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Event Report: Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS

Editor’s Note: Part One of this two-parter is available to read exclusively over at Nightmarish Conjurings, so go read it, then check this beast out!-Jerry

It’s that time of year again, when the sound of chainsaws and screaming guests is music to our ears.  As Halloween approaches, one of California’s biggest events, Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, opened its gate for fans and horror enthusiasts on September 16.  Heralded as one of the best years for Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, I couldn’t wait to feel that sense of fear and excitement creep back in.  This year’s mazes included THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN II, KRAMPUS, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, FREDDY VS JASON and the return of the TERROR TRAM presented by Eli Roth. Also, guests would be able to experience THE PURGE as a scare zone throughout Universal Studios as well as welcome back America’s best dance crew the JABBAWOCKEEZ.  In this review we will be focusing on four of the mazes as well as the THE WALKING DEAD attraction, but make sure to look out for my part 1 review on Nightmarish Conjurings.  Without further ado, let’s get to the reviews!

 

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HALLOWEEN: HELL COMES TO HADDONFIELD

One of my biggest gripes with Halloween Horror Nights is the continued use of the same iconic slashers.  I’ve experienced a HALLOWEEN house at both Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood so hearing that Hollywood was going to be doing another HALLOWEEN house, granted it was based off of Halloween II, made me feel less than enthusiastic about doing it.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as this was by far the best house of the evening.  Not only was the design inventive and unique, the scares were bloody frightening! Michael Myers has alway been a terrifying figure to begin with so just imagine a house filled with him hiding in dark corners waiting to pounce.  This house did everything right from the set design, to the incorporation of pumpkins in ways we haven’t seen, to the scare actors being interactive, to hiding the actors so that you didn’t see them coming.  This house made me scream numerous times and by the end, I couldn’t wait for more.  If there is one house you need to go to when you visit Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, it’s the HALLOWEEN house.

 

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FREDDY VS JASON

Last year I attended Halloween Horror Nights Orlando, and one of the houses I couldn’t wait to go in was their Freddy v. Jason house.  It ended up being a huge disappointment and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of Hollywood taking over the reigns and trying their hand at this house.  Similar to my reactions with the Halloween II house, I was floored by how amazing this maze was.  We start off in the world of Freddy Krueger as we make our way through the boiler room to view the feud between these two icons, eventually ending up at the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  One aspect of this house that worked in its favor was the incredible use of lighting and music to transition us from Krueger’s world to Voorhees world.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the fight scenes and I liked that at the end of the maze we are given a winner.  The maze was able to use the space that it had to make sure all the scare actors were hidden from view which made the experience that much more terrifying.  It was truly nerve wracking not knowing where the actors would be coming from.  Along with terrific set design and quality hiding spots, the costume and makeup design for both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were top-notch.  It really felt like you were in the movie watching the ultimate battle unfold.

 

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

Out of every house I visited, this one was probably on the low end.  As I mentioned in my review of HALLOWEEN II, I’ve gotten to a point where I’m tired of seeing the same horror icons over and over again.  Where HALLOWEEN II gave the guests a truly terrifying experience, I felt like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fell short in both scares and set up.  In this haunt, we are taken to the Sawyer’s BBQ restaurant and house where Leatherface and ChopTop, who has returned from the war, are looking for new victims for their yummy meals.  As with most of the other mazes, the set design for this house was above average and I enjoyed walking through the restaurant and the family home.  There were even a few moments where I didn’t see Leatherface until it was too late which elicited a scream or two from me.  However, overall, I felt like this house lacked proper scares.  It wasn’t the worst house of the evening, that prize belongs to THE EXORCIST, but I felt like it lacked any originality.  Hopefully next year, John Murdy and Chris Williams will be more apt to design original houses and take a step away from the continuous use of the horror icons of past.

 

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ELI ROTH PRESENTS: TERROR TRAM

I hate even having to review this because it just doesn’t seem fit to even deserve a review.  The TERROR TRAM, presented by Eli Roth was the weakest maze this year.  The story of the tram centers around the legend of celebrity clown turned deranged killer, Hollywood Harry (aka Koodles the Clown), who has been stalking the backlot tour for years.  During this maze we are shown the carnage that has spread from his time inhabiting the area and though, in theory, it could have been terrifying, it was anything but.  The main issue at hand was the overcrowding.  The experience itself started out positive as the terror tram dropped us off at a location where a lone clown was waiting for us.  As we walked past him we were brought to the area where Bates Motel is located and waiting for us was a legion of sadistic and terrifying clowns; however, once you turn the corner to where the infamous Bates house is, everything began to fall apart.  The massive amount of people waiting to go through the experience was just overwhelming.  Instead of taking everything in it felt like we were just herded cattle and it made the experience annoying and unpleasant.  It’s really a shame because that area could have been transformed into such an amazing set for people to experience.  One positive thing I can say about this though is the interaction from the clowns was top notch.  I think this was the only saving grace of the experience so kudos to the actors for putting on a good show for us.

 

THE WALKING DEAD ATTRACTION -- Pictured: "The Walking Dead Attraction" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

THE WALKING DEAD ATTRACTION — Pictured: “The Walking Dead Attraction” Key Art — (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

THE WALKING DEAD ATTRACTION

Before the night ended, I wanted to make sure to check out THE WALKING DEAD ATTRACTION.  This experience is year round and it was my first time being able to walk-through.  Luckily, the line was short as most people were busy going through the haunts and scare zones so having to wait long was not an issue.  I’m not the biggest fan of THE WALKING DEAD, but I have to admit, this walk-through attraction was incredibly impressive.  I enjoyed seeing scenes from the show and the animatronics were top notch.  Because it’s open during Halloween Horror Nights, scare actors were placed throughout to add a little more terror to the experience and I liked that added bonus.  This is definitely something worth checking out if you come to Halloween Horror Nights, regardless of if you are a fan of the show or not.  The special effects and creature designs, such as the crawling zombie from Season 1 Episode 1 is really cool to see up close and personal.  This is definitely an attraction I look forward to coming back to see when it’s not as crowded as I would like to take my time walking through each area.


Overall, I think Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 26 was a blast.  This is only my second year going so I don’t have much to base it off of but I enjoyed everything that I went through and am looking forward to attending again at the beginning of November.  For fans of the event, I would suggest getting there early as lines were extremely long.  My only concern is that guests won’t have the opportunity to experience everything unless you get a fast-pass so my advice to you, start at the end, all the way at the end of the park, and work your way forward.  You want to make sure to hit AMERICAN HORROR STORY, FREDDY V JASON, KRAMPUS, and THE EXORCIST early on and worry about the other attractions later on in the evening.  If you are wondering where the rest of the maze reviews are, make sure to check out Nightmarish Conjurings for my part 1 review which includes THE EXORCIST, KRAMPUS, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, THE PURGE SCARE ZONE and the JABBAWOCKEEZ show.

For more information on Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood visit their website at http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/hollywood/2016/index.php and follow them on social media at FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.