Another Halloween Horror Nights 27 Review – Part I

It’s been quiet at HHNU, but fear not, we’re here and we’ve got another take on this year’s excellent haunts. I was finally able to attend the event on Sunday 10/16 with an Express Pass, and I’m happy to say that overall, it looks like the team at Universal Studios Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights outdid themselves with some truly stunning houses and scare zones that rank among some of the best in years. Hats off to the great Mike Aiello (of “Aiello Club” fame!) and his team for putting on a great show for us!

Now, onto the countdown!

The Horrors of Blumhouse Takes Possession of Halloween Horror Nights 2017

9) The Horrors of Blumhouse – This is the only house at this year’s event that I can honestly say I wasn’t a huge fan of. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the film Sinister, which the first quarter of the house is based on. As a result, the many Bagul scares didn’t really do it for me, especially considering that, like the film, most the scares took place in generic hallways. The next part of the house – The Purge – was unmemorable and lacking in scares, and quite frankly, the material of the film series makes for a MUCH better scare zone than a house. In fact, The Purge was the scare zone I spent the most time in this year. Next up in the Blumhouse haunt was Insidious, which was far and away the best section. The ghostly realm of The Further was recreated with wonderful bluish-green delight and the gold-hued room chamber of the villainous red demon was particularly well realized. The last section of the house felt like a fever dream and I wasn’t particularly sure what was actually going on or what film I was supposed to be experiencing. There was an electrocution room with a great animatronic, then another area that appeared to be some kind of morgue or hospital with a white curtain surrounding the center of the room. I’m not sure if these were locations from the Insidious sequels or from other Blumhouse films, but I can definitely say that I was a bit disoriented, which I guess could be a good thing.

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8) Saw: The Games of Jigsaw – At around 1:30am and after a few cocktails, this was my ninth and final house of the evening, and while I won’t say this one was a blur (I do take notes immediately exiting each haunt), I can say that I was not in the fresh and eager mindset that each of these haunted houses deserves. Some definite standout moments include a great Billy puppet on a tricycle emerging from a dark hallway, a frantic Amanda clawing at you and pleading to help her take off the reverse bear trap she has on her head, and what seemed like a full-scale recreation of the bathroom set from the original Saw film. This Saw house was a definite improvement over the 2009 iteration.

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7) Ash vs. Evil Dead – My group and I had the pleasure of going through this house during a short period of time where no other attendees were in sight. With a huge empty space to both our bow and stern, the experience of going through the Evil Dead universe felt specifically catered only to us. While not nearly the scariest house, I can say that as an Evil Dead fan, I traversed this haunt with a rictus grin from ear to ear the whole way through. From seeing Sam Raimi’s Classic Delta right outside the entrance to having Ash himself welcome us into the cabin (with authentic Bruce Campbell voiceover to boot), characters and demons from the films and the television series, the morgue gag featuring Ash’s head through a corpse’s midsection, and the Ashy Slashy puppet at the end. And just when I thought the house was over, Ash was standing outside in his Hawaiian shirt welcoming us back from our adventure with a spewing keg and a chainsaw salute!

Come back soon for numbers 6 through 4!

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-Freddy

HHN Prep Marathon 2017

It’s a no-brainer to say we’re excited for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, but now that all of the event’s houses and scare zones have finally been revealed, it’s time to let the anticipation build to terrifying levels of – well, terror – with our very own HHN Prep Marathon. This year the team at Halloween Horror Nights is showering us with an embarrassment of riches in terms of original content and IP houses. To prepare for the event, we’ll be looking at the films and television shows that are being directly adapted for this year’s IP houses and scare zones as well as some movies that appear to have inspired the original haunts.

Depending on how much time you’re willing to spare and how much viewing you’d like to do, we’ve divided this marathon into three parts:

  • The Essentials– Obvious picks, but these choices are a must-see before stepping into this year’s event.
  • The Second Tier– Have a few more hours to spare? These are a few more flicks to get you hyped for this year’s HHN.
  • The All-Nighters– Calling in sick on Monday? Well, if you think sleep’s overrated, you can’t go wrong with these picks.

The Essentials

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The Shining (1980) – If you watch only one movie to prepare for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, let it be the Stanley Kubrick classic The Shining. Like last year’s The Exorcist house, this maze has garnered the most buzz even before it was announced back in May. We’re all waiting to see how the talented cast and crew at HHN are going to bring to life some of the most memorable scenes in horror film history: the elevator of blood, Danny’s big wheel rolling through the hallway, the “Here’s Johnny!” scene, the chase through the snow-covered hedges, and too many more to name. Of course, none of these scares will compare to turning a corner and seeing a grown man in a bear costume…

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Insidious (2010) – The first of three series featured in the Blumhouse haunt, Insidious is a film ripe for the Halloween Horror Nights treatment. Featuring memorable monsters, some quality scares, and great locations like the ghostly dimension known as the Further, the only negative to having Insidious at HHN this year is that it has to share the spotlight with two other film franchises.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead (Pilot) – For the sake of time, we’re limiting this selection to just the pilot episode, but in reality, the entire series of Ash vs. Evil Dead is definitely worth a watch. Get ready for scares, gore, gallons and gallons of blood, and a few belly laughs along the way. Because the show is a direct continuation of the Evil Dead trilogy, there’s a good chance that this year’s house could feature some familiar locations from the original three films. Perhaps we’ll also see director Sam Raimi’s Classic Oldsmobile Delta make an appearance.

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The Purge: Anarchy (2014) – Although the Blumhouse maze will be featuring Insidious, The Purge, and Sinister, I really do think the house will focus primarily on the first two, as the films in both the Insidious and Purge franchises offer a greater variety of scenes and locales that would lend themselves to memorable HHN set pieces. Of the Purge films, specifically, I believe we’ll see a focus on the second installment in the series, Anarchy, simply because the team at Halloween Horror Nights may want to avoid some of the more heavy political content of the third movie, Election Day. Arguably, Anarchy also happens to be the best film of the trilogy.

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American Horror Story (Pilots for Season 2, 3, and 6) – As we all expected, American Horror Story is back at Halloween Horror Nights and this year’s house looks to focus on the events of season 2, 3, and 6, subtitled Asylum, Coven, and Roanoke, respectively. As a fan of the show though, I do feel these are the three weakest seasons, with Roanoke being the low-point in the series. Regardless, there is enough creepy imagery across all three seasons to make for a really terrifying maze.

The Second Tier

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Trick ‘r Treat (2007) – Perhaps the best film to utilize the Halloween holiday since John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), this anthology film weaves multiple tales all set during the same evening on October 31st. The film spawned one of the newest horror icons in Sam, the boy with the big bagged head. Expect to see Sam wandering the streets of Halloween Horror Nights in his scare zone along with witches, wolves, and all manner of ghosts and creatures from the film.

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Saw (2004) – This year’s Saw: The Games of Jigsaw maze is set to be a best of compilation of the most memorable and brutal traps throughout all the films in the Saw franchise including the soon-to-be-released eighth installment, Jigsaw (2017). While Saw 2 (2005) and Saw 3 (2006) are real standouts in the series, there’s no way we could recommend any film other than the one that started it all and created a tradition that ran for seven consecutive years: “If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw”.

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Hatchet (2006) – One of 2017’s original houses, Dead Waters, features a Louisiana swamp, voodoo, and a decaying haunted village. Adam Green’s 2006 film Hatchet features much of the same plus a hatchet-wielding mutant named Victor Crowley. Sure, there are probably better horror films set in New Orleans, but none are as purely joyous and visceral as Hatchet.

The All-Nighters

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Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987) – Frankly, the entire Evil Dead trilogy is worth watching repeatedly, but if you’ve only got the time to watch one, let it be Evil Dead 2. Essentially a remake of the original film, this Sam Raimi-directed sequel ups the gore, the gags, the goofs, and the comedy. Best of all, with most of the movie’s characters trapped and unable to cross a broken bridge, the bulk of the film rests on the very capable shoulders of the great Bruce Campbell. Hail to the king, baby!

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Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – When Invasion! was revealed as one of this year’s scare zones, my mind’s eye immediately shifted to black and white and I couldn’t help but think of the classic sci-fi horror films of the 1950s. Movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), It Came From Outer Space (1953), and Howard Hawk’s The Thing from Another World (1951). If I had to pick one film from the decade though, I’d go with Ed Wood’s hilarious but totally earnest foray into extraterrestrial terror Plan 9 From Outer Space. For those unfamiliar, Plan 9 is one of the great original “so bad it’s good” movies. The film’s production and director were so bizarre that the story was later told in 1994 in the film Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – It’s only appropriate to honor the dearly departing staple of Halloween Horror Nights that is Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure by watching the movie that started it all. For many HHN fans, the Bill and Ted show has been an integral part of their yearly Halloween Horror Nights experience and while we’re sad to see it go, we’ll always have the memories and we’ll always have the movie to remind us that while it’s perfectly fine to be bogus, we must never forget to stay excellent to ourselves and to each other.

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What do you think of our list? Any other suggestions we might’ve missed? Please let us know!

-Freddy

Stephen King – An Untapped Goldmine

The rumor mill has officially started churning out possibilities for themes and haunts for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 27. The loudest buzz going around is clearly the idea that we may finally get to see one of Stephen King’s seminal works given the HHN treatment in the form of a house based on The Shining. Granted, the house would most assuredly be based on the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, which Stephen King has very openly condemned over the years, but we get what we can. For more on the news surrounding The Shining, check out our recent story.

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Two more Stephen King properties are also getting the cinematic treatment this year with a new adaptation of IT as well as the long-awaited film based on the fantasy western series The Dark Tower. Here at HHNU, we’ve yet to feel any rumblings in regards to the possibility of either an IT or Dark Tower attraction, although this writer wouldn’t be surprised if either of those two were the chosen King haunt for this year in place of The Shining. Halloween Horror Nights does love its timely movie cross-promotions (Dracula Untold or From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series, anyone?)

The very thought that we could have three uniquely different Stephen King properties possibly making their HHN debut this year leads me to ask, what other King works would make great Halloween Horror Nights attractions?

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The Mist

Get ready for fog machines galore! Not only is the original novella excellent, but Stephen King himself has praised the Frank Darabont-directed film, citing specifically his approval of the new ending, stating,

Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.

Ending aside, the rest of the story is littered with some great creatures, a tentacle monster, tons of atmosphere, some truly terrifying characters, and, of course, plenty of mist.

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The Stand

I can’t get into too much detail on this one as I’m currently only forty percent done reading this 1,600-page tome, but a story of a post-apocalyptic world following a massive-scale biological plague that wipes out 99% of the world’s population could lead to some interesting set pieces and scares. Diseased patients, corpse-littered streets, demolished buildings, military assaults on the infected, mass hysteria, all within the first 500 pages. I can only assume the remaining 1,100 ramps up the terror and could inspire some truly memorable frights at Halloween Horror Nights.

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Carrie

This is an interesting one because I don’t necessarily feel Carrie would make a great house so much as an excellent scare zone. Imagine walking through the streets during the 3rd act climax of the 1976 Brian De Palma film; a pretty faithful adaptation of the events as depicted in Stephen King’s first published novel. Overturned cars on fire, students screaming in terror and running scared through the streets asking passersby for help, and on an elevated stage is Carrie White herself in her prom dress, doused in blood, causing eruptions of fire and smoke with merely a look.

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Creepshow

Last year’s American Horror Story house proved that Halloween Horror Nights knows how to handle an anthology. The attraction was hugely popular with attendees and was one of my personal favorites of the event. A big reason for the house’s success was the decision to divide the haunt into three distinct sections, each based on a different season of the show. A house based on Creepshow, a horror anthology film written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero (“Night of the Living” “Dawn of the Dead”) could be realized in a similar fashion. The movie is divided into five short stories ranging from tales of reanimated corpses, alien plants, a monster in a crate, roaches, and Leslie Nielson in a rare dramatic role as a rich psychopath. The shorts are bookended by the story of a little boy who is punished for reading horror comic books and haunted by a hooded ghostly figure known as The Creep. An Creepshow house practically writes itself. We have both an entrance and exit to the house in the form of the film’s prologue and epilogue, and there are five vastly different and unique sets of locations, creatures, and scares that could be brought to life by the team at Halloween Horror Nights, all while keeping a fun sense of camp and humor that’s present in the film and the original comic books it’s paying homage to.

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What other Stephen King projects would you like to see turned into a Halloween Horror Nights attraction? How about a photo opportunity with Christine the possessed Plymouth Fury or a Shawshank Redemption house where, like Andy Dufresne, you too can crawl through a river of—well, scares.

Trivia: Creepshow is an homage to the old EC horror comics of the 1950s like Tales from the Crypt, home of original HHN Icon The Crypt Keeper.

-Freddy

Halloween Horror Nights 26 SPOILER Review – Yet Another Take

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2016 marks my tenth consecutive year attending Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. I’m happy to report that after a decade, I am just as thrilled and chilled by the results of this year’s showcase as I was after 2007’s Carnival of Carnage. Please note I won’t be reviewing the scare zones, as I didn’t spend a great amount of time in either of them to really form a cohesive opinion. Dead Man’s Wharf was definitely the most visually interesting, but as someone who can only go to the event once, and even with added benefit of an Express Pass, it’s tough to get everything done in one night without rushing.

Now, as if the title wasn’t enough warning, there be SPOILERS ahead…

Top 3 Houses:

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1) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – In the weeks leading up to HHN 26, whenever I was asked which houses would be featured in this year’s event, I’d just about always forget to include this one. Not for any particular reason. Among heavy-hitters like The Exorcist and American Horror Story, it would just slip my mind. Color me surprised to find that my favorite house this year would be the very one I just about forgot existed. Although perhaps the shortest in length, this house was densely packed with a barrage of scares. The set dressing, sound design, and overall precise attention to detail were all top-notch. From the couch made of bones to the dark room lit only by the light of a camera flash, and accompanied by the sound of the film’s familiar screeching, sight and sound worked in perfect harmony to bring to life all of the film’s most memorable moments. The familiar sliding door kill from the film is presented in all it’s gruesome glory, and just when you think you’ve made it through the exit and out into the night sky, no less than two more Leatherfaces are ready to give you an extra rush.

Best Moment: Approximately three-quarters of the way through, I was already sure this would be my favorite house of the year. Then, amidst a cacophony of chainsaw whirs coming from all directions, a performer playing the role of the film’s protagonist, Sally, leaps through a window, followed closely by Leatherface in pursuit, dramatizing the movie’s climactic chase scene. A genuinely impressive stunt cemented 2016’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre house as not only my favorite of the year, but one of my absolute favorites of all-time.

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2) American Horror Story – If American Horror Story is going to be a recurring staple for years to come, then the creative team at HHN has made a great first impression. As a greatest hits from the first, fourth, and fifth seasons of the popular FX series, this house gave us all the scenes and characters we wanted to see, mostly to very satisfying results. The red room with the rubber suit figures was a little too small and rushed, but the inclusion of just about every memorable character from the show was a delight. We got a heavy dose of Twisty, a few versions of Lady Gaga’s Countess, the Murder House maid, and Jessica Lange’s Elsa from Freak Show with David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” echoing through the room. The inclusion of actual dialog from the show helped give the house a look and feel that was very authentic.

Best Moment: The bed scene from the Hotel season was the most terrifying and well-realized moment in the house. As the faceless creature comes out of the bed, the room’s flickering lights give the monster’s movements a more otherworldly and jarring effect.

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3) The Walking Dead – With the popularity of the show only growing, I don’t expect this year to be the last time we see a Walking Dead house, but if it is, this would be one hell of a swan song. I’ve never been a huge fan of the TWD houses, but I’ve also never been against having them included in the event, as they’re genuinely decent enough experiences. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this haunt. Perhaps the longest house at the event, this year’s iteration of The Walking Dead at HHN played as a greatest hits of the show’s first six seasons. We got the famous “Don’t Enter Dead Inside” hospital scene, Dale’s trailer, the bloated zombie at the bottom of the well in Hershel’s farm, and countless other scenes all fully-realized in gory detail. If I have one main criticism, it’s in the use of masks versus makeup. I felt the zombie scareactors were more effective and terrifying than the actors in covered in rubber masks, which were very limiting and seemed to add extra bulk, giving the actor a bigger head that just doesn’t compare to good old-fashioned prosthetics and natural facial performances.

Best Moment: The bathtub throat slit room in Terminus was perhaps the most effective, not least of all because you not only see and hear it happen, but if you happen to be in front of the victim as I was, you might just feel a spray of blood on your shirt

Middle 3 Houses:

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4) Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield – This house, based on Halloween II, faithfully followed the film’s chronology from start to finish. The house opens, as the film does, with the ending of the John Carpenter original. We walk through the closet and hear Michael Myer’s struggle with Laurie Strode. We’re then brought quite literally into the middle of the battle between Michael and Dr. Loomis with the dialog from the film echoing around us. Hearing Loomis shout “I shot him six times!” was a particular treat. We’re then transported into the rest of the movie, through the suburban backyards of the homes of Haddonfield, and into the film’s main set piece: the hospital. We see a projection (an effect used in a number of this year’s houses) of a nurse undressing and getting ready for a bath before moving into the next room and finding Michael Myers dunking her head in boiling water, a very effective mix of animatronic (nurse) and scareactor (Michael). While the majority of the house was a real treat to behold, I was a little underwhelmed by the ending, which recreated the film’s explosive climax. Granted, I wasn’t expecting to see any explosions or pyrotechnics, but I thought we’d have more fire effects showing the hospital in flames rather than just the aftermath showing the scorched walls and burned Michael. Still, a great house nonetheless and a worthy follow-up to 2014’s popular Halloween house.

Best Moment: As a fan of the Halloween II movie, the moment that brought me the most joy is one that may go completely unnoticed by most. As you are exiting the house, you can hear the song “Mr. Sandman” being played. The song was also used in Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly first wanders Hill Valley in 1955, but in Halloween II, the song is played during the film’s ending credits. Although not a major moment in the house by any stretch, it’s a very nice touch for fans of the movie, and a testament to the love and dedication that goes into creating one of these houses.

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5) The Exorcist – Although suffering from a slow start and an overabundance of empty white hallways, the much-anticipated house based on the William Friedkin classic gets a lot of things absolutely right. How do you make a haunt with multiple set pieces when the majority of the best moments in the film all take place in the same room? HHN’s answer isn’t to just simply repeat the same room – although that is done numerous times – but to also include manifestations of Regan’s demonic possessions in the form of hellish settings of pure terror and macabre. Yes, we get the famous spider-walk and head spin, both brought to life by excellent animatronics, but between those classic moments are scenes of caves of red and brown rock with depictions of the movie’s terrifying demon face projected onto the cavernous walls. And speaking of projections, like the Halloween II house, The Exorcist features a very impressive projection effect where an entire wall seemingly disappears and reveals the Iraq setting from the film’s opening.

Best Moment: The “power of Christ” room was a real standout. This was a great blend of voiceover, scareactor, and prop that blended seamlessly to create a memorable room inspired by a classic moment from the film.

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6) Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch – This house was enjoyable, but I can’t exactly say it’s very memorable. I’m a sucker for a good western, and I will say that the place where Ghost Town shines brightest is in its set design and atmosphere. Unfortunately, not much else from this house really stood out to me as unique, including the scares and character designs. On a recent episode of the Scare Zone podcast hosted by Logan Sekulow and HHNU’s own Chris Ripley, I recall hearing that each time you saw a corpse in Ghost Town, the subsequent scareactor would be the ghost of that dead person. Knowing this information, I still had a difficult time identifying which actors were supposed to be ghosts and which ones were living townsfolk.

Best Moment: In the saloon scene, there’s a corpse sitting on a stool at the bar. While my attention was captured by the body, I was given my best scare of the house when suddenly a woman appeared from behind the counter with two handguns and fired them directly at me. Of course, I played along and reacted to the shots accordingly.

Bottom 3 Houses:

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7) Tomb of the Ancients – Like Ghost Town, the scenes in this house seemed to blend together into a haze. I know many have pointed to Tomb of the Ancients as their favorite house of the event, but unfortunately, this was one of three houses that just didn’t work for me. I can’t say there’s anything this house does particularly wrong. In fact, it does a lot of right: a great forested entrance, a claustrophobic setting, good animatronics. It may’ve been the hype and the early buzz for this house that got my hopes up, which ultimately places Tomb of the Ancients in my bottom three of the year. One last note: I will always give credit where credit’s due. One scareactor was particularly good at his job and scared me sober twice. This gentleman popped out of a wall, reached out with a gloved hand, and gave me a good audible expletive-filled jolt. Then, as I turned the corner and completed a U-turn into the next room, the guy pops out the other side of the wall and was the recipient of another few good F-bombs.

Best Moment: The giant alligator animatronic at the end. ‘Nuff said.

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8) Lunatics Playground 3D – This house had the makings of a great double act, but one side was ultimately favored over the other. The scenes in Chance’s house are divided into the asylum setting of the “real” world and the bright neon fever dream of our icon’s lunacy and fractured mind. I was most intrigued by the asylum sets because they featured a darker tone and a truly terrifying harlequin that seemed to find real pleasure in the pain and suffering of her victims. However, these scenes of the straightjacket-wearing Chance were few and far between and by the midway point of the house, ultimately scrapped in favor of the more colorful 3D scenes. These scenes did nothing to distinguish themselves stylistically or tonally from previous 3D houses, and instead relied on an overuse of flickering strobe lights, which actually got a little nauseating by the time I reached the exit. Like previous icon houses (Bloody Mary’s house in Reflections of Fear or Jack’s 3D house in The Carnival of Carnage) I hoped chance would get her own unique iconic house (pun intended) with a great story, but ultimately, character and story suffered in favor of flair and spectacle.

Best Moment: My favorite thing about this house wasn’t exactly in the house itself per se, but rather in the queue. The music played while in line is a fun mash-up by a band called The Black Sweden featuring the melody to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and the vocals from Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me”. You wouldn’t think it’d work, but it does.

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9) Krampus – The biggest disappointment of the year. This house had the potential to be the sleeper hit of the year, but ultimately felt like a house of missed opportunities. Where to begin? The opening exterior of the house would’ve been the perfect place to include the creepy snowmen from the film. In fact, they could’ve been used as hiding places for a scareactor or two. Instead, we get repetitive scares from elves throughout the entire house even though they only appear in the film’s climax. Speaking of the elves, their masks were underwhelming and too big. Picture the elves from the film, but with a “Big Head” filter like in NBA Jam. Yeah, I went there. Additionally, I don’t recall seeing the winged fairy doll from the film, which is probably the creepiest creature design in the whole feature. I hate to be so negative, but with the exception of the kitchen scene (see below), each room seemed to produce a response of “That’s it?” I loved breathing in the smell of gingerbread in Krampus’ lair, and anxiously awaited one final confrontation with the title character, only to see an exit sign and an open door signaling the end of the haunt.

Best Moment: While re-watching the film the night before going to HHN, the scene I was most hoping to scene recreated in the house was the kitchen scene with the horrifically adorable killer gingerbread men. Although, the most of the house was a letdown, this particular room was a diamond in the rough. Rest in pieces to the little gingerbread man spiraling in the kitchen sink.

Well, that’s my review of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights’ nine horrific haunts. But that’s not all. Come back very soon for my full review of Halloween Horror Nights’ new VR experience, The Repository. That’s right, I paid the $50. But was it worth it? Visit us here at HHNUnofficial.com soon to find out.

-Freddy

HHN Prep Marathon

If you’re a disciple of Halloween Horror Nights, there’s a pretty good bet that you’re anywhere between a moderate-to-hardcore fan of all things horror, particularly of the film variety. Now, if you’re like me – equal parts column A and column B – your ideal HHN experience includes a healthy blend of both original houses and existing IPs. With just over half of this year’s haunts gaining inspiration from the worlds of film and television, there’s no better way to build up anticipation for this year’s (or any year’s) event than by having your very own Pre-HHN Prep Marathon.

Depending on how much time you’ve got to spare and how much viewing you want to do, this marathon list is split into three parts:

  • The Essentials – Obvious picks, but these choices are a must-see before stepping into this year’s event.
  • The Second Tier – Have a few more hours to spare? These are a few more flicks to get you hyped for this year’s HHN.
  • The All-Nighters – Calling in sick on Monday? Well, if you think sleep’s overrated, you can’t go wrong with these picks.

The Essentials

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The Exorcist (1973) – There’s no better place to start our marathon than with what many consider “the scariest movie of all time”. The Exorcist also happens to be the longest movie of the bunch, with the Director’s Cut clocking in at just about 132 minutes. For this viewing, you’ll want to catch the aforementioned Director’s Cut, as this is the only place you’ll see the famous “spider walk”, which is sure to be replicated in this year’s house. Note to first-timers: the opening 45 minutes are a slow crawl, but the payoff is definitely rewarding.

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Halloween II (1981) – Although not officially named after the film, this year’s Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield appears to be a direct adaptation of the sequel to the original Halloween. While the 1978 John Carpenter classic continues to be required viewing for many during the fall season, few are familiar with its sequel. It may not be as ground-breaking as the original, but it’s still a more-than-worthy follow-up and an essential watch before walking into Halloween Horror Nights.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – While there are a number of reboots and sequels in the franchise, this year’s house is based on the 1974 Tobe Hooper original. Therefore, this is the one to watch. Considered at the time as one of the most violent movies ever made, modern audiences will be surprised at just how bloodless and tame the film is by today’s standards.

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Krampus (2015) – How about some Christmas viewing for Halloween? From Michael Dougherty, the director of the underrated Trick-r-Treat (2007), Krampus is required viewing for anyone visiting Halloween Horror Nights this year. It’s a family comedy wrapped in a horror film sprinkled with equal parts Christmas cheer and, well, Halloween horror.

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American Horror Story (Pilot Episodes for Seasons 1, 4, and 5) – While our first (and surely not last) AHS house may possibly include bits from all five (now six) seasons of the FX series, the focus appears to be on the stories and characters seen in seasons one (Murder House), four (Freak Show), and five (Hotel). While viewing of all three full seasons is encouraged, it’s not required. All you need is a taste of the terror and HHN’s haunt will provide the full meal.

The Second Tier

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Halloween (1978) – It wouldn’t be Halloween without Halloween. Although it may seem like an obvious pick, make sure to pop this one in before watching Halloween II, as both films are set during the same day, with the sequel beginning exactly where the original ends.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – This remake surely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I won’t even go so far as to say the film is “good”, but if this Michael Bay-produced reboot does anything right, it’s upping the ante in terms of gratuitous violence and bloodshed. If this movie doesn’t make you want to immediately go take a shower, I don’t know what will.

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The Walking Dead (Pilot Episode) – Rick without a beard. Pre-pubescent Carl. Remember Shane? Let’s go all the way back to where it all began for the AMC monster hit. All the way back to before we started referring to zombies as “walkers”.

The All-Nighters

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My Bloody Valentine (1981) – This one’s a bit of a stretch, but bear with me. Based on early reactions to HHN 26, the runaway sleeper success of this year’s event appears to be Tomb of the Ancients. Our very own “scottyrif” ranked it as his #1 house of the year. While not based on an existing IP, the first image that came to mind when researching the theme of the house was the killer miner from this 1981 film. In a nutshell, My Bloody Valentine is a slasher flick set in a small mining town featuring a central killer dressed in mining gear. I said it was a stretch.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – Unlike Halloween II, this film has just about nothing to do with its original. This sequel, also directed by Tobe Hooper, is as disturbing as it is hilarious. Anyone who’s watched this one would probably agree that the less said the better. Anyone who HASN’T watched this should be prepared for a few “WTF” moments. I mean, just look at the poster!

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The Walking Dead (Season 1) – Now that we’ve watched the pilot, why not continue with the remaining five episodes of the first season of the AMC hit? To think, only six episodes were ordered for the first season to gauge whether or not the show would be a success.

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American Horror Story (Seasons 1, 4, and 5) – We’ve come this far, so why not add three more seasons of television to the marathon? I said they weren’t essential viewing, but if you’ve got the time, you can’t go wrong with the basis for this year’s American Horror Story house.

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Jaws (1975) – As one of the greatest movies of all time and the inspiration for one of the greatest theme park rides of all time, there’s no better way to end the night (or weekend, at this point) than with Universal history. With the Dead Man’s Wharf scare zone having a nautical haunted harbor theme, it’s not that far of a stretch to get feelings of nostalgia for the now absent classic Universal Studios ride. Besides, do you really need a reason to re-watch Jaws?

Anything missing from the list? What would you add? Feel free to let us know and happy viewing!

-Freddy