As the summer blockbuster season wraps up, many movie fans are scrambling to find titles left to look forward to in 2019. But we’re also approaching the time of year when many of us finally start to feel in our element. The leaves are changing, Horror movies are being binged on Netflix and the annual Halloween Horror Nights is kicking off at Universal Studios. I’m talking about All Hallows' Eve, the wonderful holiday more commonly known as Halloween, and all the scares that come along with it. But not all Horror fans like their fears to get up close and personal. Some prefer to keep the monsters on the big screen. Those people are missing out.
This year, CinemaBlend toured Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida, on their special “R.I.P. Tour”. The event boasts ten haunted houses, five scare zones, two live shows, and immerses thrill-seekers as active participants, putting them right in the middle of it all. Here are five reasons why fans of the Horror genre should get in on the live-action.
The Insane Amount of Detail Put Into The Movie/TV-Themed Haunted Houses
The amount of work that goes into Halloween Horror Nights each year is impressive, with a fourteen-month planning schedule for each event. Setting up ten different houses is tough enough by itself, but for the six houses that are based on popular franchises, that workload is increased due to the painstaking detail that goes into each one to make sure they appear accurate to even the most avid movie fan. From the costumes and puppetry to the actual temperature in the room, these houses go all out.
The Stranger Things haunted house includes sections where visitors are taken into the world of the Upside Down, with life-sized demogorgons, “spores” raining down from above, and even Hopper’s cabin, half-destroyed with a bloodthirsty Mindflayer coming through the roof. House of 1000 Corpses starts in Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters & Madmen, journeys into the Firefly Family home (with the entire family running around like maniacs) and even ventures underground to put visitors face-to-face with Dr. Satan himself. Both Us and Ghostbusters include almost every iconic scene superfans could ask for and just when you think you’ve made it out, each end with a final scare that you just can’t get at the theater. The final two movie-inspired houses, Universal Monsters, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space play hard on the nostalgia factor and are sure to delight and terrify classic horror fans.
The Unique Stories of the Original Haunted Houses
In addition to the six franchise-themed haunted houses, the park also includes four original-concept houses, all with very different yet unsettling storylines. Some are brand new concepts, while others are new spins on classic favorites. All of them are horrifying mashups of classic horror concepts.
First, there’s Nightingales: Blood Pit, an updated story from previous years that combines hints of Gladiator and the monsters from The Village, if not for that big twist. There’s Yeti: Terror of the Yukon, which blasts cold air into the house for an added bone-chilling effect. Next up is Graveyard Games, a modern-day tale of youthful mischief and disturbed spirits. In this scenario, the ghosts are after teens who have vandalized their New Orleans resting place- and the audience is caught right in the middle. The last of these original houses is Depths of Fear, a journey through a deep-sea mining facility under attack by parasitic “Mouthbrooders”. If the rumored Aquaman spinoff The Trench ends up being half as scary as this haunted house, audiences are in store for a wild ride.
The Scare Zones Throughout The Park
Many of the houses are spread out throughout the park, but luckily the terror isn’t contained solely to the haunted houses. While visitors are walking from house to house, or through the park in general, Universal has five distinct “Scarezones” set up to keep your adrenaline up. Each zone also has its own unique theme, some bloodier than others.
There are two recognizable franchises, Zombieland: Double Tap and Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe, each with their own unmistakable imagery. The three original Scarezones include Anarch-cade, a Purge-esque style area with plenty of neon outfits and chainsaws, Vikings Undead, which fans of the Vikings show are sure to enjoy, and Vanity Ball, an area with formalwear and unsettling disfigurement. The “scareactors” also like to target people strolling through these zones while using their phones, which made live-tweeting the tour a true nightmare, rightfully so.
The Impressive Practical Effects
Each house blends a unique mix of synchronized audio, light, puppetry, and actors to bring these well-rehearsed and choreographed nightmares to life. But unlike in film or television, these houses can’t up the scares in post-production and only have one chance to get it right for each participant, and they boy oh boy, do they deliver.
Many of the houses use recorded audio straight from your favorite horror movie scenes coupled with scareactors playing famous roles for a very immersive experience. The Ghostbusters house includes multiple Slimers, hologram ghosts, library books that move as if controlled by unseen spirits, and all the iconic scenes superfans could hope for. Stranger Things has life-sized Demogorgons popping out around every turn and multiple Mindflayers that put you right in the thick of the madness in Hawkins, Indiana. It’s one thing to see practical effects on the big screen, but it breaks down a huge barrier to have them jump out at you dozens of times.
The Live Shows
For those who are interested but would still like to remain slightly removed from the action, Halloween Horror Nights also puts on two live shows that are vastly different but equally impressive. These shows aren't solely focusing on the scare factor, they are using technology and choreography to elevate these shows to a whole new level and leave attendees wanting more.
Academy of Villains: Altered States, a new iteration from the popular dance company, projects a dark, artistic video as a backdrop on a stage full of live performers, with an awesome heavy metal soundtrack to go along with it. This show presents some of the best choreography of the whole event, with performers telling a story while performing unbelievable feats of human strength, precision, and endurance. Not one to be topped on impressive choreography, Halloween Marathon of Mayhem is a laser light show that takes place on/through the fountains of the Universal Lagoon by projecting scenes from horror properties accompanied by an epic soundtrack.
For those still on the fence, I urge you to face your fears. Halloween Horror Nights is now open select nights between September 6th and November 2nd. In the meantime, head on over to our premiere guide to read up on what’s still in store (horror or otherwise) for 2019.
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Morbidly curious pizza enthusiast with a heart of gold. Has no time to hear why you think The Office is overrated and is pretty sure the meaning of the Universe can be found in the movie Cats. Co-host of American Hauntings Podcast. Inaugural class of Enstitute, an entrepreneurial alternative education program written about by Forbes, The New York Times, and PBS.