Haunt Season officially kicked off on September 23rd with the opening of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights in both Orlando and Hollywood, as well as Howl O Scream in both Busch Gardens Parks. Of course you’ve read our reviews (here if you haven’t) but what about what our readers think? After all, it’s one thing for us to tell you how something is, but what the people that really matter? Of course I’m talking about the fans.
With that in mind we asked our readers what they thought of the event. Here’s one from first time HHN attendee Dan B
Halloween Horror NIghts 21 – September 30, 2011
This was my first visit to HHN, and I really enjoyed all of the houses and most of the scarezones. Since I can’t compare it to previous years from my own experience I’ll stay away from ratings and just share my overall impressions.
The Forsaken: I definitely felt the atmosphere of dread and danger that the house was trying to convey. The cathedral and courtyard scenes had great atmosphere, and I found the forsaken themselves to be both unnerving and threatening. There were a few scares that were given away by the green eyes, but the creepiness and energy of the actors made up for the loss in surprise factor. The scene in the ship, while interesting, wasn’t particularly scary, but I did get a solid two-part scare in the finale that left me with good impression.
The In-Between: I really like the way the story was presented here (as others have said it’s reminiscent of Dead Exposure). The fairly normal opening scene in the dorm room was a great contrast to the bizarre world of the in-between, and returning to the now trashed dorm in the finale was a great conclusion that ties in perfectly with the online backstory. The 3D worked well, and the laser room was a particular favorite of mine (feeling the “light” was a nice touch). When the scares hit, they were intense. The winged demons in particular really know how to work their space and use the costumes and e-prompts to get a great scare. The only room that let me down a bit was the string room. It looked pretty cool, but both times I went through the scareactors were just kind of hanging back among the strings. Could just be another example of how timing is everything. Overall, the expectations I had after hearing other reviews were met.
Nevermore: Each scene had just the right combination of eye-candy and scares, and on my first run there was no one in front of me so I managed to catch just about all of the scareactors’ attention. The portrait gallery was especially memorable for me, as I caught it while the strobes were going off and got hit by both of the dead brides. The only gripe I have is that in three runs through this house I only once saw the axed wife in the Black Cat scene. There’s really not much else I can say that hasn’t already be said, but I’ll echo that this is a great house with fantastic detail, great attention to the source material, and some memorable scares. And one more thing…I was legitimately concerned that those raven beaks were going to poke my eye out.
Saws n’ Steam: Into the Machine: I’ve always like the steampunk aesthetic, and I had a lot of fun seeing it in a more gruesome light. Loved how it opened with a little dig at a certain other “great big beautiful tomorrow,” and the use of the scrim effect was clever and almost funny to me. Some sections seemed a little less detailed than the other houses, but the set pieces that stood out were really memorable (moving sawblades, leg filet, extraction pistons, flesh aquariums). My timing was a little off in this one, so I only got about two or three solid scares, but the overall atmosphere and effects pieces made up for that in my opinion.
H.R Bloodentgutz: I had a ton of fun here. The pre-show video was hilariously gruesome and set up the backstory pretty clearly. The Bloodengutz in the first room played the part well, and I got to interact a bit and get him to press the red button on my second run. Again, some of my timing was off in this house (managed to just miss the feaster bunny and giant tree both times) but the campy atmosphere had me chuckling the whole way through. I got decent scares out of zombie Washington and Pocahontas, and the Thanksgiving room was just as absurdly grotesque as I hoped it would be. Does anyone have any advice on how to get the Munsters theme song out of my head?
The Thing: Very intense. From the façade to the end of the house I had the overwhelming sense that this base was getting torn apart from within and I had to get out. The whole house was really loud and the costuming was what I expected from a Thing house (not much variety though). Lots of animatronics here, and I got a good scare from the alien in the finale. I could see where poor timing kills this house, but I got lucky and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.
Nightingales: Another loud and intense house. The scenery was great, and I thought they did a good job with the overhead space inherent to the trenches. There was just the right amount of gore here, and the smaller Nightingale sitting on the pile of bodies was particularly chilling. Kind of reminded me of a child sitting among a pile of Christmas presents, or something like that. There was no shortage of Nightingales, they were everywhere in their various forms. The final show scene with the machine gun was cool, but I didn’t really get any scares out of it. I look forward to maybe seeing the Nightingales come back for a sequel house.
Winter’s Night: Great house for atmosphere, and the relative lack of ambient noise made the ferocity of the actor triggered effects all the more startling. The cold, snow, and the façade all set the scene brilliantly, and I only wish I had more time to slow down and take it in. I saw the mirror trick with the spirit crawling up the stairs, but it wasn’t moving so I either missed it or it was down. Enjoyed it overall, and it served as a good contrast to the frenetic pace of The Thing and Nightingales.
7: Got to see it in both forms, decent visuals but not all that scary to me.
Grown Evil: Best atmosphere in my opinion. Dark, foggy, long, and the actors were working their space and getting decent scares.
Acid Assault: The projections were pretty cool and the scareactors seemed to be getting plenty of scares, including some with chainsaws. The rat lady made an appearance as well.
Your Luck has Run Out: Short and foggy. I like that Lady Luck had at least some presence at the event, but they could have done much better with the space they had.
Nightmaze: Meh. Actors seemed to be spending more time moving the fences than scaring. A good concept that just doesn’t execute well.
Canyon of Dark Souls: Good atmosphere, and the black walls make it easy for the actors to blend in, but it was just too short.
Bill and Ted: I appreciated the pop culture references, but I kind of feel that the finale number went longer than I cared for. Overall I enjoyed the show.
Death Drums: Only saw about a minute of it then moved on. Wasn’t too interested.
I can see why HHN gets so much praise and has the fanbase it does. Just about all of the houses were as rich in detail and story as I expected. A big plus, in my opinion, were the sound effects that accompanied the scares. I’m pretty used to the setup at HoS, where actors’ voices or slamming boo doors make up most of the scares, so for me it was refreshing that most of the scares at HHN were accompanied by loud, intense, and story-appropriate effects. Also, for all the stories I’ve heard about the ops shouting “move along” and ruining the atmosphere, I never once noticed this myself. I chalk it up to going on a night that wasn’t incredibly busy, but while I did notice the many ops within the houses they never spoiled the experience for me. In the end, I squeezed every minute out of the night and had a great time doing it. It was a real treat to finally see HHN for myself and I look forward to making it part of my haunt season tradition from here on.
Next is a review from opening weekend of HOS and HHN from Kyle S.
OPENING WEEK REVIEW: From attending both HOS and HHN in the past week I would definitely say HOS is the better of the two. If you’re going to for the “wow” effect of haunted attractions, go to HHN. If you’re going to get scared, go to HOS. HHN has alot more money to work with, but HOS actors are amazing. They are very energetic and love doing what they do. HHN actors seem to lack the energy and passion it takes to perform the grueling hours as a scareactor, and they don’t interact with you. They just pop out and press their foot pedal which trips a speaker to let out some “scary” noise, to me, not scary. I never witnessed someone throwing themselves at me or following me. As a former HOS scareactor I know the passion the actors have for what they do, many of them stating they would do it for free. HHN had some amazing effects but to me just lacked the energy and scariness. Being a former scareactor I know how all the drop doors, and hiding spots are designed (this kind of ruins haunted attractions for me) but a few scareactors at HOS still managed to get a few frights out of me. Another thing that bothered me about HHN was the people inside telling you to hurry through. Luckily I attended HHN on employee preview and the lines were not extremely long, making this not as annoying. I understand they are trying to keep the lines moving but if I would have waited the rumored 2 hour wait in line, I would have wanted to walk extra slow. They put some much detail into the houses and then employees rush you through and you miss everything.
*Some key things that I loved from HHN was the glow strings room in The In Between house, the guy in the waterfall in Saws N Steam, and the falling buildings in Acid Assault was just way too cool. Overall rating 6/10
*Some things I loved about HOS was the red and white strobe room in Nevermore (the timing on these strobes is perfect), not a typical strobe room. Overall rating 9/10
If you have the money, visit both, but if you can only afford one, I would say go to HOS. Less expensive, scarier, and no need for express passes.
Happy Haunt Season!
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Happy Haunt Season!