Another year, another vacation for me and the wife to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. It’s a yearly tradition we started way back in 2009, one that we almost broke due to moving to a new house and a rise in price for our other yearly vacation spot, Knotts Scary Farm. But when this year’s list of attractions was announced, we knew we had to go — and now you can see the same scares we saw!
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
My favorite horror franchise by far is Halloween. This year’s holdover maze has been expanded from the Myer’s house to the halls of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, and yes, it’s dark and empty and full of Carpenter synth score goodness. As you make your way through, there’s so much to look at: an unfortunate trick-or-treater who bit into a razorblade, Dr. Mixter, Bud, and that nurse who became a human kettle bell workout for Mike. And it includes a truly genius incorporation of the film’s pumpkin skull logo.
I read on a certain entertainment site (it rhymes with “whine gee en”) that this was their least favorite maze. Not sure which one they walked through, but the one I experienced had everything that made the film an instant holiday classic! Demonic teddy bears, insane gingerbread men, and a man-eating jack-in-the-box in the attic… hell, they even had the unfortunate DHL guy who dropped off Krampus’ sack at the beginning of the film. Bonus points for the clever end of the maze.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers
I’ve never been much of a Leatherface fan (that “do your thing, cuz” line still makes me cringe), but this maze is a bridge between the first and second film, nothing to do with Leatherface 3D. And right off the bat — or shall I saw chainsaw — Leatherface makes an appearance that sets the tone, which is constant jump scares. Fans of the franchise will definitely appreciate the screen-accurate costumes, actors, and great Chop Top masks, including a convincing hammer-wielding Grandpa.
Freddy vs Jason
I’m a Myers guy and the wife is all about Freddy (somehow we’ve managed to make this work over the years), but this maze was the deciding factor in us going this year. And like the movie, this maze is all about Mr. Krueger! Don’t get me wrong, it does feature more Jason than the 2003 film did, but most of the set pieces here are geared towards Freddy. But there is a saving grace for Jason fans: if you look closely, you’ll see a spot-on zombie Jason, a.k.a. Kane Hodder. Also, gotta love renaming the maze to “Craven Industries” in an homage to the late great Wes Craven. #Respect.
The Walking Dead Experience
Ever since Universal added The Walking Dead to its yearly maze rotation, it’s grown and expanded with each passing season. This year, they finally decided to make it a full experience, available year round. From what I could tell, it’s almost identical to each year’s previous mazes, like a greatest hits version, but with updated effects, including an entire area of Walkers hanging from meat hooks, while biting and shaking wildly — the best part of this attraction. But if I had to pick one disappointment, it would be this, since it sadly did not feature Negan at all.
The Purge Scare Zones
One the best new horror franchises has become something of a staple of HHN. This year, instead of keeping the zone open and easily escapable for the faint of heart, Universal decided to make them into more traditional maze; this is by far my favorite aspect of this year’s haunt. With the greatest hits of the last three films, there’s something for everyone in these scare zones, including that legit-looking Christmas light-covered car from Election Year.
Eli Roth’s Terror Tram
This tram ride/zone has been The Walking Dead’s or The Purge’s home until this year, when Universal announced it was teaming with horror director Eli Roth to cook up something fresh. Since it’s the only attraction not based on a preexisting property, Eli had free reign on this, one and it shows in the production values, including a great backstory involving former Universal Studios employee and star turned homicidal maniac Harold Kappowitz. If you suffer from coulrophobia, then by all means, save your dignity and skip this one.
American Horror Story
Split up into seasons of the show, parts of the maze takes you through Season 1’s “Hell House,” Season 4’s “Freak Show,” and Season 5’s “Hotel.” It has the best production values of any maze I’ve ever seen, rivaling last year’s Alien vs Predator. Rubber Man, Twisty, and the Countess are all here, and then some. Sadly, they left out Season 2’s “Asylum” and Season 3’s “Coven.” Maybe next year? I’m down for getting a Cuba Gooding, Jr.-filled maze too!
How had this one not been done yet? While waiting in line, I spoke with one of the employees, and he told me the park had been trying for years to get the rights to do this maze. Was it worth the wait? Hell yes! The rancid smells, excellent actors, and realistic recreation of key scenes from the film all culminate in this being the most fun I’ve ever had in a maze! The Father Merrin masks alone had me believing I was in director William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece. Just don’t get too close to Reagan, or you might get splashed with holy water like I did.
This was the best haunt Universal has ever put on by far, minus limiting the front-of-the-line pass to a one-time use per attraction, but even that didn’t take away from my experiences. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring — fingers crossed for a Trick ‘r Treat maze!
If you didn’t know, Moan4Stallone loooves that horror. Now that you know, why not follow him on Twitter?