I told you all about the new Stadium of Screams haunt in Lawrenceville yesterday. Today, we’re on to a well-established place with new offerings: Netherworld. This house consistently ranks among the best in the country, and draws a celebrity clientele. (Sorry kids, Bow Wow has already made his annual trip through the haunts.)
There are two new attractions this year, Blood Night, the main haunt, and Zombie Rampage, a shorter, intense experience. I glommed on to a group of friends from Gainesville. Afterward, they were shaken. One declared that she hated her friends for bringing her here. Another one, home on a 15-day leave from his Army post in Afghanistan, said after he caught his breath that he handled it better than he thought.
How it came to be: Creators Ben Armstrong and Billy Messina launched the haunt in 1997 after designing a corporate attraction that never opened. The pair used their own plan to create Netherworld, which quickly gained a reputation for its size, spookiness and storylines — new ones every year. For lucky Year 13, Netherworld organizers created Blood Night, an elaborate haunt that tells the story of a vampire lord who must collect 13 skulls that will raise the dead and help him conquer the Earth.
What you’ll get: For $20, visitors get into Blood Night. For $5 more, they get Zomie Rampage, too. If you know you enjoy haunted houses, do everyone a favor and buy tickets to both in advance. Once you make it out of Blood Night, you’ll want the upgrade — and you’ll always want to avoid the ticket line. If you’re treating yourself, get the $50 Speedpass that puts you at the front of the line. There are a limited number available on the nights they’re offered, but those weekend lines are loooooong.
Both haunts are dark, walk-through attractions that scare with the help of elaborate sets, special effects, an acting troupe known as Nether-Spawn and oversized ghouls that remind me of a less friendly version of “Monster Mansion.” People aren’t kidding when they compare this haunt to a movie set. What looks like the Georgia Antique and Design Center from the outside is another world on the inside. (Netherworld, in fact.) None of the monsters will touch you, but let the foolishly bold friend in your group go first. Just don’t think you’re free from surprises because you’re trailing behind. They’re behind you, waiting for you, and flying overhead, too.
Best: The power is in the details. It’s not just that Netherworld shows you something creepy. You’re likely to hear it, feel it or smell it before your eyes have had a chance to take it in, and this type of sensory overload continues steadily for a half-hour or so. By the end of that lengthy first haunt, you’re frazzled even if you’re not scared. A person brushing past you in the parking lot can make you jump. This is the perfect time to head into Zombie Rampage, which is less elaborate, but even scarier because your usual armor has already been chipped away.
Worst: Read the haunt narratives before you go. If you know the stories, you’ve got another entry point to enjoy the characters and sets. I’m not a great haunted house visitor — too pragmatic, not much of a screamer. Good stories can make up for that, but there wasn’t any effort to share them before my walk-through. It felt like a jaunt through a mish-mash of surprising stuff. Oh look! Another werewolf! Oh! And a gal with glowing eyes! Gosh, your chainsaw is loud. Stories help.
Would I go again? It’s a relatively easy trip from downtown Atlanta to Norcross. If I could convince friends to come along, I’d go again — with a Speedpass. When you’re 15, the whole point is to be away from home, so a huge line is part of the fun. In my adult life, there’s a limit to how long I’m willing to stand around with snarling zombies and evil-eyed dolls. My adopted haunt-goers agreed that Speedpass was the way to go on a Friday night.
You can bring children into Netherworld, but I wouldn’t. It’s not too gory, and is mostly rooted in fantasy and classic Halloween-ish characters, but you don’t walk out as solid as you walked in. A precocious child with an interest in genre horror or special effects might love it, but there are no refunds if you have to leave the haunt early.
Want to go? Netherworld Haunted House. Open every night through Nov. 1, Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 6-14. $20 for Blood Knight, $25 for Blood Night and Zombie Attack. $5 for parking, and expect a long walk from the lot to the line. 6624 Dawson Blvd., Norcross. www.fearworld.com.
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