Written by Cindy Nevitt
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 11:22
Actually, I killed eight. Which sounds pretty impressive, until you consider I failed to kill another 70, so now I’m dead. Or undead, as they say in the zombie world.
I became a member of the walking dead Monday night during a press-only tour of Zombie House, the new, interactive fright attraction at 1030 Boardwalk. Previously the home of a peanut shop, the space is now occupied by flesh-eating denizens of the other world who lurch, lunge and menace visitors as they move through the three rooms of the house.
“I’m a fan of haunted houses, but there are only so many ways you can make a haunted house different,” said Zombie House co-owner Mike Kroll, whose day job is visual merchandising director of 1,000 Spirit Halloween stores. “This is different every time you go through because of the actors and the way the people react.”
The number of actors can differ from night to night, and the intensity of the experience can be ramped up or toned down depending upon the customer base, but the premise remains the same: Connor (who guides visitors through the attraction) is looking for his brother, Cletus, who disappeared in the house immediately after chopping off the hand of a crawler.
Connor and his search party of customers, all equipped with pistols, must shoot their way through an animatronic zombie attack that is accompanied by pneumatic air blasts, moving floors, dim lighting, piercing screams, breaking glass and high-decibel noise. The guns are equipped with sensors that record “kills,” the number of which are revealed at the attraction’s end.
As I already admitted, I killed eight. To put that in perspective, the highest score posted by a member of the public is 38. The highest score posted by the Zombie House staff is 78.
So I’m undead.
Kroll said the more macho the customer, the more intense he and his staff make the experience. He also said the experience is very suggestive, and that once someone starts screaming, it’s easier to get everyone screaming.
Focused on killing zombies, I paid very little mind to the other person on tour with me. She said she screamed once, and I know I screamed once, but otherwise, I was intent on shooting zombies and barely aware of her presence. Although I knew attacks were likely to come from anywhere, the instinct to concentrate on the zombies in front of me was overpowering. So I fired away, to almost no avail.
After approximately 10 minutes, Connor led us into daylight, past two more zombie tableaus and into what will become a gift shop.
Zombie House was an idea that took three years to come to fruition, and six months of construction, Kroll said. He and Paul Bona are co-owners of the operation, and Blake Lewis, whose ghost-hunting show is being picked up by a television network, is Zombie House’s original tour guide Connor.
Nicholas Catucci, a Monmouth University graduate who minored in theater, was recently hired as a tour guide and played the role of Connor on Monday night. He’s good at not giving secrets away, and so am I, so you can forget about getting tips from me on how to kill a grand total of eight zombies.
Thomas Waters, lead zombie and operations manager, said there are more than three miles of wiring in the attraction. After the press tour was over and the lights turned on, Waters took pride in pointing out many details that will be appreciated by fans of the zombie genre. One is the 28 hash marks scrawled in blood on the wall next to a toothless woman rocking in a chair with a baseball bat across her knees, a reference taken from the 2002 British horror film “28 Days Later.”
The debut of Zombie House coincides with the popularity of AMC’s television show “The Walking Dead” and 2009’s comedy “Zombieland.” It also unfortunately coincides, Kroll noted, with the media attention given the horrific face-eating attack that recently occurred in Florida, causing speculation the perpetrator was a zombie as he was shot four times before he died.
While Zombie House is ideal for the generation that grew up playing video games, Kroll said it makes a fun outing for families, too, so the concept is a good fit for OceanCity.
Admission is $10, and tours accommodating up to eight in a group are scheduled every 10 minutes from 5 p.m. to midnight. Customers can buy “fast pass” tickets that allow them to pick the time they want to go through the attraction.
Zombie House will be open Thursday to Sunday this week and next week, and daily after that. A special Halloween edition may be held in October, Kroll said. For more information, visit Zombie House on Facebook.
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