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Event Report: “NYZ: Santapocalypse” Experience in Deer Park, NY!

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As most great Christmas stories often do, it all started with a drunken Santa Claus. As we waited in the massive line for the NYZ Experience, the Deer Park, NY-based zombie airsoft/laser tag combat walkthrough that has become a staple for Long Island horror hounds, we were debriefed on the “situation” we would be entering, which included zombies, super-soldiers and mall santas. And then, before getting ushered off into a military holding area, a drunken Santa Claus (armed with only the finest in discount whiskey) vetted our team with a barrage of insults and one-liners, an experience that truly sets NYZ’s limited-time “Santapocalypse” walkthrough apart from other zombie-hunting expeditions.

For anyone unfamiliar, NYZ Apocalypse is an immersive experience in which a team (made up of four-to-five combatants) are equipped with laser-sighted airsoft rifles and must make their way through multiple rooms. Decorated like an industrial haunted house, the goal is to make it from room to room without getting within 2 feet of an active zombie, as zombies can be deactivated via headshots although they will not stay down for long. Along the way there are side tasks, refill checkpoints and countless undead, but to make it from room to room without getting infected, the key to success is teamwork.

After signing a quick informational waiver, this writer and his team (including FANGORIA go-to photographer Garrett Geary, FANGO writer Madeleine Koestner and her cousin Bridget) went into the information bay, where a video played explaining basic liability of entering as well as whats to be expected of us. Upon entering the armory, we were given rifles, ID cards and our own laser-tag tracking straps (in case of friendly fire and infection); this writer was particularly surprised about the actual weight of the rifle, adding a real sense of agency to the proceedings that was effective to putting us all in the right mindset. Once we were locked, loaded and given our final debriefing, we were loaded onto the “freight elevator” and throw into the santa-clad zombie apocalypse.

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Almost immediately, the game descends into chaos: terrified of being the first one out of the gate, Madeleine inches along the hallway as zombie santas come out of the woodwork. In our first real act of teamwork, the team naturally assumes a new formation to get through the initial rooms, including one facing our tail (Garrett, taking down any undead St. Nick’s who dare give chase) while this writer comes alongside Madeleine to give an extra pair of eyes up front, with Bridget double checking any corner we might have missed. Soon, we make it to our first checkpoint to sighs of release and various insults lobbed at us by those refilled our dwindling ammo supply. However, it became quite clear that Madeleine was not the leader we’d hope her years of interactive walkthroughs would make her.

Reloaded, we made our way through the second round without a hitch, despite the dark surroundings, strobe lights and obstacle-laden hallways that dare throw our group into peril. The third round, however, is when our teamwork mentality begins to fold under pressure: with more zombies and more hiding spots for them to emerge, the team ends up getting split up before reuniting at the checkpoint. The final round, however, was easily the most fun: behind a loose barricade, our team had to hold off a descending swarm of zombies before running to the finish line; at this point, Madeleine runs out of ammo, barely escaping the swarm as the last one to clear the room.

After finishing the exhilarating and oh-so-fun experience, the team sat down for a picture with the aforementioned drunk Santa (played by NYZ owner Paul Fetkowitz) and seeing our scores. Funny enough, Madeleine racked up the most kills (at 72) while Garrett hit second place with 66, myself knocking out 42 and Bridget coming in with 13 kills to her name. The group agreed that this was definitely one of the horror highlights of the year, and jumped for joy when we were given the invite to return for the St. Patrick’s Day hunt for zombie leprechauns; we’ll be there, will you?

NYZ Apocalypse (450 Commack Road, Deer Park, NY, 11729) runs on weekends, with the final run of the “Santapocalypse” edition being held Friday, January 1st. For more information, hours and tickets, please visit their official site HERE. Special thanks to Paul Fetkowitz and marketing director Will Puntarich for their aid in putting together this experience.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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