UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Resort
Universal Studios Theme Parks
Review by: Lance Hart
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 24 (2014)
Welcome to Screamscape’s full HHN 24 Review!
While the annual Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Orlando is always great fun, there are always going to be some years that are good, some years that are great… and then there is Halloween Horror Nights 24 (2014) which I’d have to say goes down for me as the best HHN event I’ve ever seen at Universal Orlando, EVER! For the first time ever, it really felt like the event was not only firing on all cylinders, but had become turbo-charged like never before. There was definitely a step up in the quality level of so many things, taking the already great costumes, themeing and atmosphere (AtmosFEAR?) to an entirely new level that we have only seen in small bits and pieces of brilliance before.
For starters, Scare Zones were back, and this was a very popular choice amongst the fan-base, after letting The Walking Dead theme take over the scare zone concept last year, and following the somewhat failed experiment of the roaming hordes idea. This year the park offered several dedicated scare zones, each with a unique theme, and spread them out around the park. While this was great to see in itself, it did seem as if there were not enough ScareActors roaming the scare zones, however… take that comment with a huge grain of salt, as it was raining all night long during the opening night Media event, and I’m sure that fact impacted the Scare Zones most of all. MASKerade: Unstitched was interesting, with very fancy unique costumes, masks and makeup lining the street between Despicable Me & Shrek 4D. Both Bayou of Blood and Face Off - In The Flesh seemed to be impacted by the rain, as some characters were missing and I never did get to see a human sacrifice take place during my visit. I’ve heard from others on the following night that they are not to be missed however, so do try to catch one… and not be caught AS ONE. The Purge: Anarchy was going full tilt however, with lots of interesting characters hidden within the crowds of people passing through, so it was interesting to try and pick out who was Purging at a distance. Plus be sure to hang out near the bus to catch the Purge Auction!
Following the demise of the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure show last year in mid-season at the Hollywood park, many feared we would not have Bill & Ted back in Orlando, but you can’t keep those excellent dudes down, and they returned with a vengeance to Orlando with their best show in years. Bravo to the cast, crew and creative team behind this year's show who really brought the laughs this year, poking fun at the year's big social events, movies and really laid it thick onto Disney this year in regard to the Magic Bands (which will killing people), Frozen (Let’s just say Elsa “let herself go”) and so much more. It is also worth mentioning that the Rocky Horror show is back once again as well.
Now lets get to the meat of the matter… and talk about the Haunts this year. They were a spectacular bunch this year to be sure, with a variety of themes across the fear-spectrum so that there is a nightmare for everyone.
Halloween - This isn’t just a haunt… I’d dare to say that this is
a full on loving tribute to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror film
that introduced the world to the monster known as Michael Myers. You will walk through the scenes from the film and witness every murder, in order, just as seen in the film, from start to finish.
While this haunt is contained within one of the “Sprung” tents, you would never know it once you go inside because the sets are so fantastic and realistic looking. Even before you enter the haunt, you’ll pass by a full scale facade recreation of the house used in the original film.
Story-5, Atmosfear-5, FearFactor-4
Dollhouse of the Damned - Of this year’s three original creations, Dollhouse stands out as the most sick and crazy of the three… and the one that just might haunt your nightmares long after you have left. Doll parts are everywhere… on the walls, IN THE WALLS, on the floor, on the shelves… everywhere you look. Sick and twisted toy creations mixed with human bits and pieces of those unfortunate enough to be unable to escape from the Dollhouse. And the nursery… the smell in that room with linger in your nostrils for awhile. And the twisted scenery starts off creepy and then gets more twisted and weird as you pass into each next room, until by the end, it’s just something out of this world.
Story-4, Atmosfear-5, FearFactor-5
Roanoke - Cannibal Colony - If there is a weak link this year, this is is. Themed around the historical Roanoke colony where all the people went missing, adding in the theory of madness, cannibalism and the spirit of the Wendigo to the mix, and it sounds like a great idea. The sets are interesting and nice as you venture into the smoky ruins of the colony While the sets themselves were great, the vegetation was just too sparse, and the Roanoke citizens seems more intent on munching than scaring. It was a good attempt, but this house just felt lifeless as a result.
Story-3, Atmosfear-3, FearFactor-2
Giggles & Gore Inc. - Welcome to this year’s “clown” house, with a better concept than most. This isn’t just a haunt full of clowns… this is the factory where evil clowns are made… from the blood, guts, bits and pieces of other clowns, processed through the Giggles & Gore factory to create even more dark and evil clowns than ever before. There are no 3D glasses here, no brightly colored swirling vortex tunnels… this is a clown gorefest, so for that I applaud them for taking the clown haunt concept to the next level. This one is sure to put the scare into not only those scared of clowns, but those who have trouble around bloody dismemberment and body parts. Unfortunately, clowns don’t scare me, and I get a kick out of the gross haunts, so Giggles & Gore ended up being just eye candy to me, rather than scary, but as with any clown haunt… the intensity of your fear with vary greatly from person to person.
Story-3, Atmosfear-4, FearFactor-3
Dracula Untold - Reign of Blood - Based on the feature film coming to theaters in October, Dracula is a fantastic looking medieval themed haunt, located inside one of the park’s soundstage settings. By itself, it is great looking and has some ok scares… but it suffers from two flaws. 1) The film isn’t out yet, so the story is somewhat lost on the guests and 2) The other three haunts right next door to this one are so wild, colorful, memorable and based on well known Intellectual Properties… that Dracula may end up being the one haunt you forgot you visited by the end of the night.
Story-2, Atmosfear-4, FearFactor-3
From Dusk Till Dawn - Based on the new TV series (check Netflix for Season 1), which in turn is based on the older Feature Film of the same name, From Dusk Till Dawn stood out to me as a pleasant surprise this year. It features very bright and unique sets as you enter the ‘Twister’ bar, where things turn dark, evil and fangy with a quickness. I especially enjoyed the entrance to the haunt, designed as the entrance to the Twister bar, complete with the barker outside, luring you inside with tales of free drinks and wild women. The inside had a nice mix of both sex appeal and horror, through the use shadow figures through curtains, silhouette projections, and some awesome live practical effects as the working girls tear into the club customers. The various cast members of the TV series of represented through some great look-alikes in many of the later scenes, including Seth and Richie armed with their hair-trigger pistols to blast the creatures of the night back into the shadows in the later scenes. While I wasn’t expecting much from this one, I walked away with a smile and was pleasantly surprised as I had a head-full of standout moments burned into my brain from this experience, as well as a decent number of scares.
Story-4, Atmosfear-5, FearFactor-5
The Walking Dead: End of the Line - This may be the ultimate Walking Dead themed haunt. Litteraly twice the size of any other haunt they have ever created at Halloween Horror Nights in the past, with scenery that starts off outside while you are still in the queue, and once inside you go on a whirlwind tour of most of the wild and far away settings seen in Season 4 of the series, including the grocery store with the helicopter half-crashed through the roof, the country club where the rich hid out until they decided to hang themselves, and even the dark creepy train tunnel, complete with simulated flashlight lighting effects while you journey to the epic conclusion within the walls of Terminus. Great zombie effects everywhere, great sets full of little easter eggs fans from the series will pick up on and more. After bringing The Walking Dead to life in haunt form for the past three years in different ways, this really is their ultimate creation and probably a fitting way for HHN to part ways with the property for awhile.
Story-5, Atmosfear-5, FearFactor-4
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator - I think I’ve saved the best for last. Once this was announced, this was the maze I had the biggest expectations for, and the biggest fears that we might be let down… but I can safely say that I was not let down at all. The HHN team really rose to the occasion here and brought the futuristic world of both Alien and Predator to life, as well as paying homage to so many moments from the ALIENS film itself. When Fox granted them the rights to use the characters for HHN this year, they didn’t make them stick to the existing film scripts from any single film in the individual or merged series, but instead let them craft their own story which in the end feels a lot like you are reliving some of the best moments from the ALIENS film, walking through the Alien ravaged base on LV-426… only to have the Predators arrive to crash the Colonial Marine’s party. The masterful tallents who made last year’s American Werewolf puppets were put to work again this year to create ALIEN puppets, using the creature molds from Fox for deadly accuracy. The Predators too are stunning to behold, putting picture perfect costumes on huge scaractors all between 6’6” and 6’10” so that when a Predator first steps out right in front of you… they are an awesome sight to behold. I don’t want to give anything more away, but if you are as big a fan of the films ALIENS as I am, you will not walk away disappointed at all. But if I had to be critical of one thing… and just one thing… it was that I got spooked… but not scared. I was just too damn excited to be scared once all was said and done, because I just got to live, for a moment, in my favorite movie of all time.
Story-5, Atmosfear-5, FearFactor-4
So there you have it… our recap of Halloween Horror Nights 24… and as I stated at the beginning, this really is the best Halloween Horror Nights year I have ever seen, so if you only have time to visit one Haunt event this year, make it Halloween Horror Nights 24. You wont regret it.
PS - Stay tuned over the coming days for some great photos from the event (if you missed seeing them on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feeds the night of, as well as some POV video footage of the houses! I was surprised when I was told we could shoot video in all the haunts this year, so I hope to finish editing some of the great clips very soon!