In July 2016, Universal Studios in California opened their The Walking Dead attraction. Obviously, Heaven of Horror had to try it out, and here’s how we experienced it!
By the time you reach the exterior of The Walking Dead attraction, you know you’re about to enter the world you’ve seen unfold on TV for six seasons. And we’re starting at the very beginning, when everything was going to Hell. This attraction definitely cost a pretty penny, but it also looks the part.
Also, Greg Nicotero, who’s both producer and sometimes director of The Walking Dead took part in making this “walk-through”, so we’re interacting with the real deal here.
Obviously, you can’t do any kind of The Walking Dead attraction without a whole lot of blood and bodies. That’s why it seems perfectly reasonable that you’re greeted with body bags before you enter the building itself. Besides the visual stimuli, you’ll enjoy hearing the theme music blaring from the speakers. Oh yeah, you’ll feel like you’re in the show itself, and you’re no doubt the badass hero in your own story. That’s how we felt anyway – of course, we also had yet to have any zombies jump out at us.
After that you’ll start hearing short wave radioclips of survivors trying to get in touch with other people, while you walk through the hospital. And it really wouldn’t be a The Walking Dead attraction without a lot of bloody handprints…
And then of course, there’s the iconic door with “Don’t Open Dead Inside” (which everyone – including us – can’t help but read as “Don’t Dead Open Inside”) scribbled across. And yes, zombies are constantly trying to get through while you’re a few feet away.
In general, you’ll be looking at a lot of set pieces while waiting in line, so you shouldn’t be bored.
Also, you can hear people scream pretty much constantly while the line moves along pretty quickly. It’s hard not to look happy, when you hear screams and giggles while waiting… I mean, you know you’re in for a treat…
And really, we spent more time looking at other people in line than we did looking at props. You’ll see how truly diverse fans of The Walking Dead are, and you never know who’ll end up looking increasingly terrified as they approach the front of the line.
When we finally reached the real entry of The Walking Dead attraction itself [meaning the walk-through part where the zombies reside], we had only waited 15-20 minutes. We went two days in a row and tried it a couple of times, but always early in the day. From noon till around closing time, the wait was pretty steadily at 120 minutes, so do yourself a favor and get there early.
During our very first The Walking Dead walk-through, we were the very last in a group, while a group of six friends (male and female) around 20 years old were in the front. Or actually, the boys pushed the girls to the front while one of the girls kept asking “Why do I have to walk in front?” followed by yet another scream. It was actually a very valid question, since the young men in the group had seemed very excited and ready to face the zombies head-on themselves.
Really, the poor young woman kept warning the zombies that she was just around the corner. She would’ve never survived the zombie apocalypse. Then again, neither would the cowardly young men in the group, so there you go.
We managed to get 30 seconds of video from the beginning of The Walking Dead attraction, and even though the lighting is awful, you can enjoy the sound just fine to get an idea of the ambiance. And we did manage to get the iconic bicycle girl, before we were asked to “Please, put the phone away, Ma’am!” (we’re not really “ma’am” types, so that was a scary part of the experience, too). Anyway, enjoy…
The actual walk-through part of The Walking Dead attraction
It’s not exactly a long walk-through, but almost at the very beginning, you’ll have a chance to see bicycle girl crawling towards you. Opposite this, however, was a “real” zombie. The true challenge of The Walking Dead attraction is spotting which zombies are robots and which are real people. One is pretty stationairy, while the other can react and chase you for a bit. They’re all wearing similar masks and it’s pretty damn dark, so you have to pay attention.
Also, there are some Universal Studios employees, who are just watching and making sure everything is running smoothly (i.e. no one is passing out and needs to be carried out).
As with all things good, they’ve saved the best for last. You’ll be able to hear that something special is in store before you reach it, because there’s a lot of screaming in the final part. They’ve build a brilliant maze of fenced-in zombies that can actually reach you. Instinctively, you’ll move out of their reach, but the only place to move, is right into the reach of another zombie. This happens a few times and then the walk-through is over.
Really, it’s pretty entertaining to just stand near the entrance and take a few pictures of that area, while also watching the people coming out of the attraction – meaning the survivors, who were screaming their heads off two seconds earlier.
This was a perfect place for people watching, because you’ll see people pale as ghosts and also those euphoric for having made it through. You know, pretty much like watching different people experiencing an awesome horror movie.
For the record, if you’re Hellbent on not letting The Walking Dead attraction scare you and let the jump-scares work their magic, then obviously it won’t be a fun experience. We all know it’s make-believe, and there’s no fun in trying to “beat the ride”. Don’t be a zombie when you’re there to have fun. And yes, a really big part of the attraction is watching other people get scared.