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

Why are we so excited for Ash vs. Evil Dead at HHN?!

Clearly, the team here at HHNU is thrilled over the recent news that this year’s Halloween Horror Nights will be featuring a house based on the Starz television show Ash vs. Evil Dead, the sequel series to the original Evil Dead film franchise from director Sam Raimi. Sure, we’ve caught a glimpse of the chainsaw-appendaged, boomstick-wielding Ash in a segment of the 2009 house Silver Screams, but this will be the first time we see a full haunt dedicated to this beloved horror hero. We can barely contain our enthusiasm over the recent announcement, but just why is Ash vs. Evil Dead a perfect fit for HHN?

Revisiting the Classic Film Series

MINOR SPOILERS FOR ASH VS. EVIL DEAD AHEAD:

Even though the newly-announced house will be based on the current television series, viewers are well aware that part of Ash vs. Evil Dead’s success and charm is its deep ties to the original film trilogy. Over the course of the show’s two seasons, Ash and his new sidekicks, Kelly and Pablo, revisit the cabin from The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987), Ash battles a possessed Henrietta (once again played by Evil Dead II’s Ted Raimi), and reunite with familiar faces from the original franchise, most notably Ash’s sister Cheryl, played by returning actress Ellen Sandweiss. With the show revisiting classic locations and characters from the original series, this house will give die-hard Evil Dead fans the opportunity to relive memorable moments from their beloved film series.

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Evil Dead II’s Henrietta, played by Ted Raimi, brother of director Sam Raimi.

Great Original Set Pieces

Just because Ash vs. Evil Dead has a strong connection to the films that came before it doesn’t mean that the Starz series doesn’t have a few original ideas of its own. Without getting into too much detail, season two features an episode that sees Ash’s journey to retrieve the Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead) lead him to a morgue and features a grotesque but hilarious “fight” between our hero and a corpse. Although this episode goes into uniquely gross territory that may even be too hot for HHN, there’s no denying that this scene is a prime example of how Ash vs. Evil Dead is more than just a nostalgia trip resting on the laurels of the original film series.

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Different from 2013’s The Evil Dead

Halloween Horror Nights fans will recall that in 2013’s event, guests were already treated to a house based on The Evil Dead. Evil Dead the “remake”, that is. While the 2013 film surprised many by holding its own as a well-made and well-received gore-fest, the Fede Alvarez-directed picture is quite different from the original source material, most notably in tone. While the remake has a more intense and serious attitude akin to more modern horror movies, Sam Raimi’s original films are typically categorized as horror comedies, featuring both quality scares and gore as well as gut-busting physical gags courtesy of Bruce Campbell’s great performance across all the movies in the series.

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We may have run out of ways to proclaim just how excited we are about Ash vs. Evil Dead coming to Halloween Horror Nights 27. What moment from the series would you like to see recreated in this highly-anticipated haunt? Let us know and don’t forget to hail to the king, baby!

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-Freddy