Horrors of Blumhouse - HHN 2018

The Good and the Bad of an IP-based Horror Event

Unlike other haunted events in Southern California, the majority of the mazes at Halloween Horror Nights are comprised of adaptations of big horror franchise IP. This is good and bad. It allows you to get excited about familiar horror brand names, iconic villains you have watched on the big screen many times over the years, and walk through the stories and worlds of your favorite horror movies. Nothing beats walking through the Upside Down and venturing through a Hawkins classroom watching Eleven using her powers to destroy the Demogorgon.

The unfortunate aspect is that it allows for less creativity. When you’re walking through the story of Trick r’ Treat, you know which scene is going to come next, and not only that, the Universal Creatives have very little wiggle room in adding something to the scene that may make for a better-haunted maze experience. Universal Studios Orlando has a lot more land and usually offers a bunch of original haunted mazes that push the limited of what can be done creatively with the experience. To give you an example, Orlando’s Halloween Horror Night had five (out of 10) original mazes this year while we had only one out of eight (or nine, if you count the year-round Walking Dead attraction).

Poltergeist - HHN 2018 - 11

The Rides

As someone who has regularly been a Universal Studios Annual Passholder, I don’t go to the Halloween Horror Night events to ride the regular attractions, but you can ride some of them during the event and often for a shorter wait than you’d experience during the daytime hours. This year, they only had three rides in operation: Transformers: The Ride 3D, The Simpsons Ride, and Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride.

In previous years, Universal has offered more rides and unique event-specific experiences. For instance, a mainstay of the event is Jurassic Park in the Dark, which took the classic water ride and added a fun Guns ‘n’ Roses soundtrack as well as a darker interior sequence. That ride is being retrofitted into a new Jurassic World attraction and thus wasn’t open this year. Typically, that’s the only attraction I ride during this event, and it’s closure mean there was one less thing to do.

Jabbawockeez - HHN 2018 - 7

The Lack of Additional Entertainment

Halloween Horror Nights use to have a yearly show featuring a bunch of stupid but fun parodies, wrapped in a nonsensical time machine plot revolving around Bill & Ted. That show was replaced years ago in Hollywood with the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop dance show featuring a troupe of people in masks. Nothing about this show is spectacular, nothing about the show feels in the Horror Nights Halloween spirit. It seems like a safe, uninteresting thing that might appeal to tourists, and it just doesn’t make sense for the event.

Listen: I was never a huge fan of the Bill and Ted shows, but at least they were crowd-pleasing and fun. I really wish Universal Hollywood would find a replacement for the Jabbawockeez. Perhaps they could put together a yearly show involving the mash-up of all these different horror franchises that make up the event: Tte kids from Stranger Things encounter Michael Myers on the night of the yearly purge, etc. Maybe that would just be silly, but I’d love to see Sam from Trick ‘r’ Treat teaming up with the Demogorgon to kill the stupid kids from Unfriended.

This year, Universal Orlando has a scare zone called Vamp 85 where, every half hour, a 1985 New Years Eve celebration is invaded by vampires. From what I can tell, the experience is less about the usual scare zone scares and more of a bit of themed entertainment. I’d love to see something like that come to California’s park.

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