Haunts Around the US: Kissimmee, FL

The dark months of HHNU’s particular subject matter are upon us, but that’s okay because there’s plenty of things we still have to talk about, take for example another year round haunt review, and this time much closer to home!

Mortem Manor in Old Town

Going back in time just a little bit to Septmeber first of this year before Horror Nights 27 finally began, the wife and I decided to kick off our haunt season with a visit to Mortem Manor. We’ve been considering going to this haunt for a while, just never really got around to it. But now that we’ve finally come around to checking it out, we can say without a doubt that it’s…………okay.

Now don’t get me wrong here, it wasn’t terrible or anything, but it wasn’t incredibly knock your socks off terrifying either. I would rate this level of haunt at about a “don’t hesitate to take your scaredy cat friends that don’t do a lot of this type of thing.” The wife and I didn’t get scared or startled, and found ourselves smiling once or twice.

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Standing outside waiting for the attraction to open. Nice spooky music playing at the exterior facade.

The Pros

  • Use of smells
  • Layout isn’t too straight or boring, we liked the inclusion of a staircase
  • Linear progression (from foyer, to living room, to church, to morgue, etc.)
  • Although weak, there is some kind of storyline here.
  • Very affordable price points. If this was Roller Coaster Tycoon,  my guest reaction would definitely be “Mortem Manor 1 is a really good value!”

The Cons

  • Lacking on human actors. I believe we only saw about 3 throughout our walkthrough, and they didn’t follow us or anything, just stuck to their respective scenes.
  • Heavy reliance on animatronics. Animatronics are fine and good when used well and sparsely, but when you use them to this extent, it makes the attraction feel like a cheap carnival/state fair ghost train ride.
  • Not scary. Okay, maybe we’re spoiled. Perhaps we’ve seen too many scarier attractions and our expectations are too high. Nonetheless, this haunt felt very tame and tolerable, suitable for a much less experienced audience.

So what’s the take away here?

Fun can be had at Mortem Manor. Our final review is a fair 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not scare your pants off frightening, but it’s fun. Experienced, die hard haunt fans take note: you won’t be shaking. Bring your friends that you can’t normally take to scary movies, Halloween Horror Nights, or other haunted attractions and events, and lower your scare factor expectations. Follow these steps and you’re in for a jolly good time at the least. Also, for the extra five dollars, we recommend the Buried Alive experience. They lock you in a coffin equipped with interior cameras so guests can watch as you become more and more claustrophobic inside the coffin. Inside, you can smell roses and soil, and hear the dirt hitting the coffin’s surface as your funeral proceedings take place and you’re buried into the Earth. They’ll let you out when you start kicking and screaming. $5 is a great price, even if you just want to watch your friend suffer.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys out there! -Scott

 

 

So you want to scareact?

It might seem simple on the outside: popping out of holes in walls or chasing guests with a chainsaw to get the scares they so crave; but there are so many layers that you may not be aware of. Scare actors practically have to give away their own safety and sanity just to scare you for the few seconds your lives cross paths. Audition season is just around the corner, and there’s some things you should know before standing before the audition panel. Here we will discuss the pros and cons of scareacting…

On the Surface

This job has everything! You get a kick out of scaring poor unfortunate souls and get paid for doing it! You’re even luckier if you are chosen to bare a chainsaw, a staple weapon of choice at every Halloween Horror Nights.

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Though scaring guests from a hidden corner sounds easy in writing, it can get incredibly taxing. The redundancy of doing the same 10-15 second action every 45 seconds can get very monotonous and even mind numbing. Scare actors assigned to scare zones don’t have to worry about this as much though, since they are free to roam their assigned, much larger scare areas and can use much more of their surroundings to their advantage. Nonetheless, being confined to a dark corner is not suitable for all.

Job Description and Duties

Scare actors are performers in an elaborately produced show. The houses and scare zones are even called shows, and have directors, producers, make up crews, and even curtain calls. Both houses and scare zones work the same way, with each house or zone having two casts: Cast A and Cast B. Each cast switches off every 45 minutes, meaning cast members get a 45 minute break every 45 minutes. Have you ever waited in line for a house and saw a line of zombies, scary clowns, or cloaked hooded creepers walking into and out of the house or queue line? That’s a cast change! Scare actors are free to eat during whichever break they choose, but they must do their best not to mess up their make up too much. Re-touches can be done before a cast change.

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After you have gone through the audition stage, which is a long drawn out process (which is best left secret), you are assigned either a house or scare zone, cast A or B, and either told the actual name of the house or scare zone or just simply “house 4” or “zone c.” You will also be given your character’s name, what they are doing, and which weapons they use (if any).

Keeping Things Consistent

The show that is the haunted house needs to stay consistent for all guests to experience basically the same quality of scares every hour, every night, every season. To keep scare actors and special effects operating at peaks, there is a quality assurance team, if you will, that oversees the performers every hour or so. HHN officials walk through the houses constantly making sure everything is happening as it should be. They walk through the houses amongst the guests, sometimes even with universal board members and other neckties of the office space environment of Universal Studios corporate. If they have any issues with a particular performer or special effect not operating to their liking, they make it known either to the stage director or even the actor themselves.

The Risks Involved

Given the nature of the job, scare actors are putting themselves on the line every night. People refer to the separation of reactions when getting scared as “fight or flight.” The person getting scared either escapes or throws a punch, basically. Scare actors are even told on their first day of the high likelihood of getting punched in the face at least once during the season. Most cast members, though, take this as a price to pay for doing what they love to do.

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The guests who actually do the punching (or otherwise) are greeted by friendly police men at the exit of the house and arrested. Sometimes they even make it onto the news!

So where’s the fun?

The fun lies in the amount of creative freedom the actor is given to make his or her assigned scare really memorable. They may use different methods to try to scare the many different types of people that walk through their halls or streets. Almost everyone scares differently. Some people walk with their head held high as if nothing will scare them, and some walk around clenching onto their friend or loved one with their hand half covering their face. Each and every person a scareactor comes across is a new challenge to get that scream.

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But the best part about it are the repeat visitors, the frequent fear pass holders. These guests attend the event multiple times and can find liking to particular characters or scares. The scareactor can make great opportunity of this and let the guest know that they recognize them and acknowledge their brave return, whether it be a finger point, or perhaps a whispered “welcome back” into their ear. The possibilities are numerous and it’s fun to find new ways to let the regulars know they’re appreciated.

So is it for you?

Now that you know a bit more about the scareactor gig, do you feel properly prepped? Will you buckle under the pressure to perform at your peak nightly or will you revel in the opportunity to make grown men cry?

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Up for the challenge? Let us know in the comments!

It’s Never Too Soon To Start Planning and Panicking!

Nation’s Best and Most Intense Halloween Event Returns this Fall with
All-New Horrifying Content & More Nights Than Ever Before

Vacation Package Gives Guests the Opportunity to Stay at Universal’s Newest On-Site Hotel and Receive $150 Toward Hotel Dining

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#HHN26 Dates will be:

SEPTEMBER
16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30

OCTOBER
1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

 

Packages:

Guests can now book their visit to experience the ultimate Halloween event – Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights – and stay at the destination’s newest hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.

Consistently rated the nation’s best and known for terrifying hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world, Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Studios Florida this fall for a record-breaking 31 nights – and with all-new content that will bring unimaginable terrors to life.

The twisted minds of Universal’s award-winning Entertainment team work year-round to create an intense experience that guests will never forget. As soon as the gates of Halloween Horror Nights open, guests become “victims” as they’re immersed in iconic horror films, terrifying hit TV shows and haunting original stories.

Guests will encounter hordes of menacing “scareactors” who stalk their every move, incredibly-detailed haunted houses that bring their worst nightmares to life and outrageous live shows. Plus – when they need a break from the screams – guests can enjoy Universal Studios’ popular rides & attractions throughout the night.

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Will you survive?

Starting today, guests can book a special version of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort vacation package that combines the daytime thrills of Universal Orlando’s two world-class theme parks – Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure – with the spine-tingling chills of Halloween Horror Nights.

Special Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Halloween Horror Nights Package:

  • 3-night on-site hotel accommodations at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – Universal’s newest on-site hotel
  • 2-Day Park-to-Park Ticket
  • Early Park Admission one hour before the theme park opens to one (1) Universal Orlando theme park as determined by Universal Orlando
  • 1-Night Admission to Halloween Horror Nights (Sunday – Friday)
  • Access to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk
  • Plus, for a limited time – guests can receive a FREE $150 hotel dining credit (per room) that can be used at restaurants throughout Loews Sapphire Falls Resort when they book a stay of three nights (Sunday – Thursday).

Starts at $209 per adult, per night, tax inclusive

** Select event nights
Sept. 16 – Oct. 31, 2016.
Advance purchase required. Offer valid for bookings now – 5/31/16. Offer valid for travel 9/16/16 –10/31/16

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Opening this summer, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will be Universal’s fifth on-site hotel. The new, 1,000-room Caribbean-themed hideaway will feature the destination’s largest on-site, resort-style pool at 16,000 square-feet, with a white sand beach, a water slide and cabanas.

Another offer guests can purchase is the Halloween Horror Nights Add-On ticket. This ticket allows guests to add admission to Halloween Horror Nights to the purchase of a regular Universal Orlando theme park ticket for only $59. This offer is valid on any Sunday through Friday event night.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 will run select nights from September 16 to October 31. More details about the event will be announced at a later date. For more information about these offers, visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando or purchase your copy of the Unofficial Guide to Halloween Horror Nights… CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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Evil_s Roots at HHN25_1_LR

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‘The Walking Dead’ might become the ‘Firmly Standing Still Dead’?

Since the demise of Universal Hollywood’s House of Horrors back in September 2014 when it was closed permanently there have been a spate of rumors circling on whether the attraction would return in some capacity.  On November 25, 2014, Universal went on to demolish the building that housed the year-round maze along with Hollywood Photoland and The Blues Brothers R&B Venue to make way for an expansion to the popular Universal Studios Store.  Since then, rumors have been bounding around the internet that some kind of haunted maze shall be returning…

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Copyright Universal Studios

 

The rumors that have reached us recently say that either the land behind the expansion is being built to house a year-round haunted maze based on the the popular ‘The Walking Dead’ franchise or something more interesting themed to the same franchise.  AMC, the show’s producers, have worked with Universal on both coasts to develop various seasons into the annual Halloween Horror Nights events for many years now.  So with this already great partnership in tandem, could the park be putting a year round haunted dedicated to the franchise or could the partnering firms be putting together something far more zombified…

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Copyright AMC / Sally Corp.

News came a few weeks ago that the Florida based Sally Corp. announced that it had won licensing rights and therefore designed a full dark ride based on the AMC franchise, dubbed ‘The Walking Dead: Battle for Survival’, it would see guests boarding six-seater ride vehicles, fitted with bulldozer plows mounted on the front complete with lazer blasters that would see guests ride through the famous scenes from the show while ‘walkers’ in both 3D projections and animatronic guises lunge at the guests.  Call it, Men in Black meets the Spider-Man ride and you get the picture.

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‘The Walking Dead – Wolves Not Far’ maze from Hollywood’s 2015 Halloween Horror Nights

So could this attraction actually be coming to the Universal parks?  The ride is fully designed, imagined in great detail (as seen below) and the Sally Corp. have worked with Universal before, add in the excellent relationship Universal already has with AMC and Universal isn’t exactly strapped for cash where they’ve been rumored to be buying up land in Florida and building attractions on both coasts at an unstoppable rate.  All we need now is confirmation – but could this excellent themed ride be coming to a theme park near you soon?  If either of the rumors are true it will be great to see a year-round halloween themed attraction back in the Studios park but at this moment, only time will tell…

Let us know your thoughts!

 

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Steve’s Pharmacy scene from proposed ride (Copyright AMC / Sally Corp.)

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Woodbury scene from the proposed ride (Copyright AMC / Sally Corp.)

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Proposed exterior for the ride (Copyright AMC / Sally Corp.)