Guest Blog: This week we have Karen from the excellent UO Fan Guide who wants to talk about her FAV house for 2016, take it away Karen…
Before I begin talking about my favorite house at Halloween Horror Nights, I have a few confessions to make:
I love Universal Orlando. It is quite literally my favorite place on Earth. I visit every chance I get throughout the year and cry real tears nearly every time I leave. But until this year, I’ve never been to HHN.
Throughout 2016, I spent hours, or more accurately, months, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading everything I could about the event – partly because I don’t like to do anything without studying like I’m preparing to write a dissertation and partly because once I started learning about the event, I just didn’t want to stop. To say that I was excited about attending HHN 26 is a dramatic understatement.
American Horror Story at HHN 26
When I read on HHNU that American Horror Story (AHS) was coming to HHN 26, I couldn’t believe my luck. AHS is one of my favorite television shows. I’ve seen every episode multiple times, and (feel free to sneer, laugh, or call me a nerd when you read this next bit) I’ve even read my fair share of AHS fan fiction in between seasons.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one who was thrilled about the prospect of one of TV’s most delightfully twisted shows coming to the theme park. Universal Studios’ creative director John Murdy called AHS the “No. 1 requested maze” among guests, and Universal Orlando Resort’s creative director Michael Aiello told Entertainment Weekly that AHS was at “the top of the list for many years.”
The appeal of AHS was hard to deny once HHN 26 started. On nearly every night of the event, the lines for the AHS house were longer than the lines for most, if not all, of the other houses. I truly enjoyed touring every house at HHN 26 and thought that they all had something fun and/or horrifying to offer. However, AHS was easily my favorite because it placed me into the show’s most memorable scenes and brought me face to face with quite a few of my favorite characters.
It’s All Connected!
If you’re not familiar with AHS, the main thing that you should know is that it is an anthology series with six seasons under its belt and more on the way. Each season is a standalone story with a beginning, middle and end, but there are intertwining mythologies that connect some of the characters and the seasons to each other. For example, two of the characters, Pepper and Dr. Arden, appeared in both Asylum (season two) and Freak Show (season four). We also saw The Countess from Hotel (season six) seek out medical services from Dr. Charles Montgomery, the original owner of Murder House (season one). Montgomery was also the last name of one of the characters in Coven (season three), and that’s probably not a coincidence.
I won’t rattle off any more examples since the interconnectedness is fun to discover on your own and easy enough to seek out online if you’re interested in learning more. But I do think it is worth mentioning that Ryan Murphy, the creator of AHS, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the connections will become increasingly evident and “explode in seasons seven and eight.” It will be interesting to see how this is represented at future HHN events.
Fun Moments in the AHS House
When you think about the interconnectedness of the seasons, Universal’s decision to base their very first AHS house on multiple seasons (Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel) makes sense. Personally, I think that squeezing three seasons into a single house was almost pushing it – after all, that’s a lot of material to cover – but it worked well enough.
The house was split into three sections, with each section focusing on one particular season of the show. Universal made several really good creative decisions to make the AHS house shine.
1.) They chose to populate each section with several of the most iconic scenes and sets from the show.
2.) They did a great job of recreating sets so that fans could clearly recognize the scene that was being represented.
3.) They cast people who actually looked (or were made up to look) like the characters from the show.
4.) They had the scareactors lip sync to real audio clips from the show.
As soon as you walked into the AHS house, you saw a projection of the TV show’s credits on a wall, which served as a sort of welcome. After that, it was one memorable scene after another.
Some of my favorite scenes from the Murder House section included the creepy basement laboratory of Dr. Charles Montgomery, who was standing by inhaling some of the ether meant for his patients, the smoldering children (Margaret and Angie), who were having a tea party at an exceptionally clean table that contrasted dramatically with their burnt skin, and the rubber man room, which was draped in red and filled with mannequins and a single scareactor, all dressed in rubber suits. My favorite Easter egg in the Murder House section was Tate Langdon’s library book. It was hard to spot, but a cool touch nevertheless.
The Freak Show section of the AHS house was nicely themed. I especially enjoyed visiting the trailer of Ethel Darling (the Bearded Lady), which included all sorts of trinkets and books. I feel like there were Easter eggs to find in this trailer, but I had trouble picking anything out. What I did notice was a copy of a V.C. Andrews novel in a stack of books, which was a rather odd prop choice (seriously, why was that there?) Twisty the Clown’s murder bus was also a fun stop. It contained kids’ toys scattered among the clutter and a couple of nods to past HHN events (like the sack from Jack’s HHN 25 show) that even a newbie like me could recognize. The rest of the Freak Show section was rather gruesome, especially the scene where Elsa’s legs are being cut off, but it did a good job of reflecting various scenes and characters from the show.
The Hotel section of the AHS house featured a lot of strong character moments, from Queenie being stabbed in her bed to an appearance from The Countess and her children. But one of the best moments came near the end when you saw The Mattress Man, a decrepit and decaying ghoul, crawl out of the mattress he had been sewn into. When I took an RIP tour, this scene really shocked and scared the people who were not familiar with AHS, and I have a feeling it is the one scene that might have stuck with them the most.
After seeing what Universal did with AHS, I have to say that I really hope they continue to do AHS houses that represent the seasons that were excluded this year.