HHN Prep Marathon 2017

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

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

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

The Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Tier

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

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

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

The All-Nighters

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

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

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

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

-Freddy

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