Rob Zombie’s songs bridge the gap between horror and music, combining a classic horror mentality with heavy metal mojo. It’s a style that I’ve been a fan of for years. Then Zombie’s unique outlook on the world transcended into moviemaking, creating a series of gratuitously violent and sexual films that fit perfectly with his musical motif. Now, for 2013’s Halloween season, Zombie has melded the two into a series of Los Angeles events dubbed the Great American Nightmare, featuring live musical acts each night alongside three back-to-back-to-back haunted house experiences inspired by his films.
On opening night, October 10, I ventured into his dark mind with high hopes of encountering nothing but the most depraved, sick, and twisted moments from Zombie’s whacked out films. After the hype continued on the red carpet, courtesy of producer Steve Kopelman along with an appearance by Zombie himself and his wife Sherri Moon, my expectations apparently had been set a bit too high, leaving ample room for letdown inside. Though the haunts feature quite a few foul moments that gross out even the most seasoned haunted attraction veteran like myself, the overall impression is that this half-baked idea wasn’t quite ready for the public.
Take a peek around all three haunted houses in the video below, followed by a closer look at each of the experiences with descriptions of everything that’s right along with everything that’s totally wrong with Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare.
Word of Warning:
From here forward, the images and descriptions may not be suitable for all ages. The most graphic of details are not directly included here, but this event report and review would not be complete without at least alluding to some of them. Read on with caution.
Video: Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare haunted houses and grand opening
The Lords of Salem
The first walk through experience of the three at the Great American Nightmare is based on Rob Zombie’s newest film, “The Lords of Salem.” It’s a film that deviates from Zombie’s past formula, focusing on creating a dreamy atmosphere with bizarre symbolic visuals rather than in-your-face gore. As such, the haunted house features only a couple actual visible scenes, with the rest of the experience spent sightless courtesy of a black bag placed over guests’ heads just before they’re sent into the maze.
It’s a bit shocking to be sent into a dark abyss with no direction other than to find your way out, minus the ability to see. Walking through, I expected to be freaked out by anything and everything along the way. Instead, I found myself getting overheated from my own breath trapped in the bag while wandering aimlessly through an entirely linear path of nearly nothing for what felt like 10 minutes. Occasionally the ground underneath my feet would wobble a bit and electric shock panels gave me frequent startles as I ran my hands along the hallway walls around me, feeling my way to the exit. And once or twice, someone growled at me. But beyond that, I was bored, eagerly awaiting the moment I could take the bag off my head and call this experience complete.
Fortunately, once the bag was finally removed, there was a great finale scene that mirrors that of the movie, offering my first glimpse at the gratuitous nudity Zombie’s movies always deliver. It’s a rather religion-inspired moment, sure to offend someone. But I was ready to breeze by, thinking the next maze had to be better than the first.
Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto 3D
Those who have seen “El Superbeasto” know that while it is a feature-length animated film, it’s definitely not for kids. The buxom female characters spend much of the film partially or completely naked, frequently engaging in acts that would have landed the film an NC-17 rating had it been live action. Going into the haunted house based on this experience, I expected an over-the-top adventure through animated perversion.
Though that expectation was never fully met inside the maze, the outside certainly did the trick, featuring the most uniquely obscene haunted house entrance I’ve ever seen. It’s graphic enough to cause me to have to dance around its description, stating only that guests entering this maze have to pass through a giant inflatable part of a woman’s anatomy. Standing outside the entrance is character Suzi X, loudly encouraging everyone to enter the maze, often shouting obscenities like “I want you to ______ my ______!” Use your imagination to fill in the blanks.
(Check the slideshow at the bottom of this post for a wider view of this unique sight.)
With such a high bar set outside the maze, absolutely nothing inside comes close to touching the level of over-the-top wackiness within, except perhaps one early scene featuring El Superbeasto, well, doing something to someone that is entirely adult in nature. I’ll leave it at that.
The rest of the maze meanders through brightly colored environments that are closer to PG-13 than R, never revealing any real human nudity, animated or otherwise. The experience largely follows what happens in the film, including several of the movie’s catchy songs playing throughout. None of it is scary, but the brightly colored 3D visuals are mostly well done.
El Superbeasto 3D never quite lives up to the rudeness of the movie it’s based on, though I did speak to one girl outside who said her skirt was blown up repeatedly, on purpose, by one of the characters holding an air hose. She laughed it off, only mildly embarrassed. Like the first maze, anyone sensitive to adult content will surely find something to be offended by here. But those who are not easily offended (like me) will walk through somewhat entertained, but ultimately unfulfilled.
The Haunt of 1,000 Corpses
Rob Zombie has previously worked with Universal Studios Hollywood to create a haunted house based on his film “House of 1,000 Corpses.” That maze was 3D and quite well done. This all-new experience removes the 3D element and goes for a more gritty, realistic take on the movie that features so many gross-out moments. And many of those translate quite well to the haunted house, easily the best of the three at the Great American Nightmare.
Guests start at Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, recreated well enough to excite any fan of the film, complete with Spaulding himself inside chowing down on fried chicken. Though it’s not actually actor Sid Haig, this character is as rude as Haig ever has been, playing the part well. Other familiar faces lurk around the outside like Baby and Tiny.
Those looking for a little more interactivity inside this maze can opt to be marked by a bloody knife across the forehead, signaling to the actors that they can gets hands-on, though the only contact that occurs is a few light touches here and there.
Inside, the Murder Ride commences on foot, taking guests through purposefully “fake” scenes featuring famous killers. But, just like in the film, things get ugly as scenes descend into the level of depravity I had expected out of this entire event. This maze contains one of the single grossest moments I’ve ever seen in a haunted house, enough to make me hold my breath and hurry through. I’m not easily affected like that, but when I came across a room featuring a stereotypical country bumpkin having his way with grotesquely mutilated corpses while the smell of rotten fish filled the air, I simply wanted out of there.
I often felt like the sole purpose of this maze is to offend. Other off-the-wall scenes include mental patients screaming out sexual commands while forcing themselves on top of others, a crazy clown (not Spaulding) alone in his living room enjoying himself entirely too much, and a simulated suicide that takes place right before guests’ eyes.
Sadly, amidst all of its sadistic scenes, there aren’t many scares to be found in The Haunted of 1,000 Corpses. It’s a Halloween experience for sure, but not necessarily a frightening one. Instead it’s one that leaves guests grimacing throughout.
The streets outside the three indoor haunted attractions are dubbed Bloody Boulevard, meant to be filled with freak show acts and roaming characters scaring attendees while they browse a variety of vendor booths. Ultimately, none of it is in any way interesting. The characters are pretty standard, short of a few unique costumes. The sideshow acts are entertaining for a few minutes, but not more than that. And the vendors aren’t selling anything worth buying. Even the food is overpriced and undesirable, typical of this fairground location. The only worthwhile areas outside the buildings are a bar with seating area – good for socializing – and an outdoor theater playing horror films.
Lastly, the hall opposite the haunted houses features a stage set up for nightly musical acts. Fans of the scheduled musicians will find the low entrance price of the Great American Nightmare to be worth it for the concerts alone, especially as Rob Zombie himself will be playing a pair of shows just after Halloween. Those who don’t know the acts might stumble across some new music, or might leave bored with whoever ends up performing. I ended up leaving before the opening night’s band even went on, having already been through the haunted houses twice leaving nothing else to do but sit around and wait without a clear time scheduled for the music to begin.
It’s likely this event has improved since opening night, as the producers only had 10 days in which to set it all up before opening their doors. They were clearly not ready for the opening, still setting up animatronics outside and training their actors inside. Performances were notably improved even between my first pass through the mazes early in the night and my second pass a couple hours later. And while my opinions above come across as rather negative for what I experienced, I actually managed to have a decent time at the event. Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare is definitely not my favorite new haunted attraction by any means, but it is at least somewhat rude and obscene, offering just a taste of what it would be like to live out the scenes that fill the films that inspired this new event.
Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare continues on select nights through November 2. More information and tickets can be found on GreatAmericanNightmare.com.
More photos from opening night of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare: