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Universal Studios Hollywood - Halloween Horror Nights 2017


Hollywood, California
Universal Studios Theme Parks


Halloween Horror Nights 2017
at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood annual Halloween Horror Nights for 2017 finds gold in the past -
By Steve Rowin of Scary Horror News for Screamscape
    Horror nights has always been very “horror film” centric with its attractions. Occasionally straying with dark music artists like Ozzy Osbourne,  Alice Cooper, and Rob Zombie; they mostly tap into horror films released in the previous year and sometimes as a preview to an upcoming film. As you can imagine after 17 years in Hollywood, sticking to this formula of famous films and their characters, the pool gets thin and repeats happen. This year is no exception, except for one. A golden oldie from 1980, a little film starring Jack Nicholson called The Shining. If you haven’t seen that film or it’s been a while, watch it on Netflix before you go to Halloween Horror Nights.







    Nestled between the houses are multiple scare zones, last year The Purge was theme park wide. This year all the scare zones abandoned movie themes and went original.  Urban Inferno, a journey through Hell, where you will encounter Burnt Lost Souls, Half-Goat Executioners, Mad Monks, Blacksmiths Forging the chains of Purgatory and Satanic demons including the towering King and Queen was really well done. Hell-O-ween, based on classic Halloween, is like trick or treating in the big city. Witches, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and undead children come out in droves to roam New York Street in celebration of Halloween. In the Toxic Tunnel, it’s said that Utility workers were doing repairs inside the tunnel and accidentally burst a pipe with toxic gas. Hazmat teams were called in, but everyone has been infected by the gas and turned into zombie-like subhumanoids (as usually happens in this sort of situation). This tunnel connects to the houses in the far lower back lot and is filled with creatures,  loud heavy bass music and disorientating strobes. You can’t miss it because you have no choice but to pass through!
    The Terror Tram was back and so was that little bastard Chucky! If you’re new to the Terror Tram, you’re basically a sitting duck as you walk the hills in the backlot. One popular stop on the tram experience is a photo op in front of the Psycho house with Norman, a Bates Motel fan must do that is only possible during Horror nights!

The Haunts:

Ash vs. Evil Dead:
    The story begins in an isolated cabin in the woods. It was there that young Ash Williams and his friends stumbled upon a book and unwittingly unleashed an ancient evil on the Earth. After losing all of his friends, and his right hand, the evil was vanquished and life returned to normal. Ash settled into the quiet life, living in a trailer park, drinking in dives and working in an undemanding, dead-end job. But evil doesn't sleep forever. Thirty years later, poor Ash screwed up and recited passages from that book one lousy time and evil has found him again! Now it's time for Ash to reclaim his chainsaw and save the world again from an evil worse than anything he has confronted before.
    My take! Who doesn’t love Ash and the Evil Dead, it’s campy humor, intense evil creatures and Ash’s never ending epic battle. This haunt was well done, it was a bit darker than the others but the sets and characters were top notch. I personally really like the scary factor of these monsters and the serpent like creature was spectacular! One of the fun design elements of this attraction was how we go from indoor to outdoor and back indoors again. We start in Ash’s trailer and end up outside only to enter the “House” where evil lurks. This house was one of my favorite elements of the night, the detail put into this set popped out and brought us into the story.  The ratio of jump out scare-actors was just right making for a well balance between story, atmosphere and scares. Don’t miss Ash vs. Evil Dead.

The Shining:  
    Based on visionary director Stanley Kubrick's horror classic film, The Shining will let Halloween Horror Night guests experience all the iconic scenes and characters that have made the film a masterpiece of modern horror. Welcome to The Overlook Hotel, a sprawling yet isolated century old hotel with a tragic history of murder and madness. Jack Torrance, a man with a troubled past, has agreed to be the caretaker for The Overlook Hotel during the harsh Colorado winter and has moved his family into the shuttered hotel. But as soon as the Torrance family takes up residence in the hotel, Jack begins to undergo a startling change... a descent into madness that will put his family in grave danger. Unbeknownst to Jack, his young son, Danny, is imbued with a dark gift - the ability to see events and people, both past and future, that others can't see. A gift called "The Shining." Danny's nightmarish visions will help to unlock the mysteries of the haunted hotel and allow the horrifying, true nature of The Overlook to reveal itself.
    My take! Wow this is where the budget went this year! Clearly the premier house, fans are treated to immense detail from this classic horror film. While recreating the grand lobby sets of the Overlook hotel really isn't possible, the design team nailed it as best they could. For those who don’t know, renowned film producer Stanley Kubrick built the entire interior of the fictitious “Overlook Hotel” inside sound stages in England; the largest indoor sets in film history. When you watch the film it’s hard to believe that all those rooms are built out in such detail for the film from scratch. By doing so Kubrick was able to control room size, colors and most interestingly geometric carpet patterns that created tone to the scenes. It’s said the sets in the film where just as large a character as the cast. John Murdy and Chris Williams, producers at Universal, said they were most proud of the carpet featured in their Shining house. They say it was custom woven for them at great expense. Not just the main halls and lobby but also the carpet in the ominous room 237, where the nude beautiful woman turns into a disgusting old hag. This is a house you’ll want to do twice if you can!

The Horrors of Blumhouse:
    Get ready for three twisted Blumhouse Productions films in one bone-chilling experience. Come face-to-face with the most iconic and unnerving moments from the blockbuster The Purge franchise, Sinister movies and soon-to-be released Happy Death Day. In The Purge section, you will attempt to survive the night, immersed in the film property's depraved world where all crime is declared legal in the government's annually sanctioned 12-hour cleansing of society. In what can be described as a living trailer for Happy Death Day, you will encounter the deja vu scenario, forced to relive the last day of your lives over and over again, trying to escape a mysterious masked killer. Then, in Sinister, encounter an ancient pagan deity who is determined to trap you for all eternity in the sordid shadow world of the dead.
    My take! Lo-fi. This seemed rushed and pure filler. Simply a chance to milk the last ounce out of the Purge franchise. Included in this tri-fecta was Sinister. Sinister in it own right certainly deserves a decent budget and its own house, however that didn’t happen. They did a layout where you went through the Purge again, then nothing, then Happy Death Day and Sinister. Don’t waste your time, sadly Blumhouse is a stinker. But wait, all is not lost for Blumhouse this year; also behind Insidious, the Blumhouse Insidious house is the absolute scariest house for 2017.

Insidious 2017:
    Based on the hit Insidious film franchise including the upcoming supernatural thriller, Insidious: The Last Key. The all-new maze will delve deep into brilliant parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainer's past, starting with a childhood in which her paranormal abilities emerged... until her mother's untimely death by a demonic entity. Troubled by a lifetime of evil supernatural spirits trapped in the Further-a vacuous netherworld caught between the living and the dead-Elise will take guests on an unsettling journey back in time through a portal into the Further to defy the most depraved and intimidating beings that have tormented her since the 1950s.
    My take! We’ve seen Insidious before at Halloween Horror Nights and it’s always the absolute scariest house. This house could be added to the lineup every year and we would love it over and over. Why? It is scary as hell. Just the layout, the effects, and the characters all work perfectly. I like that this house, while based on a horror story, is very enjoyable as a stand alone. If you don’t know the movie you don’t need to. This house sucks you in and brings you into it’s horrifying reality. Don’t miss it, go there first because the line gets outrageously long.

American Horror Story:
    Step inside the twisted world of American Horror Story, the award-winning anthology horror series. Deep in the backwoods of North Carolina, there is an isolated farmhouse that has witnessed centuries of horror. Legend has it that the house was built close to the site of the infamous "Lost Colony of Roanoke", an English settlement that mysteriously vanished back in the late 1500's. Though no one knows for sure what happened to the doomed colonists of Roanoke, the suffering of the residents of the cursed farmhouse has been well documented; a legacy of murder and madness that extends back into the murky past in an unbroken chain of horror. They say that the most dangerous time to visit the farmhouse is during the first moon after the harvest...the Blood Moon! But in the woods beyond the haunted farmhouse, even worse horrors await. Whispers of cannibalism, blood-sacrifices and murderous spirits who still cling to the cursed land.
    My take! Having taken up an American Horror Story habit on Netflix, I was excited for this house. Last year, Horror Nights gave us a tri-season house blending 3 seasons. This year they focused on just one, Roanoke. This house simply lacked depth. Not in artistic visual detail but more in the whole package or scare factor as some call it. Unlike Insidious that just scares the hell out of you without any reference to the story, AHS Roanoke doesn’t translate its fear without knowing the show. Even knowing the show, this one sadly fell flat. Jump after jump scare. While way better than the Blumhouse, it wasn’t in the league of the others.

    The SAW series - one of the highest grossing horror franchises of all time - makes its terrifying return to Halloween Horror Nights®. Bringing the blockbuster's most twisted traps to life in an all-new original maze, it will also feature a first look at the upcoming eighth SAW film, Jigsaw, in theaters Oct. 27. SAW: The Games of Jigsaw will test your physical and psychological limits as you come face-to-face with mastermind Jigsaw and his collection of infamous traps from the entire SAW film series.
    My take! This was by far the goriest house Universal has done since Hostel. Saw hit the mark with gruesome puzzles from the film that make you cringe inside! To pull off these scenes required nothing less that brilliant special effects. Wow, the bodies sawed in half in front of you looked as real as it can get. The razor sharp blades that filled a medieval cage upon a victim's head was as stunning as the actor wearing it while crying for help and in distress! Loved it and really the biggest question is “would you like to play a game!?”

Titans of Terror:
    Fall victim to the silver screen's most deplorable killers, whose affinity for bladed weapons, redefined the horror movie genre as slasher films: Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) wielding his iconic chainsaw, Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) brandishing his relentless machete, and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) swiping his trademark glove armed with razor blades. The new maze will be an assault on your sensibilities as you descend into the forbidden realms of these iconic horror monsters and discover the place where these depraved legacies were born.
    My Take: I’ll be honest, I’m a Texas Chainsaw fan, Freddy not so much and Nightmare was groundbreakingly scary in the first film. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing “grandpa” with his hammer trying to crack open a skull! Last year we were treated to a whole Chainsaw house. This year was like the trailer to each of the Titans of Terror. Classics are Classics, no breath taking effects like last years Freddy vs. Jason.

Walking Dead Attraction
    This “year round” zombie fest is the best version of the seasonal house renditions in years past. It’s hard to compare this with it’s massive budget to the Horror Night houses but nonetheless if you haven’t seen it before will likely be the most impressive. With the house perpetually on fire and a zombie running out in flames every 20 seconds, to the walkers shaking around on meat hooks in the cold storage freezer, I don't think any Walking Dead fan wouldn’t  love the experience. This is probably the closest thing to a modern day Disney Haunted Mansion (don’t hate me for saying that Disney fans but I think it’s true)

    Universal Halloween Horror Nights runs into November and a slightly different version is presented in Orlando and the Tokyo park. See Orlando review here.
    Multiple ticket options are available in Hollywood but the best option which has not been offered for many years is back as the RIP tour. When you go RIP you get the best experience possible, valet parking, complimentary dining buffet and drink in a private lounge, front of line pass and a very exclusive Backlot VIP tour. If you are a Horror Halloween fan this is where you save up and splurge! Seriously.