One of my favorite aspects of Halloween Horror Nights year after year is the event’s uncanny ability to make me feel as if I’m fully immersed in another world. When at its best, HHN can make me feel scared and make my own experience seem unique and exclusive even when I’m walking through a scarezone surrounded by dozens upon dozens of fellow park goers.
Here at HHNU, we give a lot of time and focus to our favorite houses and the haunts we hope to see in the future, but I’d like to point the spotlight on the horror that happens on the streets of the event each year with some of my personal favorite scarezones in my years attending Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN 17-26).
War of the Living Dead (HHN 19)
Ever played “Zombies” in Call of Duty and thought, “…I want to go to there”? If so, this scarezone from the 2009 event was as close as you were going to get without an X-Box Live subscription. Uniformed members of the undead littered the streets of a war-torn town, the sounds of artillery fire and a flurry of bullets buzzing through the air, dense gun smoke and fog obscuring your view, and to top it all off – literally – a zombie on a high turret firing shells (blanks, of course) at passersby below. I recall being aimed at directly, being fired upon, playing along and reacting to the gunfire, and then getting a thumbs-up from my attacker up top. Needless to say, I walked through this scarezone a few times throughout the night.
Zombie Gras (HHN 20)
While this wasn’t a particularly impressive scarezone in terms of set decoration, this area definitely excelled with its combination of both a festive and fearful atmosphere. This colorful and macabre zone was especially memorable because scareactors would lure guests towards them with Mardi Gras beads, dropping a shiny necklace on the floor and enticing brave guests to pick them up. If you were one of the lucky ones and made a quick dash towards the actor’s feet, you could grab the beads, escape with your life, and with a free souvenir. I’ve still got my beads.
The Purge (HHN 24)
This is perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had in a scarezone. I won’t say that I was in a completely lucid state-of-mind after a few Dirty Shirleys, but this zone – modeled after The Purge: Anarchy – lived up to it’s name: the streets of New York were nothing but pure anarchy and chaos. Scareactors roamed the streets celebrating the annual Purge, trashed dumpsters and propaganda signs announced the event, and a white truck with a mounted Gatling gun rode by looking for fresh victims. The chaos would only stop when a live demonstration would take place featuring the New Founding Fathers from the film.
All-Nite Die-In – Double Feature (HHN 25)
It’s always a thrill to meet your favorite celebrities, and my favorites happen to be famous monsters. Like Zombie Gras, this scarezone lacked any real decorations or sets, but I had a blast simply because I was able to see and take some pictures with my favorite Universal Monsters. And before you ask, yes, I did follow the rules for taking pictures of scareactors: ask politely, wait for the actor to agree and pose, and be quick. What made this scarezone special was the two sets of characters roaming the area depending on the time of day. Early in the evening, the San Francisco/Disaster area would be flooded with the aforementioned Universal Monsters – Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride, The Invisible Man, and even a Count Orloc from the original 1922 Nosferatu – all dressed and painted in black and white to reflect their silver screen origins. Later in the evening, they would be replaced by full-color monsters of the modern age like Freddy Krueger and Chucky.
Dead Man’s Wharf (HHN 26)
My love for this scarezone from last year’s event has everything to do with my love of the Bioshock video game series. With blue, green, and purple strobe lights giving the illusion of being underwater and bloated zombified scuba divers right out of the 1930s (not unlike the “Big Daddy” from the Bioshock series), enough can’t be said about the stunning architecture and ambiance of Dead Man’s Wharf. While the San Francisco-set scarezone did suffer from overcrowding, the claustrophobic location coupled with the exceptional attention to detail made the area feel more akin to an outdoor house than an actual scarezone.
As is the case with every house, no two guests have the same experience in a scarezone. Were you bored by The Purge at HHN 25? What’s the best scarezone experience you’ve ever had? Please let us know and share some of your best scare zone photos!