Event Report: The 2011 Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

In a semi-buzzed state, my ninja photographer Calvin and I ventured from The Eyegore Awards out into the park for the opening night craziness that is Halloween Horror Nights. There were two ‘must-see’ mazes on our list that seemed to be generating the most buzz from everyone we spoke to. Our first stop, The Thing: Assimilation.

As per the official Press Release: “An abandoned scientific research center in the midst of a vast and frozen Antarctic will set the stage for “The Thing: Assimilation,” an all-new multi-sensory “Halloween Horror Nights” maze based on Universal Pictures’ upcoming thriller.

A riveting and immersive trek into a science fiction nightmare, “The Thing: Assimilation” will draw upon the atrocities unearthed in the film and re-create the heinous crimes committed against humans by a parasitic extraterrestrial life form.

A virtual three-dimensional sneak peek of the movie,” The Thing: Assimilation” maze will offer “Halloween Horror Nights” guests an unprecedented first-hand preview of the much anticipated thriller in advance of its release on October 14. Eerily authentic, “The Thing” maze will feature elaborately designed and disturbingly real alien creatures and sets. They will match the film’s terrifying intensity to provoke both a memorable and disturbing experience.

Universal Studios Hollywood is collaborating with the film’s producers, Strike Entertainment’s Marc Abraham and Eric Newman (Dawn of the Dead) to create an experience that is authentic to the film. The sets, audio, musical score, creature and character references are all based on the thriller.

“We want people to live the film and experience the same terror that affects the film’s characters,” said Newman. “Our collaboration with Universal’s creative teams brought the vision of the film to life. We’re excited for ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ guests to experience ‘The Thing’ in this frighteningly real way.”

Upon entering, we immediately came across this poor schmuck slicing his neck open. The next time you go and gripe about your crummy job, need I remind you things could indeed be worse? After all, you could be stuck in a station in the middle of the Antarctic overrun by an alien parasite. You’re welcome.

This maze was brilliantly designed and one of my favorites of the evening. The black walls hid the areas where the aliens popped out at us. A good example of a startle is this image below. I gotta say, it’s one of my favorite pics from the night.

The further we got through the maze, the more evolved the alien parasites became. This guy seemed rather welcoming of our camera. What a slimy photogenic bastard. See how he’s reaching out at us? No, you may not have my camera you slimy photogenic bastard!

All in all, The Thing: Assimilation is well worth the time you might end up spending in line to get in. It definitely lived up to the buzz.

Our next stop was Eli Roth’s Hostel: Hunting Season. Not being a fan of the movies, I must say the concept and visuals here made for an amazing Halloween Horror Nights maze experience!

Per the official Press Release: “Eli Roth, the multi-talented director, writer, producer and actor, adapts his enormously successful “Hostel” film franchise to create “Eli Roth’s Hostel: Hunting Season,” a twisted new “Halloween Horror Nights” maze, that will lure “travelers” through a frightening passage of torturous death traps.

“Hostel: Hunting Season,” for which Universal will build elaborate sets re-creating locations in Slovakia, marks the horror auteur and star’s first effort at transforming his screen work into a live theme park experience. The maze will re-imagine the film’s dehumanizing torture chambers and send guests on a spiraling journey through the corrupt halls of Elite Hunting’s torture factory. Elite Hunting, a secret society that tortures and kills American youth for sport in exchange for large sums of money, will prowl the factory and prey on its many maze visitors.

Eli Roth said: “Creating a maze for ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ is a horror fan’s dream come true. I’ve been visiting ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ for years, and still remember the heart-pounding terror of going through the mazes for the first time. For me it was like going inside the world of a movie and experiencing it in a visceral environment that simply cannot be replicated, and in subsequent years I’ve found I’m just as scared as I was the first time.

“I am so happy to join forces with the creative team at Universal. Our collaborative vision to bring ‘Hostel’ to life will give both fans of my movie and horror fans a scare they could never have imagined. People will have a chance to experience some exact moments from their favorite ‘Hostel’ scenes, along with some new surprises.

“I was honored to receive an Eyegore Award at last year’s ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ event, and began talking to Universal about a ‘Hostel’ maze even then. This is something I’ve dreamed of for years. I may even dress up and appear in the maze one night as a torturer. So when you say ‘I scared you,’ you can literally mean that I scared you!”

Waiting to greet us at the front of the line was this young lady. She said she was from Prague and kept sizing me up. Sorry ladies, I’m taken!

Once we were inside, we came face to face with the crazies and atrocities of Elite Hunting. This guy kept popping out that door waving that hammer as if to say, “Get off my lawn!”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of food programming. It’s always nice when a butcher stops in the middle of the intricate process of fabricating a person for the best choice cuts to pose for the camera. Thanks, Emiril!

Indeed, this is the best way to drain a body. An added bonus: unwinding after a hard day of work with the replenishing and relaxing enticement of a warm blood bath. Invigorating.

Again, these butchers are very personable. The bloke below stopped, beckoned me closer, and advised me of the correct procedure in removing the delicacy that is the patella (the knee cap, people!). I’m sure he’ll be doing something fancy with it later.

Like any red blooded American, I like me a good burger. I must say, that’s the biggest meat grinder I have ever laid eyes on. Mr. Plain White Tee needs to man up and stop crying!

Eli Roth’s Hostel: Hunting Season definitely delivered the scares. Some of the goriest images of the night were contained within these walls. Kudos to Mr. Roth for this one. One of the best mazes I’ve seen in years!

From here, I have to admit, we got a bit lost. It was opening night and we were drunk and lost in the crowd of high school kids and many who seemed to be on their first date. Yep, that’s right, Halloween Horror Nights – the perfect first date experience. Instead of dinner and a movie, why not frighten your lovely lady to the point of her pissing her skivvies!? Seriously, someone pissed themselves that evening. Or, they may have just gotten off of Jurassic Park: The Ride. One may never know.

Whilst wondering through the crowds, backtracking, and then backtracking again, we found ourselves in the midst of the Klownz Scare Zone. Comprised of a variety of carnival style clowns, this year the carnival barking clown was back standing atop his stage and shouting at passers-by through his megaphone. Usually, both my photographer and I would be freezing up like a deer watching their lives flash before their eyes while pending a headlight blinding death. But here, we were on a mission to get to Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare and somehow, we got lost. I even stopped and asked for directions. Tall clown guy just bent down and stared at me.

Well, this is what we get for being drunk. Turns out, Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare was right around the corner from Hostel: Hunting Season. Soon enough, we found our destination.

As per the Official Press Release: “The legendary Alice Cooper, who single-handedly masterminded the rock-horror genre, will spin a new collection of disturbing horror imagery in “Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare,” in the outrageous new “Halloween Horror Nights” maze.

Inspired by the rock icon’s landmark concept album and its long-awaited sequel “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” to be released on September 13 through Universal Music Enterprises,” the new attraction will take guests on a terrifying trip through Alice Cooper’s twisted mind, where his most famous songs, bizarre themes and demented characters collide inside a living horror movie.

This original, one-of-a-kind walk through experience will feature trademark elements from Alice Cooper’s celebrated shows, including guillotine decapitations, electric chairs, a sadistic insane asylum, predatory snakes and giant Black Widow spiders that have helped make his imagery timeless and indelible. Music will be a powerful element within the maze and will include both new and classic Alice Cooper material.

Sharing his enthusiasm, Alice Cooper said: “We’ll be creating this living horror movie within screaming distance of the sound stages where horror movies first began, so there’s no place more appropriate to offer a preview of the new `Welcome 2 My Nightmare.’ This will be a nightmare that will haunt visitors’ dreams for a long time to come.”

Some creepy dolls were hanging by nooses in one of the rooms. Poor creepy doll. Lynching sucks.

So this is a trip through Alice Cooper’s twisted mind, right? Can someone explain to me this below image? I’m curiously disgusted here but can’t stop staring.

So far, of the three mazes we experienced, I wasn’t that thrilled about Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare. This may be the first ever maze inspired by a musician’s album, but it seemed more goofy to me. The majority of the scare actors were costumed with Alice Cooper masks on. It just seemed a bit cartoon-ish. That’s not to say, of course, that we didn’t have fun in the maze. However, our amusement came more from watching others be surprised and frightened throughout the duration of the attraction.

Our next stop was The Terror Tram: Scream For Your Life, and dagnabbit we got lost again! I have no excuses as to why. There were signs all over the place!

Per the Official Press Release: Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life,” based on the latest installment of Wes Craven’s “Scream” film series, will unleash the iconic “Ghostface Killer” on the world-famous backlot during Halloween Horror Nights, casting guests as victims in a living horror film.

The fantasy world of movies collides with reality when aboard “Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life” guests are transported through Universal’s famed backlot—-the heart of the world’s most famous horror moviemaking studio—and find themselves being stalked by one of the most dangerous slashers in horror history: “Ghostface Killer.”

Mirroring the “Scream 4” film concept of a “movie-within-a-movie” theme, the “Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life” experience will introduce guests to the fictional “Stab” slasher film franchise and beckon them to visit the production of “Stab 8,” currently “shooting on location on the backlot.”

A marquee attraction unique to Universal Studios Hollywood and “Halloween Horror Nights,” the “Terror Tram” combines a ride aboard Universal’s signature trams with a terrifying walk-through experience through world-famous movie sets including Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” and the infamous Bates Motel and Psycho House from Alfred Hitchcock’s signature film.”

I’ll go on record right now and state, The Terror Tram should only be used for the experience of walking next to The Psycho House. Seriously, this year, once again, found The Terror Tram to be a disappointment. Sure, it was nice to sit down for a bit and go for a drive along the Universal Studios Backlot. However, it seems every year they screw up the balance of the faux comedy of the tram guide with the horror gimmick video played while on the tram. This year, the theme was obviously SCREAM. My first gripe: if it’s a SCREAM theme, why go with the semi meta reference to the fictional STAB series instead? That was a bit distracting to me.

After the tram dropped us off, we were led threw a cheaply put together maze outside of The Bates Motel (which had become infested with Ghostface Killer clones). It was like they just threw some walls up and thought that’d do the trick. I didn’t see the point of this but to make us walk more. Once out of that mini maze, we were led up the hill to the Psycho House. This part was actually a bit creepy because we got separated a bit from the rest of the group. While trying to get some good pictures, we found ourselves alone in the middle of an unlit path. Growls and other animalistic noises came from hidden speakers through the bushes and trees. This part, right here, was the creepiest of this whole Terror Tram experience.

Finally, we got to The Psycho House where Norman was waiting for us.

As we were about to make our way to the crash site from WAR OF THE WORLDS, we found the below shot was the last one the camera could take. Technical difficulties, be damned! Soon, we found these difficulties came at the perfect time as what we had covered so far turned out to be the highlights of the night.

We made our way through the crash site, far removed from the rest of the group we were with, and it seemed these scare actors didn’t give a shit. Nothing about this part was scary. Also, they really should warn you that some of these characters will spray water at you. Especially if, say, you’re carrying a nice camera.

Due to the time spent wandering the park, it had gotten quite late. With the camera no longer operational, we decided to call it a night. After the event, we heard we didn’t really miss much else exciting. Below is a rundown of the mazes we missed, but you should still check out if you get the chance.

Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses: In 3D ZombieVision

As per the Official Press Release: “Multi-platinum recording artist and filmmaker, Rob Zombie returns to Universal Studios Hollywood as his nightmarish 3D world of carnage and chaos, “Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses: In 3D ZombieVision,” makes an encore performance at “Halloween Horror Nights.”

In “Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses: In 3D ZombieVision,” guests will enter Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, a duplicitous carnival-style roadside attraction that doubles as a gas station and fried chicken eatery. Amid bizarre exhibits and oddities, guests will meander through the world’s deadliest tourist trap and the setting for Rob Zombie’s terrifying 3D trip through a web of massacre and mayhem.

To experience the maze— an original concept created by Rob Zombie, based on his cult smash film “House of 1000 Corpses”—“Halloween Horror Nights” guests will don 3D glasses for an up-close-and-personal three-dimensional encounter with the world’s most notorious serial killers. Guests will roam through the diabolical universe of Captain Spaulding, Baby, Otis and Dr. Satan, to experience Zombie’s iconic creations – both “live” and via highly imaginative 3D sets and props.”

If you’re looking for some insight here, this maze (so I heard) is exactly the same as last year. I’m not saying it’s a bad maze, but if you experienced Halloween Horror Nights in 2010, you won’t find anything new here.

La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas

As per the Official Press Release: “La Llorona, the fearful story of melancholy and murder that has terrified Mexican and Latin American children for generations, will have an expanded presence at this year’s “Halloween Horror Nights” event as Universal Studios Hollywood recruits Mexico-based film star Diego Luna as a creative consultant to design this all-new-terror-filled maze, “La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas.

“La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas,” which translates to “Weeping Woman: Village of Lost Souls,” will feature elaborate sets depicting sites within and around a small Mexican village. The new maze will tell the haunting story of “La Llorona,” doomed to wander the earth forever after drowning her children in a desperate attempt to win a lost love. She then drowns herself when this attempt to win her lost love

According to the legend, La Llorona’s dreadful, wailing cries—“My children! Where are my children?”—can be heard eternally piercing the night. La Llorona’s frail, drenched body lurking throughout the dead of night will invariably elicit unwavering dread from the helpless village inhabitants or maze guests as her presence signifies impending

Diego Luna said: “Like all Mexican children, I grew up with the story of ‘La Llorona’ and I think it’s a tale with universal appeal. Story-telling is at the heart of all my work and I’m thrilled to have the chance to help present the great ‘La Llorona’ legend in a different kind of medium at the ‘Halloween Horror Nights’ event.”

Ok, I’ll be honest here, I’m a bit sad we missed this maze. They had a similar maze at Knott’s Scary Farm last year. I can only imagine this one was better executed.

The Wolfman: The Curse Of Talbot Hall

As per the Official Press Release: ” “The Wolfman: The Curse of Talbot Hall” based upon the 2010 Universal movie, will vividly re-create the terrors lurking within the great ancestral Talbot mansion in the Blackmoor Woods. As guests make their way through the forest, they encounter the bodies of mutilated villagers, many still living and writhing in the agony of their death-throes. Within the great rooms of the Talbot mansion, they find generations of the cursed family in various stages of transformation. And as they make their way through the maze, they become the next targets of the beast’s deadly attention.”

You see how short that blurb above is? I hear that’s about as much substance exists in this maze. The House Of Horrors attraction at Universal Studios is the location for this one. Just throwing a bunch of scare actors in wolf costumes into this one, eh Universal? Still, aesthetically speaking, if you dig the classic Wolfman story, this maze may still be a cool one to visit as you exit the park.

Well there you have it, folks. My photographer said it pretty well as soon as we entered the park, “I’ve only been here five minutes and this is far superior to Knott’s Scary Farm!” I wholeheartedly agree. If you have the time to spare, I highly recommend checking out Universal Halloween Horror Nights. The event continues through to October 31st.

Well done, Mr. Murdy! See you next year! – Aaron P


One thought on “Event Report: The 2011 Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

  1. re: the Alice Cooper attraction and the eight-legged disemboweled woman. Listen to “Along Came A Spider”, in which Steven (from the original “Welcome To My Nightmare” album) recounts his murderous spree and construction of a “Black Widow” from the women’s remains. “Which leg would you rather lose / to an arachnophobic psychopath?”

    Sorry to hear it wasn’t as impressive as the Hostel attraction. Sounds like Universal was just anxious to “sell” the Alice Cooper “brand” in anticipation of his latest album.

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