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

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“Cobweb” = The Conjuring !?

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So recently the above picture was released by HHN Orlando’s Twitter page with the codename of “Cobweb”. Many HHN fans are currently speculating as to what “Cobweb” may mean, so here’s what we found…

Depending on your level of attentiveness, you might have noticed the presence of a particular strong connotation in horror books and movies: cobwebs, they’re everywhere. If you’ve never noticed a cobweb in a horror movie or missed its presence in a good horror book, then most likely you were skipping scenes or simply flipping pages for the fun of it. So in order to pinpoint why a house might be codenamed “Cobweb”, it might take some detective work.  Lets look at what possibilities there are for this…

Cobwebs are ever-present in practically every work of horror you can think of but they are usually overlooked or their significance greatly underestimated.

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Cobwebs have been portrayed in horror works as far back as Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic novel “Dracula” to Thomas Ligotti’s short story “The Glamour” (published in 1991) and even in more recent books and films. They paint a picture of desolation and abandonment, perfect settings for the supernatural or non-supernatural haunting events of terrifying occurrences to take place in. They exist as an indication that a building or area has been long out of use and in horror works, an abandoned area is reason enough for some harrowing experience to take place.

Cobwebs are passive hints that something gruesome will take place, as a type of warning of coming events…

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The Glamour

Sometimes though, the presence of cobwebs in a horror piece do not present such an air of indifference; their actions are more active than passive. In the 1991 short story, “The Glamour” by Thomas Ligotti, the unnamed narrator wanders into a strange movie theatre. Strangely, the admission is free and he enters. He finds that the entire theatre glows with purple and pink lights; it’s almost like he’s inside a human body. The theatre, including the projection screen, is also covered with thick cobwebs, reminiscent of human hair.

As the story progresses, it becomes evident that something spooky is truly going on and when the protagonist tries to escape the cobwebs come to life and restrain him forcefully in his seat.

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The Conjuring

In the 2013 movie, “The Conjuring”, The Perron family move into an old farmhouse. The family consists of father mother and five daughters. Papa Perron discovers a basement riddled with cobwebs early in the movie and later when the paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren come to the house, Lorraine Warren steps into a cellar equally filled with cobwebs.

The movies from this franchise are all released by New Line Cinema, a company that has worked closely with Universal on and off since 2007; these were also directed by James Wan who has worked with both HHN Orlando and Hollywood to bring the SAW franchise to both coasts in the past. Could this existing relationship mean that this movie is coming to HHN? Well maybe, the only problem is that Universal Twitter feed did say that “Cobweb” would be an original house and not based on an IP – but could this be a bluff to put us fans off?

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H. P. Lovecraft

A HHN fan favorite who has been speculated about for years. Lovecraft was an author of all things horror, and despite his careers being cut-off relatively early in his 40s, he made a huge contribution to the genre and inspired horror and fantasy authors for years to come. His works often mentioned cobwebs and a lot of his classic 1970s book covers depicted huge clouds of sticky spider webs.

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Uncle Ted’s Ghoul School

In 1974 Edwin Raub began starring as Uncle Ted, the horror host on “Uncle Ted’s Ghoul School”. It was broadcast on WNEP-TV. Later additions to the set included a dark painting in the background, a sign that read “No Cunning” and a liberal placement of cobwebs.

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Dead Silence

2007’s HHN in Orlando featured a house from the movie “Dead Silence” the movie starring Donnie Wahlberg was not a hit but again, like The Conjuring it was directed by James Wan. The house’s first scene when you entered after the graveyard, guests found their way into a basement that was FILLED with cobwebs. For those that remember, cobwebs featured all the way through this house. The other reason why it has been speculated for return is the fact that this house was popular back in 2007, but it’s props have been reused and reused ever since. Even last year in The Walking Dead was there a collection of headstones from this house. So could this house make a return?

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Another horror TV show which depicted cobwebs was New York City’s Creature Feature late-night triple movie feature, aired on WNEW-TV in the early eighties. The show usually began with an exterior shot of a haunted mansion; the shot zooms into a window and focuses on the lead character, “The Creep”, sitting at a kitchen table in a dark room with an abundance of cobwebs all over the place; which was kinda similar to The Cryptkeeper – did someone say it’s being rebooted? Hmmmm…

 

Other interpretations

Seeing as cobwebs are a staple in many modern and classic works of horror, it is pertinent to discuss its possible interpretations. This might help us further understand why are they are used time and again in many horror books and movies.

Fear: It might not be immediately obvious that the presence of cobwebs strikes fear in people until we realize that arachnophobia, the intense fear of spiders, is the most common phobia in the world. Therefore the simple presence of cobwebs in an area is enough to trigger responses of terror in many individuals. This is used to great effect in horror books and movies to skillfully place the reader or viewer in a state of terror.

Warnings/Omens: If you ever find cobwebs in a place, what first comes to mind? A lack of care for the place, a sense of abandonment and non-occupancy. Where else would scary creatures and ghoulish monsters want to inhabit but a lace where nothing or nobody has lived in for years? The overwhelming consensus in horror works about buildings is this: if it’s unoccupied and unwanted, it’s probably haunted. Little wonder, the moment a camera pans sideways and zooms in to show us a shot of thick cobwebs in a corner or across a doorway, our hearts beat a little faster; something terrifying is around.

Psychological Entanglement: Cobwebs also have another striking, less-obvious quality to them: they inspire a sense of entanglement, of being trapped or stuck in situations beyond your control. Granted, cobwebs even in large quantities, are not the same as industrial glue or chains or duct tape and might not have their holding power or sticky qualities; still they are a hindrance and getting them off can be a chore, a creepy chore. The sight of cobwebs, especially in movies, evokes in us a sense of being in a sticky situation. This might generally be as a result of watching smaller insects being trapped in a cobweb and then later accosted by the cunning spider. All energy expended by the prey at disentangling itself is wasted; in fact the opposite effect is generated: the prey gets stuck even more in the web. Whether we witness this first-hand at home or on a documentary channel transmitted to our TV screens, the effect is invariably the same. This sticky situation is not the type most people like to be in and as such it has a great terror-value, one which creators of horror fiction have continually used for years, not sparingly but liberally.

Other than the above, the house could just feature spiders, like lots and lots of spiders…

Lets just hope it doesn’t refer to the 1990s Will Smith flop “Wild Wild West” with that giant metal spider thing, urgh…!

Let us know your thoughts below!

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Our sincere thanks go to Dr Jimmy in his assistance with this article.