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Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 22


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Some initial thoughts on tonight's experience, though I'm premise it with this... I give the event the total benefit of the doubt that tonight was done in part to work out the kinks in the event, so not all of what I saw or experience may be the final outcome.

 

I was able to experience four of the seven houses.

 

Penn & Teller: Very well-themed house for a sprung tent house, along the same lines as last year's The In-Between. Some great interactive gags as well as some very clever room designs made it a great experience. The 3-D is probably the most under-utilized aspect of the house, with the glasses serving more to disorient you (in some rooms more than others) than to make the walls pop.

 

House of Horrors: Awesome level of detail despite the black-and-white approach. Similar in concept to HHN 18's Dead Exposure, the lightning serves as strobes to light up the characters faces within the houses. You are walking through classic Universal Horror environments and seeing the characters as they looked in their classic features. Some great scare opportunities and a great throwback for fans of classic Universal Horror.

 

Alice Cooper: My favorite house so far. I got freaked out within the first room (though I'm always an easy scare) and consistently charged at throughout the house. For a sprung tent house, this one flows insanely well and yet feels like it is as long as a studio house. As a fan of Alice Cooper too, I wasn't disappointed.

 

Silent Hill: Knowing very little about the franchise besides that there is a character called Pyramidhead, I wasn't sure what to expect of this one. On par with The Wolfman from previous years, the theming is solid, but the scares are heavily timing-based, which made it harder for me to get scared when the major scenes went off for the people a few ahead or behind me. Hoping that my next visit will yield better timing and give an overall better experience, but certainly not a bad house by any means.

 

I also had the chance to see the first Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. As always, the returning cast fit back into their roles well, but sadly this year's story is the most disjointed I've ever seen (though several others who I spoke to thought it was one of the best B&T's they'd seen since HHN 16) and the chosen pop culture references are poorly handled more often than not. There's a ton of pre-recorded speech in the show, which always makes the experience feel less authentic. The sets for this year's entry are solid and have some visual gags as always. I'll plan on going back to see if the show improves in the coming weeks, but the first experience wasn't 100% promising... There's definitely some work to be done, as there were whole jokes that went by without an audience response (if you have to ask what the reference is, it probably shouldn't be in the show).

 

The roaming hordes were hit and miss for me tonight. I know I didn't see all of them during my visit, but I also saw several of them multiple times in the same night. While great at scaring the groups, I think that the hoards aren't large enough to take on the crowds that the event will draw. There are some great hordes that attack in a pack mentality but as soon as they get spread out, their scare becomes far less effective.

 

I'll be going back for the grand opening on Friday as well as a general guest visit on Saturday, so I'm sure I'll some different or updated thoughts regarding the event once I'm done.

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This is probably the most elaborate entrance design since HHN 19.

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I couldn't easily explain to you what it is supposed to be, but it looks awesome!

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They have posters on the Universal entry arch for each of the four IP-based houses.

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This is the very general theme of the event.

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Get in my belly!

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The set at this year's Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure (taken before the start of the show).

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Those new laser emitters installed along the waterfront were likely for the Halloween Horror Nights version of the Universal Cinematic Spectacular.

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One of several mini shows, we were able to see the Alice Cooper themed one set to the tune of Welcome to my Nightmare.

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The water printers are used in and out of the show.

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The fountains are used in the shows as well.

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These two scarecrows should look familiar to the HHN aficionados.

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If there's one thing there's no shortage of at the event this year, it is fog.

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And I mean lots of it.

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Some close encounters with the Monsters horde.

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Very friendly folks!

Edited by jedimaster1227
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IMO, that was the best Bill and Ted show since 2008. By far.

 

 

However, if I had to sum up the rest of the event in one word, it would be "adequate". Nothing special, but not terrible either. I did manage to get in all of the houses tonight.

 

Funny though, the Alice Cooper maze was our least favorite house. It just seemed confusing and forced; I had no idea what was going on the whole time. I guess Adam and I just have different tastes.... (shocking.)

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I, too, was there tonight... the only houses we missed were the House of Horrors and Dead End... My favorite house BY FAR was Gothic! We actually went through it twice, as it seemed to have the lightest crowd. We didn't really care for Walking Dead... it reminded me of "13" from Howl-O-Scream of years past, which isn't a "bad" thing... it just didn't have the scares for me... could have been a timing thing.. I really enjoyed Penn+Teller, which I didn't think I was going to.. I especially liked the slot machine room! Silent Hill had that very uncomfortable, eerie feel and I liked it.. ambiance alone make it for me... Alice Cooper's house was fine.. we only waited about 20 min for it... if we waited an hour+, I might have been disappointed.. I didn't "not like" it... just ok for me. Roaming hoards of scareactors, while fun, just didn't have the scares for me... good effort, and may have been a timing thing...We left the park about 11p as we were tired. Overall, I thought the event was excellent. Highlight for me being Gothic! Get out there and get scared everybody!

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I always find it interesting that there is such a varied responses to the houses at HHN. It seems like there is a never a clear cut absolute best house, and there are never houses that everyone absolutely hates. Some years my favorite house is among the worst reviewed, and some of the best reviewed houses I tend to think are the worst. I guess it's all just a matter of preference and timing.

 

Thanks for the early updates guys, can't wait to read some more this weekend but it sounds like the event is on par with previous years. Did anyone catch the Circus magic show? And was the construction at the park an issue?

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After HHN the last 2 years, I still think it all depends on timing. You can still have a preference based on theme, atmosphere, and number of potential scares I guess haha. Can't wait to check out the houses on Friday!

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Hey, Hilltopper... no, the construction didn't really make the park difficult to traverse.. but what it DID do was make the park seem very divided, with 3 houses nearly on top of each other immediately upon entering (Silent Hill, Gothic, Dead End)... then still relatively close by was the next (Walking Dead)... then there was nothing but construction walls heading past the Jaws graveyard... if your timing was bad, you can get caught up in the cluster of Bill and Ted letting out (ugh, like we did)... right next to Men In Black was the next house (Penn+Teller)... then on the oposite side of the Simpsons, in Kid Zone were the final houses (Horror and Alice Cooper). Most houses were in the same locations as years past, however, without that Jaws queue, things seemed clustered and divided a bit more... Then the water front pathway near Mel's (and former Herc+Xena soundstage) was completely closed off.. it didn't really affect getting around, just more of a complete circuit. Now on a "regular" guest night which are potentially (and often are) packed, it may change that opinion!

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Looks like they did a "dress rehearsal" walkthrough tour for some media outlets last week of Dead End. So, it was full show lighting and sound with some of the scareactors as they walked through. I want post it here for spoilers-sake but if you search YouTube you should be able to easily find the videos.

 

Looks to be a pretty cool house with some decent scare setups. Also, saw a Silent Hill lights-on tour video. Really amazing set design in the house!

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I was fortunate enough to have been extended and invite to preview night. I, living in south carolina, was never really afforded this luxury so this was a first for me. Went thru 6 1/2 house (fire drilled) and all were well themes, well house of horrors was...I'll wait for tonight to give my opinion. The streets...ash the streets. I thought with no distinct zones it was lack luster. You're roaming as well as the hordes. Its like you are walking next to and passing by them. Someone with a cap load of experience in the horror nights world said something that really made sense, not everyone can experience all the house but everyone can go thru scarezones. Some people love the scarezones and this year that was taken away from them with the same teeming placed around the park.

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Tonight was a really bad night. I am going to hold off on really giving this year's event the full review until after my next visit, but I just thought I'd share with you guys a few of my thoughts on it. First off, I have to say that with no scarezones, no central theme, and no icon to hold it together, this year feels very in-cohesive and the park itself feels like it's not the real thing, not the real Horror Nights experience we have come to love. Some areas of the park, especially around Simpsons feels just empty. I'm hoping the other nights will prove me wrong on my feelings so far as there was one issue with tonight, being that it rained for almost 5 hours straight. None of the hordes even came out until about 9:00 when the rain died down a bit. On the positive side of things, most of the houses are pretty high quality this year. I'm not a fan of Walking Dead or New'kd Vegas, but the others I got to experience tonight(especially Silent Hill) proved quite good.

 

As I said, I am holding off full judgement of this year's event until I can experience it on a regular day that doesn't have water falling from the sky and flooding the paths. I didn't get to see 20 Penny Circus or Bill and Ted tonight either.

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So tonight Theme Park Review was fortunate enough to participate in the Grand Opening Media Event for Universal Studios Florida's Halloween Horror Nights 22. In typical fashion, the event started out with a delicious spread of themed foods inside of the lobby of the Pantages Theatre. Soon after we had the opportunity to take photos with some of the Walkers from The Walking Dead. And to wrap up the early media festivities was a special appearance by Penn & Teller who raved about their work with the Halloween Horror Nights crew to bring their ideas to life. They stayed to answer some questions, all of which were answered very humorously.

 

As for the event itself, here's a rundown based on our experiences...

 

Houses:

 

Gothic: Definitely the standout house of the night. I haven't seen a house this detailed, technical and well-executed since the Dead Silence house ran back in 2007. Clever effects are used in the places you'd never expect them to be, which allows for the scares to take you even more by surprise as they happen.

 

Dead End: The second of the three original houses of the event, this one has some clever scares and some new effects as well. This one definitely builds off of the success found in the Legendary Truth house from two years ago.

 

Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare: My second favorite house of the night (and of the event overall), the house features Cooper's awesome music as a background for the twisted visuals and scares that take place inside. Especially strong are the costumes and the set design that allows for scares to take place in more random locations.

 

Penn & Teller's New'kd Las Vegas: The 3-D house of the year. It isn't as scary as The Inbetween was last year, but this house has some insanely clever gags including a three-breasted woman and radioactive lobsters. Fans of the more recently-traditioned "interactive buttons" added to the houses will find one room in particular that raises the bar by allowing several fantastic effects to be controlled by the guest, to be used on the guests in the other room. There's also one scene that while it borrows the same concept as was used in The Inbetween last year, it executes the visual overload significantly more. Let's just say that if you like Christmas lights, you'll be in heaven.

 

Silent Hill: My least favorite house of the event, primarily because it so heavily relies on timing. Impressive sets (including falling 'ash') help to envelop you in the world of Silent Hill, but the scares were hit and miss based on where you were when they happened.

 

The Walking Dead: Fans of the show will likely appreciate the house more than the rest. On par with previous efforts like Zombiegeddon, there's no shortage of detail to take in here, and there are plenty of good scare spots. As an outside to the world of the Walking Dead though, it was a little difficult to feel as drawn into the story.

 

Universal's House of Horrors: Borrowing a page from the Dead Exposure house of Halloween Horror Nights 18, this new house mixes the principle of strobe-based scares with the appeal of the classic Universal monsters as they were seen in their respective films. The Wolfman, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein were all represented in the house and the scares came with them. Clever effects and visual distractors help to make the scare even easier in here, so you're bound to freak out at least once in the visit.

 

Shows:

 

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure: While I didn't love the show on Wednesday when I saw it during the Team Member preview, I am happy to report that since that time the show has received minor tooling that has seemingly turned the whole thing around. While still not the best show we've seen from Bill & Ted, it is at least on par with last year's show (and many I spoke to thought it was better).

 

20 Penny Circus: This one was a surprise for me as I expected it to be very simple and use many tricks I've seen before. And while this is all true, the delivery was wholly entertaining and worthwhile to stay and see. This troupe knows how to take tricks that everyone has seen before and add some theatricality to it. The show won't be popular for everyone, but it may be the strongest "second act show" the event has seen since the Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute was run.

 

Scarezones:

 

Well the funny thing is... There are none. This year Halloween Horror Nights has thrown out the traditional scare zones in favor of several sets of roaming hordes of characters unleashed upon the park. And while at times the idea works, it stumbles more often than not due to the small number of those in each horde, as well as the true lack of "roaming" going on. While not defined publicly several sections of the park are essentially the hangout locations of the hordes as they move around. The New York area between Twister and Revenge of the Mummy, the space nearest Fievel's Playland and over by Men in Black are three locations constantly filled with these hordes. They are effective in scaring but there could arguably be more, as much of the park looks empty thanks to the lack of scare actors.

 

Let's take a look at the photos!

 

Note: All photos of the inside of the houses/mazes at Halloween Horror Nights 22 were taken by Universal Studios' marketing team.

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And we're back for the Grand Opening of Halloween Horror Nights 22!

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Welcome to Fabulous Las VegAdam!

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We started off with a spread of finger foods for the evening.

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There were some pretty funny buffet decorations!

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You bred raptors?!?!

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So much good stuff!

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Some of the members of the roaming hordes were present for the meal as well...

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And it looks like they were hungry for Renee!

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Look out!

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Enter Darkness into this world!

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Next up was a photograph with the Walkers from The Walking Dead.

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Renee's been a pretty popular menu item this evening!

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Next up was a surprise appearance by Penn & Teller!

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Afterwards Penn quickly shuffled away, but not before a photo for some fans.

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Teller gave a silent welcome to the followers of Theme Park Review!

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Once done with the media happenings, we were split up into our RIP Tour groups and sent off into the park. Our evening started with two houses and a visit to the 20 Penny Circus.

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The show was surprisingly enjoyable thanks to the charismatic cast and their ability to get the audience involved.

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If this is capturing time stand still, this might be the exact moment where he realizes that jumping up and down on glass isn't a good idea.

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But having someone stand on your face against said glass... That's a much better idea!

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The old nail-in-the-nose trick!

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She helped to retrieve it.

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The volunteer next pulled a quarter out of the other cast member's nose.

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Yep, this was a thing.

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And the grand finale... And escape duel!

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The set for this year's Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure is meant to portray the San Dimas High School where the duo continues to go to class.

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At several times during the evening there are themed mini-shows on the Cinematic Spectacular lagoon. This one featured The Psycho, but the other one I saw earlier this week was based around Alice Cooper.

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The Walking Dead's theming seeped out into the streets of San Francisco in front of Disaster.

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One of the roaming hordes is an all-female troupe of chainsaw wielding convicts. One came up to me and asked, "What are you looking at Four Eyes? Do you want me to make 'em Eight Eyes?"

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The graveyard has taken over the park.

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Last year there was Night Maze... This year, we present Night Crane!

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The sets for the studio houses always impress and the entrance for Dead End is no exception.

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Gothic is so heavily detailed, it earned its place as my favorite house of the night!

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And as detailed as it is, there are certainly no shortages on great scares within this house!

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The unmistakeable silhouette of Nosferatu is a great little detail from inside Universal's House of Horrors.

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Silent Hill has some very odd residents.

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Dare you step inside?

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When it came to designing The Walking Dead: Dead Inside, they clearly worked on authenticity to the show.

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Penn & Teller New'kd Las Vegas has a very strange cast of characters (including two surprise guests that will visit the house at random times throughout the Halloween season).

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You could be lucky and get the chance to see the two in person at some point this October!

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Despite the lessened number of scare actors, those present have some impressive costumes!

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The Alice Cooper house is so incredible!

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Sounds like they have a good set of houses this year. Not sure how the roaming monster thing is going to work for them. I remember liking it at BGT's event, but I think for this to be successful you need a large number of groups that don't stick to anyone one area. Perhaps they'll add to the number of monster groups as they make adjustments to the event.

 

dt

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