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Zombie fans are happily taking over FanX

SALT LAKE CITY — Zombie stories leave Jann Goodsell with her heart pounding.

Usually that's because the Orem woman likes to tune in to "The Walking Dead" while she runs on her treadmill. But on Friday, Goodsell's pulse was racing as she ran from zombified actors and paying guests in "The Walking Dead Experience," featured this weekend at Salt Lake Comic Con's FanX event.

"I found myself actually really not wanting them to get me," Goodsell said, laughing as she caught her breath. "In the beginning, it felt like it was a game. It was fun, but somehow I really got wrapped up in it."

"The Walking Dead Experience," based on the gory, violent postapocalyptic AMC series (rated TV-14), is an immersive trip through the beginnings of Robert Kirkman's zombie story. Part haunted attraction, part mystery escape adventure, guests who take on the role of human survivors must troubleshoot their way through a series of sites and challenges, all while being pursued by flesh-hungry hordes.

At one point, as she hid from zombies roaming the fictional town, Goodsell answered a ringing phone set up in the scene and found a caller asking for help fleeing from the horde. For a moment, Goodsell said she felt like it was real.

"Am I a sucker, or what?" she said. "If you don't get into it, it's not worth it. I do when I watch (the show)."

The experience was brought to life by Kirkman, director Michael Counts, and Walker Stalker, an all-zombie fan convention. A trip through the zombie-infested town lasts about 30 minutes, while combo packages allow guests to play both roles and spend additional time in the scenario. Tickets range from $60 to $140.

For those like sisters Hailly and Sophia Trujillo who wonder what it's like to walk with the undead, the experience also offers an option for professional zombie makeup and time to pursue human survivors. Despite their gruesome get-up, the girls couldn't help but grin about the zombie makeovers.

Meanwhile, former boy band heart throbs Nick Carter and AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, and Joey Fatone from NSYNC are promoting their upcoming SyFy flick "Dead 7." A look at the movie's trailer brought huge cheers from FanX crowds Thursday night.

Since the trailer hit the Internet, McLean, who plays the antagonist in the film, said he has been checking online comment boards to gauge reactions to the goofy story produced by the same team that created the absurd B-list sensation "Sharknado."

"They're about half good and half not good, and even the ones that aren't good, they finish their little comment with, 'I'm still going to watch it,'" McLean said. "That's how all these little cult classics start."

The movie is a postapocalyptic Western — a zombie niche the world didn't know it needed, Carter agrees — was written by Carter and includes a cast of former pop stars.

"Movies are so over the top these days. Obviously they're making the Marvel movies and they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on these movies, right? And there was a time, like in the '80s and early '90s, when there were movies that were just special to me, that were B movies," Carter said. "I think this movie could possibly be that for this generation."

"Dead 7" airs April 1 — and that's not an April Fools' Day joke, Fatone is quick to add.

Salt Lake Comic Con's FanX event is going on through Saturday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.


Twitter: McKenzieRomero