The way Jen Yarnell talks about the walking dead being shot near here next month, a person could be forgiven for assuming crews from Frank Darabont's hugely popular TV series of the same name would soon be swarming our shores.
Fans of The Walking Dead and zombie flicks from Night of the Living Dead to World War Z can rest assured, Yarnell says, that Company Z, her interactive zombie experience slated to come to life next month, will be the next best thing.
"Zombies are mainstream now. Everybody loves zombies, don't they?" says the Esquimalt single mother and social worker, explaining the motivation for creating what she says will be akin to being in a real-life episode of The Walking Dead. "Everybody seems to be talking about what they'd do if there was a zombie apocalypse these days."
Her live-action zombie paintball experience is scheduled to open Oct. 3 at Takala Trails Ranch, a 50-acre horse farm and surrounding wilderness north of Ladysmith. Professional actors, eerie locations and authentically nightmarish costumes are part of a scenario that will see the property transformed into the Louisiana bayou, where a local moonshiner and the deputy sheriff have mysteriously disappeared during a series of what appear to be attacks by zombielike locals.
"It's kind of like (the interactive theatre experience) Tony and Tina's Wedding, or murdermystery dinner theatre, but with no dinner," laughs Yarnell, 46.
"It's live theatre in the forest, but with paintball and a lot of creepy action."
Paintball gun-toting participants in groups of up to 12 will accompany the local sheriff in a fight for survival during a zombie apocalypse.
Your team's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to enter the bayou where voodoo is still practised and save humanity.
"Customers won't be shot, just zombies," promises Yarnell, no stranger to co-mingling with the flesh-eating undead.
She co-founded the Zombie Combat Zone on the Lower Mainland, an entertainment experience that quickly went viral, attracting workplace groups on outings, families, and members of the RCMP, Vancouver Canucks and B.C. Lions.
"I thought, 'I'm going to try something here because it's lots of fun,'" said Yarnell, emphasizing Company Z is ideal for beginners who might never had held a paintball gun and just want to have some scary fun as we move into Halloween season.
She has recruited local actors, crews and creative input from alternative culture enterprise Absolute Underground.
Yarnell is also a belly dancer.
"There won't be any belly-dancing," laughs Yarnell, who is half Cajun. "I don't know if that goes with the Louisiana theme."
Yarnell has been a horror buff for as long as she can remember, she says.
"I had a babysitter who would let me stay up and watch chillers and thrillers when I was a kid," she recalled.
Since her sons, aged 10 and 14, have birthdays around Halloween, it also prompted her to create haunted houses for them. "My boys are in dreamland over this," says Yarnell.
She shares a view posited by pop-culture experts that the popularity of zombies feeds into widespread anxiety over a potential apocalypse of our own making, but with a fictional element that is somehow more reassuring.
"They're like the modern-day monster and there are so many super-viruses out there it could be believable," she says.
For information, call 250-889-7073.
© Copyright 2013