By way of disclosure, we were invited guests to Containment’s Media Night which occurred on Oct 3rd and that event also served as their dress rehearsal. That being said, my review of the actors will be only cursory as many were beginning their careers as haunt actors and this was their first experience with the “public”, but let’s talk about the haunt itself first, shall we?
a train derailment occurs at Atlantic Station dumping a large number of cargo containment cars. Within those cars are demonic artifacts...and after that all hell breaks loose!
So, we entered the attraction expecting this theme to be carried from beginning to end. The sets are very detailed and it’s clear that little expense was spared to dress the rooms. Each of the more than 20 real cargo cars that make up the attraction enclose a different scene or theme and the attention to detail was obvious in the clever use of “found object” props and set treatments. However, as we proceeded through the attraction we noticed a decided absence in the actual described theme elements. There wasn't really a “demonic” feel to any of the rooms. Many of the sets were beautiful (to my haunter’s eye) but my fellow reviewer remarked that the atmosphere seemed more “Carnival” than demonic. As we noticed this recurring and unintended theme we began to wish that the creators of Containment had actually taken that idea and run with it. It would suit the 25,000 square foot rail car set up perfectly as carnivals of old often rode the rails from town to town ‘a la "Something Wicked This Way Comes".
There were quite a lot of basic animatronics and we noticed a liberal use of video technology in lieu of actors. There was also an abundance of smoke and lighting effects and that leads me to address the lighting. Due to the layout of Containment there were many occasions when you would exit one cargo car and enter the next and the space between was out in the open. Atlantic Station and Atlanta in general are very brightly lit and that means these open sections are also quite well lit. Rarely were we immersed in any real darkness and this made it very easy to see the actors. The element of surprise was difficult to achieve because the bright street lights broadcast the actors location long before we could be startled. So, while we could see the detailed sets we were unable to get the benefit of a great scare from so many interesting looking characters. I would love to see the creators block out more of the existing ambient lighting to allow the haunt's mood to be set from within. There were some unexpected elements coming from above and to the sides that made for good scares as well as a really good scene incorporating water which was well done, so the potential is definitely there for some great moments.
Another thing that we noticed as we walked through the haunt is a very heavy “guide” presence. These are staffers in Containment T-shirts guiding you as you walk from section to section. My biggest complaint about this is every time I saw one of these “helpers” I was immediately taken out of my suspension of disbelief…I left the world of Containment and found myself slammed back into the parking lot of Atlantic Station. The unfortunate thing is that these guides really are needed because the layout of the haunt isn’t intuitive. There were many times when we were not sure which way to turn and we had to rely on these guides to point the way and thereby remind us that indeed, we were “still in Kansas”.
Now, let’s move on to the actors for a bit. I had an opportunity to speak with two of the actors and they told me that Containment was their first experience as haunters. I believe that this is the case with many of the actors in the attraction, but I’d like to give a few of them special recognition. We noticed that many of the actors had that carnival quality I mentioned to their scares &/or costumes that in some cases was quite striking. One actress that impressed us was the contortionist as she writhed and rotated in the manner of a side show freak and had the couple ahead of us skirting her baleful upside down stare. There were also some interesting character actors; an amusing “redneck” character that made me laugh, an actress with dreads and voodoo style makeup that had a lot of energy and a wonderful doctor/mad scientist character in a bathroom. Also, the end of the haunt had quite a few great startle scares incorporating power tools and air mechanisms. There were also two really good camouflaged actors which I won’t describe because I don’t want to blow their “cover” but would like to acknowledge. As a former haunt actor myself I’d like to see more of the actors maintain their hiding spot until the 2nd or 3rd person enters or follow the 4 second rule of haunting and not keep trying with the same person. However, again I must restate that this was dress rehearsal and many of these actors were still green.
This is decidedly the harshest review I've given. That is owed in great part to a few considerations. Basically, Containment has an enormous budget and access to cutting edge effects and an unlimited talent pool. It should be the best of the best and I found it didn't live up to that expectation. The predominant feeling I had in this attraction is that it is designed and executed in much the same way as a theme park attraction, which makes sense given its creators. It is based primarily on set elements with actors there more as dressing. The haunt itself is the show and the creatures are the distraction. Unfortunately, it felt like an unfinished endeavor. As if it needed another month of buildout and staff training to achieve it's goal. However, if you enjoy the experience of a Disney or Six Flags type haunted house you will probably enjoy this haunt. Also, this would be a great haunt for 1st timers. It has plenty of basic scare elements without being too intense.
I would love to visit Containment again later in the season to see how the actors have matured into their roles. The Season is short and it's such a large learning curve that even from day to day things can be so different. Often an actor will have a character epiphany that brings their role to "life", suddenly.
My rating is based only on design, layout and thematic cohesion because I think the actors can’t fairly be judged on their dress rehearsal night: 3.25 out of 5 Bats
I hope to visit Containment later in the season, perhaps with a“virgin” haunt attendee in tow. ;)