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Rob Zombie’s American Horror Story

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By Hanalena Fennel

Photography By Vanessa Turbay

Rob Zombie is one of the most well known forces is in horror and rock alike, and for good reason. He has not only lasted, but dominated in the heavy metal scene for 30 years. In 2003 he brought his clean, vivid imagery to film. Horror fans have him to thank for House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween (a remake of 1978 film), Halloween II, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and The Lords of Salem.

Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare (http://www.greatamericannightmare.com), running now trough Nov.1st endeavors to combine both worlds. Zombie’s twisted mind comes to life to host amazing bands in a creepy and immersive world.

Advertised were 3 spectacular haunted houses, major musical performances nightly, the Bloody Boulevard, food and drinks. Myself and photographer Vanessa Turbay attended Sat Oct 12th. The music act was Twizted, with Kottonmouth Kings and Blaze. Other nights have a wide variety of rock, metal and punk bands. The evening opened at 6:30 with music scheduled to start at 8 pm. The ticket started at $30 with a $3 online processing fee. VIP tickets are considerable more with that same $3 processing fee. For the extra cash you get a t-shirt and more importantly, line jumping ability.  The line to enter the event was bout 25 minites, while the VIP line was less than 10. We had the same experience at the entrance to the haunted house. Either way, I would advise you arrive very early. The Great American Nightmare takes place on one part of the Pomona Fairgrounds simultaneous to other events. On our night, we shared a lot with Ocktoberfest. Give yourself plenty of time to park and walk to the gate.

Excitement in the line was high, mostly focused on the music. For many people, this was going to be the only Halloween event they attended. There was some frustration that the website did not include a schedule but that is fairly typical for festivals and events.

After a quick pat down at the gate, the first person I met was a total geek and I mean that literally. Welding a stapler like a scepter he called out for audience members to staple dollars to his naked torso. He was already decorated with bills, neatly and bloodlessly stapled around his waist like thick belt. Later we came across another member of the same group swallowing swords and driving nails up his nose. In addition, various psychotic clowns, chainsaw welding rednecks and gory monsters wander the bloody boulevard looking for their chance to terrify you.

Huge, distorted statues line the walk way. It is easy to be draw into the incredible detail and skill of their construction but be warned. About a third of the figures will jump out at you. After being attacked by just the body of a recently decapitated statue, I realized what I liked about this event; I could feel the artists having fun. Every trick, every monster that slide past me in a shower of sparks, every hulking metal monster was clearly created  by people who loved what they were doing.

Next to the queue for the haunted houses, long benches face a large screen playing black and white horror films. The classic images are juxtaposed with loud music. At first I thought the music was Jello Biafra, but Vanessa Turbay (our photographer) later identified as Public Image Limited. Eager to get inside, we quickly though the haze of the smoke machines to the VIP entrance of the haunted houses.

At this point, I need to mention that all 3 mazes run back to back. The exit to one pours you into the entrance to the next and so on.

The second you walk into the large building housing all 3 mazes you assaulted by noise– the loud, abrasive buzzing sound jolts through the room at unpredictable times. It is both exceptional disconcerting and builds anticipation for what lines withing the gaping devil’s maw that brings you into the Lords of Salem themed maze. Everyone has what frightens them but I would say strangers shoving a black bag over your head and hurling you into a maze to face the darkness alone would be terrifying all of us. You have to complete the entire maze with the bag on your head. Growling voices threaten and demean you as the push of bodies carries you like a wave through the space. The loud buzzing noise, music, and crashing sounds work to keep you disoriented. Hugging close to the walls for comfort with turn against you as some walls are equipped to deliver a mild electrical shock.

It is possible to go through the “sissy door”. Right after you enter the Lords of Salem maze, as they are placing the bags on guests heads, you can opt out. You will be directed around the side of the first maze to wait for your party.

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The second maze is based off of Rob Zombie’s very unusual cartoon The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. The other two mazes don’t require much knowledge of the movies of Rob Zombie. There are tons of thing true fans will appreciate but even without knowing the back story, the scares still work. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is a little different. First off, it’s sexual. Very sexual. No genitalia is off limits. Oversized, in your face, and neon. The maze much like the movie, is technicolor disorientation. For example, the opening into this world is a giant vagina. Yes, you read that right. Guests are guided by curvy, big haired candy-colored girls to an impossibly long pair of blow up legs that lead you into a 7 ft high tunnel of pink love. I have been through a lot of brightly colored, 3D mazes. For the most part, they suck. The 3D effects are boring, nothing is scary, and the themes make no sense. My expectations were low and El Superbeasto definitely beat them. This was hands down the best 3D maze I have ever been to. The artist understood the medium, filling the rooms with effective, vibrant effects. My favorite part was the combination of moving floors in the hallways and the spatial confusion caused by  the paint. Vanessa and I also enjoy trying to spot all of the hidden details first. There are flyers (characters that “fly” from the corners of rooms on cords to surprise you). But even that feels more playful that truly scary. One mild annoyance, the sound effect from the first maze carry through this one as well. (Remember it is all in the same big exposition hall.) What forcefully added to the previous space just subtracted for this one.

Lastly, we get Rob Zombies most popular film, House of 1000 Corpses. By now the sounds of the Lords of Salem maze have finally faded into the background. Which is perfect because this maze is filled with monsters that want to tell you their stories. Outside of the maze there are large posters recreating old carnival freak show adverts. Each offers to show you a different well known serial killer. We were given the choice of being touched or not during the maze. To be able to give you a complete idea of what to expect, I chose not to be touched and volunteered Vanessa for the more hands on experience. She had her forehead marked with a bloody cross or X and we continued in. Fans of the film will recognize Captain Spaulding and the oddities in the maze’s first room. Continuing on, the follow hallways and rooms presented serial killers like Manson, the Angel of Death (Jane Toppan), Gacy etc.. all with Zombie’s gritty, realistic style. This maze takes it a step further with a pungent and perfectly placed smell in certain rooms.  For example, Lady Bathory infamous tub reeked of iron and viscera. Most of the effects are well thought out and solidly performed by actors that commit to scaring you. They were very enthusiastic to help enforce the no pictures/cameras rule in the mazes. As an audience member, I did appreciate that. However, as a member of the press with a photog pass it did get a little frustrating. The halls between the rooms were long and appeared to be quiet enough. This was clearly to lull people into a false sense of safety. Nothing in this place is quiet or safe. The maze is a great combination of sudden scares, creepy visuals and characters, and a wonderful eye for detail that left this horror nerd happy.

After a visit with Doctor Satan and a stop in the gift shop, we exited and almost ran face first into Tommy Lee. The Mötley Crüe/Methods of Mayhem drummer had just walked the mazes and loudly stated, “That was twisted!” I agree Mr. Lee, I agree.

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Unfortunately, walking the Bloody Boulevard was a let down after the mazes. There were a number of clothing booths, fundraising efforts, food and drink stands but not really enough to keep you busy for long. Since the concert had already started, the stands were nearly empty. We joined the energetic crowd in the the concert hall. The band was giving a great show but the acoustic in the hall are not really equipped for a concert. The lay out did allow fans to get right up to the band but the room wasn’t overly packed or claustrophobic.

If you are excited to see the music acts, Rob Zombie and his team has created an amazing event. I just wish there was even more.

And yes, I was touched, a lot.

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Two last highlights:
Scott Marshall, a very talented and funny magician entertaining people outside the the exposition centers. (www.magicscottmarshall.com)
The Puppy Rescue Mission, Rob Zombie brought this non-profit org dedicated to bring US soldier’s pet puppies to the states from Afghanistan and Iraq to the event to raffle Rob Zombie swag through out the event. In Addition, Zombie is auctioning off his custom 1967 Ford F-100 truck. The truck was created by Danny “The Count” Koker from The History Channel series Counting Cars. The auction will run on eBay from October 23rd at 8pm PT through November 2nd at 8pm PT. You can place bids at Unite the United’s merchant page.

“Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare” is located at 1101 W. McKinley Ave.,Pomona, CA 91768. Performances are held Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, now through Nov. 2. For ticket reservations and further information, please visit www.greatamericannightmare.com

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