Leaving Sharon's apartment, Sharon, Julie, and I climbed into her car and made our way to Westworld in Scottsdale, where the event was being held. The only problem was that we almost didn't find the event. There was literally zero signage; no billboards, no giant posters screaming "This Way to Rob Zombie!" This was odd and a bit annoying. You'd think that, given the prominence of the event and the sheer size of Westworld there would be all kinds of signage pointing you towards the entrance. No such luck. Eventually, we found a large cluster of parked cars and decided to see if this was in fact the entrance. Lucky for us, it was. We had printed out our VIP tickets before hand, but there some confusion there as well, as there were two lines: one for people buying tickets on site, and one for people picking up their wristband after buying tickets online. However, we didn't know which was which, and ended up waiting in the wrong line. Even when someone did announce which line was the right one for us, we still had to wait for people at the ticket booth, as they didn't have their scanners for the receipts we printed out before hand. This is really my biggest gripe with GAN: lack of signage, hard to find, a malfunctioning website, and too many management screw ups. Now I get it, haunts are VERY stressful business and shit happens, so I'm not too upset about the scanners missing and the website; I'm more annoyed at lack of signage. Enough said.
Eventually, the time came for my crew and I to enter the GAN. We made our way through the midway, here known as Bloody Blvd. - an interesting mix of animatronics, roaming monsters, live entertainment, and vendors to browse after you went through the haunts. As we were media, we got let inside early. After stepping through the front door, we entered into what I call "the Arena": a huge, very dark queue line with stage props from Rob Zombie concerts on display, such as a giant boombox and an evil robot. The soundtrack from the Devil's Rejects maze bleed into this area and got our blood racing. We were led by the GAN's publicist into the first stop of the evening's adventure: The Lords of Salem.
The Lord of Salem:
OK, I'm going to be brutally honest here: I hated this maze. I didn't have high hopes for it anyways, having heard negative reviews of from last year when the event debuted in LA. The facade was kinda cool, being a two-story replica of the apartment building, although when compared with the version of the facade for the Chicago version of LOS (Chicago being home to the other version of GAN), it look kinda hasty, like they ran out of time. Also, they had a prop of a witch being burned at the stake (a very cool prop!) but it was hidden off to the side. I think it would have made more sense to have this in the center of the queue line and have the line wrap around it. Also, the lighting for the facade was kind of odd - just a white spot light. I would have thought some more ominous lighting would have been nice.
As for the maze itself, it was split into two sections: a door maze and a black maze. The door maze was fun, being dressed to look like the the interior of the apartment from the movie, with multiple pathways to choose from. However, this was spoiled by one actress, dressed as the character of Heidi from the movie, breaking character and dropping a snide remark as we walked away. I have no problem with haunt actors being rude/mean/vulgar, as long as it's in character. This actress breaking character and being rude to guests was really unprofessional, and a total buzz kill. The rest of the haunt was a black-out maze, which is really just black plywood walls, no lighting, and loud music; in this case, the "cursed" record from the movie Lords of Salem. I really, REALLY don't like black-out mazes. I think they're just completely annoying, and neither creepy nor scary. Plus, they're a bit of a cop-out; it feels like the haunt owner said "Oh, we want to have three mazes, but don't have the time/money/imagination; I've got it - I'll build a tiny black rat maze!" What was really bad was that I managed to actually walk out of the maze using of the security exits and walked straight into the backstage area. Not good. Nothing personal Rob Zombie, but I really was not impressed with the LOS maze (but I did dig the movie!)
Captain Spaulding's Clown School in 3D:
Following right on the heels of LOS was the Captain Spaulding maze, which I think was probably the best haunt we went through that night! Although I'm not a huge fan of 3D mazes (or evil clowns, for that matter - they just don't scare me), this maze was a total blast. More funny than scary, the queue line was themed as a circus camp ground with a stage for the "Booty Call Circus" where sideshow freaks would perform stunts like sword swallowing or the human blockhead while you waited in line.
|Anyone recognize this clown art?|
|The Cotton Candy Room|
|A clown with a strap-on: pure nightmare fuel!|
From Captain Spaulding's, it was onto the climax of the evening: The Devil's Rejects!
As a huge fan of The Devil's Rejects movie (I consider it to be Rob Zombie's masterpiece), I had very high hopes for this maze, especially when I saw the photos released of the facade (an exact two-story replica of the Firefly homestead from the movie) and learned that the opening scene was a reenactment of the shootout that opens the movie. A lot of my friends who were fellow Rejects fans told me how jealous they were that I was going to see the maze, and we all agreed that we hoped the character known as The Chicken Fucker would make an appearances, as he's easily the funniest scene in the whole movie and beloved by the fans.
|The Firefly Abode|
When the show started up, the actors playing Sheriff Wydell and Lt. Dobson lip-synced to dialogue from the movie, setting up the shootout to follow. Finally, the music kicked in over the sound system, the red lights on the cop cars started spinning, and Wydell began shouting through his megaphone at the Rejects to "Come out with your hands up!" Lights started turning on in the house windows, and you could hear the Rejects putting the ammunition in their guns and putting their armor on. Finally, Wydell counted down from three, and all hell broke loose. The bullets began to fly, and I was in the craziest, coolest scene I've ever witnessed in a haunted attraction. You could feel the bullets whizzing past you, smell the gunpowder, see bullets holes forming in the side of the house. At one point, the tires on of the cop cars got shot out. The shootout ended with Lt. Dobson throwing tear gas into the house, and fog rolling out of the windows. From there it was time to enter the lair of the Devil's Rejects...
|Sheriff Wydell and Lt. Dobson discuss the situation.|
|The battle begins.|
|Behold - Fishboy!|
|Me riding a woman on broken glass.|
|Is it wrong that this turns me on?|
|One of the coolest monsters of the evening.|
|Karl the Eyebrow-Licker|
|He's real popular with the ladies!|
|He actually got Sharon's eyeball!|
|Me and Sharon catching our breath after escaping the Devil's Rejects.|
|The Unholy Three|
- They do need more signage directing people to the entrance, especially if the location is as big as Westworld.
- They need to scrap the Lords of Salem maze and replace it with an actual haunt. It completely didn't work, and needs something to take it's place. If they want to keep the LOS theme, perhaps start with the door maze themed to Heidi's apartment, then have guests go into Apartment #5, and enter the hallucinogenic nightmare world of the movie's finale, with characters like the demonic dwarf, the zombie priests, the Black Metal band from the beginning of the movie, and of course the witches. Otherwise, just do something VERY different from what is there now. Perhaps an original theme that wasn't in a movie?
- The Captain Spaulding maze doesn't need much more tweaking; it was really good as it was. I do think Spaulding needs to make a few more appearances in the maze, and that they need to reinforce that this is a school for evil clowns; perhaps have chalkboards, desks, and lockers scattered about through the maze. The last scene could even be graduation themed, with Captain Spaulding himself trading you your 3D glasses for a diploma saying you are certified as an evil clown. This would be a great free souvineer, and one that would get the fans talking. But all in all, this was a really good, strong maze that worked great. The artwork was terrific, the actors were having a blast, and so were the guests. Top notch.
- I do wish The Devil's Rejects maze was a little closer to the movie. As I said above, while the opening shootout was mind-blowing, the rest for the most part felt like a typical hellbilly maze. I would like to see the maze gain two things in particular: 1) the whorehouse from the end of the film; how cool would it be to walk around in that environment? and 2) the character of the Chicken Fucker MUST make an appearance next year! He would make an excellent and hilarious distraction for a scare. Picture this: you walk into a room filled with caged chickens. The air reeks with the smell of chicken shit, and feathers cover the floor. On the other side of the room sits a potbellied redneck, tissues and bottles of lotion laying on the floor around him, and he pretends to fuck a rubber headless chicken. Distracted by this, you don't see the character of Clevon sneaking up behind you, ready to scream "I DON'T FUCK CHICKENS!" in your ear. That would be a great, very memorable scene, and something the fans would go on and on about.
- It wasn't as intense or extreme as I was hoping. I heard a lot from last year about how shocking, intense, offensive, and extreme it was - to which I said, "HELL YEAH!" Apparently, not many were as enthusiastic as I was (which doesn't make sense - it IS a Rob Zombie event, shocking, tasteless, and extreme is what he does best!), and as a result the event was toned down to a PG-13 level. Personally, I think the best way to get around this is to have certain nights be PG-13 (such as Fridays and Sundays), and have every other night be "X" rated, with an age limit, so that the haunt and the actors within can be as extreme and vulgar/offensive as they want. I would love to see this implemented, I'm all for bad taste in horror (it's called horror for a reason), and I think this way they could be as extreme as people like me want, while still roping in the younger fans.
- Apart from LOS, the only thing that needs major improvement is the Bloody Blvd. It was good, the monsters roaming the area were fantastic and very in character, and the lives shows were very entertaining. The biggest things are that I felt it was under-decorated, and that there weren't enough vendors. The animatronic creatures on display didn't go off often enough (I would see people just standing around with cameras waiting for the monsters to turn on, but they wouldn't). Also, one had a huge tear in his shoulder exposing the foam padding beneath. So as far as decor for Bloody Blvd., more of it, please. Also, I heard that last year when the GAN was in LA, they had a movie screen showing classic horror movies such as Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, Carnival of Souls, House on Haunted Hill, and of course, White Zombie. They should definitely bring that back, it's a great way to add to the entertainment value of the evening. Regarding vendors, really all there was was a ecigarette stand, t-shirt booth, and a taco stand. That's it. They really need more shops and booths for people to peruse afterwards, perhaps a few places selling horror movie merch, heavy metal gear, and so on. They could also have mini attractions like a horror movie museum with props from some of Rob's movies on display, zombie paintball, carnival games with horror-themed prizes, anything to make the Bloody Blvd. feel like an evil carnival. Sharon and I hit on the idea of a Devil's Rejects themed photo op: the convertible from the end of the movie, with Free Bird playing over it's stereo, with actors dressed as Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding inside. For say, $5, you could be given a prop gun, maybe a little stage blood, and allowed to climb into the car with them and pose for a photo recreating the badass final scene of the movie. Finally, as far as midway actors, as I said before the ones there were fantastic, and were great at scaring and entertaining the guests. The only problem was, their needed to be more of them. They were spread a little thin, and I think the more monsters roaming the Bloody Blvd., the better.