Sneak Preview: 'Ghostbusters' & 'Us' Mazes For Halloween Horror Nights 2019 At Universal Hollywood

On September 3, 2019, I traveled to the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot to get a sneak preview of two of the big houses from Halloween Horror Nights 2019 based on Jordan Peele's Us and Ghostbusters. Here's what to expect from these two highly anticipated mazes and how they were created.

ghostbusters maze in halloween horror nights 2019 Hollywood

With just a little more than a week before the opening of the popular annual haunted house event, you'd be surprised at how incomplete the house structures are. But just like big Hollywood films, it's a race to the finish. Everything has been designed and scare actors have been cast – it's just a matter of installing all the finishes.

I've been going to Halloween Horror Nights for years now, but this is the first time I've gone on one of these behind-the-scenes tours. I think I've stayed away because I love the experience of Horror Nights and I didn't want to spoil the fun for myself. This can sound really funny coming from a guy who typically doesn't mind spoilers, especially considering these are licensed film properties and the mazes are recreations of the iconic moments that I've already seen. I think it goes with my theory that spoilers can't ruin a story, but it can hurt the experience of comedy and horror films as they often rely so heavily on surprise. So with that said, I will be spoiling some of the story and scares for the Ghostbusters and Us mazes in Hollywood.

I was surprised to see how far from completion they were on these mazes, especially with Horror Nights opening in just a week and a half. I was allowed to take some photos in the Ghostbusters maze, but please remember that these areas have not been completed and are not presented in show lighting and with scare actors. So look at them like photos from a movie set before production begins.

ghostbusters maze in halloween horror nights 2019 Hollywood

The Ghostbusters maze is primarily based around the original 1984 film directed by Ivan Reitman, but that's not to say there aren't a couple of minor nods to the sequel, video game and even original drafts of the screenplay.

The exterior of the house is a scaled replica of the iconic Ghostbusters firehouse. As you wait in line to enter, we are told an actor playing Louis Tully will be seen outside the building on a search for the key master. You can interact with him and if you give him the correct password (what it is, I'm not sure), you might be handsomely rewarded. If you don't have the correct password, you'll get a different outcome. Outside the building is an NYC taxi cab and you can hear and see the Ecto One behind the firehouse gate.

Once inside the maze, we find the desk of Janine Melnitz, who is played by a scare actor, answering phones and yelling at people. Every once in a while, she might actually get a real paranormal call and yell "we got one!" This prompts Egon to bust in with a smoking trap, and we follow him to the containment room where the Ghostbusters lock up the ghosts.

There are a lot of fun easter eggs on the walls and things to explore and look at.

In the original Ghostbusters script by Dan Aykroyd, the containment unit had a camera hook-up that allowed the Ghostbusters to see inside. Being a hardcore fan of Ghostbusters, Universal Creative pitched the idea to Ivan Reitman to bring that un-filmed idea to life. In this HHN scene, the containment chamber is about to blow up, and the concrete bricks in the room are splitting. The walls use an effect where they look solid, but with certain lighting, they will become see-through. The effect in the final maze is that the containment unit will blow up and we'll end up inside it. We will see the ghosts inside the containment chamber in the other room.

In Dan Akroyd's original script, we saw the ghosts hanging out, playing cards. So the next scene tries to bring this to life. It is also presented with black light art, creating an illusion of paranormal activity. It's also where we will encounter the Scalari brothers, one of the only references in the maze from Ghostbusters 2 — sorry no Vigo or pink slime this time. But like Stranger Things, if this maze is popular, perhaps they can return to tell the story of the sequel. Not only did Ivan Reitman consult on this maze, but also his son Jason Reitman, who is busy making the upcoming second sequel.

Behind the card game, we will see two ghosts, Sparky (from the subway) and Gertrude (the puking woman in the picture frame). Sparky's head will appear to lift off his shoulders and start floating around the room. The same will happen with the half top of Gertrude's body. This is accomplished with a black background and performers wearing black. For example, there is a complete shell of Sparkys body and the scare actor is wearing black except for his head. Against the black background and in the proper lighting, it will look like the head leaves his body and floats on the air.

ghostbusters maze in halloween horror nights 2019 Hollywood

In the next room, we exit the spirit realm and exit into the real world. The portals from the spirit world to the real world is something they borrowed from the Ghostbusters video game. We now find ourselves in a very cramped recreation of the New York Public Library.

Books are stacked up on one wall and card catalogs are opening and closing on the other, controlled by a scare actor in another room who is seeing a video feed and moving the card catalogs to hopefully scare guests.

In the room ahead, the librarian ghost will shush you just like the movie...before transforming into the beast via a Pepper's ghost effect. For those of you who don't know, Pepper's ghost is a popular effect used to create illusions, employing glass and mirrors to usually create the appearance of a ghost (like the ballroom scene in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion) or a transformation between two different things or people. Here, it is used to transform a scare actor of the librarian into the beastly ghost. I can't wait to see this in action. We turn another corner and have another scare with her.

We then are transported to the Sedgwick hotel as we encounter a sign for the hotel in a black room before entering a hotel hallway where an elevator is about to arrive. It opens and Peter Venkman is there and at first, almost blasts you before realizing you aren't paranormal activity.

It's another example of how Universal is trying to employ some humorous scares in this maze to echo the comedy tone of the film. This is only the second maze that Universal Hollywood has created based on a comedy property — the first being This Is The End. In the beginning, Halloween Horror Nights concentrated just on horror movies, but in recent years they have tried to expand their scope a little to give a bigger variety of experiences.

ghostbusters maze in halloween horror nights 2019 Hollywood

In the next room, Raymond Stantz will come face to face with Slimer and we will see him using his proton pack to blast him.

ghostbusters maze in halloween horror nights 2019 Hollywood

This brings us to a recreation of the hallway scene from the movie, with Slimer and the room service cart from the film. At the very end of the hallway, Slimer is coming towards us via an unseen bar.

We then get transported to Dana's apartment where Dana is being held captive by the first signs of the terror dog, who we will encounter more closely in the next couple rooms.

Making our way through a black hallway with a projected landing light, we will hear Gozer's voice, telling us to choose the force of our destruction. This, of course, leads us to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, because what would a Ghostbusters maze be without him?

Universal was given a 3D model of Stay Puft from Sony and constructed a 20-foot tall version of him with a projected face. It's the biggest room of the maze features the four ghostbusters (as mannequins) in front of the looming giant, blasting him with their proton packs. We were not allowed to take a photo of Stay Puft himself as the projections were not on and his face was missing.

The maze really seems like a "best-of" reel from the movie, trying to hit most of the iconic moments from the comedy classic. But at the same time, it's weird that it takes a diversion into an alternate version of the film where we enter the containment unit.

Most of the dialogue in the maze uses sound clips from the actual film, with some of the performers like Jeanine and Venkman controlling when and which clips are played. This allows it to be more authentic to the films and it lets the performers keep up their energy throughout the night.

Jordan Peele Talks Us Expectations

I'll talk a little more briefly about the maze for Jordan Peele's Us as we were not allowed to take photos.

The exterior of the maze is a recreation of the 1980's Santa Cruz Boardwalk funhouse attraction "Shaman's Vision Quest" and will feature a young Adelaide outside eating her candy apple. Inside, you make your way through a recreation of that attraction, past an owl from the film (which is being puppeteered to scare you) to a 50/50 mirror which lets you see yourself and young Red behind it.

In the woods, we will come to a confrontation with the tethered. The house will feature some banging from the outside and at one point Abraham jumps out with a bat, pushing us into the living room. This is a more faithful recreation of the set from the film, as they recreated the room with thousands of photos from the production design team. Unfortunately, they don't have the rights to a lot of the VHS tapes that are Easter eggs in the film, so there are just placeholders throughout. In this room, Red creepily sits on the chair and has her scissors.

Outside the house, we will get a scare from a car that nearly runs us over. We will walk through the Wilson's cabin with Elisabeth Moss' character lying dead on the first floor. In the hallway, you may get scared by the twins from either side.

Jordan Peele Us Movie

And then we come to an interior version of the funhouse, but this is the modern-day version which has been retrofitted into "Merlin's Forest". It is through this version that we run into a bloody Adelaide and enter the underground where we will move about as Red stalks us with her ballet movements. The hallway was far from dressed but I'm told we will see escaped bunnies before entering the classroom complete with opened cages and rows of desks. There will be red handprints all over the walls and we will be in the center of the confrontation between Red and Adelaide from the climax of the film.

Universal creatives were unsure as to how to adapt the end of the film for the maze and approached director Jordan Peele with the idea of the guests being surrounded by the tethered, who would be hand-to-hand, like the hands across America. Peele liked the idea and that's what they brought to life. So the final scene here is a black room where you are walking surrounded by tethered. Some are non-moving dummies, and some will be scare actors waiting to jump out at you. It sounds terrifying because they will surround you in this final room and you don't know which of them is real and can jump out at you.

Apparently, the Us maze was one of the hardest they had to adapt because so much of the film is left up to interpretation. They decided to go with a more visual route and I think it works. It doesn't try to provide any answers or even ask any questions. Thankfully, they have secured the rights to play the haunting and awesome theatrical score throughout the maze, alongside the "I Got Five On It" tethered mix.

I'm excited to experience both of these mazes when Halloween Horror Nights 2019 opens at Universal Studios Hollywood on September 12, 2019.