Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights 2016: Terror Tram

Universal Studios Hollywood

Cheers, folks!  We're back at the Halloween updates today with a second edition of our Halloween Horror Nights coverage.  If you missed our "Mazes Part 1" post yesterday, click here and check it out.  And if you already read it, good for you!  You're a better fan than the person who just clicked that link.  Yeah, I'm looking at you, Larry.

Log Bunny!! Unofficial mascot of Horror Nights.  Sure, it's a poor man's Spooky Catawampus, but we still appreciate it so.

Anyway, today, we take a look at this year's iteration of the Terror Tram.  Wait, correction--for 2016, it's Eli Roth Presents: Terror Tram.  Yes, the famed horror director has given creative direction regarding this year's overlay, and the result was... clowns.  Sound weird?  Well, there's actually a perfectly reasonable backstory here:

Once upon a time, Harold Kappowitz was beloved as Koodles the Clown, popular carnival figure who rose to host his own children's show filmed at the Universal Studios backlot several decades ago.  However, in the 70s, the sensationalist media's negative portrayal of clowns as disturbed individuals and killers plummeted Kappowitz' career.  Reduced to being an unofficial mascot of the park trying to maintain a connection with his remaining fans, Harold grew increasingly aggravated and unstable as public sentiment shifted against him, until he was eventually kicked out of the park and banned from Universal property.  Shattered, he retreated into the Hollywood Hills, where he was not seen for many, many years. 

In the summer of 2016, he re-emerged, permanently transformed into a psychotic serial killer clown known as Hollywood Harry.  Reports of missing Universal tour guides began to circulate, and visitors caught Harry on video during backlot tours, prompting widespread social media speculation over just who this creepy clown was. 

Now, with the arrival of Halloween Horror Nights, it has been revealed that Hollywood Harry has taken over the backlot itself, allied with a horde of other displaced clowns over the years who feel the same betrayal and abandonment that Harry harbors.  Guests taking the Terror Tram must survive Harry and his carnage-craving, cannibalistic, chainsaw-carrying clown crew.

The plot was enough to pique my interest after initially dismissing the idea of clowns on the Terror Tram.  After all, over the years, the Terror Tram has been repackaged under many overlays, but it has pretty much remained the same routine and layout, just with new lipstick.  But the introduction of an original story suggested that this might be a little more unique.  So with that, lets dive on in!

(Again, there will be some spoilers in this update.  Photos are by myself and Dan Angona.)

All in all, this year's Terror Tram was actually an improvement over previous years.  Perhaps I'm biased in that I love clowns as a haunted attraction theme--because even when they're not scary (they aren't for me), they're at least entertaining.  As such, the clowns here brought a twisted levity to an attraction that usually seems all too serious.

It also helped that the wait for the Terror Tram was much better than some of the mazes we did.  Although the line was 35 minutes long, it moved frequently and speedily.  In addition, television screens above the queue played a solid video loop of short horror films presented by Crypt TV, an Eli Roth (and Jason Blum)-backed online channel dedicated to creating original content geared toward horror fans.  That sort of pace and entertainment in line made for a much more enjoyable wait, and I wouldn't have even minded if I had to wait longer, due to the different approach to the line here.

Now, is the Terror Tram amazing this year?  Unfortunately, no.  But this is the freshest it has been since the first few years when walking around through the backlot was still a novelty.  Again, as with the mazes, those who come here regularly will be getting the same type of presentation with a repackaged aesthetic, and scares will likely be light (unless they happen to have a phobia against clowns).  But it does feel like more effort was put into the storyline this year compared to many past years.  And I honestly found the Terror Tram more enjoy able this year than in many years. 

Those who visit less frequently or have never been to Halloween Horror Nights before will probably greatly enjoy this unique (to them) experience, wandering through an outdoor movie set while dodging chaotic clowns.  If pressed to choose between this and a maze, veterans may opt to skip the Terror Tram.  But if there's time, I do recommend checking it out this year.

That's Horror Nights for today!  Tomorrow, we take a look at the scare zones--all united under The Purge.

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.