I know, I know. Our trip to Universal and this year’s Halloween Horror Nights was last month and I’m way overdue for writing this post. But, on the other hand, it does mean I get to post this on Halloween itself.
And this year we upgraded a little, having two nights to enjoy the goings on, including a guided tour the first night, a behind the scenes tour during the day and then our own devices the second night.
I did take some notes while we were there so I can be confident of the order of events. And unfortunately, due to Universal having to make some legal concessions, I was only permitted to take photos inside one of the houses.
Let’s kick things off with a video of the opening ceremony.
And we got to meet Chance later.
We had a little bit of time before we had to check in for our tour so we passed through some of the scare zones.
First was the Chance area, as seen above and here.
Then we went through the Vamp ’55 area,
where the homecoming parade was ambushed by some vampires. And I was a little mean to Britt by not earning her about an approaching scare actor.
We also went through the Lair of The Banshee, although it was early enough that they hadn’t started pumping all the mist and fog in yet.
We kept going a little and we met some nice people, rednecks and cheerleaders, all of whom had chainsaws. More of those later.
Then it was time to double back and find our tour group.
Our tour (you see what they did there) started off with a little down time where we could relax, have a drink and maybe mingle with one or two scare actors.
After that, we were led off to our first house of the evening. Oh, and to save time I’m just going to assume you’ve seen the movies & shows the houses are based on.
The one thing about Krampus himself, of the three times you saw him in this house, it was as a stationary puppet, since he was just too big to move about the confined space. Instead the scare actors were either evil elves or some of the family. As you move through the house gets increasingly trashed, especially the kitchen where the ginger bread men were running riot. The place even smelled like gingerbread. The house ended by going through Krampus’ underground lair, complete with collection of snowglobes.
The big house of the year. This is the first time Universal has been able to do an American Horror Story house and there were plenty of people eager to see this. Wait times were approx. 2 hours when we went in but thanks to the tour we got to skip the queue. There were three sections to the house, representing seasons 1, 4 & 5. So people in gimp suits, mad clowns and Lady Gaga, all in one place.
Ah the smell of split pea soup. You’d be surprised how long it stays with you. One of the things they were experimenting with this year was adding scents and The Exorcist was the main house where they did this. There were various versions of Regan, both actor and artificial, some turbulent priests and of course, a lot of steps. Not really, but they were designed around a wall in a spiral, to make you feel like you were looking straight down them.
Later at night, there were projections played against the surrounding buildings. Britt took a video.
So after another small break (and another trip to the bar) we moved on to tackle The Walking Dead.
Rather than focus on a specific element this year’s Walking Dead house took us on a journey through the previous seasons. From the very first episode, through the prison and then on to Terminus. Like our previous visit, the best was the strobe lit section leaving you unsure what was an actor and what was a dummy.
Next up was Lightning Gulch, the first of Universal’s own houses. Basically a ghost town where people have gone mad and killed each other, either by pistol, shotgun or various other means. We had a lot of fun with this one.
Another break then we got to head through Dead Man’s Wharf.
Since we were at the halfway point we took some time out to see Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure which has been running almost as long as Halloween Horror Nights itself. Fun, with plenty of jokes ranging from the last Star Wars movie, to Pokemon, to the obvious target of this year’s election. Plus a nice little tribute to David Bowie & Prince at the end.
Next was another Universal original; Lunatic’s Playground 3D.
To be honest, I’m not remembering a lot about this one beyond the 3D gimmick and the bridge. Imagine, trying to cross an narrow bridge with the walls around you spinning with a revolving spiral pattern. Bit of a mind fuck.
We moved on to the third and last original house. Tomb of The Ancients was designed like the inside of a pyramid or Aztec temple, all stone blocks and plenty of dark corners for scare actors to lurk in.
Remember when I said chainsaws were a theme this year? This was the one that definitely got me and we were already outside the house so I thought I was safe, dammit. The attention to detail here was amazing. Probably the best house for us.
And finally we came to Halloween. Like the film, this one starts where the previous one left off, taking us from the house through some suburban streets to the local hospital. Probably the house we enjoyed most after the Texas Chainsaw house.
The following day we went on an Unmasking the Horror behind the scenes tour, taking in all of the licensed houses and Lightning Gulch. Not only did seeing the houses under normal lighting give us a greater appreciation of the work that had gone into them, the slower pace meant we could take in that much more of our surroundings. Like I said, the Texas Chainsaw house was probably the most elaborate but all of them were pretty amazing. And our guide was good, pointing out things that were easy to miss, giving background, even warning where certain scare actors would be. Not that it helped at night, of course.
The 2nd night we followed our own plan and managed to hit all the houses (well, Britt skipped the 3D one) again. We made sure we did American Horror Story first, then moved to the back of the park and began working our way around. Thanks to that, we were able to do both the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw houses twice in quick succession. Again, I was mean to Britt and didn’t remind her about Leatherface waiting outside the house. He saw me spot him and after he got Britt to scream, he gave me a little nod of thanks.
We managed to do most of the houses twice that night and might have done more if tiredness hadn’t got the better of us. Needless to say, we’re already talking about doing Halloween Horror Nights again some time.
Happy Halloween, folks.