Scare Number One!
Netherworld Sweeps Away the Competition as it Entertains Fright Fans of All Ages
As it celebrates its 20th and final year in its current location, Netherworld continues to be one of the leading haunted houses in the country. Known for utilizing original and often elaborate creatures and themes while steering clear of tired old slasher movie scenarios, its often ranked the number one haunted house in the nation.
The dark-themed, walk-through event is conveniently located in a shambling, multi-level warehouse space, just a bit north of Spaghetti Junction in Norcross. Next year it moves a few miles down the road to Stone Mountain and is currently teasing the new location with a Netherworld-branded Escape Room attraction.
INsite spoke with co-founder Billy Messina, as he prepared the current location's final season.
What's new this year?
The big thing this year is we're bringing 3-D back. People love it and it's a really cool sort of retro way to say goodbye to this current location as we look back on all the years we've been here. We did it a long time ago so it's a fun thing to look back on. We've made these great Netherworld 3-D glasses for the occasion. We've opened up the escape games from last year, too. Now people can check out the new location as they enjoy three fully-functioning escape games. And we'll have clowns this year. You know people always love - and love to hate - clowns.
The great thing about Netherworld is never relies on standard horror-film themes. It's popular now, but it must have been a big risk in 1997.
When we started, most haunted houses relied heavily on the fake Freddy Kruegers and Jasons, but we've always wanted to be original. My partner Ben Armstrong and I wanted to do things differently and we've relied on popular culture to an extent while we added deeper elements of history, folklore and even Lovecraft-type scenes into the story.
Since you help create the original storylines, does it force you to raise the scare-bar each year?
It's extremely important to us that we create something totally new every year. We do try to top ourselves but it's becoming increasingly difficult to do. And just space-wise, we've expanded so much. Year two of Netherworld was the space where the gift shop and cue-line are now. A few years ago, we introduced lasers and people went bananas for that. We love the big stuff - with people hanging from bungees and flying over the audience and trees coming to life or whatever. We have a staff of around 300 very talented people, so it's a pretty elaborate operation.
For the uninitiated, please describe the current layout. This year the upstairs and downstairs sections are called "Primal Scream" and "Mr. Grindel's Funhouse of Horrors (In 3-D)." What can we expect to see?
Since it's our last year we decided to break out the 3-D again for the Funhouse. It's a very clown-centric show, filled with some pretty thrilling surprises. Upstrairs, Primal Scream is, in short, what happens when Mother Nature gets angry. We've got parasitic fungi, tree monsters and animal beasts. It's the Earth trying to crush humanity sort of thing. It's really neat to do because it gives us the opportunity to create a whole new line of monsters.
Are people desensitized to the shock factor these¬†days?
Somewhat, but I've found that people still like to be scared. Our mantra has always been to scare and to entertain, because if you say you're only planning to scare people, that's just a blanket statement. Ultimately our goal is to entertain and we're going all-out to make this the best season yet. When you go into a haunted house, you're getting a real-life thrill. You're walking into a real, live horror movie. There's a lot of scary stuff. Here, you'll walk by a forest of trees and then one reaches out to grab you. That's pretty scary! It never ceases to amaze us when we see people go running and screaming across the parking lot as they come out of the show.
Netherworld opens at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 7 pm weekdays through October and at 7:30 p.m. Nov 3 -5. Visit www.fearworld.com and www.escapenetherworld.com for tickets and more¬†information.