Full Report: Universal Orlando’s HHN 25
Universal Orlando is celebrating 25 years of Halloween Horror Nights in 2015 and they have pulled out all the stops.
The most noticeable event highlight is the return of fan-favorite HHN icon, JAck. Jack’s presence is felt in all the HHN marketing materials this year. He even has his own haunt showcasing 25 years of terror with his sexy yet equally insane sidekick, Chance. The duo takes the park by storm in an all new stage spectacle, The Carnage Returns.
We were absolutely in love with this show. It had blood. It had skin. It had aerial circus performances. It had pyrotechnics. It had dark humor, and it had… “a big ass saw!” You read that right. The finale of the show features Jack and an unfortunate victim having a messy encounter with a rather large power tool. The entire show had a fast paced rapid fire rhythm of jokes and violence that made it feel perfectly at home at HHN.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure was back again to slice and dice it’s way through modern pop culture. The show opened with a fantastic sequence in which our favorite time travelers showed up in not a phone booth, but a Delorean. And they had a 3rd time traveler with them; Doc Brown! The opening sequence paid tribute to the iconic Universal film trilogy, Back to the Future. This was made all the more exciting considering our visit to HHN took place on October 21, 2015. The relevance of this date was not overlooked by the cast, as it was mentioned specifically by Doc upon exiting the Delorean. The crowd went absolutely nuts in fanboy’ish excitement (us included.) The rest of the show saw jabs at the likes of Taylor Swift, the Kardashians, Kanye West, Orange is the New Black, and the yet unopened Disney’s Avatar Land.
The streets of HHN 25 were a flurry of activity. Scareactors from the various scare zones ruled the landscape. We were particularly pleased to see the black and white monsters of old roaming around the All Nite Die-In Double Feature scare zone. Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, and more were all out and about with beautifully detailed makeup and costumes that were all done in gray scale. It was like they had just stepped out of the screen. Also of note was the Evil’s Roots scare zone with its creepy jack-o-lanterns and mason jar lights dangling from the trees overhead and thick waves of fog that obscured the vine-like creatures lurking in the shadows. It was a beautiful sight. The streets also featured the infamous “shot nurses” who were there to peddle jell-O shots that came in the form of IV bags.
Of course it wouldn’t be Halloween Horror Nights without haunted houses. It seemed like the haunts this year were hit or miss. HHN 25 saw the addition of a ninth maze which is nice.
The clear stars of the event were Body Collectors: Recollections and Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem. These were two of the most detailed, most intense mazes that had the best characters.
Insidious and Asylum in Wonderland 3D were also well executed and featured some really neat effects. An American Werewolf in London returned as a fan favorite. It was our favorite house in 2013 and from what we could tell, not much had changed. However, it does a great job of putting you face to face with the werewolf in iconic scenes from the film.
Freddy vs. Jason also did well with special effects and movie references. It’s a fun haunt for the avid Freddy or Jason fan but not HHN’s best work. The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead was pretty average for the HHN tie in to the franchise. This year’s Walking Dead house takes you through Terminus and the flooded food bank however, much of the haunt appeared very generic to the zombie genre. This house also seemed to be short on actors the night of our visit, as there were some very noticeable holes.
The Purge also left much to be desired. The movie itself featured nothing more than civilians in cheap party masks, which may have worked well as a scare zone, but it was not terribly impressive as a haunt.
Online rumors suggest that a SCREAM house was planned but ultimately became The Purge. To the die hard fan who’s willing to read between the lines, this may have been true. Several of the scenes inside The Purge would have made sense in a SCREAM haunt as well. The most noticeable was the very first scene in the haunt; a white kitchen that looks similar to the very first scene in the SCREAM film series where Drew Barrymore gets the now infamous phone call. Scene 2 reveals a gutted female body hanging from the left side of a large tree. There were other scenic similarities to this effect, but we’ll leave the mystery out there for you to explore.
Finally, there’s RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears. This was the gag house for HHN 25 (we hope.) Loosely similar to the plot of The Running Man, the guests walk through the haunt which is set in a prison with different characters from all over the world trying to kill you to get the highest ratings on a TV show. Nothing inside made sense, almost as if the designers had extra props in the warehouse they just wanted to get out and put on display. Although, some of the character concepts that were put together as the “killers” were inventive, in a Sharknado sort of way. Lots of fun cheese.
Overall, we had a blast at HHN 25. The event as a whole has a fun, high energy vibe that is geared toward a more mature audience; a nice departure from the stereotypical day-to-day attractions that Orlando is known for.
“All Halloween and horror fans should visit Universal during HHN at least once in their lives“. says Jake Farmer of Dark Hour Haunted House.
Halloween Horror Nights continues for the final run October 28th through November 1st.
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