It’s begun. There is no turning back now, even if you wanted to. The only thing you can do is just hold on and hope it ends quickly. Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Studios Florida kicked off the Nations’ premiere haunted theme park attraction on Friday with damp crowds, but huge scares. Every year Universal brings horror to life with eight new mazes, a thrilling street experience and unique shows. This year they do it again with an eclectic mix of terror from the silver screen, the small screen and the minds of Universal’s own mad scientists. We were there to unleash the beast, and tour every single maze, scare zone and show. We’ll tell you what worked for us, what didn’t, and take you inside every single house! You’ve been warned!
Every year Universal takes guests into the depths of madness through different horror franchises, and original ideas. This year there’s a huge mix of both, with more than half of the haunted mazes being based on horror franchises from both movies and TV, and original content spilling into the streets. This year there are houses based on The Walking Dead, Alien Vs. Predator, From Dusk Till Dawn (the TV Series), Dracula Untold, and Halloween. The original ideas show you just how twisted the creative minds at Universal truly are with evil clowns, a demented dollhouse and historical cannibals.
Let’s go house by house and get in depth. We’ll do as few spoilers as possible for those who haven’t been. We’ll tell you what worked for us and what didn’t as well as show you some glimpses inside each house.
This year’s eclectic mix of houses has a little something for everyone. Sci-Fi, slashers, vampires and poop. We’ll get back to that later. What this year doesn’t have is an abundance of zombies. Last year Walkers were everywhere as The Walking Dead took over the entire park, this year they are contained to one house. So how did each house do?
Dracula Untold:Reign of Blood
The story that you thought you knew has been redefined as guests walk through scenes taken directly from the upcoming film. Vampires, warriors and bats make up this maze about Vlad and how he must make the ultimate sacrifice to darkness in order to save those he loves.
What works-Dracula Untold has some really amazing scenic areas. The castle ramparts really immerse you into a Transylvania castle. Most of the costumes are really elaborate and unique, definitely playing into the period that the film takes place. It’s like it’s a huge walk on movie preview.
What doesn’t-The story is very confusing, and it’s very hard to know exactly what’s happening. The maze also just..ends. This most likely comes from the fact that it is a new story, using familiar characters. As fans of Dracula, we were expecting something other than we got. Perhaps once we see the movie, the house will be more appealing.
Roanoke Cannibal Colony
If you know your history, you know the story of Roanoke Island. It was one of the first permanent settlements in America, and one of the greatest mysteries of all time. The settlers were facing hardship, so many of them decided to return to England for supplies. When they returned, Roanoke was gone. Just gone. Universal Creative has come up to the answer of one of the oldest mysteries in the world. The Colonists were overtaken by the spirit of the Wendigo, and ate each other.
What works-The set up of this house is breathtaking. It’s gory, and it has puritanical munchies. The set pieces are amazing, and as someone who’s lived in museums, this has a very historically accurate feel to it, and feels like you’re walking in a museum quality recreation. There’s also some unique scares. There’s a scene where we see a decapitated head, and the body begins running after us. There’s one character in front of a digital fireplace that screams about his son being eaten, and how we all have 5 he devil in us. He is the lone voice of reason in the madness, and brings everything together. He makes us realize that everyone eating each othet isn’t supposed to be happening. The Wendigo is a great scare that comes out of nowhere, without warning.
What doesn’t-The Wendigo comes out of nowhere! He’s not eluded to much in the house, and we only see it once. There’s also a lot of open space where there’s not much happening, and lots of corn. Corn isn’t a bad thing, but here it just seems to be used as filler. A few more well placed scares, and some more heavy indications of the Wendigo could be used here.
The Walking Dead:End of the Line
For the third year in a row, The Walking Dead returns to Halloween Horror Nights. The maze starts right where Season 4 leaves off, with a tank rolling right through the prison. Guests will walk through every single major iconic moment from Walking Dead’s 4th season. Amazing attention to detail, and the largest house at Halloween Horror Nights Orlando ever makes this a must see on everyone’s list.
What Works- The sheer size of the maze, and the amount of actors in the Walking Dead really makes it feel that you’re in the show. Each scene is full of great moments, and walkers out to get you. There’s little nods everywhere, and even some great effects that makes it feel like theirs more walkers in the maze than there really is.
What Doesn’t- The Walkers do not feel very aggressive. The actors do a great job of being dead, and showing a craving for human flesh, but the speed they move and the frequency of scares is a bit on the slow side.
Giggles & Gore Inc.
This house asks the question, how do evil clowns become so evil? Universal answers it with, they are born, they are made. And they are made by grinding up and throwing out the good parts of people, so that there’s nothing left but the bad. This house has a bit of everything in the clown department. Circus Clowns, Killer Clowns and yes, even a reference or two to Universal’s own “clown prince” Jack the Clown.
What Works-The house is just plain fun. It starts off very strong, and as you go into the area where evil clowns get so evil that even the evil clowns are afraid of them, it just gets more and more insane. The clowns here are busy at work, but they love to stop and play,and give you some great scares.
What doesn’t- The middle of the maze just is missing something. Maybe more clowns? Plus, clowns are just really done. Every major haunt does some kind of demented clown. Still, Universal does a pretty fresh take here that makes the pay off worth it.
From Dusk Till Dawn
First there was a film. Now there’s a TV show, based on the film. If you haven’t been following the new show, no worries, fans of the film can appreciate what’s happening in the house. A strip Club called the …Twister (yes titty is not on the sign) is built on the site of an ancient Aztec Temple, where a group of snake worshiping vampires lure unsuspecting victims in. The strip club is full of tons of nefarious characters, and is open from dusk till dawn.
What works- The house is amazingly detailed, and the scares are everywhere in here. You’ll be lured in by sexy images, only to have them turn really bad really fast. There’s some great detail with the facade of the club, and some very realistic looking neon (read our Unmaksing the Horror articles to find out what it really is). The actors do an amazing job with the scares, and it’s just a really fun house to walk through.
What doesn’t- We don’t get to see Sex Machine in action, and there’s no TITTY on the “Titty Twister”! Yes, it’s a theme park, I get it. There are younger kids, but this is a PG-13 event, and in PG-13 films you’re allowed to show a “titty” every once in a while. Not really a legitimate gripe or concern. The only real thing we didn’t like was that this house was all about timing. If your timing was off, you’d miss some really great stuff.
Dollhouse of the Damned
It appears out of nowhere, when you least expect it. She is inside waiting, and once you’re in, you belong to her. Dollhouse of the Damned is a very twisted house based on the sick minds of Universal Creative. They have included almost every single creepy doll element in this house imaginable. There’s nods to other creepy Universal dolls, including Billy and Chucky. It’s a house that is designed to creep you out, and make you feel uncomfortable, and it succeeds.
What works- This house is so damn creepy that it just makes your skin crawl in certain spots. The use of smells and textures in the house are simply amazing, and the visuals will make you have nightmares. The outside alone is just sinister, as it’s a welcoming mash up of doll parts that wants to eat you.
What doesn’t- Again, this house is all about timing. There’s so much to see, and so much to scare you that if you get in a good brisk walk you can miss so much. This is one you have to do several times to get the full effect of it.
For the opening night, we were allowed to film two of the houses.
Video:Go through the Dollhouse of the Damned
Alien vs. Predator
Some have said it’s based on the video games, some say it’s based on the movies. It’s not based on anything but Aliens fighting Predators. Universal has brought one of the most iconic rivalries to life in this all new house. Alien is iconic, Predator is iconic. Put them together and you just have all kinds of trouble. Universal actually crafted a new story line for the house in which you are touring a Weyland Facility in which a Predator ship has landed. Of course, the Weyland facility has Alien eggs stored in it…so it’s bound to be a rough night for anyone walking by.
What Works-This house has just about everything fans of Aliens or Predators could want! You have chestbusters, you have facehuggers, you have eggs and you have Xenomorphs. There’s several different Predators walking around and they are using camouflage, they are using infrared, they are using all of their nasty tools to hunt the most dangerous prey in the universe, and you’re in the way.
What doesn’t- Again, all about timing here. There’s some great effects that you’ll miss, including the Predators themselves. The whole house is full of great eye candy, and great characters, but you need to keep an eye open at all times.
Let’s be completely honest. Halloween is not my thing. I’m not a fan of Michael Myers. I’ve seen the original Halloween films, and my favorite was Season of the Witch…the one that had nothing to do with Michael Myers. Halloween takes guests into the house of Michael Myers and through the neighborhood of Haddonfield Illinois. It uses projection on the house to show the events that started the story, and to age the house amazingly. It uses practical effects and tons of nods to the film.
What Worked- In short, Universal recreated the film 100% and put it in a haunted maze. Every single detail is there, and it’s amazing. As I said, was not a fan of Halloween, but this is easily my favorite house of the event. So many great things are hidden here, including one room where I saw people literally stop and wet themselves. One lady even tapped out and went for the emergency exit. Yes…Michael Myers kills it.
What Doesn’t- This house gets our “Marry Poppins” award this year, as it is “Practically perfect in every way”. Yeah, kind of messed up to compare Michael Myers to Mary Poppins, but it’s just a great house.
Video:Get one good scare in Halloween with Michael Myers
Slideshow-Go further inside the demented houses of Halloween Horror Nights 24
Universal has crafted a very solid year with houses, even the houses that are just okay
This year traditional Scare Zones are back at Halloween Horror Nights, and they have a wide range of themes attached to them. Some are scary, some are chaotic, others are just beautiful and others are just fun. The street experience has changed from the past two years, as the zones are defined and laid out with a start and an end.
This scare zone is classic Halloween Horror Nights. It’s plain beautiful with stilt walkers, roaming characters and some really creepy but beautiful props.
The actors aren’t actively out to get you. They are more interested in skinning their own faces, but if you come into their world, they are always looking for fresh skin. The dancers mix and twirl, and even dance on occasion. It’s really one of the most beautiful zones that Universal has done.
ARE YOU READY TO UNLEASH THE BEAST!?!?! This scare zone is about nothing but pure fun, and scares. Every night those ready to purge hit the front gates, and count down until opening. Then all hell breaks loose as mock auctions, and destruction happens everywhere.
If nothing else, you can stand here and watch the other scares happen. The actors are full of energy and just ready to cleanse their souuls.
Face Off:In the Flesh
This zone is a bit of a surprise. It showcases ten different characters throughout the night, each a unique take on a different area. There are tons of nightmarish creatures, all ripped directly from the hit show that makes monsters.
The area seriously is done well, with each of the creatures on pedestals posing for pictures and being a distraction for their uniquely themed minions to come up behind and scare you. It’s a great showcase of talent, and a lot of fun to get some scares in.
Bayou of Blood
Universal has never done Voodoo at Horror Nights. This year they’ve done, and they’ve done it big. The soul jars in the trees flicker, and everything takes place around Mamba’s cabin. She is the Voodoo Priestess, and she steals the show.
In the darkness of the fog, creatures roam and scare as hapless victims come around. It’s a little evil, it’s a lot of fun. Every hours there’s even a huge human sacrifice where the evil is brought out. I have a feeling that this will be the place to watch as the event goes on, and more evil is brought fourth.
Video:DO YOU WANT TO SEE A SACRIFICE? Blood Bayou Voodoo Sacrifice
Slideshow:Get drug through the streets scare zone by scare zone!
This year there are two returning shows at Halloween Horror Nights Orlando. Bill and Ted are back, and so is Rocky Horror. Both are great this year, with new footage shown in Rocky Horror. Great performances, and singing are a fan favorite.
Bill and Ted are back, and as they took the stage for the first time on opening night they exclaimed “We missed you!” We missed you too. Apparently there was huge controversy in Hollywood last year, and that park has cancelled the plans for Bill and Ted. Orlando is still going strong, and just as funny as ever.
This year guests can expect a huge riff on Disney’s Magic Bands, Frozen, and Captain Phillips. Get ready for the “Look at me” jokes for a whole year. Despite what you may think of the show, love it or leave it, you can’t have Halloween without Bill and Ted.
Overall Halloween Horror Nights is very balanced and very solid. The event will run on select nights until November 1st, and will be changing all throughout the run. Keep checking back for more videos and pictures in the coming weeks.