Dead Exposure: Patient Zero

Hands-down the greatest original maze this year is “Dead Exposure: Patient Zero.” You’ll find yourself walking the outbreak-ridden streets of Paris in 1982 as zombies run free. 28 Days Later with an electro-punk wash. Sounds simple? Universal goes above-and-beyond by painting the entire maze black and then touching up details with UV respondent paint that appears when blacklights and strobes are activated. You will see only what the maze runners want you to see, as both depth perception and optical manipulation work beautifully with warped mirrors to ensure a sensory crushing, neon-lit nightmare. Even my tour guide – who’d already tested every maze – jumped and sped through certain aspects of “Patient Zero.” A testament to the unforgettable experience horror fans are sure to gobble up like tasty pumpkin pie.

Slaughter Cinema

“Slaughter Cinema” is my jam, people. Werewolf bikers, Critters remakes, drive-in cheesiness. This maze is a love-letter to grindhouse that first-and-foremost honors absurdity. Each fictional segment comes complete with its own ridiculous poster as a means of ensuring you know exactly what this maze’s intent is about. Soak in that unshakable party feeling. “Slaughter Cinema” isn’t going to aggressively frighten anyone – even with dynamite practical work for Midnight Snack 2 – but that’s more than fine. You’ll have a magnificent blast laughing through each increasingly insane amalgamation of genre hilarity (bikini-wearin’ aliens or slasher haircutters), still slathered in copious amounts of practical blood and dangling pumpkin guts.

Poltergeist

“Do not go into the light!” Oh, really? Universal’s Poltergeist maze takes you exactly where we’re told to avoid, and praise be. Tobe Hooper’s (or Steven Spielberg’s depending on who you think directed Poltergeist) influence has you enter from underneath the Freelings’ home – walking through their backyard dig site and catacomb-buried coffins – and then straight into the mouth of brightly-lit madness. Be sure to dodge outreached claws, taffy-like clown’s arms, and everything else that comes along with the blinding purgatory Poltergeist depicts. This maze is drenched in production value which leads to some of Universal’s most ambitious Halloween Horror architecture. Just like with “Revenge Of Chucky,” Universal takes creative Poltergeist liberties and runs with them – a dream come true for horror fans.

Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After

While this isn’t exactly my favorite of the bunch, there’s a lot of fairy tale corruption to marvel in “Scary Tales”. Humpty Dumpty’s not getting put back together, and Little Miss Muffet’s spider friend ain’t so small this time around (don’t worry, I’m an arachnophobe-lite and there’s nothing paralyzing). It’s never better than a gigantic castle facade entryway where the maze’s Wicked Witch – connected to wire and harness – jumps over her audience while cackling wildly. Expect fewer jolts in this maze and a more fucked-up-art-gallery appreciation (Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters it’s not). If you aren’t sold on the description or don’t giggle with joy over malformed childhood story characters, this is probably one maze you can skip given general ticket admission waits/lines.

Carnival Graveyard: Rust In Pieces

“Carnival Graveyard: Rust In Pieces,” on the other hand, is 100% #myshit. Mad Max: Fury Road clothed carnies with steampunk slaughterhouse accents aren’t too pleased by your presence in their discarded ride junkyard as you sneak between piles of metallic rollercoaster cars and what have you. Aside from Trick ‘R Treat, “Rust In Pieces” is the other maze I’d choose to be locked in forever. Definite Hellraiser and Texas Chain Saw Massacre relations, only with “Knock The Can” boardwalk games. This was my last maze of the night – after about four-and-a-half hours of walking – and I exited just as invigorated as when I’d entered Universal’s doors long before. Where’s my “Rust In Pieces” movie, Hollywood? Something about murderous carnies just cuts right to my horror-lovin’ heart.

Trick r Treat Halloween Horror Nights

The Wrap-Up

“There is a large element of fun this year as you walk the streets, and I think – from a content standpoint – this is the most diverse slate we’ve ever had.” As Aiello was sure to assure, 2018’s Halloween Horror Nights is all about major dosages of F-U-N. You’ll shriek, your knees will buckle, scare actors will do their jobs (well), but this year is all about partying until you’re six feet under. Universal’s team has stacked up a noteworthy roster of haunted treats and knocks almost every single one out of the park (nothing truly disappoints where horror fans will be concerned). Original IP’s burst with standalone appeal, but you’re here for the crowd-pleasing titles. Showrunners know this. In that regard, my are there plenty of sights worth showing you.

Now please excuse me, because I’ve got to sneak past security and find a way to live in the Trick ‘R Treat maze until October ends. Leave the front door open, Sam!

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