Haint Misbehavin’: ATLRetro Reviews Atlanta’s Top Halloween Attractions

The horror! The horror! Thanks to some dedicated monster-lovers, Atlanta has become the year-round capital city of Scary. This October, though, our local terrifying talent has outdone themselves in creepy creativity. Here are our reviews of five of the city’s hottest haunted attractions. One general tip for all: wear comfortable closed toe shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting moist. Don’t worry. The monsters may tell you they are spurting you with blood or other bodily fluids, but it’s just water. Well, we think it is.

ATLRETRO’S HAINT OF THE SEASON: CHAMBER OF HORRORS

Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, has come a long way baby from a torture porn extravaganza to a creepy crawl through a septic, gritty underworld. So we’re not only calling it this year’s most improved attraction but also a must-see, as long as you have a stomach for  extreme violence and the phantasmagorically pornographic. Let’s be clear–you won’t be seeing parasexual activity, but nakedness and deformed organs are in view.

This year’s concept has the old Torture Co. burned to the ground, but some of its denizens have survived in caverns below, continuing their brutal pursuits. The journey begins in an elevator that shakes and shudders just enough to evoke a realistic ride down five stories with a most unwelcome host.  Once below, what makes this year’s Chambers stand out is its atmosphere and acting. You really feel like you are deep below, passing through cave-like passages between disturbing dioramas, such as a monstrous birthing, which look believably real rather than staged. Sure, there were some jumpy scares and victims predictably cried out mournfully for help, but it was their torturers beckoning with a longing evocative of Clive Barker’s Cenobites, who truly tantalizing us with a promise of pain, both excruciating but yet beautiful. Open through Nov. 2.

LABOR OF LOVE: ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE 

When most folks, even in the horror biz, think of haunts, they peg them as places you walk or ride through with scares that jump out at you. Forget all that passive voyeurism with ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (AZA), which this year again boasts two attractions and a zombie shoot. Since its founding four years ago, this bizarre brainchild of Shane Morton, aka Professor Morte of the The Silver Scream Spookshow, and Johnny Rej, former owner of the Plaza Theatre, distinguished itself as a fully immersive experience where visitors literally become part of a realistic plot line of a zombie incursion. Some may consider it off the beaten track just south of I-285 at the Moreland Avenue exit, but the abandoned aura of this industrial area only adds to the apocalyptic feel, and there’s no discounting that having the full run of Safety Wolf, a derelict motel/truck stop turned paintball course, opens up a toxic host of possibilities.

What we love about this year’s AZA’s three attractions is that they steer away from George Romero, WALKING DEAD and other military-industrial plague zombie stories. That doesn’t mean there aren’t military types running around with paintball automatic weaponry, but rather that the cumulative effect is a love affair with some classic horror tropes in creative ways which frankly we’ve never seen at other haunts, which appeal to the Retro as well as the contemporary horror fan, and which will delight everyone who is tired of zombies, too. We don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so all we’ll say about the first main new attraction is that it is quintessentially Shane and will especially delight old school Spookshow fans. This is a good point to note that AZA’s staff includes many Spookshow members and attendees, and that passion permeates every aspect of this team effort of true old-school monster movie fans. The second experience incorporates the woods behind the motel again and returns to the same Lovecraftian territory with the dead raised by Cthulhu-worshipping cultists as last year, but expect different guides, twists and a much stronger climax. Even the zombie shoot rises to another level this year. Shooters don’t stand and aim at zombie targets, but rather get to run from room  to room with a safety helmet and weapon just like they would in a real zombie apocalypse.

In sum, ATLRetro couldn’t have had more fun. It’s not a haunt or even just an immersive theater experience, it’s a labor of love not just by Shane Morton but also embodying the heart and soul of what makes Atlanta’s monster movie community truly unique and –hell, we’ll dare to say it– the best in the nation. Open through Nov. 2.

MOST GOTHICALLY GORGEOUS: NETHERWORLD

Consistently ranked as the nation’s best Halloween attraction, Netherworld is also completely homegrown rather than corporately conceived. Founders Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong and a dedicated team of designers, painters, sculptors and other artists deserve ever kudo imaginable for crafting a Gothic wonderland in a Norcross commercial space. Every year it gets bigger and better, yes, making us invoke Clive Barker again–a literal manifestation of Midian, where the Monsters live in his novella CABAL and the movie version NIGHTBREED (1990).

The ATLRetro team doesn’t scare easily, so we just walked slowly in awe of the bizarre beauty from graveyards of gargoyles to mirrored mazes, decadent dioramas inhabited by vampires and other classic monsters to sinister steampunk laboratories, weird werewolf lairs to abysses inhabited gigantic Lovecraftian elder Gods. NETHERWORLD also always features a second haunt that is usually more slasher/contemporary horror in its bent–read toxic waste and chainsaws. This year’s BOGEYMAN was particularly fun, our favorite part being the bouncy dancing killer clowns. Yeah, you read that right. We usually are totally freaked out by clowns, and these clowns were mighty creepy. Or maybe we just enjoyed scaring them by hopping along. Open through Nov. 3.

BEST BATTLE OF THE BEASTS: MONSTROSITY CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING AT SIX FLAGS FRIGHT FEST 

Every October Six Flags Over Georgia is overrun by ghastly ghouls, terrifying monsters and psychotic mad scientists, but their 2013 Fright Fest has grown hellishly bigger than ever. They’ve upped the ante with 11 haunted attractions and four live shows, but for us the real Retro treat was Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW), which has taken over the Axis Arena in Gotham City for four afternoon shows at 2, 3, 4 and a big Battle Royale featuring all the big bad beasts at 5 p.m.

Yup, we mean the same MCW that was cooked up by our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture (check out our Kool Kat interview with blogger Jonathan Williams here) and “Atlanta’s Renaissance man of horror” Shane Morton (check out his Kool Kat interview here). Yup, Shane has been doubling up on October weekends with MCW during the day as The Silver Scream Spookshow’s “ghost host with the most” Professor Morte and then heading to supervise his other baby Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) at night. With the assistance of the horrifically humorous Ringmaster, Morte crowns the bloody victors in matches made in hell as MCW’s deadly contenders duke it out in fearsome full-throttle matches. On a recent Sunday, we saw such creepy contenders collide as MCW faves Dragula, the Alabama Wolfman, Pandora, Bad Santa and more! When they’re not bringing their pro-league fight club for monsters to Six Flags, they can be seen battling it out on their home turf, Club Famous every first Friday of the month. Weekends through Oct. 27.

ATLANTA’S NEWEST HAUNT: CONTAINMENT

The newest haunt on the Atlanta scene is Containment, located underneath Atlantic Station. As described on Containment’s website, “An assortment of demonic artifacts collected by the mysterious Frightmares, Inc., was to be safely transported by train through Atlanta as part of a convoy of secured cargo containers.  ut a mysterious chain of events changed everything. The train derailed, causing the containers to crash onto the Atlantic Station property, followed by a series of unexplained incidents, disturbing behavior and mysterious disappearances.”

Visitors pass through 19 cargo containers featuring bizarre medical equipment, creepy dolls, apocalyptic motorcycle riders, redneck cannibals, even a Victorian greenhouse. Other than the occasional character jumping out of the shadows at you, there aren’t too many big scares, but there are quite a lot of interesting ‘artifacts’ to look at in the 25,000 square feet, quarter-mile long haunt. Containment is open through November 3rd.

Thanks to Melanie Crew and Rebecca Perry for their assistance with Six Flags Fright Fest/MCW and Containment.

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