We had the opportunity to check out Halloween Horror Nights on the West coast, and today we are going to share our thoughts on the haunted houses, or as they call them, mazes, with our faithful readers. This will be a long one, so put on your favorite tunes and come along for the ride as we review these mazes in depth for your reading pleasure…
6 Terrifying Mazes
At Universal Studios Hollywood during HHN, its quality over quantity, as they have less haunted attractions than Orlando, but they most definitely pack a mightier punch. With much more smells, more effective scares, and great special effects, these houses really leave a mark on your memories as well as your vocal chords. This year, UH took queue from Orlando and gave 5 mazes based on the same IPs as the east coast, and one that we Floridians got to see at last year’s event. In this article, we will be reviewing these mazes on their own, without comparing them to their Orlando counterparts. Comparisons of the two parks shared haunted attractions will be published in the coming days.
Halloween: Hell Comes To Haddonfield ★★★★✮
We begin with a house we rated highly at Orlando’s HHN, which is based off the movie Halloween 2. Hollywood’s version starts off in the living room of the Myer’s house, with Michael brooding outside of one of the windows. Stepping into a hallway, Michael lunges towards you with his knife from behind a picture frame. Into a bedroom of the house, we see Doctor Loomis shooting at Michael, trying to kill him once and for all. These scenes depict the ending of the first movie, leading into the main events of the sequel.
Once you make it into the Haddonfield hospital, the stench of three hour old dead bodies permeates the air. These corpses are everywhere and were left in the wake of Michael’s killing spree, and he is waiting his next victims; you.
A notable scene includes Michael dumping a woman’s face into an acid bath. The scene smells of acetone, and the woman’s face is peeling from third degree burns. Michael stares at you right in the eyes as he holds her head down into the vat, as though staring straight into your soul. These close face to face, eye contact moments are a trend in the Hollywood mazes this year.
Once you depart the hospital, you enter a dark room with glowing Jack-O-Lanterns floating at different heights. Some of these carved pumpkin heads are actually head pieces on actors, who stand still until they lunge towards you with a knife in hand. This scene goes on for a couple yards until you reach a much much larger jack-o-lantern with its mouth serving as an entrance. You walk into the pumpkin itself and into its guts. The smell of pumpkin and dirt surrounds you as you make your way through the innards of the pumpkin, with Mr. Meyers popping out of its nooks and crannies along the way.
We give this house 4 and a half stars for it’s aesthetically overwhelming and awe inspiring scenes and super effective scare tactics. There were many points in this maze where we found ourselves saying “whoooa this is so cool” out loud.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers ★★★★★
This maze, though mostly based on the original 1974 movie, has some of the two additional sequels mixed into it, with scenes including sequel characters like Crop Top and Nubbin’s dead rotting corpse. You begin by entering the Sawyer Family Barbecue and Gas store, and are welcomed by Father Sawyer himself. There are half eaten plates of barbecue ribs, chicken and steaks on the bar he stands behind. He points at the door on the other side of the room and yells “KILL THEM ALL!” and Leatherface plows through the door with his chainsaw held high.
You then walk into the kitchen, where you see them preparing dead human bodies for the store’s food inventory to sell to customers in a smoker. The stench of burning flesh is prevalent in these scenes, as you watch Leatherface chop up a body on a table, cutting it into manageable quarters for cooking. Progressing further, you make your way into the meat cooler. Dead pigs, humans, and other animals are hanging from the ceiling, which you must make your way through by touching them and moving them aside and out of your way. The scent of burning flesh is now replaced with rotting and decaying meat, and of course, the opportunity for Leatherface to pop out at you in this meat obstacle course is not missed. The smells in this scene make many guests cover their nose and mouth to prevent themselves from gagging. Really, the smells are pretty prevalent and sickening.
Additional noteworthy scenes include the Sawyer family dinner, featuring grandpa, Nubbins, and Leatherface. Grandpa is wildly swinging a sledgehammer as Nubbins holds an innocent women over a tin bucket. Grandpa bashes the woman on the head with the hammer and she bleeds out and dies in the bucket. This event serves as a distraction for Leatherface to run out of a door with his chainsaw straight at you.
We give this maze a full 5 star rating for it’s combined use of smells, sense of dread, graphic violence and gore, and in your face scares. This haunted house is certainly one for the books, and a definite service to any fan of the Texas Chainsaw franchise.
The Exorcist ★★★☆☆
Speaking of nauseating smells, this haunted attraction kicks it up 3 more notches, with the ENTIRE MAZE smelling like a combination of rotting flesh, a wet and decomposing dog corpse, vomit, and urine to make for one unforgettable stench that lingers in your memories forever. This is one smell you never want to come across again. This stench is what UH imagines Regan smells like as she dies and decays from the inside out through the course of her possession.
You begin by walking into the foyer, where a ouija board is going crazy all by itself. One will recall that Regan becomes possessed when she decides to play with one of these boards. Immediately following this scene you are presented with a flight of stairs ahead of you, with an animatronic Regan doing the infamous “spider walk” with some lighting and sound effects. You next enter a series of extremely dark corridors. These dark corridors make their appearance between every scene , and contain strobe light scare that pierce through the darkness that you simply can not see coming.
The scenes between the dark corridors are those that any fan of the movie are familiar with. Regan going crazy on her mattress, floating above the mattress with the priest throwing holy water, etc. The scene where Pazuzu’s statue appears in the bedroom with Regan reaching up towards the sky is also included.
We give this house a 3 star rating, the lowest rating of the bunch, for it’s sub par masks worn by the actors, and sickening smells throughout. Usually, smells add to the overall experience but in this particular maze, it is hard to bear during this maze’s long duration. This maze is not lacking in scares, but the dark corridors use the same gags to scare guests everytime, and since there are so many of them between scenes, it gets a bit tired and predictable about 3 quarters of the way through.
What a maze this is! Fantastically faithful to the movie, there is a wonderfully diverse set of characters and scenes in this maze. Krampus himself pops out about 5 times, as well as the demented teddy bear and jack in the box jester also appear multiple times. There are also a few elves here and there, but they are not the stars of the show.
The house begins in the family’s living room. Inside the fireplace, you can see a child’s legs dangling and being shoved up the fireplace, apparently being nabbed by Krampus. Moving through a hallway, you encounter Krampus himself for the first time as he gets right in your face and points you in the right direction to the next scene, which is the kitchen. Gingerbread men have taken over this kitchen, breaking the cupboards, drinking the wine, and even eating a gingerbread house made by the home owners.
The next scene is someone else’s family room, with the second fireplace of the maze. An elf pops out from the right side as you pass two sofas and a rug. While passing by it, Krampus plows through the fireplace, breaking the walls above it as a strobe light illuminates his hideous mangled face. The very next scene he scares you again when he appears above from the ceiling.
Additional notable scenes include the attic, with an actor struggling to get the teddy bear off of his arm as he gnaws into it, and the Jack in the box puppet consuming a woman whole. The teddy bear makes an additional appearance from inside what looks like a kissing booth. The Jester gets you again when he pops open an air vent and reaches for your delicious face.
We give this haunted house a 5 star rating for it’s range of characters, multitude of scenes, smells, effects and outdoor areas. Once again, the humor element seems to be missing, but this time we can put that fact aside as this maze was really a really great recreation of the film and quite scary.
American Horror Story ★★★★☆
A very decent haunted maze, the scares are abundant, the scenes are quite detailed, and there is a wide array of characters. As we mentioned before, the Twisty masks are rather terrible, but he only briefly shows up three times, so this can be forgivable.
We begin at murder house, walking past the staircase where a little girl is sitting on the steps, letting us know that “you will die in this house.” Walking through a hallway, the rubber man surprises you from behind a picture frame. Next, the burnt man Larry Harvey walks towards you from behind a door, exclaiming “trick or treat?!” and proceeds to laugh. We then walk through a scene from his past; his house burning to the ground with his wife and children inside. Everything is black and charred, including two twin beds, a teddy bear, and a children’s tea party set and dolls. Into the bathroom, we see a two way mirror that illuminates from behind to reveal the pig man, who then hurls towards you through the shower curtain on your other side.
Moving along into the Freak Show section, you venture into a forest with crickets chirping and children’s toys and items hanging from the trees with twine. Twisty the clown runs toward you with his large scissors through the trees. Making a left, you see his school bus, complete with children inside screaming for help through the windows. This acts as distraction for Twisty to once again hurl at you with his scissors from some other trees. You then approach Elsa’s freaks show tent, with Edward Mordrake standing at the threshold, tipping his hat and showing you his second face as he turns his back to you and walks away. Inside the tent, we see Chester Creb slicing a woman in a box with a saw. Dandy is sitting in the audience and jumps up for a scare.
Into the Hotel section, you walk down a hallway of doors with characters Mr. March and others opening the doors violently to scare you. We see the countess and Mr. March multiple times as we make our way through the Hotel Cortez. A notable scene is in the countess’ bedroom with her baby. She is prowling the room to frighten you, but the real scares are in the drapes on the windows. Actors hide behind these drapes with full body suits that match the curtains exactly. They reach their arms out through the drapes to get you to scream.
We give this house 4 stars for its faithfulness to the series, diversity of scenes and characters, and abundance of scares.
Freddy vs Jason ★★★✮☆
This house has got great effects, a neat story line narrated by Freddy Krueger himself, and some great moments throughout. Starting you in Jason’s dreams, which are being controlled by Freddy, we see Freddy killing an adolescent Jason Vorhees in multiple ways, including shoving one of his claws into his temple, and eating him in Freddy’s infamous snake form. After these scenes, a huge Freddy head puppet comes ever so close to touching you as it flies out of a hole in the wall, with steam coming from its open mouth. These dreams don’t kill Jason, which angers Freddy, and causes him to decide to take him back to Crystal Lake. A neat lighting effect transports guests to the next scene.
Entering Crystal Lake through a short forested scene, we see Mrs. Vorhees wielding an axe and telling Jason to “Kill them Jason, kill them all. Show mommy what a good boy you are.” A charred Jason without a mask runs towards you with his machete as you reach the cabins of Camp Crystal Lake, with a plethora of dead counselors decorating the porch.
From here, both Freddy and Jason can be seen, fighting you and each other, with some pretty inventive scare gags and effects, including disappearing walls and two way mirrors.
We give this maze a 4 and a half star rating for it’s creative scare gags, multitude of actors, and involved, original storyline.
2 Haunted Attractions
Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights also includes two haunted attractions that aren’t exactly haunted houses per se. They convert their studio backlot tour into a walkthrough of some of their most famous sets that they fill to the brim with scareactors. They also have a year round Walking Dead “walk through attraction” that they ramp up for HHN, adding double the actors and scares!
Eli Roth Presents Terror Tram: Klowntopia ★★★✮☆
Universal Studios Hollywood’s HHN has an attraction know as “The Terror Tram” that transports guests to the studio’s backlot areas where they house screen-used props and set pieces. Guests depart the tram at a point and walk the sets filled with scareactors and two mini outdoor mazes. This year, the backlot has been taken over by menacing clowns that murder and mutilate human bodies to resemble pigs and spiders, amongst other things.
The story goes that in Universal Hollywood’s early days, they hired “Coodles the clown” to entertain children during their stays at the park in a segment of the backlot tour. The man behind the make up was named Harry, and he eventually gained popularity and scores his own TV show. A few years into his tenure with Universal, however, his attitude became sour and he began acting violent and erratic, resulting in his termination. Jumping forwards to 2016, Universal Hollywood began running the studio tour after sunset, which it had never done before. During these tours guests spotted the clown creepily prowling the sets. They took pictures and videos of him that went viral all over the Internet. They named him “Hollywood Harry” the creepy studio tour clown. After word of his shenanigans spread, he no longer hid in the dark of night and could be seen more and more often during the daytime hours. His presence eventually caught the interest of other would be clowns and they all came to the studio backlot to join him in his quest for revenge with UH for the way they treated him.
Guests on the terror tram are educated of this backstory via the screens on the tram itself. Once the video is over, the tram stops and they are greeted by Hollywood Harry himself, holding balloons and awaiting their arrival. The tram doors open and guests step out and begin walking the backlot. After passing Harry, we notice a large group of clowns in black and white striped shirts and black khakis with suspenders, all holding chainsaws, waiting for us to walk towards them. They all rev their saws and from there, the backlot is chaos.
Guests walk through the Bates Motel, the set of the War of the Worlds, and other films with clowns everywhere. There’s carnage all over the place and two separate outdoor haunted houses you must walk though. The houses contain scenes of murder, dismemberment, and disfiguration of innocents. When it’s all over, guests reboard the tram and are chauffeured back to the park to safety.
We give the terror tram experience 3 and a half stars for its number of characters and sprinkles of humor, but it has scored a bit lower because we felt it should have been a bit longer and scarier. Then again, we aren’t afraid of clowns so we may be a bit biased.
The Walking Dead Attraction ★★★★☆
We won’t dive too deep into this attraction, seeing as we have already a few months back, which you can read it here.
When construction of this year round attraction, which is already a haunted house of sorts, they had Halloween Horror Nights in mind. They added additional functional doors, boo holes, and lighting effects with triggers to only be used during HHN. During the day time throughout the year, there is a set amount of actors within the attraction, and their scares aren’t completely terrifying in the way they are presented. But come Halloween Horror Nights, they double the amount of actors inside the house with more intense methods of in your face scaring, much like a typical HHN maze would do.
Overall, this attraction is very solid as a haunted house, and has a wonderful mix of real actors and animatronics. The scenes are well decorated and the effects are pretty neat looking. The attraction is pretty decent throughout the year, but this ramped up HHN edition definitely took it to the max and made for a great haunted house experience. We at HHNU have been through a lot of Walking Dead mazes, and this one is definitely near the top.
We give this haunted attraction 4 stars for it’s cast size, animatronics, awesome effects, and overall immersiveness. The only complaint we could make regarding this is it’s length. It could stand to be another minute longer at least.
HHN Hollywood, a must see for any HHN fan
Being die hard fans of the Orlando event for many years now, HHN Hollywood was a whole new experience altogether. Universal Hollywood has a whole different bag of tricks and gags that they use to scare you, and you won’t see them coming if you’re accustomed to Orlando’s event and scare methods. We highly recommend a trip across the country to check this out if you can manage.