Brains — it’s what’s for dinner
There are few survivors in Dead Zone’s dystopian nightmare, and many who roam the radioactive wasteland subsist on human flesh, though brain matter is what they crave. The undead in this fright fest don’t just walk, they materialize in the mist to taunt their prey. Terrible sounds echo throughout the maze of terror where what awaits is even scarier than what has passed. The weak of knee and faint of heart needn’t worry; there are exits throughout, and the entire tour only lasts about 15 minutes.

 

 
Photo by: SAM CICERO
The man behind the mask

Artist Nelson Cooper takes the job of scaring people very seriously. From bleeding skulls and entrails to the post-apocalyptic sets, Cooper designed and built every element of the haunt with some assistance from friends. Many Halloween haunts use manufactured props, but the 36-year-old professional mask maker insists on handcrafting for full effect. His objects of terror offer a macabre sort of pleasure and are a rightful source of pride for him.

 


Photo by: SAM CICERO
The Dead Zone diet

As strenuous as it’s been for Cooper and his team to build the Dead Zone, it’s equally demanding for actors. With the recent heat wave it’s been steamy on set, and twice so inside the latex masks the actors wear. Some of the haunt’s volunteers have even become quite skeletal in appearance in the two months since production began. A few actors have also learned that embracing their roles with extra zeal is nearly as productive as a CrossFit session — but much more fun. Nelson says some of them have gotten carried away, forcing certain props into triage, so he tells them to “look like you’re out of control, but be in control.” They mostly oblige.

 

 

 
Photo by: ALBERT MUNOZ
Horror Helps

If no good deed goes unpunished then it might stand to reason that every bit of horror helps. Dead Zone is located in the building that previously housed House of Magic, a multi-arts gallery and instructional center. House of Magic has since reorganized as a nonprofit foundation and relocated to a more manageable space around the corner. Nelson has been closely involved with HOM and believes in its mission to make art, entertainment and magic accessible to everyone through education, regardless of financial means. He will be donating a portion of the proceeds from Dead Zone 805 to its efforts.

 


Photo by: SAM CICERO
Better safe than sorry

Great care has gone into making the Dead Zone safe.  A system of smoke and fire alarms has been installed, and having met all the Ventura Fire Department’s criteria, the haunt passed inspection. Staff members are stationed out of view of patrons all along the haunt’s pathways to ensure everyone is safe at all times. Anyone who wants to leave can easily be escorted. While Cooper says, if you can handle an episode of The Walking Dead you should be able to handle the haunt’s scare tactics, he advises parents to leave small children at home. Children younger than 10 will not be admitted. Keep in mind that the zombie apocalypse theme makes this haunt more gore than ghost.


Dead Zone 805, Oct. 29-31, 7-10 p.m. $13 per person. 5353 Walker St., Ventura (inside Halloween Planet). For more information, visit www.deadzone805.com.