An hour or so southwest of Wilmington in Nakina—between Lake Waccamaw and Shallotte—swampland has been transformed into a haunted attraction of epic proportions. Over the last 10 years Panic Attack has been the place to face all fears during Halloween—whether in the form of coming face-to-face with creepy vermin, like rats, snakes, spiders and alligators, or watching human torture and disembodiment. Eerie dolls, insane cannibals, mental patients and zombies lurk behind every crevice, ready to pounce on their prey. By moving from ILM’s 30,000-square-foot spook factory on 15th Street, Panic Attack now places visitors in the middle of nowhere to amp up the thrills to an 11 on a scale of 10.
“We have spent the majority of 2019 rebuilding the attraction,” owner Eric Pino says. “It’s a super-creepy location in the swamp. We throw a party in the swamp while visitors wait to go.”
The design of the attraction is in the hands of creatives who have worked in the film industry and with Universal Studios and Six Flags. The detail in their design is of the highest caliber, with animatronics coming straight out of Hollywood. Though there is no specific theme, the attraction covers a wide array of bone-chilling encounters.
“We have a whole swamp fishing village with Bubba’s Fish Market,” Pino tells of the new addition. “You come face-to-face with two great sharks. We have Pine Level Asylum and a trick-or-treat house where kids will do anything to get back their candy.”
When Panic Attack first hit Wilmington 10 years ago, it was in a 10,000-square-foot space and tripled in size and evility before moving. Now it’s even more sprawling as an hour-long outdoor haunted trail. By being situated on a large swath of land, Panic Attack can grow into a daring destination. “We want to become a tradition,” Pino says.
Panic Attack hits on everyone’s darkest terrors, from chainsaws to clowns to a life-sized dollhouse to a military zone and, naturally, swamp monsters. “You’ll go underground into the mind shaft and come up facing some of your favorite movie characters, like Pennywise from ‘It‘ and Jason from ‘Friday the 13th.'”
Pulling off the showdown are upward of 50 to 60 actors. Pino hosts auditions annually. “A lot of them have acting experience and have worked with Panic Attack in the past,” he confirms.
Makeup and airbrush artists are local, and costumes come from Matt Valentine, who most folks may know from Syfy’s “Face Off.” Panic Attack finds wares from thrift stores, as well as movie costume houses. “The costumes get distressed and prepared on site,” Pino says.
Panic Attack 2019 comes with more actors, props, sets, sounds and smells. In other words, the attraction attacks all senses for a fully immersive experience.
“We are 100% about the customer’s experience,” Pino says. “We have created scenes that makes every visitor feel like they’re in a horror movie, so everybody can get a terrified experience.”