Every October, amusement parks scare up monsters, zombies, vampires, and more to celebrate Halloween with haunted mazes and ghoulish attractions. In Southern California, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights bases mazes on popular movies and TV shows such as "The Walking Dead," Evil Dead and Insidious. But there's one maze that comes with a special soundtrack: Black Sabbath: 13-3D.
As attendees are given 3-D glasses and led into a darkened, red-lit gothic church, they are confronted by a giant black-robed figure, all to the sounds of Black Sabbath's eerie "Black Sabbath." Mazegoers wander through a variety of dark scenes, including World War I imagery, and in each new room they hear snippets of other Black Sabbath songs, such as "N.I.B." or "Children Of The Grave."
The Black Sabbath: 13-3D maze is the vision of Jon Murdy, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights producer and creative director, who believes Black Sabbath fit two key criteria for lending their music to a horror spectacle.
"Besides their incredible history [and] their catalog, we knew the band was reuniting [and] we knew they were doing a new album with Rick Rubin that was coming out this year. So we thought from an awareness standpoint it was a really good fit," Murdy says. "[Then] in evaluating Sabbath as a potential property for Halloween Horror Nights it really went right to [bassist] Geezer Butler's lyrics. Geezer's lyrics were very descriptive, almost like a movie script, where you could pull out little lines and turn that into what we call a 'living horror movie.'"
Fittingly, music-themed mazes have roots in several shock rockers. In 2011 Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights partnered with Alice Cooper for Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare, a maze based on Cooper's music that featured guillotines, creepy babies, electric chairs, cadavers, and stilt-walking creatures.
"There are very few people you could say are a true original in this business, especially rock and roll, and Alice is a true original," says Murdy. "He created that [combination of horror and music]."
In 2010 Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights teamed with Rob Zombie for Rob Zombie's House Of 1000 Corpses: In 3-D, a maze more inspired by the GRAMMY-nominated artist's work as a horror director on 2003's House Of 1000 Corpses. This year, Zombie has launched Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. Taking the union of music and mazes one step further, Zombie has tacked on a 15-night festival to the experience, featuring acts such as Reel Big Fish, Powerman 5000, Emilie Autumn, Andrew W.K., and the Used, among others. Zombie will headline two concerts Nov. 1–2.
A creative collaboration between Zombie and noted haunted house producer Steve Kopelman, Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare features three different mazes, all based on Zombie horror films: In the first maze (inspired by 2012'sLords Of Salem), attendees walk through hooded, using their hands to navigate the walls and find their way out; the second (inspired by the 2009 animated feature The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto) is a psychedelic 3-D journey through a giant vagina; and the third (inspired by House Of 1000 Corpses) can only be described as a snuff film through a variety of ghastly scenes. It is not for children or the faint of heart.
"Everybody that I've talked to that came out looked shell-shocked in effect because the first maze was totally disorienting, the second maze is kind of fun and psychedelic and the third maze is so gritty that you feel almost like you want to take a shower," says Zombie. "So I feel people should feel completely shell-shocked."
This bone-chilling project has consumed much of Zombie's time. He likens the creative process to that of a massive stage production. "I'm on the phone every day about this, texting every five seconds," he says. "That's not to say there aren't many people involved [who] are doing the same thing because there's a huge effort. Every little thing matters to me, I could never just do it and go, 'Oh yeah, stick my name on it.' The fact that my name's on it is a big deal to me.
Musician-inspired mazes are still a relatively new concept, but they are starting to garner attention from fellow artists. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Slash, who recently produced the horror film Nothing Left To Fear, said, "I would love to have some sort of maze based on a movie that I produced and have it be really scary."
In the future, Zombie would like to expand his Halloween mazes to other markets, albeit on a different scale than a concert tour.
"Obviously they can't travel because they're too massive, that would be impossible," says Zombie. "But what I would like to do is maybe next year have the same event in three different cities at the same time. And maybe the mazes that are in California are now in Texas and maybe we build new ones for California and try to slowly expand it each year and see how it goes. I'll put it as many places as I can successfully make it work."
Murdy is optimistic for additional opportunities to collaborate with other musicians on Halloween mazes. This year, the soundtrack to Halloween Horror Nights' Universal Monsters Remix: Resurrection maze was composed by DJ/EDM artist Figure, with the music paying homage to classic movie monsters of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Murdy, who discovered Figure's music via iTunes, believes the merging of musicians and mazes is all a matter of finding the right fit.
"When you go past Alice and Sabbath, then you have to really think about what else might work in this setting," says Murdy. "I would certainly like to continue to do this and I think it's just finding the right person and the right opportunities."
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)