Picture a massive immersive theater experience that spans a warehouse, an abandoned hotel, an office building, and post-apocalyptic village complete with an S & M club. Now imagine that you are being chased by zombies and fascist militants through nearly 100,000 square feet of this madness and you begin to get a feel for the intimidating scale of Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. A Halloween attraction that truly defies any preconceived expectations.
Started last year by long-time friends Jonny Rej and Shane Morton, the AZA is likely the most unique and massive attraction of its kind in America.
“When we started, we wanted to (script this out) more like a zombie film.” Jonny tells me, “We tried to stay away from the cheap scares that you usually find in haunted houses.”
In keeping with this theme, year 2 of the Zombie Apocalypse plays out more like a sequel than a repeat of the first outing. The attraction is bigger, the post-zombie world has evolved, and every element goes a few steps further. But the crew behind the attraction takes no shortcuts.
Everyone is scrambling to complete the attraction before a crew from the Weather Channel visits for a showcase piece. The Apocalypse will open to the public just two days later. Construction crews pound away at still-incomplete sets, artists are still working on masks and molds, while the AZA’s creators urgently (though gladly) do their time in the trenches alongside everyone else.
“We make everything ourselves. Nothing here is store-bought.” says Shane, referring to several rows of finely detailed busts and casts behind him.
Both men have extensive experience in film. Not only does Jonny own the oldest running movie theater in Atlanta, (the famous Plaza Theatre) with his wife, but he also produces commercials and music videos for Adult Swim (among others). Shane is incredibly active in film and theater as an actor and effects artist, lending his talents not only to the critically acclaimed “Dear God No!”, but other films like Rob Zombie’s “Halloween 2″.
And it is likely that much of this experience is what assists them in cultivating such a cheerful atmosphere amidst so much pressure and chaos. Everyone that you see a week out is pushing themselves to the limit, but they still wear a smile on their face. Actors show up long before they are needed, just to make sure that no one needs an extra hand, even if it’s just as simple as carrying some props.
So one has to wonder, “If it’s this fun just to work here, how amazing is the attraction itself?”
As of this writing, the doors swung open without a hitch. The attraction has come together as planned, the script was executed as intended, and the AZA is already packing out the house, hailed by horror fans across the country as the must-see attraction of the season.
For now, we will have to sit back and see how this all unfolds. Because even though Jonny has already hinted that plans for next year’s story are already underway, this year’s apocalypse has only just begun.
Check out the entire AZA photo gallery at AshleyAnthony.net!
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