Category: Georgia

2016, Attractions, General, Georgia, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Reviews

Atlanta, Georgia Haunted Attractions: Netherworld 20th Anniversary 2016 Review

My opinion on Netherworld has changed a little from last year when I sang their praises from here to hell and back. (Read that review here.)

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Last year they were very good such that I did not think it could get any better. This year they took what I thought was the best anyone could achieve and blasted that expectation through the ceiling. JUST LOOK AT THIS:

They have created an entirely new definition of visual fear that succeeds on every level. BELIEVE IT. This is only my second time going to Netherworld. If this is any indication of what I can expect year to year I am going to have to start taking up drinking or something. OMG.

I enjoyed looking at and walking through all of the creepy custom designed sets and seeing the amazing makeup on their actors. The craftsmanship, lighting, staging, and positioning of each actor in each room is over the top. Forget what you know. These guys don’t just have the game on lock – these guys have THEIR OWN GAME. Very few of their animatronics inside the haunt appear to be off the rack. It’s all altered/custom. The only noticeable off the rack animatronics are the ones outside for photo ops but the actors out front still all have amazing custom costumes.

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“NEW horrors and scares abound at NETHERWORLD Haunted House in 2016! The massive Soul Eater swoops over your heads in MONSTERS our upstairs haunt at NETHERWORLD! Get Your Tickets Now at http://bit.ly/NWHH2016 and join us as we celebrate our 20th Season of Screams!.”

They made that, you guys. This will not be anywhere else. Here’s some more:

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Most haunts have similar props and animatronics throughout. If you don’t go to as many haunts as I do you will not notice this. But I do. This place is the only place that I have seen so far that seems to be operating on another level far higher than everyone else I have ever encountered. This is why I don’t compare all haunts to each other for my awards. It’s just not fair to compare various scales of haunted attraction together. If I did, these guys would always win every single year.

I know of 3 places worthy of a plane trip for haunt fans. Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights / Howl O Scream / Disney, Eastern PA for Hotel of Horror, Halls of Horror, Reaper’s Revenge, and the Freak and Funhouse, and Atlanta for Netherworld. (Read my reviews to get reviews of all of these places. If there’s no review for this year, use last year’s. Use CTRL or CMD+F to search the page. If i have skipped a haunt this year it usually means that it has not changed enough to warrant a re-visit.)

Notice how all of my other recommendations are clusters? You don’t even need any other haunts to make this one worth the plane trip. BOOM.

The sheer scale, organization, and custom nature of Netherworld’s rooms are off the charts. They have rooms in here staged and positioned such that you get a peek of a later room. It’s like a jenga accordion puzzle from hell that never falls over. They do work to make the walls and floor do things while you go through and you can tell the amount of love put into this haunt – they dig deep into the Lovecraft universe and other places and have handcrafted several monsters from his works.

FINALLY!!!! Someone got Lovecraft right in a haunted house! If you are a fan of ORIGINAL CREATIVE WORK go here. This is the place.

This year they ABSOLUTELY BLEW US AWAY. Last year we enjoyed it but they didn’t scare us that hard. That’s normal – we are very hard to scare. This year they scared us several times. This year they went from very good to VERY GREAT. (Is that even a phrase? It is now because I say so.)

So what is happening for Netherworld’s 20th Anniversary year?

Monsters

“Horrors released from the unknown threaten our world and only the return of ancient MONSTERS can defeat them! Celebrate 20 years of NETHERWORLD Haunted House with a nightmarish adventure you will never forget!

This Year Featuring: The Flying Angel! The Lair of The Sea Witch! The Feasting Vampires! The Goloth Invasion! The Attacking Harpy! The Transformation Chamber! The Cavern of The Werewolves! The Blood Beast of the Arena! The Boogeyman’s Return! The Chapel Of The Gargoyles! The Cyclopean Soul Eater and The Doom Stone Unearthed! Experience an incredible avalanche of never ending horrors sure to shock during NETHERWORLD’S 20th year celebration! “

Vault 13: Meltdown:

Can You Escape a Nuclear Meltdown?

The crazed artificial intelligence PROTEUS demands that the Mangler create him a “bride” or he will destroy the world with the massive arsenal of VAULT 13! Can the chaos be stopped or will mutations, aliens, robots and nuclear destruction be unleashed on an unsuspecting planet?

This year featuring: The Xenomorphic Terror! The Collapsing Missile! The Blast Off Inferno! The Bride of Proteus! The Melting Core! The Radioactive Roach Infestation! The Mega Slammer! The One Million Volt Tesla Coil! The Spinning Kill Floor! Machine Gun Zombies! Crazed Automatons and the return of the Toxic Foam Room! Total Terror and SCI-FI Thrills Reign during NETHERWORLD Haunted House’s 20 Year Celebration!

They also had a fun escape room–that was actually designed for you to do things within the room, not just solve some random number or word puzzles. They had a great set up that prompted you through it if you got lost–or you could just go crazy and jump in and mess with everything (you’ll need some purell afterward though….you do touch some squicky stuff).

Conclusion:

Netherworld made significant changes this year which took their always great haunt to a level way above that. They achieved beyond what Harknell and I could have ever expected. We particularly liked how deeply they delved into the Lovecraft world and the Sea Witch with her pet hell fish. They took great care to construct and manipulate the world around us which created a sense of dread that no one else has ever achieved in this unique way. The walls move. The floors move. They use fog and lasers STRATEGICALLY and PRECISELY which greatly add to the narrative flow of the scares in each room.

Guys, they have me so hyped up I am making words in all caps in this post. That rarely happens anymore.

These things I am listing are not gimmicks as they so often can be in the haunt industry if not used well – these are tools used in the right place at the right time. The concepts executed with such precision in each room are nothing short of revolutionary, astounding, and totally immersive.

That’s what these guys excel in – doing LEGIT horror with a true creative vision. You never feel like you are being pandered to by a stupid boogity boogity chainsaw chase that someone bought 2 for a dollar at the trade show because starting a Quik-E-Mart was too inconvenient for them.

Netherworld. Is. Art.

Netherworld is where you go when you want to see TRUE ART. They don’t just create a haunted attraction – they redefine and lead the entire industry every year that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. They will be one of my first primary targets next year. I don’t care how brutal the drive is for us.

DO THIS ONE. OH MY GOD. Call out of work or something. Get in the car now.

Click here for details and ticket info.

2015, Attractions, General, Georgia, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Reviews

Atlanta, Georgia Haunted Attractions: Netherworld 2015 review

The night before we were to depart for Florida this year a hurricane hit the northeast. Our train was canceled and flying wasn’t an option. I turned to my husband and said, “Well I guess we finally get to drive to Netherworld in Atlanta!” He replies, “Hell yeah!”

Make no mistake about it, driving to Atlanta from New Jersey in 1 day with almost no advance notice is an extremely taxing and painful 13+ hours of spine torture and too many Cracker Barrel meals. (Take note, travelers – they have vegetables!)

No, we didn't do it on this hella cool bike.
No, we didn’t travel on this hella cool bike I found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. That was later.

This is why why we hadn’t been able to do this before even though we had wanted to see Netherworld for many years. I always tell the people I mentor that problems are opportunities. That was exactly the case here. Having been pushed into the awful prospect of driving we had the opportunity to push the drive a bit and finally see this amazing attraction.

Netherworld is a PG or PG-13 Halloween attraction so it is appropriate for tween and above or an adventurous younger kid with their family. That does not mean it doesn’t deliver for adults like us. It delivers. Oh BOY does it deliver. They just pride themselves on having the spirit of traditional Halloween. You won’t find gory torture porn here.

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The problem is that Netherworld is so damn good that now we may force ourselves to attempt this hellish drive every year. We have never seen anything like this before. Many seem to have attempted to do what Netherworld does – all fall short.

Why? Scale. Netherworld is exactly what it purports to be – a world. Set pieces and props reign supreme here – and that’s actually a good thing. They aren’t done at the expense of the actors – they’ve created a world for the actors to live in and do it better than anyone else. It’s balanced and used in exactly the way it should be to create a stunning show.

Thanks to co-owner Ben Armstrong I had the opportunity to go backstage and see the actors suiting up for the night. That was absolutely amazing. Some of the actors requires multiple people to help them get suited up. Others were in bodysuits preparing for wire work. It was pure controlled chaos. Their goal? To scare the crap out of you. You can tell that this is a big family. They are “Netherspawn”, and they don’t have a high turnover rate. They joke that once you are a spawn you are always a spawn. The people who all stay with the haunt for many years and only leave if they absolutely have to due to life circumstances.

Job satisfaction is high with the ghouls and I can’t blame them. What ghoul wouldn’t love being able to float after you and eat your soul? I know that’s as good as a 401k to me.

Check out the cool photo ops they have set up in the front:

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The Queue:

First off, I got to meet this guy:

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The queue actually warrants a review because it’s breathtaking and huge. They actually have a museum of some past props and an entire mini haunted house in the queue before you even get in. The mini haunted house reminded me of the old scarehouses of the early 1900s, like Kennywood’s Noah’s Ark, combined with steampunk. I got to go in before the queue opened for the night and speak with a couple of the actors who work the front queue. They explained some of the props to us because this was our first time here. They told me that it was an opportunity for them to allow people to see things up close because it’s impossible to see everything inside.

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At this point I thought they were being hyperbolic. While I was familiar with Netherworld, I like to try and keep as much of each haunt that I visit a surprise since I’ve seen everything (or so i thought) and surprises are more fun for me. I did not really have an accurate idea of what was in store for me inside. Hurr hurr…

I should emphasize that yes, they actually entertain you while you are in the queue before you enter. I feel that this is something that more haunts should take note of.

The Rotting:

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“The witches have released vast armies of spirits from the depths of the NETHERWORLD to appease the DEAD ONES, and these spirits must feed! Drawn to the life force of human beings they drain the energy causing their victims to suffer THE ROTTING, a decay of the body accompanied by a ravenous hunger! A supernatural investigation team, G.H.O.S.T . has discovered the supernatural source of the plague, but will the cure be worse than the disease?

New horrific experiences in THE ROTTING include: The Phantom Energy Chamber, The Mummies Curse, The Spectral Gallery, The Sinking Tombs of Whyshburg, The Boswick’s Revenge, The Alien Flesh Lab, The Slithering Soul Eater, Engulfed by the Shoggoth, The Arena of Ghosts, The Walk Of Peril, The Elder Thing, The Rotting Dead and the War Wraiths! A supernatural shock fest full to the brim with never ending terror!”

The Rotting was absolutely breathtaking. They were not kidding about there being so much stuff to look at. I’ve been through haunts which were set piece heavy and I’ve never seen it done well. Netherworld does it very well. It’s not a prop museum, it’s a wonderfully integrated world in which the actors are positioned such that they work in harmony with that world. This is one of the few haunts in which I believe the name is significant and not a useless “Boogity McBoogums” nondescript name. (Yes, I did just say “Boogity McBoogums. Deal.)

This is why the name Netherworld is so appropriate. It’s not a simple haunted house. It’s a world. Forget everything you know about haunting. You can see the sky but it’s a fully enclosed venue. You almost want to live there or run around like a weirdo with the ghouls. Speaking of scale – the scale of Netherworld is so large that I can’t even convey it to you. You have to see it. You won’t believe me unless you see it. It’s beyond massive. You can’t afford to have a haunt like this in New Jersey, that’s for sure.

I was blown away by the giant skull the came out of the sky at us – but more than that – you can see the next several rooms. That’s a good thing. You aren’t seeing the entire room, but pieces of the room that are strategically aligned together as you walk through which are meant to convey depth and scale to you. It’s an intentional part of the design that piques your attention and warns you of what amazing thing you are about to see.

I particularly loved one particular room where – I probably shouldn’t give it away – but I will just say that you end up inside a building under attack from something much more powerful than a human. Again the scenery is coordinated to work with you as you move through. Forget what you know about claustrophobia chambers. They actually have actors here manipulating that concept and even created their own designs on it such that it moves with you. The world is alive. Nothing in here feels stale. Nothing in here feels like a copy and paste from anything else. These guys aren’t just producing a haunted attraction – I firmly believe that they are redefining it and leading the industry every single day. With so much monkey see, monkey do in the industry, this was so refreshing to us.

My husband and I always talk about how we would do a haunt and lament that they do not do certain concepts, such as H.P. Lovecraft, inside a haunt. These guys did them.

Vault 13: Unearthed:

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“Before the Mangler began torturing human beings, he created an AI (Artificial Intelligence) called PROTEUS to experiment on and drove it completely insane. It evolved into a living computer virus and sought out its creator demanding a body. Enraged at the Mangler’s lack of response, PROTEUS reactivated VAULT 13 and commanded secret ops security teams to capture the Mangler and his clone creations. Successfully locking them in VAULT 13 it continued its quest to create a living body and take revenge on the entire human race!

New dark secrets of VAULT 13 include: The Elevator of Death, The Toxic Foam Room, The Invincible TORG, The Hideous Hatchling, The Mechanoids, The Liver Eater, The Massive Defense Grid, The Hypno Room, The Steel Vault, Nurse Nervosa, Sample V-37, and the Wind Tunnel! A brain blasting sci-fi horror adventure sure to melt your mind!”

My observations of how the haunt was constructed for The Rotting, above, hold true for Sector 13: Unearthed. These guys know how to stage a haunt. Boy howdy. I particularly loved the compression hallways here that were made of flesh. Like, it caused me to be like this:

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Seriously. I’ve never seen THAT before. I frowned in there because they achieved their goal, but make no mistake about it I was totally amused and elated to see such a thing. It felt like such a custom way of taking an standard stunt and making it relevant, along with skinless monsters.

I also particularly loved the giant robot and alien fight. Again – the staging and storytelling in here was fabulous.

This one had a foam room at the end that you can choose to go through or not. Of course after driving over 13 hours to get here we went through. Go big or go home! You will definitely get wet if you go in here and they tell you that very clearly beforehand. If you don’t want to get wet you can go through an alternate room.

With this haunt being sci-fi heavy, and The Rotting being all fantasy creatures and supernatural, you get both types in one location, which is great.

Conclusion:

Netherworld has been called the best haunted attraction in the world. I do think the phrase “best” is a weird term because each haunted attraction aims for a different type of goal. You can have 10 haunted attractions that are all the best at what they do and all contribute wonderfully to the conversation of seasonal immersive theater. That’s why I have a pantheon of attractions that are my #1. I can’t choose. It’s apples and oranges.

However if you’d call Netherworld the best haunted attraction in the world, I sure as hell won’t argue with you. They do something that no one else does better than anyone else. Their unique identity and commitment to delivering a solid product for both families and adults – and succeeding at it without sacrificing creative integrity – makes them beyond remarkable.

The most important thing I saw that night was my observations of Netherworld co-owner Ben Armstrong. In my conversations with him I could see the little boy who probably loved Halloween just like I did growing up when I used to make a haunted house in my living room with blankets and toys. That little boy is still there – he’s just a little bit older and able to share what he loves with the world. They say that Real can recognize Real. Recognize it, we did.

Both Harknell and I are really glad that he shared this with the world. It’s a better place to live in because of it.

Netherworld is a PG or PG-13 haunted attraction that you can feel OK taking most of your family to, but it will blow the adult haunt fans away as well. It was worth the 13+ hour drive for us and had earned it’s reputation of being the gold standard, world class haunted house that it is known for. We will be back.

DO THIS ONE.