Universal Studios Hollywood
Welcome to our second edition of #FlashbackFrightday, my continued quest to turn everything into an alliterative catchphrase. Today, we take a look back at least year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. HHN traditionally kicks off the haunted attraction season in Southern California. Starting in mid-September and running through Halloween, it takes advantage of Universal Studios' movie quality resources to recreate legendary horror films and plunge guests right into the middle of the terror. Though the scare tactics may become stale for repeated guests, the quality is always top-notch, and for casual Halloween fans, this event is overwhelmingly intense.
Lets take a look at the six mazes, or "haunted houses," as Universal refers to them, were last year!
Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home
This was almost everyone's #1 maze last year, and it kind of came out of nowhere. Universal has done a maze themed to the Halloween franchise before, and it was pretty good. But when Horror Nights announced a new version last year, it seemed like most people figured it would be a solid but not spectacular offering. At least I did, and I couldn't be happier to be pleasantly surprised. This maze combined multiple iconic scenes from the franchise with a cohesive, tightly-knit layout and flow and scareactors who were all top notch and on top of their scares. The frights came one after another, relentless in their frequency, and though many were the "distraction/startle" type that Universal has come to rely upon, others were less expected. The result was a very amazing maze--one that was just announced to be returning this year under a tweaked title. I assume most of it will be the same, with some tweaks, but who knows, maybe we'll be surprised again!
Insidious: Return to the Further
Last year was the second time the Insidious franchise was featured at Horror Nights. The maze combined various scenes across the trilogy into a very unsettling maze. There were some nice scares to be had, and I actually enjoyed it more than expected (except for the scents). However, the maze didn't really provide too much in the spectacular either, which left it in the middle of the pack in my rankings last year.
This is the End 3D
I seemed to enjoy this maze more than most of my colleagues. It wasn't really scary, but I don't think it meant to be. Like the popular film of the same name, this maze had a layer of sarcasm coated on every scene. As usual, Universal knocked the 3D effects out of the park, and any maze that ends in a heaven/hell scene replete with cursing gets positive marks from me.
The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far
This was approximately the 157th consecutive year Halloween Horror Nights featured a maze themed to The Walking Dead. Like those zombies, this maze just won't die, because the television series shows no slowdown in its popularity. 2015's iteration brought to life scenes from season 5. I went through this maze relatively early in the evening, and only once, but the scareactors seemed to be pretty active considering it was the first public hour of the event. The energy was there, but at this point, the theme had grown stale on me. Still, it was not a bad maze by any measure. In fact, 2015's HHN did not have any weak maze for the first time in my memory, which was pretty cool.
Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness
The Guillermo Del Toro inspired maze took home the title for most beautiful maze last year. Although it was low on scares during my trips, the set pieces were absolutely exquisite and seemed to really bring the movie to life. I found myself drawn to so many scenes throughout the maze, and the props and characters proved to be quite visually disturbing. It was enough for me to love the maze despite its relative lack of actual startles and frights.
Alien vs Predator
2014's breakout hit was back for a second year. Halloween Horror Nights rarely repeats mazes, and when they do, it's because of massive popularity. So it was with this maze, but whereas AVP was my #1 two years ago, it was actually my least favorite last year--because it was exactly the same. No tweaks to anything, really. Why fix what's not broken, right? But because last year's event was surprisingly strong overall, the other mazes ended up rated higher because they were novel. Still, iconic scenes like the Alien queen and the devourer surely scarred anyone who hadn't attended the event or maze the year before.
So that's it for the Halloween Horror Nights haunted houses. We'll continue to count down to Halloween with these haunted attraction recaps to provide chills to offset that summer heat. And if you're hankering for an actual Halloween experience early, consider heading down to Long Beach at the end of this month and checking out the Midsummer Scream convention that will take place July 30-31! For us haunt fanatics, Halloween season can never be too early!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.