th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

There are haunts that entertain and haunts that scare.  Bloodview Haunted House in Broadview Heights, Ohio did both in such a cleaver way you will feel unnerved long after you leave the attraction.  Bloodview and their world-famous acting troop, the Legion of Terror have wowed crowds for over 29 years and this year is no different.  The overall theme of the house stays the same but each weekend the characters, costumes and make up change giving patrons a unique experience each night they visit.

We expect that most haunts will be a little rough around the edges on the first night of the season. There was no need to worry because the entertainment and the screams starts from the moment you drive on to the grounds. Actors bombard the queue line to the ticket booth and can often be found in the parking lots.

This is not a haunt to come to if you are looking for pretty stylized sets or expensive animatronics (I did not see any here at all).  This is the place to visit to be surrounded by unique creatures who will creep you out.  Because we have attended so many haunts, it is sometimes easy to spot the new actors.  But not here at Bloodview, they are used in such a way, like the crowded asylum, that it is hard to tell. The veterans on the other hand, were dialed to 11 and often took free rein in terrorizing their audience. They definitely invaded personal space and some came up with truly individual and creative characters. They are pros at gauging the patrons and knew who, when and how to approach a victim. I heard lines that made even me, a veteran haunter,  stop for a minute and feel a little unsettled.  They are hands downs the best collective group of actors I have seen so far.

Aside from being great actors, I must take a moment to recognize Legion of Terror members for being admirable haunters. Whether an actor or make-up artist, each member respected their craft as an art form. I’m sure they have the normal drama that every haunt has but it did not show. They not only reached out to visiting haunters but they train and look after each other also. Everyone we spoke to was very passionate about haunting and what Bloodview has done for the community over the years. The cast and crew are all volunteers and all the proceeds go to local charities but that never effected the quality of the performance.

Thank you once again to Bloodview and Legion of Terror for giving us a haunt experience we will not soon forget. You have started our season off strong. JB/KB

And so it begins….

  • Posted : September 12th, 2014
  • Posted in Misc

Hello fiends, freaks, and Halloween geeks tonight it begins.  After months of planning our tour officially starts at Bloodview Haunted House and continues Saturday at Cedar Point’s Halloweekends.  We have a few surprises in store for this weekend so follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates and reviews.

Hush

Hush Haunted House in Westland, Michigan is looking to build upon a successful first year and establish its place in the very populated Michigan haunt community. The indoor and outdoor haunt shares property with the adjacent auto body shop. While Hush may not be as big as some other haunts in the area the outside façade and logo catches your eye while driving down Ford Road.  It definitely does not look like your normal haunted house and normal is the last thing that Hush aims to be.

Co-founders Cody Bailey and Scott Gunaca have been attending haunts since they were kids and have been planning to open one together for the last 7 years.  When Gunaca was younger, he helped his father put together haunted houses for family and friends. Hush employs around 30 actors as well as a small support crew.  The storyline at Hush revolves around Doctor Phineas Phun who is employed by Hush Corporation. This mad scientist type theme is broad enough  to allow the haunt to venture through various settings and stories. This year visitors get to tour the company’s Detroit office and see some of the things that the doctor has been working on. Hush maximizes its size and stands out because of the extreme attention to detail. The sets are high quality and audience members will be submersed in the often unsettling environment.

Hush aims to provide a unique haunt experience by creating a distinct and expanding story and by focusing on detailing and in your face acting. This season Hush will be unveiling a special effect that until now has only been seen in movies and music videos and has never before been incorporated into an interactive experience (watch our site and facebook page for details). They hope to outgrow the present space within the next 3 years and with over 8,000 visitors in their first season that should not be hard. Some of their favorite haunts include Haunted Hoochie, Darksyde Acres and Exit 13.

I think Hush and its crew will be ones to watch. They are young but passionate about learning the craft of haunting and  is always looking for fresh new ideas that are outside the box.

 

 

Fall 2014…..The US Tour.

  • Posted : August 20th, 2014
  • Posted in news

We are happy to announce that Haunted Attraction Review will be hitting the road for a 2 month road trip.  This is something both of us have wanted to do since we started this site two years ago and finally are able to do it.  We will be traveling by both RV and plane visiting some of the well-known and not so well-known attractions in the Midwest and East Coast.  We start our tour on Sept 12 outside of Cleveland, Ohio at Bloodview Haunted House.  I’m really excited that we are visiting here because it is the home of The Legion of Terror.  I have had the opportunity to work with a few of them at Netherworld and have always been impressed with their improv skills. They are a true class act and I can not wait to see them in their home surrounding.  The next night, Sept 13 we will be at America’s Rollercoast, Cedar Point to visit Halloweekends.  I grew up going to Cedar Point went to the very first Halloweekend.  It has been over 10 years since I have been here and look I’m looking forward to see how it has grown.  Also appearing there will be Midnight Syndicate.  This is the first time they will be performing live in front of an audience.  We will also be in Orlando for the opening of Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween.  Then it back north where we go to the Chicago area, back to Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and to New Orleans.  We have a list of Haunts we will be visiting and will be looking for those hidden gems while on the road.  You can follow our adventures both on Facebook and Twitter. KB/JB

Dark Hour Off-Season Shows

  • Posted : August 19th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

When Dark Hour Haunted House first came on the scene almost a year ago, they made a promise to have a unique and different show every time they opened.  They delivered on that promise eight times this year.  We were told that the same general themes would be further return next year. While we did not attend the Valentines themed “Love is Blind”, we did see the rest of their season and here are our reviews of those shows:

Wreck the Halls

Upon entering the haunt you can see some of your favorite queue line characters all decked out for Christmas, especially Santa Cleaver. I really did not know what to expect here but we were pleasantly surprised. Dark Hour went out-of-the-way to come with a fully developed holiday story. The plot combines one of witches from the story the hallowed haunt is normally based on with Scrooge, Krampus and some messed up elves. The sets were visually beautiful and the acting was spot on. Actors had perfect timing and were able to successfully pull off multiple scares. You could tell that only the best of the cast returned for Christmas and some of them came up with truly unsettling lines. Rooms that were pretty but didn’t make sense in the Halloween show now had a legitimate purpose.  For example the observation room that houses various maps and telescopes was now a command center for locating naughty children. They did some very creative things to tie in big props and special effects like lighting and harnesses to the holiday story. It was an all immersive experience right down to ice-covered sets and snow that crunched under your feet. And for those embracing the current Krampus trend, they were everywhere and in all shapes and sizes. I especially like the use of the ghosts from the Scrooge story and Dark Hour’s twist on the elf on the shelf. The sets and costumes were great to look at and the cast was very high energy. There was also a very cool holiday photo-op at the exit. JB

St Patrick’s Slay Weekend

I knew from the start this show was going to be interesting.  Not many haunts open for St Patrick’s Day and I could never understand why not.  So many legends and folklore revolving around the holiday you would think it was a no-brainer.  Well Dark Hour not only covered the well-known ones they added a couple that even I did not know about.  Once again the scenery was spot on along with the acting.  One of my personal favorite rooms was the piano room.  It had a familiar aroma that I later found out was a certain Irish spirit but they were also playing one of my favorite bands over the sound system.  The fairies were also particularly memorable, causing us to back track to get a second look. This is definitely the show for those who enjoy fantasy characters and unusual creatures.  The one thing that makes Dark Hour stand out is that they are not afraid to step out of the box and explore different ways to both scare and entertain the public.  Hats off once again for going the extra mile, you are trend setters in this industry. KB

Spring Break

If you have been to Dark Hour you know that the back story of this haunt revolves around a coven of witches.  So when they announced that zombies were involved in this show I was a unsure if the two could coexist.  Was I wrong.  Not only did it work, but it was one of our favorites.  Having walked through the attraction a few times I knew where some of the animatronics were.  This time Dark hour literally flipped the scripted and ran the show backwards.  You entered through the exit.  The lighting was low making it that much more unnerving.  We had to stop and take notice of the music and sounds for this show as well. You got to hear some of you favorite zombie related  songs and theme-songs which help build energy to the climax of the show. While the acting was once again was superb it had an extra oomph.  That was brought from the guest zombies from Zombie Manor.  You had to walk through a zombie horde at the end that bombarded you from all directions.  By the time you reached the exit, your senses were on overload.  Once again a superb show. KB

 

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht is the German name for the night of 30th April, the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga an 8th-century abbess in Germany. So how Dark Hour celebrate this European holiday?  By putting together the most unusual and different theme I had ever seen.  They incorporated live musicians throughout the attraction.  Several known and unknown musical instruments  were featured including guitars,drums, bagpipes and even a theremin, Admittedly this was one of the least successful shows. It was great to see some notable guest performers playing live instruments but thinks did not quite connect. The concept was had to understand and the rooms and performances did not have the same flow as some of the other themes. It seemed to be a more disjointed story and didn’t deliver the same opportunities to scare. JB/KB

 

Summer Spirits

With the exception of May’s Walpurgisnacht; every month at dark hour had been the best show they have done so far. With Summer Spirits, Dark Hour was doing something not done in most haunts by running a show with an all female cast. The show revoked around a home for troubled girls that begins to experience paranormal activity. This show was definitely one of the highlights of the season.  While there were a few men helping in the queue line and working with some of the stunts in the show; all the main characters were women. Audiences got to see actresses from around Texas and beyond, as well as those stepping out of their normal support roles. It was welcomed variety. The show had some surprising stunts and effects seemed more in theme park “Hollywood” style effect shows than in haunted attractions. The only thing we would have changed is the actress that led you through parts of the who like a tour guide to the home. This was unnecessary and slowed down the audience flow too much. This show also had some of the most creepy and disturbing scenes as well as some pretty good gross outs along the way. The acting was strong and some of the rooms like the classroom and the television room were visually stunning. This was one of the shows were audience members left laughing, screaming and feeling a little disgusted all at the same time. JB

 

Dog Days of Summer

The final show before the haunt season was the werewolf themed Dog Days. Anyone who knows Dark Hour creative director Allen Hopps knows that he loves werewolves so we expected this show to be good. Like Spring Fever  the show ran in reverse, having you enter through what is normally the exit. The first few rooms through what is usually the “voodoo bayou” were very eye-catching, especially the moon. There were some very good bits of acting but some of the halls and rooms seemed liked wasted space and were not really used to their full potential. We did like the wolf mother and some of the safari hunters. They also had a in-house made animatronics that was simply amazing.  Those that love werewolves will be able to pick out nods to some of the best movie werewolves.  While we enjoyed this show, we felt it wasn’t their best. JB

 

East Coast Haunt Club “The Gathering”

  • Posted : August 8th, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

In New England there is a very lovable club called the East Coast Haunt Club. Every year for the past fourteen years they have held a three-day long convention in Manchester, NH at the Radisson Hotel. The first day attendees learned how to do life casts and molding. The second day they had a silent auction, costume ball, and various classes. Some of this year’s classes included: “Damn That Looks Old- Corspifying and “Why Yes! You can Airbrush with Silicone onto Silicone” by Denny Stanley, “Costume Creating on a Budget!” by Amanda Reevenge (wait that’s me!), “Scare Foreword, Scare Everyone” by Bil “Withonel” and many more.

Everyone who I talked to really enjoyed the seminars and plan on using stuff that they learned in their haunts. The silent auction was to benefit TEAM HALLOWEEN, which raises money for cancer research. With a whole day of classes, pizza, the silent auction, and socializing with haunters, the costume ball was upon us. This year’s theme was 80’s Horror, and although you do not have to follow the theme a lot of haunters like to. The ball has a full buffet and even the staff was dressed up for the occasion. The night was full of dancing, eating, and drinking. The handmade centerpieces were cute mini movie posters lit by LEDs. Overall, it was a good day.

Sunday they went to Salem, MA to check out Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, a horror movie museum for all horror lovers. This museum is a MUST SEE if you happen to find yourself in Salem, MA. It has a ton of horror movie LIFESIZED wax statues among countless of movie facts. Each statue was hand-made! Some of my favorites were Winifred from Hocus Pocus, Sam from Trick R Treat, and the life casts from Linda Blair. The museum is almost set up like a haunted house! In fact, every October it gets transformed into one. East Coast Haunt Club’s gathering is a must see for all!  A.R.

Signfire

  • Posted : July 28th, 2014
  • Posted in Misc

At Transworld this year, several new products caught my eye.  One such product was Signfire.  Signfire is a specialty digital signage provider. They create custom menu boards for haunts and other industries which require that up to date information to be relayed to their customers. Menu boards can be personalized with a haunt logo and theme for a truly branded experience. All pricing and wait times are formatted in real-time and can be changed instantly through the web-based application.  They also offer que line entertainment boards.  These boards give the attraction an opportunity to sell advertising to local business while entertaining the patrons in line with music videos or trivia questions.  Anyone who has been to Six Flags or any major theme park has seen similar  systems.  One of the things that made this product stand out for me is the real-time applications.  As a reviewer, my goal is to get to as many haunts as possible in any given day.  If I walked up to a haunt’s box office and saw that the general admission wait was a certain time; I could decide there if a front of line upgrade was needed. Patrons can also use the queue line information to better plan their visit by deciding what attractions to visit or in which order to experience them.  Congratulations Signfire on creating a product that I believe can only help the haunt industry.

NYZ Apocalypse

  • Posted : June 23rd, 2014
  • Posted in reviews

Ever wanted to participate in your favorite video game or wonder what it would be like to be a part of the latest zombie movie? NYZ Apocalypse opened in Deer Park, New York on June 20th giving visitors to Long Island a chance to do just that. Apocalypse: Zombie Experience started at SlaughterHouse in Tuscon, Arizona as a way to boost off-season revenue to the haunt. After operating a successful run there, the company took its show on the road with special engagements at haunts across the country such as House of Torment. NYZ is the first year around Apocalypse experience built from the ground up. The owners, Strikeforce Sports, saw it as something new to bring to their air soft players as well as an attraction for tourists to the area.

Players are encouraged to reserve tickets online and are placed into groups of no more than 5 players. Once through the entrance queue, players get an I-Combat game card  and create their user profiles and team name. The user profiles allow players to save and view their score breakdown from not only that game but past games and other locations as well. Next, you sit through a short and entertaining video that sets up the story and gives rules and instructions. Each player then receives their weapon and is “scanned” into the game area.

The storyline at NYZ revolves around Apollo Prison systems where a zombie outbreak has infected the inmates and outside “recruits” are brought in to help contain it. Once through the pre-show area attendees board an “elevator” to get to the prison area. Immediately out of the doors zombies come at you. Each player has a laser gun that is a close replica of military style automatic rifles complete with lasers and optics as well as a shoulder belt with laser sensors. The “zombies” have halos and belts with laser targets. When you shoot a zombie the sensors light up and they “die” for a set time period. If zombie come within a certain proximity of a player they are “bitten” and weapons are disabled for a few seconds. There are several areas throughout the show where players are able to reload with additional ammo.

I love this experience because it is totally immersive. The cast is in character from start to finish, even while getting through the front cashier, maintaining the queue line or reloading weapons. While the show can be run with only a few casts members it is designed so you still feel like zombies are everywhere. The layout has a logical progression through the prison taking you from cells and prisoner areas to offices and guard facilities including a break room.  There are several areas where haunt scenes are combined with more of a laser tag or paintball type layout giving players prime spots to  “take cover” and shoot zombies. The theming, design, makeup and costumes are detailed and the show does a great job of using fog, lighting, sounds and smells to create a total interactive experience.

The walk-through is expansive and sometimes seems like it won’t end. As players make their way toward the end the hordes of zombies getting progressively thicker till you are bombarded from all directions. At the end of the show there is a stop for photos, then players get their scores before exiting through a gift shop area. Shirts, hats and bags were designed to be gear typically used by airsoft and paintball players and includes areas that can be customized by adding collectible patches. While the traveling event was fun and something worth attending, this permanent Apocalypse location went above and beyond that experience. It made a big difference to have cast and crew trained in using the equipment. Also management can step back and see how gameplay can be tailored to their attendees. They can customize settings such as the number of kills shots, the reset time and the proximity that zombies can get to players before they are “bitten”. While there were some technical and facility issues that had to do with the attraction being brand new and weapons arriving hours earlier,the staff handled them well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. All the players we talked to said they would definitely come back and bring friends.