Tis The Season to Be Spooky: A Torturous Journey into the Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s Most Extreme Halloween Attraction with Mad Mastermind Luke Godfrey

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s only Halloween haunted attraction inside the Perimeter, Gorehound Productions‘ Chambers of Horror doesn’t settle for the usual scares. Definitely not for everyone, the adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, open every night in October and the first weekend of November, aims to be the most extreme in ultra-violence, depravity and gore, and from our recent visit, we can testify they succeed and then some.

Grab a drink at the Splatter Bar, then head down the hill to see a short news clip by intrepid Atlanta reporter Monica Coffin, which reveals that a black van bearing the logo of Chambers of Horror has been spotted near the mysterious disappearances of several locals. All of which is meant to wander if you’ll be taking a one-way journey through the meat-locker-metal doors of Torture Co. And beyond, indeed, the emphasis is on realism of the sickest kind, nothing supernatural but torture of all kinds—fire, assorted blades, chainsaw, firearms and even a gynecological scene so sensationalistic that it makes Cronenberg’s DEAD RINGERS seem like a Disney movie. Inside it’s more vignettes of increasingly shocking and gory body mutilation than monsters jumping out of dark corners. The acting is unnervingly good from torturers to victims, but it’s no fun to reveal too much. Much of it draws from contemporary splatter—though that has its roots in the limits pushed by Fulci, Argento and Clive Barker. A nod to the dungeons of Hammer and AIP’s Poe pictures, though, can be found in the Torture Museum, exhibiting Medieval gadgetry that Vincent Price’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL might have employed with gruesome glee in a dank dungeon. And then there’s a certain minister of mayhem, but hush, we can’t tell you any more except everything is meant to make more than uncomfortable and maybe, like a certain movie also playing this week, scream DEAR GOD NO!

ATLRetro managed to chain up Luke Godfrey, one of the mad masterminds behind Chambers, to get a sneak peek inside. And while we had him talking, we got him to confess a little about some of his other creepy contributions to Atlanta’s thriving horror scene as one of the co-creators of the Zombie Walk Atlanta (Sun. Oct. 16); Splatter Cinema, which won the Creative Loafing readers’ award for Best Film Series again this year, and is presenting a Halloween bonus screening this month of Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cult classic ZOMBIE (Fri. Oct. 21) at the Plaza Theatre; and the Buried Alive Film Fest, which rises again at the Plaza, Nov. 10-12.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

ATLRetro: How and when did Chambers of Horror get started?

Luke: In 2009 After doing horror events like Zombie Walk, Atlanta Horrorfest, Splatter Cinema, and an adults-only haunted house in the basement of the Graveyard Tavern called Crypt of Terror, I received a phone call from a good friend, Rene Arriagada, a local artist and event producer, asking me if I would like to start up a haunted house with him. I brought in my partner in Gorehound Productions, Ian O’Brien, and we began the creation of the sickest thing this city has ever seen.

What separates Chambers from Atlanta’s other haunts? 

Chambers is about as sick and twisted as you can get. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen—pushing the limits and boundaries to an extent that really sets peoples nerves on edge. We are an adults-only attraction with a full bar and there are many reasons for that. We kicked all the monsters—ghouls, goblins and zombies—out the f—ing door to make room for real horror. It’s like being dropped right in the middle of a SAW or HOSTEL-type movie. All well-trained actors delivering skits that will have you on the floor screaming in fear or crying in laughter. We hold hard to the 18+ policy due to extreme situations, simulated nudity and vulgar language. It’s real. It’s just like what you would expect at an R-rated movie—no censoring here.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

Definitely more of the SAW/ HOSTEL/ torture porn genre. We want to keep with the times and do something none else is doing. I love the classics and zombies and the such, but there’s a place for that and we are not it. No rednecks in overalls here; we have people in suits and ties cutting titties off.

What’s new and different in this year?

Lots of new actors, some seriously amazing new additions to our cast that really bring our show together, as well as many new rooms and additions. We amped up the gore and skin throughout the entire place. I mention simulated nudity before, yeah…there’s a lot more of it this year.

Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite scene or one that you’d like to especially warn visitors about?

Three words….”I got peed on”

How long did it take to create the sets? Any behind-the-scenes trivia or secrets?

Myself and Rene have been at it since February of this year—building most of the props ourselves and coming up with some ridiculous ideas. Many people ask us “how the hell do you come up with this shit?” Our constant reply is “lots of drunken nights sitting in rooms and spurting off some of the most ridiculous ideas ever.” I really wish someone was around recording some of our impossible and bad ideas.

How many zombies participated in last Sunday’s walk and how did that go?

I would say we probably had around 750 zombies this year. We did over 1000 last year and it was way outta control. I warned everybody that I would punch them in the face if they stepped out of line and its seemed to work. Everybody was really cool and respectful to both Wonderroot where we started and Oakland Cemetery. I was very pleased with the walk this year. It was awesome.

Splatter Cinema is presenting a bonus show this month of Fulci’s ZOMBIE. What do you love about that movie and what else is coming up for Splatter?

Whats not to love. It’s gory as hell. I think my favorite scene is the eyeball splinter scene. I love Fulci’s eye torture gags. They are ridiculous. The one from THE BEYOND always gets me, too, with the spiders,

The Buried Alive Film Festival is also right around the corner. What can you share about this year’s line-up and is there anything Retro or Retro-inspired?

We do have an film called CHILLERAMA that has a bunch of grindhouse/retro shorts from different acclaimed directors. It’s a pretty awesome flick. Definitely the highlight of the fest this year. As CHILLERAMA’s Website states, “In the spirit of classic anthology films like CREEPSHOW and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and containing films that not only celebrate the golden age of drive-in B horror shlock but also span over four decades of cinema, CHILLERAMA offers something for every bad taste. With titles like Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Zom-B-Movie and featuring appearances by Joel David Moore (AVATAR), Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), Ray Wise (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH), Eric Roberts (THE DARK KNIGHT) and more cameos than you can count, CHILLERAMA is sure to have you screaming for more. From the depraved minds of Adam Rifkin (DETROIT ROCK CITY), Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS), Adam Green (FROZEN), and Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2).

Finally gotta ask, you’ve built an entire career/lifestyle around horror. How did you get into horror and what’s the appeal to you?

I was exposed to horror at a pretty early age. NIGHTMARE (ON ELM STREET) and Freddy Krueger were a pretty regular occurrence. My mom is a huge horror fan, too, and was always letting me watch the stuff. Or I would sneak up after hours to catch some cheesy after hours horror flicks. I just love the rush I get from horror films. They don’t scare me anymore, but they still get me pumped when I find a good flick that somehow manages to surprise me with something new.

Chambers of Horror is open seven evenings a week for the entire month of October and the first weekend of November and offers many ticket options from $17 general admission to a limited $45 VIP Pass (which includes getting to skip the line and a free drink) to satisfy even the most discerning torture connoisseur at Ticketmaster.com. No one under 18 admitted.

 

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Tis the Season To Be Spooky: Netherworld’s Billy Messina Raises Your Darkest Retro Nightmares and Treats You to Raw Meat

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2011 By:

By Angie Weiss
Contributing Blogger

Before I tell you about Netherworld, I must give full disclosure: I am easily scared. Like crazy scared. There can be the mere suggestion of something potentially frightening about to happen, and I curl up in a little ball. I can know that something lurks around the corner, but if said thing jumps out at me, I will scream like a baby anyway. So this post is not about whether or not Netherworld is scary. I’m certainly not the one to ask. But if you are looking for something that is psychologically thrilling, visually stunning and an overall can’t-miss Halloween experience, then I can tell you that Netherworld, open every night in October (and Nov.4-5), is the haunted house for you.

Now in its 15th year, Netherworld is divided into two attractions. “The Nightmares” is the main event, a huge haunted house that feels like it goes on forever, through hallways of old manors and gardens of gargoyles. “Raw Meat” is smaller, gorier and chock full of turn-your-stomach scenes.

In “The Nightmares,” a mix of illusions, animatronics and stellar actors work together to play off your worst fears. Monsters? Vampires? Voodoo priests? They’re all here to toy with your mind. The suspense factor in this one is quite strong, as the hallways wind through mirrors and tunnels and you never know what lies waiting around the next bend. Sure there are some jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but for me, this is more of an overall creeptastic experience that you’ll want to take time to enjoy. It may be tempting to run through the house out of fear, but slow down and absorb everything that’s going on. The intricately detailed sets alone are well worth the price of admission.

“Raw Meat” is, well, much like if you took a subway into a sewer and encountered THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Gone are the supernatural beasts of “The Nightmares,” and here come the cannibals and clowns. These earthly horrors make the situations in “Raw Meat” all the more real. The special effects are aimed at your senses, fully taking advantage of what sight, touch and sound can do to your psyche.

I had an absolute blast at Netherworld. I left feeling adrenalized, my mind racing with what I’d just seen. I had to find out more about what’s behind this brilliant haunted house, so I asked Billy Messina, Netherworld’s co-creator and co-owner with Ben Armstrong, a little more about it.

ATLRetro: This is your 15th year. How has your vision for Netherworld evolved over the years? If someone hasn’t been to Netherworld since its first year, what is the one big difference they would see? 

Billy Messina: The Scale! Netherworld has always been about intense scares and extreme detail, but now we have more resources to bring to the table. In the early years, we still did a pretty good job of creating cool stuff, but now the scale of what we are able to do each year is much greater!

“Nightmares” plays off fears that many have. I have to ask – after all this time in the business, does any of it scare you?

We have lots of things that come from above. If I am not paying attention, it is a natural reaction to duck when something is coming down on you!

There is a really cool Victorian/steampunk aesthetic in “Nightmares.” Can you talk a little about how that subculture has affected your design? 

We loved that entire steampunk look long before we ever heard the term! Fifteen years ago we talking about looking like the Nautilus or Jules Verne. A lot of what we do in Netherworld is influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the progenitors of modern horror and science fiction.  I think we have always had sort of a more mythic, more literary focus than most haunts, and we also always loved the look of classic horror like the original James Whale BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Now that sort of thing is almost mainstream, it suits us just fine!

Your actors are incredible. Where do you find them? And who does their makeup? 

Many of our actors have been with us for years. Generally we don’t go looking for them any more, they sort of come to us, as most of them are former patrons. The makeup staff is lead by Roy Wooley who has been with us for 14 years, and this season on an average evening we have approx 8-10 make-up artists working.

“Raw Meat” is gory, dirty and downright disgusting. In other words, fantastic. Do you have more license to push the boundaries with the smaller haunt?

When we started Netherworld, we wanted to stay away from outright gore, but over the years that has obviously changed! The concept is to have the main show be something almost anyone can attend ( if they are not too freaked out) but to have the downstairs show be a little more nasty. If the upstairs show is THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the downstairs show is SAW. We wanted to have both haunts sort of work together to be a total package, so yes the boundaries are pushed further in “Raw Meat”!

The houses are so detailed and elaborate. When do you start planning for the next Halloween? Do you work in that space all year? 

We are always planning . Every day I have to push the new ideas away because we  have to focus on running the 2011 shows! You can bet we are already to get going on 2012.  Normally we don’t touch the physical haunt until about April, but this year we started in February. Of course, we begin at once on theming, planning, beginning complex effects, costuming and new creatures, basically anything that doesn’t require clearing any scenes. We like to keep it intact until we are 100% sure about what is coming down.

Speaking of next Halloween, can you reveal any details about what’s to come for Netherworld in the future? How do you continue to top yourself? 

Well, one thing we are planning in 2012 is a very expanded gift shop that is more like a themed walk-in store. It should be pretty cool when we are done and will be open year-round; at least that is the plan! As far  as the shows themselves, it is a bit too early to reveal anything, but you can be assured they will be way over the top!

Thank you so much for your time! If you have one piece of advice for attendees, what would you tell them?

Come see us this year because every year the shows change! We are open every night in October and the first Friday and Saturday in November, so come on down anytime, we will be lurking for you!

Netherworld is located at 6624 Dawson Blvd. in Norcross (30093). For tickets, hours and directions visit www.fearworld.com

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Tis the Season to be Spooky: Surviving Monsters, Mayhem and Renegade Pumpkins at Six Flags’ Fright Fest

Posted on: Oct 7th, 2011 By:

By Spookie Susie
Contributing Blogger

Thrills! Chills! Roller coasters! Renegade pumpkins? Yes, it’s true. You will experience all this and more at Six Flags Over Georgia’s annual Fright Fest, Atlanta’s largest Halloween event, every Saturday and Sunday in October, and Friday evenings on October 21 and 28. Come with me as Kellyn Willey, proprietress of Atlanta’s PinUpGirl! Cosmetics (and recent Kool Kat), and I step into the haunted realm and hope to return in one piece.

 

Kellyn Willey and Spookie Susie meet a few dead spirits at Six Flags' Fright Fest.

Six Flags Over Georgia opened its doors back in 1967. It has seen plenty of changes throughout the years, but on this night in particular the entire park has been transformed from summer carnival to crypt, crawling with corpses, tombstones and enough cobwebs to choke the world’s largest tarantula.

The candy-colored creatures of Monster Mansion. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia.

Our very first stop once we got in the park was Monster Mansion, the ride formerly known as Monster Plantation. I have loved this ride since I was a little kid—and, amazingly, I remembered right where it was. Monster Plantation opened back in 1981 and was revamped in 2009. While we were standing in line, flat screens played popular music videos and interviews with park attendees. Once we got in our boat and entered the Plantation, it was almost exactly as I remembered it, but everything looked brighter and refurbished. There was definitely more water and even some bubbles, but all the old favorites were in attendance, including the Sheriff, Missy Scarlett and Busby, the little monster mascot named after Georgia’s Governor at the time the ride opened, George Busbee.

Near the end of the ride, we suddenly came to stop behind another boat. Steadily, other boats lined up behind ours, and some of the younger guests started getting antsy. Several staff members arrived, and the mystery of the stuck boats was solved. The culprit? A pumpkin had fallen onto the track out of the scenery! That was one tough squash!

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