Universal Orlando is home to many wonderful attractions, various forms of entertainment for young and old. However, every year, when the Halloween season rolls around, the park undergoes a grim transformation. Fog fills the streets of the park, actors dressed as monsters and fiends wander about, and blood and gore abound. This is, of course, Halloween Horror Nights, Universal’s yearly Halloween event that lasts from Sept. 18 to Nov. 1. Large amounts of people flock to the park during this event, hoping to be scared, horrified, and to have a wonderful time. This year is particularly special as it marks the event’s 25th anniversary, and as such Universal has done their best to make it a year to remember.
“The 25th year is bigger and better than ever” said Charles Grey, show director for Halloween Horror Nights. “We’ve worked really hard this year to bring you nine houses. Usually we have seven to eight, this year we have nine.”
One of the nine horror-filled houses is based off and named after the movie “Insidious” . “Insidious” is one of the houses located furthest from the park entrance so by the time you get there, there may be a bit of a wait. Wait times for the regular lane could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 80 minutes, so be prepared. However, once you get to the entrance to this terrifying house, you will see a plain, white house. Don’t be confused, that is “Insidious” and the danger lurking inside is anything but plain. It’s up to you whether you can survive the nightmares waiting inside that aren’t just a harmless movie anymore.
“Run: Blood, Sweat and Fears” is a house inspired by two original concepts that the design team behind Halloween Horror Nights had this year. The story of “Run” is that the people going through the house are unwilling participants in a death game show in which they have to run for their lives or be murdered by the various killers throughout the complex. When they first enter this house the game host announces the start of the game and as they go further through the house they encounter more and more people being murdered. While “Run” is a neat original concept from the design team, many parts of it fall flat, and tend not to be all that scary. It also felt the shortest of any of the houses.
“Body Collectors: Recollections” takes place in Shady Brook Asylum and features crazed lunatics looking for victims to gather as many body parts as they can. The design director, Charles Grey, is particularly fond of this house, mostly because of the entrance, which is the wintry land that the Asylum is located on. However, be warned that this house features a lot of blood and gore. One scene that you’ll have to walk through shows one of the murderers ripping a woman’s spine out of her back. If you’re not careful you could wind up never leaving the Asylum. At least, not in one piece.
AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead” provides the inspiration for the next haunted house. As people progress through the house they will experience the events of the show’s fifth season, full of memorable moments such as the escape from the Terminus complex, a location full of cannibals and criminals. Then zombies proceed to attack from all sides for the remainder of the house. This was one of the better houses this year, and it had quite a few exciting moments and memorable scares. Fans of the show are certain to enjoy it more, but anyone who can appreciate the horror of zombies will enjoy this attraction.
The haunted house based upon “The Purge” might be the biggest disappointment at the park. While the film presents an intense and horrifying concept, where for one night people are allowed to commit any crimes they wish, the house ends up just being a constant flow of disappointing attempts at scares. From actors shooting blasts of air to others stabbing fake corpses, there are more scenes going on around the people attending than there are involving them. The few actors that do actually jump out are placed in predictable spots, and simply are not all that scary. The biggest flaw with this house, however, has to be its overuse of strobe lighting. Because of the constantly flashing strobes, many parts of the house are almost impossible to enjoy, simply because it is very difficult to perceive what exactly is going on. Between excessive darkness in some areas, and excessive strobe lights in others, this is easily the worst house this year.
In contrast with the previous house, “Freddy vs. Jason” was perhaps the best house in this iteration of Halloween Horror Nights. Based around Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees, two horror icons, this house involves the two of them attacking from all sides, until they eventually start to fight each other. All of Jason’s scares are particularly impressive, as they are placed in easily missed dark corners, and the actors playing Jason are all quite physically imposing, often towering over those attending. Almost all of the scares in this house are on point, and there’s a surprise at the end that should catch even the most grizzled veteran of these sorts of events off guard.
Sadly the other three houses this year could not be reviewed due to time constraints, but Grey assures anyone interested in attending the event that they are all excellent. These three houses include “Asylum in Wonderland: 3D,” “American Werewolf in London,” and “25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem.” “Asylum in Wonderland” involves a trip in an insane asylum, in which Alice is dealing with monsters and illusions from inside her mind, instead of the traditional events of “Alice in Wonderland.” “American Werewolf” follows the story of the film of the same name, and is full of animatronics that, according to Grey, are sure to scare. Finally, “25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem” honors the past two and a half decades of Halloween Horror Nights, and involves monsters and scares from all throughout the event’s existence.
One of the two shows that attendees of Halloween Horror Nights can see is “The Carnage Returns.” This is a show all about Jack the Clown, his horrifying partner Chance, and his crazed followers. Together, Jack and his people put on a bloody show of death, laughter, and dancing for the audience’s enjoyment. Jack’s stage is set up right across from Mel’s Drive In, there is no seating so you’ll have to stand to watch the carnage on stage. Show times will be listed on the park map so if you miss the first show, don’t worry, Jack will be back.
In contrast with the blood and violence in “The Carnage Returns,” the other show that can be attended this year is full of laughs and references to common pop culture. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” takes the characters of Bill and Ted, from the popular 80s movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and places them in the modern day. This show contains references to current events in politics, film, music, and just about every aspect of American culture, and it mocks all of them. It is quite funny at some parts, if quite immature. If the excessive gore of the other show seems unappealing, this one provides a more tame alternative.
If you want a break from the gore and horror of the houses, the shows, and the scare zones then five rides will be open during the event: “Transformers: The Ride – 3D,” “Hollywood RIP Ride Rockit,” “Revenge of the Mummy,” “Men In Black Alien Attack,” and “The Simpsons Ride.”
Along with the houses, shows, and rides, there are also scare zones throughout the park that are full of actors prepared to terrify and delight those attending. Throughout the park there are zones fitting all styles of horror, from classic movie icons, to monsters, to serial kills, and even steampunk interpretations of fairytale characters. The last one is by far the most unique of the scare zones, but each is equally enjoyable, and provides solid entertainment as people wander between the haunted houses.