Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare Provides Pure Immersion in a Grotesque Vision
Article and Photos by: Scott Feinblatt
Too Much as a Good Thing
To see additional photos of Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare,
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No one will dispute that Rob Zombie has established his
own niche in the Entertainment Industry. From his first
musical recordings, in the mid-80's, with his band
Zombie, he demonstrated a love for theatrics by
including various dialogue and sound effects samples.
Around 15 years later, he directed his first horror film.
His resume of various creative projects is so vast and
dynamic that to do it justice would eclipse any discussion
of the haunt that I visited a few days ago; it is enough to
say that any product that bears Zombie's stamp is
drenched in carnivalesque horror imagery. Additionally,
his musical proclivities tend to wend their way into his
film projects and compliment his visuals – forging a fairly
distinct brand. The website for
Rob Zombie's Great
American Nightmare utilizes both his music and his film
imagery to establish that this haunt is unmistakably an
official Rob Zombie experience.

Located at the
Pomona Fairplex, Zombie's GAN was by
far the most “adult” haunt I've attended. The search and
pat-down prior to entering the park immediately conjured
the scenario of attending a rock concert where
recording gear was prohibited – or, if the rationale was
for safety, I can't imagine why guests might be any more
inclined to bring weapons into this haunt than into
another. In any case, once through the security
checkpoint, the conservatively-sized fairground was
bedecked with lighting, smoke, performers and décor
befitting a Rob Zombie presentation. The “adult” aspect
was evident, at first, by the fact that some of the roaming
ghoulish performers used profanity and second by the
lascivious designs of some of the vignettes.
Zombie's brand was further etched into
the entire experience via his name's
inclusion in some of the artwork, his
likeness's appearance on commercial
posters and banners throughout the
park and by the fact that the three
mazes were styled after his films. In
addition to the mazes, the event's
advertising told of musical
performances and a fairground called
The Bloody Boulevard. The latter
consisted principally of vendors,
including: food and alcohol stands,
t-shirt and memorabilia booths and
philanthropic organization tents.
Beyond that, there was also a carousel,
a small area where old horror movies
were screened (the cult classic
Carnival of Souls (1962) was playing while I was there), freak show performers, various monster statues to use for
photo souvenirs and a green screen photo booth. For the photo booth, guests would assume violent poses against a
green screen, the photographer would snap the picture and the photo editors would render the image in an
appropriately gory setting.
Regarding the musical performances,
one of the fairground buildings
contained a stage upon which various
daily guest musicians and Djs would
perform. Zombie, himself, will headline
on the final night (November 2). An
elevated VIP area, consisting of a
bunch of couches and a small bar, was
located close enough to the stage that
VIPs could enjoy the stage show while
they lounged; non-VIPs simply stood in
front of the stage. In another
microcosm of a concert scene, the
building also contained t-shirt and food-
vending stands.

The mazes provided the only haven
from the omnipresence of commercial
branding – that is, if one doesn't
consider that their very designs are advertisements for his films.
Regardless, the principal reason I like going to haunts is not to
be scared (I only just re-discovered my ability to be scared –
article on Queen Mary's haunt); I go to haunts because I
love the aesthetics and designs. Moreover, for me, the
production designs are the main appeal of Zombie's films. Thus,
regardless of the recycled material, two of the three mazes
provided a horrific wonderland of eye candy.

The first maze, Lords of Salem Total Black Out, worked and it
didn't. The maze relies on the economical gimmick of having a
sack placed over each guest's head – after which, the guest
must feel his way along the walls of the maze while being
assailed by performers. Aspects of this gimmick that,
theoretically, make it effective: each guest becomes uniquely
submissive to the experiences around him and is subject to his
own mind's fears and anticipations. In addition to the subjective
experience of being robbed of one's sight, guests are further
molested by the occasional electrified wall (a very nice touch,
no pun intended), periodic loud noises, some areas of unstable
ground and hands-on groping from invisible performers
(nothing lewd). The only aspect of this maze that actually
unnerved me, understandably, was the electricity. Beyond that,
I am not one who fears the dark or becomes frightened by
perceived threats – for better or worse, I'm too logical a person.
Thus, for me, the experience principally afforded an opportunity
to muse about how much money Zombie had saved on set
designs; furthermore, since the maze was not exactly short
(presumably, since while inching forward in blindness, one's
perceptions of distance and time become distorted), I grew both tired and sweaty, and I wondered how many other
sweaty heads had shared my sack and / or if the sacks were routinely laundered. It is easy to imagine how this
gimmick might provide an extreme experience for most of the guests who allow themselves to be incapacitated in such
a fashion – guests have an opportunity to opt out of the experience and proceed to the second maze, prior to the
hooding process, by walking through a doorway that is brazenly labeled: “Pussy Exit”.
The next maze was The Haunted
World of El Superbeasto 3D. This
maze was based on Zombie's
film and
comic book series of the same name
(without the 3D). Since I am familiar
with neither, I don't know how much of
the material / how many of the
characters from the maze would be
familiar to fans. However, I can say that
the maze was brilliant. From the
artwork on the exterior of the maze, it
is immediately apparent that the
themes contained therein are of a
perverted and cartoonish nature. The
experience begins with a squeeze
through one of those air-cushion
tunnels (see
coverage of The In
Between from Los Angeles Haunted
Hayride). It is interesting that while I
have heard this popular haunted maze feature referred to as being (forgive me) similar to squeezing into a vagina,
that is precisely the artistic design that is implemented in Zombie's maze. The image is unmistakable as prior to even
nearing the entryway of the maze, guests see two gigantic inflatable legs – between which awaits the passageway.

A nymph dressed in black-lit Dayglow attire – a design scheme to which the entire maze adheres – hands out the
special glasses that allow all of the brilliant colors within to separate into three dimensions. Then, it's through the
cushy passageway and into a colorful maze, wherein the atmosphere is essentially a psychotic child's porno trip. The
performers include: swivel-hipped seductresses, smiley faced goofballs bearing dildos, furniture that comes to life and
a cigar-chomping gorilla. Cartoonish pornographic gore adorns the walls, and, in some rooms, performers on wires
and bungee cords swing at passersby.
Finally, there was Haunt of 1,000 Corpses.
As the name suggests, this maze was filled
with imagery from Zombie's directorial
House of 1,000 Corpses – imagery
which is inherently suited for a haunted
attraction. It is essentially a museum of
disturbing and morbid themes, and it
features recreations of numerous historical
crime scenes and performers in the roles
of the scenes' respective serial killers.
Prior to entering the maze, guests are
accosted by a performer who tilts their
heads back and, using a prop knife, marks
their foreheads with a crucifix. The art of
the maze is miraculous, and the strategic
placement of performers in relation to
vignettes demonstrates an expert's hand at
calculating jolts through misdirection.
Whether or not Zombie is a prodigy at
writing music or telling stories through
film I couldn't say – I am not yet
thoroughly versed in his body works –
but it is clear that he is a genius in some
regards. His cross-marketing, of virtually
every project of every medium in which
he has worked, has established his own
iconic brand in the Entertainment
Industry. Beyond that, his love of horrific
and cult imagery inspires his
perpetuation of like images, and the fact
that the final maze of his Great
American Nightmare is essentially an
interactive extension of the fictitious
horror museum (Captain Spalding's
Museum of Monsters and Madmen) from
House of 1,000 Corpses essentially
graduates his cartoonish nightmare
vision to the level of sublime art.