Universal Studios transforms their legendary backlot into acres of ghouls, goblins and terror as Halloween Horror Nights returns for their month-long celebration of all things scary. Some of Horror’s biggest names have lent their creativity, ideas and torture tactics to bring you an amazing night: Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Eli Roth, and movies The Wolfman, Hostel, The Thing, and Scream.
As you cross through the gates, be assured that your night has changed forever. Abandoned vans, wandering psychos, graffitit-riddled brick walls and stormy splashes of lightning when you least expect. Scares are around every corner. As you walk, a few feet ahead you notice a group of teenagers, out of the corner of your eye, a “crazed psychopath” races toward them, chainsaw in hand. The engine revs as he swipes at the group. Some of the girls shriek, others jump into their boyfriends arms. Frights like this are what the night is about, and it’s only going to get worse!
Navigating the night will keep you busy until the very last moment. So many attractions, and with tasty concessions spread throughout, you need to plan a bit. Or just smile, laugh and go with the flow! Just an upfront spoiler: out of the four tours we took, there was one amazing, two awfully goods and one eh.
The attractions are mixed between walk-through mazes that feature walking, hanging and pop-up surprises, and then the tram. The first screams came from La Llorana: Villa de Almas Perdidas. A spanish-themed walk-through. This would be a great introduction to the night as it’s not the darkest nor scariest, yet it packs a handful of scream-worthy moments.
Next the crowd heads towards The Thing: Assimilation. Through over a dozen rooms, horror-lovers are taken on a journey of the most memorable scenes from horror classic “The Thing. With a handful of genuine scares, it’s good fun!
Everyone wants to take The Scream Tram and so we head down the stairs. As we get closer, nearly everyone returning from the area warned us to forget it. Take notice, listen to the crowd. The tram takes you across the backlot into a wooded area. During the ride, you’re shown trailers for actual upcoming horror movies and then then footage from fake “coming soon” movies.
We arrive in the wooded area and the first platform just isn’t so great. It feels hap-hazardly designed and hurriedly put together. This definitely brought more jeers than cheers. Luckily we hiked on quickly and were taken around a spooky house and finally through what looked like the Desperate Housewives outdoor set which features a plane crash. This doesn’t feature nearly the scares as any other attraction. But personally, I enjoyed the visuals and the attention to detail in the production design.
Next up is Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. It combines a very clever idea along with a very classic pattern. The clever idea is 3D Zombie Vision. As you venture through the maze you’ll encounter 3D scares all around you and in your face. Around you, next to you, hanging down over you, popping out at you. Spoiler alert: Make sure this is the last thing you do at the park. Any other attraction pales in comparison.
After living the adventure, the best recommendation is to listen to your fellow thrill-seekers. If you hear screams and cheers, head in that direction. If a few groups tell you something isn’t a crowd pleaser, it probably isn’t. So save your time.
And yes, there are lines. Sometimes long lines. Two approaches: are you here to hang out with friends and have fun? If so, cool, relax, hang out. If you’re a horror maven who needs to get on every ride tonight and is hungry to battle all-thing-scary? Then it might be worthwhile to spend the extra bucks and get the Front of the Line pass. I used it and it was worth every penny.
Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights runs through October. Click here for tickets and more information