Keeping up to date on all things Walking Dead means more than just reading the comic and watching the TV show. Sometimes it means living it as well. I did that a few years ago when I went undercover as a zombie on the show back in season 2, although that bastard Robert Kirkman ended up cutting my scene because “the performance just wasn’t there.” Screw that. So this time I decided to switch sides and join the survivors and see if I could escape the clutches (and, more importantly, jaws) of the undead by walking through Rick’s — and Daryl’s and Carol’s and Glenn’s — shoes at The Walking Dead: End of the Line haunted house at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
All the houses at HHN consist of monsters or demons or vampires or aliens or predators or serial killers or clowns — CLOWNS! — totally invading your personal space and jumping out at you…often with blunt instruments of death at their disposal. It is unsetting. But I was especially excited to check out The Walking Dead one because the maze is a complete retelling of the events of season 4. So what awaits you in The Walking Dead: End of the Line? A few terrifying highlights:
• You begin outside the prison with dead walkers strewn about (many punctured through the makeshift pole defenses), and what is that on the ground? Yep, that’s Hershel’s zombified head. Just kinda sitting there. So wrong. Just so wrong.
• The first thing I saw upon entering the house was the pig that Rick slaughtered after that nasty virus took hold in the prison. A nice touch adding that in, I thought…although I was still too depressed about poor Hershel to mourn the dead animal as well.
• I was on the interior prison set of The Walking Dead multiple times and I have to say that the one here looked damn close to it. It certainly helped that Walking Dead exec producer Greg Nicotero consulted on putting this particular scare factory together, but the detail was pretty spot on.
• One of the best areas was the Big Spot! grocery store, where in the show our survivors experienced death from above as the helicopter and zombies fell from a caved in roof atop our gang. You actually get to walk through the Big Spot! here, as an actor with a huge gun hurries you through, warning that the roof is about to give out. (By the way, check out Nicotero’s storyboards to that amazing scene as it appeared on the show.)
• That creepy country club that Daryl and Beth come across is in full effect, with zombies hanging – and flailing! — from the ceiling. Keep in mind that while you are trying to take this all in and check out every last detail, walkers are popping out at you from behind corners and doorways. Where’s a good crossbow when you one?
• DON’T LOOK AT THE FLOWERS! Unfortunately, you can’t really avoid them as you turn a corner and there they are smack dab right in front of you. On the plus side, Carol does not blow your brains out. No sign of Tyreese, though, as he is probably hiding in the cabin while making Carol do all the dirty work. MAN UP, TYREESE!
• Contrary to our better judgment, we did indeed reach the end the line and arrive at Terminus. And sure enough, after going through that creepy room with the candles and names of the fallen Terminus comrades, we came across sweet, inviting Mary, who was working the grill. She offered us a plate of food — what a nice host! — but then all these guns were suddenly turned on us and we pretty much lost our appetite. Plus, the thing on the grill kind of smelled like Robin Lord Taylor.
• The chronology gets a little shaky at the very end as you venture outside and are surrounded by walkers behind fences while a giant pulsating strobe light shines in your face, giving the place the vague sensation of a Zombie Studio 54. Not sure it makes tons of sense since I think we’re technically supposed to be locked in the train car at that point plotting our escape, but it looks super cool.
So, you know, I survived. But more than anything it just made me want to go back and watch season 4 again to compare and contrast all the locations as they appear in both places. In any event, short of being cast on the show or igniting an actual zombie apocalypse (please don’t), this is probably your best opportunity to live The Walking Dead out for yourself. And if you do go check it out at Universal Orlando, definitely also make sure to partake in the Halloween (the movie) haunted house. Michael Myers killed me, like, 11 million times in that thing. Someone get me a wire hanger!
You can also hear audio of our ‘Walking Dead: End of the Line’ experience On Demand on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105). And for more ‘Walking Dead’ intel, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.