Another Halloween Horror Nights 27 Review – Part III

And now for the big ones. The qualifying medalists of the HHN Olympics. The top three houses at Halloween Horror Nights 27. And yeah, they’re all originals!

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3) Scarecrow: The Reaping – We were promised a ton of scarecrows in this one and boy did Halloween Horror Nights deliver. This was perhaps the most consistent house of the bunch in terms of sheer scares per minute (SPM possible new term?) and relentless terror. The set design was stunning, featuring a ton of corn stalks and a mostly wooden facade, giving each location a very real-world earthy vibe. The sets were packed with more scareactors than you could count, with some definitely over six feet and beyond. In addition to being one of the best houses of the year, Scarecrow: The Reaping takes the prize for perhaps the most disgusting room of the year. For those of you that may not have attended this year’s event just yet, all I’ll say is that you enter what I believe was a stable populated by a number of crows perched on planks above your head, cawing loudly. Someone must’ve given those crows a laxative…

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2) Hive – If you like your vampires bloodthirsty and terrifying, then this is the house for you. There are no sparkling vamps here, unless you count the great glowing effect in the eyes of some of the creatures haunting this cavern. Featuring clear inspiration from Salem’s Lot, Nosferatu, and perhaps even a little bit of The Lost Boys, Hive was packed to the brim with all manner of terrifying vampires ranging from pale gaunt beasts to seven foot tall Count Orlocs to hanging vampire children that reminded me of Eddie Munster. The makeup effects here were among the best I’ve ever seen in an HHN house before, the scares were consistent, the sound and ambient noise chilling, and the southern-style cavernous sets were expertly done. I had a blast going through this one.

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1) Dead Waters – As soon as I entered the stage and turned the corner to see the stunning riverboat assembled in all its grimy swampy glory, I knew I was in for a real treat. I clearly remember turning to a buddy of mine and saying, “This is the best thing they’ve ever built”, referring of course to the creative team at Halloween Horror Nights, who deserve to be showered with every possible bit of praise for what they’ve been able to accomplish with this house. The interior sets were just as impressive, with every prop clearly showing some level of age and rust and dampness, which gave the house a very old, abandoned, forgotten feel. From entering the boat at a disorienting lopsided angle to my encounter with the Voodoo Queen, I was in constant awe of every heat lamp, every piece of moss and mildew, every leaky creaky board, every voodoo doll, all given its own care and detail, which is what Halloween Horror Nights does best: immersing guests in a fully-realized hyper-detailed world and then scaring the crap out of them.

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Agree with these picks? What was your favorite house of the year? I hope everyone has enjoyed or will have the time to enjoy this year’s event because it really was a great one. And soon we get to start looking forward to 28…

-Freddy

Another Halloween Horror Nights 27 Review – Part II

Welcome back, kiddies! We’re counting down this year’s Halloween Horror Nights houses from least to most awesome and today we’re looking at numbers 6 to 4. If you missed numbers 9 to 7, you can find them right here. Now, onto the countdown!

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6) The Shining – Like last year’s The Exorcist house, The Shining was arguably the most highly anticipated haunt at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. While only taking the number six slot on my list, that should in no way give the impression that this house was anything but great. The fact that it’s number six just goes to show the spectacular quality of haunts present this year. The house opened with the snowy exterior of the famous Overlook Hotel, snow gently falling over our heads as we’re lead into a hedge maze. After a few turns through the maze, we’re right into a hotel hallway and see the first of what felt like many axes through doors. If there’s one main criticism of the house it’s the overreliance on that single moment from the film. Still, it’s really more of a quibble than a criticism. Standout scenes from the haunt included a mirror reflection trick involving the Grady twins, Danny Torrance on his big wheel peering into an endless hallway, and the Gold Room set built in eerie detail complete with Lloyd the bartender and all. Most impressive was the recreation of the elevator of blood scene, which appeared to have been accomplished by either a projection or by filling an actual room with blood. I want to believe it was the latter, but guessing it may’ve been some form of the former. Also, kudos to the team at Halloween Horror Nights for creeping me out by included the man in the bear costume…

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5) American Horror Story – Following last year’s popular house (and one of my favorites), American Horror Story returned to Halloween Horror Nights with a very strong sophomore effort. First off, this house was LONG, so for non-Express Pass attendees, this is one haunt to visit if you want to get your money’s worth. The Asylum portion alone felt like it could’ve been it’s own house with the rec room and the surgical room being especially impressive sets. The Coven and Roanoke portions were shorter, but no less packed with familiar characters and a number of consistent frights, most notably Kathy Bates’ character Delphine LaLaurie coming out for a big scare once you’ve explored her torture chamber. Oh, and while you’re in queue waiting to enter the house, keep your ears open and you may just hear “The Name Game” song as featured in Asylum.

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4) The Fallen – If you’ve been keeping tabs, you’ve probably figured out that there are four picks left and there hasn’t been a single mention of any of the four original houses. That is, until now. As I said when they were first announced in August, 2017 is the year of the original house. First up is The Fallen, a shorter house that felt like a rock n’ roll cross between Game of Thrones and Hellraiser. Upon entering, our first image is of a horned red demon chomping on some unsuspecting victim. This was the perfect first impression because HHN didn’t try to hide the scares and the beautiful makeup and costumes until the end. Putting that giant demon right at the start felt like their way of saying, “Yeah, we’ve got demons. And they look badass.” The rest of the house didn’t disappoint. With gorgeous sets reminiscent of 2012’s Gothic house, The Fallen featured a number of demons swinging next to, above, and AT attendees, oftentimes giving the feeling of being surrounded by monsters from all sides. With such impressive visuals and terrifying imagery, I didn’t expect that my biggest scare would come in the form of a simple gag that I should’ve seen coming a mile away. Note to self: if you see a hanging torso with a giant hole in the mid-section, assume an arm is going to come out of it.

Come back soon for my top three houses of the year!

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-Freddy

 

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

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

Five Favorite Scarezones

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)

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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.

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Zombie Gras (HHN 20)

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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)

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See you at Finnegan’s.

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)

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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)

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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!

-Freddy

Top 5 IPs Waiting for the HHN House Treatment

When entering a Halloween Horror Nights house, I anticipate experiencing something both familiar and new. With each consecutive year, my expectations are met as HHN welcomes a fair share of both original and IP (Intellectual Property) houses, and even though I do love and prefer an original idea, I can’t help but feel giddy when HHN gives me the opportunity to step into the worlds of horror properties I know and love. We’ve seen mazes based on well-known franchises (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th), previously-thought “ungettable” IPs (The Exorcist, Halloween), and even some properties that, although well-known to horror aficionados, are not so familiar to current mainstream audiences (An American Werewolf in London, From Dusk ‘til Dawn: The Series).

From the early days of Fright Nights and the Psycho house to the most recent HHN 26 event and The Exorcist haunt, a trip through Horror Nights memory lane plays like a greatest hits of horror cinema and television, with memorable franchises getting either their own unique houses or at the very least, a scene in one of the popular anthology houses (2003’s All Nite Die-In, 2009’s Silver Screams). As the event once again gears up to celebrate its 27th anniversary, and a history of horror cinema dating close to a century, we at HHNU have compiled a list of the top 5 intellectual properties that we’re SHOCKED have not been represented in a Halloween Horror Nights house.

We’ve set up only two rules to make this list: 1) The film/television show cannot have appeared in any capacity in a previous house. Meaning, no Army of Darkness or Shaun of the Dead, for example, as both appeared in 2009’s aforementioned Silver Screams house. 2) We’ve disqualified any Stephen King properties, as those could make up a list all their own. For my thoughts on what King properties would make great attractions, check out an earlier post here.

So without further ado, here are the five IPs that are ripe for the HHN treatment:

5. Suspiria

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Based on the cult classic by Dario Argento, I think it’s safe to say the main draw Suspiria has going for it is its visuals. Set in a dance academy and following a young ballet student who discovers that her school isn’t quite the prestigious institute she thinks it is, the film is often praised for its use of art design and color, specifically in how Argento frames and displays the film’s grisly deaths. The creative team at Halloween Horror Nights is known for successfully recreating pivotal moments in horror cinema (the “Power of Christ” scene from last year’s The Exorcist house is perhaps the best recent example), and I’m sure they’d be up to the task in bringing some of the glorious moments from Suspiria to life. Just imagine what could be done with the stained glass hanging scene.

4. The Conjuring

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The most recent franchise to make our list, James Wan’s The Conjuring has already left its mark on the horror genre with two very impressive and well-received (both critically and financially) films. Picture yourself entering one of the main sound stages to an exterior setting leading you up to the house from the first film, wood creaking, owls hooting, a faint jingle of a music box melody ringing in the distance, and the ominous tree as depicted in the film’s poster to the side of the main walkway, forcing you to walk under its crooked branch, the noose hanging from it gently swinging above you. And once you’re inside you can experience many of the film’s standout scares, from the kid on top of the armoire to the clapping game in the basement, and along the way, you come across the Annabelle doll, and end with the exorcism scene from the film’s climax. Personally, I’d rather the first movie received its own house and then leave the second movie for the following year, as there’s definitely enough content in The Conjuring 2 to warrant a follow-up house: The Nun, the ghost in the armchair, the room full of crosses, the Crooked Man.

3. Poltergeist

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Based on the Tobe Hooper classic, a Poltergeist house would allow HHN to use just about every technique and trick available to create all of the film’s terrifying set pieces. Static sound, ambiance, and performers for the “They’re here” scene, clown puppets, skeletons in the swimming pool recreated in water tanks, an animatronic tree crashing into the children’s bedroom, holograms and wind machines for the climactic confrontation with the poltergeist itself. Throw the kitchen sink at this house! Fog machines, lightning effects, all are welcome!

2. The Fly (1986)

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This is the personal favorite for one reason alone: I would love to see what HHN does with the gradual transformation of Seth Brundle into the eventual Brundlefly. Like the An American Werewolf in London, The Thing, and Alien vs. Predator houses before it, this haunt could be a masterclass in makeup, prosthetics, and animatronics. Starting with Brundle’s body parts falling off, the gross vomiting, the bad skin, and ultimately the final stage of full-on animatronic fly, the almost episodic nature of David Cronenberg’s film, and the sequential nature of the transformation makes The Fly the perfect subject for the HHN house treatment.

1. George A Romero’s Living Dead series

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Okay, this is the big one. Even though there are six films in the series to date, and while Land of the Dead has its occasional charm, I’m going to narrow this pick down to the original three Romero classics: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. Now, I can see how the main argument against a “Living Dead” house would be that we already get a zombie house every year with the latest iteration of The Walking Dead, and an argument justifying its place as a Horror Nights house would have to be something more substantial than “Romero did it first”. I present my defense in two parts: characters and settings.

Currently, Halloween Horror Nights doesn’t have the likeness rights to include the main characters from The Walking Dead television series, which is why you don’t see Rick, Darryl, or Michonne in the houses. Romero’s films have some memorable characters with equally memorable moments and lines: Johnny popping up from behind a gravestone warning you, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”, Roger fighting off zombies yelling, “We got this, man! We got this by the @$$!”, and Rhodes being disemboweled by zombies crying out “Choke on ‘em!”

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As far as settings go, all three original Romero films offer a range of unique and immediately recognizable locations: Night of the Living Dead’s cemetery and cabin, Dawn of the Dead’s mall, and Day of the Dead’s military bunker are all vastly different and offer some things we haven’t seen from the various The Walking Dead houses. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be saluted by Bub as they’re exiting what could be one of Halloween Horror Nights’ most unforgettable houses.

Do you agree with our list? What horror film or television show would you love to see given the HHN house treatment?

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-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

Clues Clues Clues

Hello everybody, I know its been a rather long time since you’ve heard from me but the seemingly endless lull in haunt season is over and we have RUMORS!!!! It’s around this time every year that we start to watch both the HHN Hollywood and the HHN Orlando Twitter feed to see what clues they release to us and recently they have been providing some interesting theories. I know the HHN fan Facebook page has been abuzz with fan theories and suggestions but here is what we know for sure, I will start with Hollywood and finish with Orlando.

For Hollywood we have been given three codenames, via their Twitter feed and the ever so awesome John Murdy. The first Codename we have is “Lemonade”. We know that this maze will be based on a movie but we have no confirmation on what that title will be. Based on the Tweet John had sent out it was roughly 119 pages long but yesterday seems to have brought some different ideas and apparently while working on the 4th maze there was some “substantial redesigning” of that first maze treatment. According to the team the codename works even better now so perhaps we have sunken deeper into the IP material.

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The Second Codename for Hollywood is “Charles”. This project apparently holds a special place in John’s heart and is apparently “the trickiest maze they have ever done”. Could this mean a property never seen before as a haunted attraction anywhere? Many people, including a good friend to this site Dr. Jimmy, believe that perhaps this is a direct link to The Shinning. Now Stephen King has long blocked any attempt to make any of his properties into haunts but maybe just maybe Universal was able to woo him with what they created in The Exorcist maze last year. One tweet that caught my eye when looking at the tweets for this second code name said this “In the middle of writing the treatment for maze #2 and working on a super iconic scene that is damn near impossible to realize in a maze…”. Does this mean the Iconic river of blood streaming from the elevator doors?

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The third and final confirmed Codename as of right now for Hollywood is “Writers Block”. This tweet came with a picture of a nice little present from John’s wife and an interesting hint. “The M and the N are gone! A clue?” is this a clever clue or is he simply trying to throw us off of the trail. The thing about Codenames is, so early on it is hard to really get a good feeling on any of them because the possibilities are nearly endless.

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Now moving on to Orlando and the tweets from the always entertaining Mike Aiello. HHN Orlando has been relatively quiet on the Codename front but we do have one to work with so far. “Checkmate” Mike has said almost nothing on details for the house so as of right now any thing you hear is really just rumors but some of the rumors that I have been hearing flying around the HHN fan Facebook page are; Hellraiser, Chucky, SAW and The Shinning. Orlando tends to keep us guessing on codenames a bit longer then Hollywood but I do expect to hear more being announce in the very near future.

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I hope you enjoyed the article ladies and gents. I know how excruciating it can be waiting for haunt season to arrive once again but as always keep your eyes posted on HHNUnoffical and we will bring you the latest info as soon as it is released. Also let us know in the comments what you think those codenames mean!

HHN Meets Metallica: A Match Made In…

Today marks the release of Metallica’s latest studio album “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” and I’m happy to say that as a life-long fan of the band, they are back and they’re just as loud, fast, and great as ever. Not surprisingly, listening through the album for the first time got me thinking about Halloween Horror Nights – as most things do – and I couldn’t help but wonder, wouldn’t a Metallica house be amazing?!

This idea isn’t so far-fetched, as Universal Orlando is no stranger to creating attractions incorporating and inspired by music. The popular Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster separates itself from other thrill rides by allowing visitors to select their own personal soundtrack from a varied – albeit limited – track list. Halloween Horror Nights itself has also been musically influenced as recently as 2012. Many may remember Halloween Horror Nights 22’s Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare; a demented walk down memory lane through some of Cooper’s greatest hits. Personally, I don’t recall too many specifics from the house (courtesy of the infamous “HHN Blur”), but I can clearly remember a trashed high school setting during the “School’s Out” section. Cooper’s music was the perfect fit for the HHN treatment. His songs are often story-driven, and with the help of some great classic music videos, are also very visual and atmospheric and oftentimes horrifying; three mandatory qualities in any HHN house.

The same can be said, in my opinion, of Metallica. Coming out of the thrash metal scene of the 80s and into the 90s, the band has remained relevant across four consecutive decades, a rarity in a field of entertainment that doesn’t often allow for such longevity. With an ever-growing catalog of great tracks and a theme park event that only increases in popularity with each passing year, the merging of Metallica and Halloween Horror Nights seems like a no-brainer from a creative standpoint.

Still need convincing? Here are just a few tracks that I feel would make for some great scenes in a future house I’d like to call Metallica: Welcome Home (Sanitarium):

Master of Puppets:

One:

Enter Sandman:

Welcome Home (Sanitarium):

Of Wolf And Man:

Four Horsemen:

Trapped Under Ice:

Any other songs or bands you can think of that would make great attractions for Halloween Horror Nights? Or do I just need to be locked up in the sanitarium myself? Let us know!

FUN FACT: In the queue line for this year’s Lunatics Playground 3D house, you can hear a musical mash-up by The Black Sweden featuring the vocals of Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me” sung to the melody of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. Possible Easter egg for a Metallica house next year???

-Freddy

Journey into The Repository – Full SPOILER Walkthrough and Review

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2016 marks Halloween Horror Nights’ first foray into the increasingly popular realm of virtual reality (“VR”). The Repository is a brand-new interactive experience accessible through a premium add-on ticket marked at $50.00. The ticket can only be purchased by calling a phone number provided on the Halloween Horror Nights website speaking to a representative that will assist you in booking your reservation. Please note that you must also purchase a Halloween Horror Nights event ticket to participate in this unique experience.

Ever since The Repository was first announced back in August, there’s been much controversy surrounding the new experience. Most of the controversy is in regards to the steep price point. With the prices of general admission tickets and Express Passes already at an all-time high, is it worth shelling out an extra $50 for what is essentially one more haunted house? Personally, the idea seemed intriguing, I’ve never had any kind of VR interaction beyond a View Master, and in order to celebrate my 10th HHN anniversary, I figured I’d “reward” myself with something special. So, I was all in. But, like many others, I was still concerned with whether or not the money would be worth it. For $50, how long will this house be? And how exactly does the virtual reality work? When I called in mid-September to make my reservation, I asked the customer service agent these questions and was told to set aside 90 minutes altogether for the event: 30 minutes for the initial preparation including signing of safety waivers, and 60 minutes for the actual experience.

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Fast-forward to 6:00pm on Friday, October 21st. My buddy and I picked up our tickets at a Will-Call kiosk and were instructed to head over to the Blue Man Group area to check-in. After having our tickets scanned, we entered a large waiting room filled with maybe a dozen round tables where groups of eight were assigned to sit and wait. There was a bar off in the corner, a server going around the room taking drink orders, and on each table were waivers for everyone to sign and one folder containing multiple printed documents. The documents ranged from textbook pages to an article on the Philosopher’s Stone to an eBay auction for a camera that was used to photograph the dead. After approximately half an hour of signing our waivers, ordering some drinks, and chatting with the fantastic people we had the pleasure of sharing this experience with, everyone in our eight-person group was handed a lanyard (4 red and 4 yellow), and split into two groups of four based on our lanyard colors. One of the employees emphasized to make sure to pay attention to details and be very observant of our surroundings as anything could be a clue that would be crucial to solving the event’s final puzzle. My group of four (red lanyards) was summoned we were instructed to head over to an exit. And thus began our journey into The Repository…

Our fearful foursome was led into a dimly lit room filled wall-to-wall wooden shelves stocked with ancient artifacts. Think the haunted artifact room from The Conjuring series mixed with the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A soldier in black riot gear stood in the corner of the room next to a podium and telephone. Then, from the darkness appeared our first scareactor. He was a professor of sorts and in a very convincing performance explained the general story, which involved keys and portals to other dimensions. I will say right off the bat that the best aspect of the entire experience was the interaction with the scareactors. Each performer stayed in character at all times and always had some kind of improvised response to any question or action I or any of my groupmates would make. Unlike the regular houses, the actors in The Repository are allowed to touch you and they used this freedom to great effect while never being invasive or crossing any inappropriate lines. At one point, the professor moved to one side of the room, looking away from us, and as I examined the contents of the table in front of us, my friend picked up a hand bell and rang it. The professor responded by yelling “Don’t ring the bells!” and came running back to chastise us for setting some kind of evil free. He grabbed my lanyard in frustration when suddenly a phone rang and the soldier answered the call.

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Our group was hurried into a small room made to look like an asylum cell. The guard told us to stay in the room, warned us not to touch anything, and assured us he’d be right back. He left the room, but not before noticing that the young woman in our group was crossing her arms because she was cold. “Rub your chest,” he said. “Your arms will take care of the rest.” He was clearly as big a fan of Batman Begins as I was.

From behind a pillar appeared another actor dressed in a hospital gown. He had long and greasy blond hair and spoke in whispers with the occasional outburst, which included a loud “Look at me!” clearly inspired by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The inmate led us into another asylum room with writing covering the walls, a safe in the corner, and a locked wooden crate atop a table. He whispered something that only the girl in our group could hear and then came over to me and whispered, “Do her a favor and give her those numbers on the wall right over there.” He was pointing to a specific piece of the wall that read something along the lines of L50R70. I realized that it was a locker combination meaning I had to turn the dial left to one number and then right to another. After the first try, the locker opened revealing a small box containing a key. Using the key we opened the crate, revealing four cubes, each emitting a different colored light: red, blue, green, and yellow.

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Cubes in hand, our group was quickly shuffled away to another room designed to look like a high-tech laboratory. Our new chaperone was a no-nonsense woman who instructed us to gather around a metal table while she stood on the other side of it and tried to bring her lifeless colleague back to life. She explained the significance of the cubes, but not before yelling at us and telling my friend to spit out of his gum. Her colleague jolted to life for a second and fell on the floor. As she continued speaking to us, I experienced my one and only scare in The Repository when the presumed dead body grabbed me by the ankle and screamed in agony.

Another soldier burst into the lab and rushed us into the next room, grabbing me by the shirt collar so that I’d hurry. The concrete-walled room was empty. We were ordered to stand at different corners with our backs to the wall. A drill instructor explained our mission and prepared us for the VR portion of the experience. Finally! Our group was split into pairs. My partner and I were led to an adjacent square room approximately fifteen feet long on all sides and told to stand in the center back-to-back. We were fitted for our headsets and I will say, as someone who wears glasses, the headset was a bit tight and pressed my glasses into the bridge of my nose. As for our mission in the VR world, we were instructed to look for symbols and colors and remember the order we saw them in. The instructions were very vague and we weren’t exactly sure what kind of symbols to look out for. With my headset on, I was handed a wand and told that my cube was placed on the end of it, an image that was reflected in the VR world. As for the VR world itself, this is where the negatives begin.

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After a short countdown, my partner and I were “transported” to a library setting. With Playstation VR and Oculus Rift allowing players to see fully-realized beautifully-rendered environments, I was immediately shocked to see that the level of detail in The Repository’s VR world was no more impressive than the graphics of an early Playstation 2 video game. As you may recall, we were instructed early on to examine everything, as anything around us could be a clue to solve The Repository’s final puzzle. I recall being told specifically to look in books. I walked over to a bookshelf expecting to be able to interact with a book, but as I pointed my wand at it, the wand avatar simply went through the book and the shelf. Why would we be instructed specifically to look through the books, then transport us to a library packed wall-to-wall with books, and then not allow us to interact with anything? I turned to see a ghostly avatar that represented my partner in the room with me. Eventually, I noticed different brightly-colored symbols throughout the room and pointed my wand at them. I tried to remember the look of each symbol, but they were all pretty elaborate designs that looked very similar to each other.

After finding four or five symbols, the setting changed and we were warped onto a stone cliff in the night. Cold wind breezed past us and as my partner and I looked down at the floor and identified the same colorful symbols, pieces of the cliff started breaking away, shrinking our platform smaller and smaller until we were once again back-to-back. This short portion is where the VR was most effective because I clearly felt a sense of vertigo as I looked down over the edge of the cliff.

We were then transported to our third and final dimension: a graveyard. Once again, we looked around at the graves searching for more symbols, with the occasional poorly-rendered grim reaper appearing when I turned. I should’ve been scared, but I couldn’t get past how bad the visuals were. After finding all of the symbols, our headsets were removed and we were whisked away to the final room, rejoining our two other group members.

Let me take this moment to explain that for a house that was billed as a revolutionary VR experience, the entire VR portion lasted no more than five minutes. Not only was it short, but as I said before, the three short environments that we visited were poorly-rendered and offered very limited interaction no more immersive than an old point-and-click computer game. For $50 I was expecting a house set predominantly in a virtual reality landscape. But regardless, even if the philosophy was for the house act as a build-up allow for a short but sweet visit to the VR world, I would expect to be blown out of the water for those five minutes. With the software released for Playstation VR and Oculus Rift, we know the potential is there. This visit was definitely short, but unfortunately, it was anything but sweet, making it the weakest part of the experience as a whole.

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The final room was the setting of our final puzzle. Resembling something out of “Legends of the Hidden Temple”, we were told to find the two remaining cubes somewhere in the room and then match the six total cubes to six square pegs. The solution would be based on the colors and symbols we saw in the different dimensions. We were locked in the room and told we had three minutes to solve the puzzle. Needless to say, neither of the four of us had any clue what we were supposed to do. We found the two remaining cubes (purple and orange), but had no idea how to match them. We placed cubes randomly into slots and a trail of light told us if we we’d made the right choice (white light) or a poor choice (red light). With maybe 45 seconds remaining, I realized that we didn’t really need to know what to match, but rather just randomly place the cubes in the pegs until the white light glowed for that particular slot. With that logic, we quickly arranged the cubes until all six emitted a white light, triggering and a plume of fog and a light signaling our victory. Another soldier came into the room to congratulate our team and led us outside to the exit. We were given green stickers to place on our lanyards, signifying that we had made it through The Repository and successfully completed the puzzle at the end. If we’d failed, we would’ve been given a blue sticker. Basically, a participation ribbon.

Outside, there was another bar, some snacks for purchase, and one scareactor dressed as an inmate who hung out with us for a while, congratulated us on our win and eventually escorted us out into Halloween Horror Nights.

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And that was the end of The Repository. So was it worth it? I hate to say anything negative about HHN because it’s something so close to my heart and my favorite event to attend all year, but I can’t say in good conscience that The Repository was worth the $50 I paid. When I originally made my reservation, The Repository was inaccurately sold to me as a 60-minute VR house when in reality, the entire experience lasted no more than 25 minutes, with only a fifth of that being dedicated to the use of the virtual reality technology. At the very least, if the VR segment was impressive or more immersive, I might be more forgiving, but when the number one selling point of the house is the use of this new gimmick, then the gimmick needs to be extraordinary and memorable. The interaction with the scareactors was, again, the best aspect of the event, but it was still not enough to warrant such a high price tag.

Would I pay for a follow-up VR experience next year? As it stands, the answer is no. But could I be convinced otherwise? If the price is lowered, the length of the experience expanded, and the VR technology dramatically improved, I could see myself putting the headset back on and taking a trip into another dimension. I’d definitely take my glasses off this time.

Have you or anyone else you know experienced The Repository? If so, please give us your thoughts in the comments. Do you agree with me or am I completely mad?

-Freddy