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

A Sincere Thank You From the HHNU Team

Well after months of speculation, teasing, and finally getting to live the event, Halloween Horror Nights 26 has come and gone. This year brought us unbelievable experiences, incredible houses, some of the most immersive and entertaining scare-zones, and of course more cherished memories of HHN passed.14938109_1479869852042081_8749950505396506563_n

I wanted to write this post as a thank you not only to Universal Studios for creating this event some 26 years ago, but to all of you who bring this event, its characters to life each year. As an administrator for the HHN Facebook fan page I get to see and talk with so many of the scare-actors for the event, and I love all of the characters each of you has created and made their own over the course of the season. I especially revel in how much you all love what you do! To scare on such a large scale is no easy task, and certainly not everyone can do what you do, but I am absolutely thankful for every scare and every ounce of sweat put into the event. img_0292

As much as those on the front lines are a huge part of HHN, I would be leaving out so many important people if I chose to stop there. A huge thank you needs to go to everyone at Universal Studios for the hard work they have put into the event this and every year. From Mike Aiello and everyone on his creative team to the A&D Department for the amazing treatments and scenes they have created. From Security, for keeping all the employees safe along with the couple hundred thousand guests who attended throughout the month, to the lighting, sound, and stage technicians that allow us to have a completely immersive experience.img_9561

To every employee at Universal Studios, both onstage and off, I want to say thank you. I grew up loving the idea of “riding the movies”; Halloween Horror Nights has always been my passion and it’s a dream to be a part of the event even just in a small way. Without all of you that make it happen every single night and every single year, my dream wouldn’t be possible. While many of you may be tired of the rushes and more so the drunks, I want to say never stop thinking that your job is crucial to every guest. It means so much more than you know, especially to those of us that have followed the event from the start.img_9483

Before I begin to ramble I will wrap myself up. Thank you to every single employee who had even the smallest to do with Halloween Horror Nights and every day operations at Universal. As a fellow theme park employee myself I understand how hard it can be while working, but what you do is creating a whole other world. By doing so, you allow people to escape and have fun. We here at the HHNU team want to personally thank every scare-actor that we had the privilege of seeing at the event,  and we wish all of you safe scaring in the many years to come. Stay tuned to HHNU for more updates throughout the year!

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

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

10 Great Reasons Why The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Will Rock at #HHN26!

So…. unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few days, you might have noticed that HHN just announced their first house, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  We at HHNU love this news, so-much-so that we thought we share with you the top 10 reasons why this house will be AWESOME!

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1. TCM has been done many times before, including HHN Orlando (2007) and at HHN Hollywood on three separate occasions (2007, 2008 & 2012), as well as other venues. And to be fair, all of these were pretty solid houses.  The 2007 Orlando house for example was fantastic.  Sadly, it was located in the former Earthquake queue, with that semi open-aired feel it made the for a really authentic experience, a joy we will receive no more.
RIP Earthquake/Disaster.

2. 2007 was a mighty 9 years ago. To a 30 something year-old that may not seem so long ago, but to an 18 year-old that’s half their life. The younger fans probably won’t remember this house. And the youngest fans amongst us probably never saw it.  So for 2016 everyone will finally get to face Leatherface!

3. This house is not the same TCM as 2007. Thomas Hewitt and Bubba Sawyer may both be Leatherface, but they are still different in many ways.  Plus the more modern films just aren’t as good as the original!

4. Leatherface is not an overused character at HHN in Orlando. He’s only been 4 times in 25 years. A scene in a house in 1995, a cameo in 1998, a scene in 2003 and the house in 2007. Many characters have been used more than him who are not usually thought of as overused. The Caretaker for example has been 7 times, 8 if you count the figure in Cabin in the Woods. Leatherface has been used exactly the same number of times as the Cryptkeeper.  The actual last time that any serious attempt was taken to make this movie into a house was at Fright Dome Las Vegas in 2014. Every major character from 2007 has been used since then already except Leatherface. Even Mary Shaw showed up in a scarezone in 2010. It’s time for old Leatherface to return!

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5. The movie has A LOT of heritage.  For those of you that don’t know, the movie is inspired by the horrific real-life crimes of Ed Gein.  Ed was found to have dug up a number of graves and even murdered a number of women.  He then used their bones and skin to make a number of keepsakes (masks, chairs, lamps etc).  He also had a mother fixation, a fixation that was with his dead mother.  Any of this sound familiar? Well it inspired countless books and movies including: Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, House of 1000 Corpses and, of course, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  What could be creepier than a house based-off of a movie, based-off of a real-life crime?

6. And this is the big one, the reason that there MUST be TCM at HHN 26.  On November 7, 2015 Gunnar Hansen died. It is only right and proper that he be honored at the very next HHN held since we lost him.

7. The news of the first house release made HHN trend worldwide on both Facebook and Twitter, therefore this house is ensuring our little Halloween event is now turning heads on a worldwide basis. Now that’s impressive!

8. HHN Orlando confirmed that the house will be in one of the Sprung Tents.  In the past, some amazing houses have been located in the Sprungs.  Last year for example, it had Scream The Purge and Insidious, the latter of which made the event for many fans.  The Sprungs are obviously the place to be!

9. Chainsaws, chainsaws, chainsaws, chainsaws! Come on, who doesn’t are freakin’ terrified of LOVE chainsaws?

10. It’s a movie with basically one protagonist and one antagonist which lends itself perfectly to any sort of haunted attraction because really the only thing a haunted attraction needs is a terrifying antagonist – and what could be more terrifying than Leatherface!?

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He’s coming for you!

So there you have it, our top 10 reasons why we think TCM will rock this year at #HHN26 – but what do you think?  Let us know!

Our thanks at HHNU go to our dear friend Dr Jimmy for his gracious help with this article and for our own in-house writer Scott who did much of the legwork.

UPDATE: Penn & Teller, plus other clues…

Editor’s note:  We’ve had two tip-offs from two of our blog readers (who have wished to remain anonymous) who have confirmed it is not just Mike who has been making trips to Vegas this year.  Several other A&D members and Universal Orlando executives have also been making the rounds in Sin City since January.  So thank you for your messages – please do keep them coming!  Together we can work this puzzle out!

 

The mission to ensure both Orlando and Hollywood work together is continuing.

As preciously rumored by us HERE back in February, it would appear that both teams are very close to signing up a third-party IP to be a house on both coasts this year.

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HHN Orlando posted the above tweet after the, what can be described as successful(?) pitch, to the IP holder.  Murdy on his Twitter feed confirmed the joint meeting, but he also mentioned that it was for a “movie studio”, so for him it would be nearby as they were both still in LA at the time of the tweets.  Warner Bros is right next door to Universal City, likewise Paramount and Fox are also a short drive away.  Lionsgate is also nearby on the coast within Santa Monica (just down the road), so thats another possible. Warner Bros, incidentally, now holds the new head office of New Line Cinema, after it moved to LA from New York City recently.  Likewise, its also possibly not Legendary Pictures, as they are tied to Universal already, though anything is possible with these clues.  Legendary already has a deal with the Universal to make HHN houses, read more HERE, so this might refer to other studios where links aren’t so formal just yet.

So what could it be?  It was rumored previously by us that Krampus could be on both coasts, however, these posts would suggest that the movie would be something from outside the Universal family, which as Krampus is made by Legendary that would rule this movie out (though it is still probably going to appear at one of the coasts!).

If we went with the idea that New Line Cinema are the company who they presented to this would add some fuel to the rumors that The Conjuring could be coming soon to HHN (cob-webs anyone?), incidentally The Conjuring 2 is set for release on June 10, 2016.  So some cross-marketing around “reveal-time” in June (when individual houses are sometimes revealed early), could be a nice tie-in to the release date of this movie.  Perhaps a commercial at the end of the trailer for HHN26 could be used?  They have done this type of thing before with SAW and The Wolfman movie, though the latter was a Universal picture…

Or, they may have gone down to the beaches of Santa Monica to see Legendary Pictures, who have a certain movie about a  certain chainsaw wheedling maniac coming soon, you may have heard of him?  The movie Leatherface is due for release this fall. This would bring back everyone’s favourite chainsaw mad monster, who was absent from HHN25, and has not been seen at the event since he appeared with Freddy and Jason in 2007.

Both ideas are possible, particularly as Mike Aiello from HHN Orlando prevented himself from working on a plane as he flew to LA, which some have speculated as being work to houses based on movies that have yet to be released, so this would fit these two movies as they haven’t been released yet and little is actually known about them!

Interestingly though, Mike was then on a plane heading away from the city shortly after the pitch.  And anyone who has driven in LA knows that LA at rush hour is HELL, it was also stormy yesterday in LA so it was much worse than usual.  However, he was on his plane pretty quick with all things considered, which LAX (the airport he used) is just up the road from Legendary Pictures HQ – so in terms of timings this would also work (just call me Sherlock).  I once got from Santa Monica beach to LAX in 15 minutes, so its pretty close!

BUT more interestingly than that!!  He flew to Las Vegas, AGAIN.  That’s like the third trip this year to Vegas now?  It’s obviously work related as he’s usually on his own.  So what’s he up to?

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Well according to his own Twitter and Instagram feeds, he’s enjoying watching David Copperfield’s Magic Show.  And Mike LOVES magic, he’s confirmed this enough in the past.  So what else could he possibly be doing?

Well, we rumored back in February, with HHNRumors.com providing some excellent subsequent investigative work a few weeks later, that Penn and Teller are definitely a strong possibility for HHN26.  The fact that nearly every month Mike flies into their town would also really add fuel to this rumor.

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Mike then tweeted the above news of his successful week away in la la land.  The tweet confirmed he was in Vegas, it also confirmed his exact location that he sent the tweet from as Paradise NV.  For those of you that don’t know, Paradise is a district within Vegas that encompasses most of the famous Strip, but not all of it.  It does however hold the famous Rio Hotel, which being off the Strip is annexed away from most resorts in Paradise.  And guess which famous magical duo have their show and offices in the Rio?  Yep, you guessed it, Penn and Teller.  Both of whom are most definitely there this week rehearsing and performing (as confirmed by their respective Twitter feeds) for their TV show.

So there you have it, we have Penn and Teller still in the fold, The Conjuring, Leatherface and even Krampus still.  And not one single mention of The Walking Dead!!!!  Hurray!!

But what will actually be at HHN26 is still unknown…. so what are your thoughts?

We’d love to hear them!

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What we know so far for HHN26…

There has been literally hundreds of rumors and speculations this year.  So to cut through the fact and fiction, we thought we’d update you all on what we know for sure and what we 99% know for sure, so here goes…

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  1. We know when #HHN26 will happen…

The event will run on select nights from September 16 to October 31 2016.  The event is starting earlier than ever and will have more nights than ever before, which is a trend that has been in progression since the event began.

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  1. We know where the event will take place…

We’re 99% sure that the event will not be a dual park affair, but will in fact just be located at the Studios Park.  Thank the British for this early heads up on this one.  As you may know, they go on vacation for far longer than most nationalities, and because of this fact they tend to book their vacations months, sometimes years in advance.  So due to this, the Universal Studios UK page and a number of UK based Universal ticket partners started selling their HHN tickets early (like January!), and within the terms and conditions, it specifically said that the event would be at the studios location.  So thank you Britain for your strong cheese, bad dental work, Prince Harry and now, an early heads up for info on HHN.

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  1. We kinda know that The Walking Dead are coming back…

Come on let’s face it, they’ve been there every year for the last four years and right now the show is still wildly popular around the world.  TWD people are currently working with Universal in Hollywood to build a year-round haunt within their park, they’ve also confirmed that TWD will not be returning to Hollywood’s HHN because of this fact, so that just leaves Orlando to pick up TWD baton!  Also, the crowds still swamped their house last year, so it MUST be a given that Rick and his team along with scores of blood thirsty zombies will be back, whether you like it or not…

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  1. Cobwebs?

It was released via the official Universal Orlando HHN Twitter feed that a house by the codename of “Cobweb” is currently in production.  We know that the house is going to be entirely original and not tied to any licensing agreement or third party property.  Some have rumored a western house, others have said it will be a sequel to an already established HHN house.  Other than this, we have been issued with a snippet from the layout as seen above.  Any ideas?  Here’s what we thought HERE.

 

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  1. Krampus

Looking at the evidence presented HERE, it suggests to us that Krampus is a likely property being developed for HHN on both coasts.  We do not know this for sure, though the evidence seems to point to this movie being used.  Universal even has a deal with the production company to make HHN houses, read more HERE.

 

  1. Packages are now on sale…

Since February 18th select packages to tie in with Universal’s current and coming hotels are now bookable with HHN.  The packages include:

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

Starting at just $209 per person, this is a fantastic deal and can be booked HERE.

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  1. Unmasking the Horror Tours will run this year and are bookable (well kinda!)

If you take advantage of the above package deal, you can go ahead and add the behind-the-scenes tours to this offer for $79.87 per person.  The tours are a HHN fan must do.  Be sure to look for our review of these coming very soon…

 

  1. Add-on passes are now available

Available on select nights, the add-on ticket is a great way to spend all day and night at Universal Orlando.  Dates: September16, 18, 22, 23, 25, 29, 30 & October 2, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31.

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  1. There is likely to be just 8 houses…

Universal may have had their concord moment last year with the addition of 9 houses.  We all celebrated this fact and to Universal’s credit, even with the Scream issues at the last minute, they did a fantastic job at highly theming every single one of them; quality was surely not compromised at all!

However, what with the respective Twister and Fast & Furious construction projects, Universal has now lost spaces for an additional show, a haunt location, queue space and footfall areas.  When this happened before when Transformers was built, the event did revert back to having one house less than the previous event, therefore there is precedence for this move.

Universal could try adding a house in the Terminator show or perhaps moving into another soundstage, that’s if the Shrek theater is also used again.  Likewise, they may build another tent or temporary haunt location, though this is unlikely as no permits have yet been filed for such a move yet.  This would all suggest that 8 houses is now a given…

 

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  1. WWE will have a house at HHN26…

That’s right the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise is coming to Universal Orlando as a house for HHN26.  The deal to provide a WWE themed museum come restaurant in City Walk fell through, so whilst at the table Universal offered to have a haunted Wrestlemania type house built for the event.  We hear that the house is currently in development and will actually feature the recently retired The Sting wrestler, well after all what is he doing at the moment?  So join Triple H, The Big Show and all your other favorite wrestlers in the most haunted, horrific and spooktacular house to date…

Okay, okay, that last one was an April Fools’ Day joke!  But we’re sure you already knew that.

All other 9 points are either 100% or 99% a given for HHN26, so what do you think?

Are there any we missed?  Let us know in the comments!