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“THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE: CHAPTER 1” (Haunt Review)

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I opened my eyes to the whimpers of a young woman, bound and gagged while her husband lays on the couch, stomach torn open and barely clinging to life. The woman begs for someone to un-gag her, and since none of the other six people in the room know what to do, this writer rushes into action. She immediately says her husband had locked her up, and as fate would have it, swallowed the key. One of us would have to dig it out, but with her husband’s skin looking akin to that of the undead, who would be the brave soul to do so?

This scenario is only the very beginning of THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE, an immersive experience that mixes the art of the haunted attraction, room escape scenarios and interactive theater. Brought to life by director Michael Counts, the good folks at Walker Stalker Con and Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment, THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE is unlike anything you might find anywhere else: a horror experience that feels initially like a game before throwing you into the world of THE WALKING DEAD. And while those familiar with the AMC show may know the rules of surviving a zombie attack, the random nature of the group you inhabit and their reaction to everything you encounter makes THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE a truly terrifying treat.

Composed of nine unique levels that can be experience in a variety of ways, THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE places a participant with a group of six strangers to encounter the first stages of the zombie apocalypse. Without giving too much of the experience away, there is much variation between the rooms, including guiding a participant via radio, code-breaking locked doors or even doing tasks while in a dark room full of free-roaming zombies. It’s an exhilarating experience that grabs you almost instantaneously, and by the end of the walkthrough, there’s nary a member of your team that isn’t completely taken in by the fun, frightening facade.

Photo Credit: Caleb Sharp

Photo Credit: Caleb Sharp

However, as much fun as one can have going through each room according to plan, the human variable is what makes THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE an amazing time. Although there is no real danger, the sense of fear is palpable and the lack of expectations makes the experience much more unpredictable: by not knowing if we would be ejected from the experience if the party screws up or eaten by the walkers, the desire to win forges bonds between your band of strangers. And sometimes, you’re faced with the unpredictable: one member of our group became too immersed in the experience and found herself wrestling with a militant, gun-toting actor during one level, and truth be told, this writer was unsure if that was a part of the experience altogether.

Yet THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE offers more than just the amazing walkthrough experience: in different packages offered to fans, participants can go on “sole survivor” missions by themselves or they can choose the “walker” plan, where they get a professional make-up job to look like a zombie and join the professionals in the experience itself. In fact, this writer was able to try it out for himself (alongside horror journalists Heather Buckley, Josef Luciano, Garrett Geary, Madeleine Koestner and THE RANTS MACABRE hosts Darren Rosario & Melinda Learnard), and was incredibly impressed by the make-up quality and the alternative to be on the scaring side of things. And by seeing the faces and reactions of those scared by the zombified versions of ourselves, one can see why THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE was a hot ticket of the highest order.

But if there’s one thing that needs to be said about THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE, it’s that Counts and Co. do an amazing job at selling the immersive experience as a whole. The actors on display are incredible and passionate, and never tip the falseness of the walkthrough; much like the amazing production design, their job is to take you from observer to living, breathing character in the zombie apocalypse, and they do so amazingly. And with THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE embarking on a national tour soon, this writer would not be surprised if these immersive walkthroughs don’t take the world by storm in the very near future. So if THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE comes to your town, do not hesitate: get your tickets as soon as possible, because this unique interactive experience is not one to be missed.

THE WALKING DEAD EXPERIENCE will be traveling the country in conjunction with the Walker Stalker Con in 2016. For more information and dates, please visit their official site HERE.

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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