Excellent detailed report, Eric--without giving away too much. I'm looking forward to the updated "classic" monsters, myself. (Yeah, still a sucker for Universal's versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman.)
^ The express pass will not work with Rockit for HHN this year, in fact the ride was closed during last night's event. I am not even sure if they are going to try to run it at all during this year's event.
Great report...I look forward to hopefully checking out HHN 20 next year...Wife and I will be back in Orlando for Harrpy Potter so we were thinking of planning it around HHN...Wonder what they will have in store for their 20th anniversary....Hmmmmm....
I had the amazing opportunity to be able to attend this year's media event for Universal's Halloween Horror Nights 19. Myself, along with Adam Roth (jedimaster1227) and the "other" Eric Johnson (live2tell75) were invited to represent ThemeParkReview.com this year. The first thing that comes to mind about this year's event is how impressed we were on how excellent every single house was. Previously when I walked out of HHN, I immediately can tell someone which was my favorite to least favorite house of the evening. I can not do it this year.
I want to thank Universal for the wonderful media event that they put on this year. It certainly exceeded my expectations. Now, onto the reviews. Be mindful that there are spoilers involved. I did keep the photo section pretty much spoiler-free. If you do not want to know too much about the event, I would suggest that you move on down to the photo section.
Again, Spoilers Ahead: Warning!!
Silver Screams--(Building behind Kid's area)--What a way to start off the evening. This is located in the warehouse were Scary Tales was last year. You walk into the Universal Palace Theater where you come face to face with quite a few monsters that is associated with Universal as well as this year's HHN icon, The Usher. You get to meet with such classic monster such as The Phantom of the Opera (Which is also named Erik in case you did not know). You also get to meet The Thing, Shaun of the Dead, My Bloody Valentine as well as Ash (Which they used the title Medieval Dead which was the original name for Army of Darkness). I thought the classic style artwork for each movie poster before entering its associated room was a very cool touch.
Chucky--(Tent Near Barney)--Friends Til the End: As you enter the toy factory you are shrunk down to Chuck's size via a vortex tunnel. Throughout the maze you are attacked by some very convincing Chucky dolls. Some nice theming throughout this maze which includes a shootout between Chucky and several army men. This maze had quiet a few sudden scares with all of the hidden locations scare actors could hide in through the maze.
The Spawning--(Tent near Men In Black)--Does anyone remember C.H.U.D.? Basically it is a carnivorous creatures in the sewer movie. Beware of this one if you have poor sight or are really bothered by strobe lights. It was quite disorienting in several sections of the maze, which is probably the point. The glowing eyes of the creatures was a nice touch.
Saw--(Jaws Queue)--This was an excellent maze this year. Well, I thought all the mazes were good this year. Saw really is the perfect licence for a HHN house. If you are the slightest fan of these movies you will love this one. Many of the famous traps are re-created throughout this maze. Jigsaw's assistants continue to terrorize you throughout your journey. Do not be too surprised if you actually see people captured in front of you while you are going through the house. Talk about interaction.
Leave It To Cleaver--(Earthquake Queue)--This one gets the award for being most creative this year. Just think if you blended early 1960's Americana with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I really do not want to give too much away on this one but you learn the entire process of meat packing from butcher to the neighborhood store. Amazing theming!
Wolfman--(Soundstage)--The movie does not come out until next year which would probably help to explain a few things, but you still understand that the Wolfman wants to eat you. Theming was very detailed, just be careful not to touch the trees in the gypsy camp as well as in the forrest. It is so detailed that you may actually get sap on your hands if you touch the trees. I did get startled several times in the maze. The showstopper would be the final scene that involves the Wolfman and a hunter. Who do you think wins that one?
Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned--(Soundstage)--Steampunk meets Body Collectors. I guess that is one way you can explain this one. If anything, I am glad that they made Frankenstein scary again. The theming is top notch for this one. You enter via a huge set of Frankenstein's castle. where you find Frankenstein raging havoc inside. The shadow work was really cool in the front section of the maze. Once inside you will find a group of people decked out in steampunk style costumes gathering up new body parts from unsuspecting victims.
Dracula: Legacy In Blood--(Soundstage)--This would probably be my favorite soundstage maze this year. The theming is WAY off the chart. Simply a big Wow! Similar to Frankenstein, you enter through a huge set of Dracula's castle. This one does have some similarities to the 1992 movie in which it is too based off of Vlad the Impaler. Make sure you constantly look above you and you may see a floating bride or two.
We had the opportunity to talk with Kim Grommel who was the lead designer of several of the scare zones this year. He went into detail when it came to the creation of both War of the Living Dead as well as Horrorwood Drive-In. For Horrorwood Drive-In, he noted that you may recognize several things from the original version of the Twister queue (section was removed due to Rip Ride Rockit) such as several vehicles as well as the actual snackbar. Kim is also responsible for the amazing sign for the Rocky Horror Tribute Show as well as my all time favorite section that involves a path lit up with numerous pumpkins right next to Cirque Du Freak (Please keep that every year!)
Horrorwood Drive-In. Great Scare Zone, most certainly the best one of the event. It involves a mock up drive-in right next to Mel's Diner in which many famous horror icons come out from the screen to attack unsuspecting HHN visitors. Make sure you check out the snack bar for a surprise.
Cirque Du Freak. I have to admit that I kind of rushed through this one a bit too quickly so I did not get to check this one out very well. It did look like many of the characters from the upcoming movie was represented.
War Of the Living Dead. Great theming with sound and sets. World War II (America versus Germany) continues on as zombies. It honestly could have used a few more scare actors in this one, but we did do it near closing which could have explained a few things.
Lights Camera Hackton. A movie crew tries to film a horror movie with the Chainsaw Brigade....IN 3D! I hope you are not bothered by chainsaws!
Containment. Not really too much to this one other than a few contaminated scare actors walking under a huge inflatable archway. This one seemed to be on a tighter budget than the other ones.
Apocalypse: City of Cannibals. This one is pretty similar to the other scare zones in this location in the past. Plenty of victims as well as Cannibals roam the streets around here. If you look up in the air you may be blinded by the light from the helicopter. There are many scare actors in this area.
Bill and Ted 18: Land of the Lost. This year Bill and Ted take on the ultimate classic Star Trek loving/Twilight hating villain....Fan Boy. I did not get quite as many reference this year as I have in the past, but it was great to see Captain Kirk fight Khan in the flesh. I guess I need to get out more, ride less roller coasters, or watch more MTV. The dance sequences were really top notch this year, especially the Michael Jackson impersonator.
Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute: A show really made for Rocky Horror fans. If you love Rocky Horror, you will love this. This version is a full audience participation version, so expect some 'R' rated language as well as getting wet. You have been warned. You can tell that the people that do this show really give it their all. Please keep this one around Universal!
Here is a video from the media part of the event which includes a short interview with creative directors T.J. Mannarino and J. Michael Roddy. It also includes a little bit of John C. Riley and the rest of the cast from The Vampire's Assistant, as well as an introduction from Chris Thomas, V.P. of Universal Entertainment.
As Erik and Eric have mentioned in their great reports, I was fortunate enough to join them last night for the opening night and media event covering Halloween Horror Nights' opening. This year's theme, Ripped from the Silver Screen had had me skeptical for quite some time in fear that the houses would be formulaic and possibly too light for the subject matter they covered--I couldn't have been more wrong. In terms of theme, this year is a true success in every way. In years previous, the shows, houses and scare zones would often split off into different thematic tangents, but thanks to the broad variety of the horror film library, every aspect of this year's event fits its movie theme. The creators of this year's events have focused heavily on detail in ways I'd never experienced before in an extra ticket event such as this. Every house had at least one (if not many) moment or detail that left my jaw hanging on the floor in awe. Every house had plenty of moments that scared the color out of my cheeks and both shows successfully held my attention and then some.
So lets break it down by specific houses, shows and scarezones here...
Silver Screams: This was our first house of the night, and it certainly set an amazing tone for what we were about to experience during our night. Built in the parade building backstage, this house is innovative and focused to point where every room couldn't help but make sense. Walking through different films divided by elaborate theater hallways complete with marquee posters defining each film (the old style images brought the newer films featured like The Strangers, My Bloody Valentine and Shaun of the Dead into a realm of time that seemed all-too-appropriate when aligned with The Thing, Phantom of the Opera and Army of the Dead [referred to as Medieval Army]) helped to create a charming and engaging flow from scene to scene--a continuity that would seem nonsensical in any other context. Each room featured an accurate representation of the film in question and each offered up some wonderful scares. Typically my first house doesn't top my list, but this year I am proud to say that Silver Screams has become one of my favorite houses I've been in over the last three years.
Chucky: As a childhood fear of mine, Chucky was a house that I truly dreaded having to walk into. This house not surprisingly very twisted, shrinking you to the size of a toy in Chucky's factory of evil. The walls are adorned with symbols of this murderer's psychosis and the rooms challenge your mettle thanks to specifically distracting obstacles that line the walls, roof and paths. There was one amazing scare involving a giant green army man and a corner that had me screaming quite loudly, so I was definitely satisfied with the visit.
The Spawning: Knowing nothing about B-movies or Fangoria, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of this house besides the obvious sewer theme. The elaborate yet subtly uniform walls of the Ohio sewage system provide a surprisingly effective backdrop. An added plus--the costumes fit the B-movie title but have a special glow in the eyes that brings an added realism to the creatures that hunt you as you seemingly hunt them.
Saw: This was the true house that had me worried before the event. I am terrified of the Saw films and not particularly a fan of extreme gore, but the house certainly was worth the scares. The developers of Halloween Horror Nights have pushed the limits of story immersion by putting guests into the Saw scenarios. Guests footsteps trigger traps seen from the first five films, most of which can be seen as they kill individuals in horribly gruesome ways. The jaw trap that Amanda wore, the knife-to-the-face chair and more show up in this house and no effect was able to disappoint. Of the three years that I've come to Horror Nights, this has been the best house to take up residency in the Jaws queue.
Leave it to Cleaver: While this was my least favorite house, this shouldn't be considered an insult, knowing how strong the house itself was. I loved all eight houses this year, so to pick a "worst" just isn't easy. The house itself was gruesome, sickening and well executed. While I don't have much to say about the house itself, it has scarred me to the point where I will never look at Big Boy the same again.
Dracula: One word: Greatness. This year's studio houses were extraordinary in their use of space, elaborate sets and superior scare actors. The entrance to the castle is gigantic, removing the feeling of a studio and initiating an immersion within the world of Vlad the Impaler. Some new effects have been tested in this house, including an amazing "flight system" that makes the legend's wives hover over you as if by magic in smooth, almost ghostly fashion. The house has a great length, amazing detail and wonderful scares. Nothing whatsoever to complain about here.
Frankenstein: It became quite apparent that the three Horror Legends would truly get the spotlight this year, with their three respective houses being ridiculously strong in every way. Like Dracula, Frankenstein features an amazing set, wonderful storyline (that can be understood from scene to scene with little trouble), amazing scare opportunities and some expert effects that bring this old characters into the new age. Nearly getting trampled by Frankestein to the point where I could see his glowing heart-piece within inches of my face was enough for me. Another great experience to be had with this creature.
Wolfman: I have to admit that I had low expectations for this one, but that was quickly turned around. I'm not going to ruin anything for this house because I found it to be the most unique and well thought out... It ends up that the house itself features locales and details ripped directly from the upcoming film--walking through the house is literally a preview of the film to come. And if the film is anything like the house, this will be an amazing re-imagining of a classic monster. I loved this house and consider it my second favorite for the night.
Bill & Ted: Always a fun show, I don't have too much to say about the show without spoiling it. There are some great moments that really take stabs at the year's great pop culture faux pas and such, many of which caught the audience by surprise. The show was entertaining as always but I will say that last year's iteration remains my favorite of the three.
Rocky Horror Picture Show: I'm not a Rocky Horror fan per-say, but I do enjoy the show itself. Last year was my first time seeing the show and seeing it again this year was a great experience. I feel like I have grown to appreciate it more thanks to my repeated visit, so that's a plus. This year's show is almost exactly the same as last year's, though I noticed that the talent this year seemed to be even better than that of the show I had seen previously. Some returned from the last cast (and their familiar faces made it easier to enjoy the show) and some were completely new faces, so I was definitely happy with the stars themselves.
When it comes to the scarezones, I'm just going to sum it up because my memory of the zones themselves is less than sufficient (for now) to write reviews on such. The park's six scare zones are definitely a different take on the zones that we've grown accustomed to in the previous years. I noticed that in many cases, the storyline of each section was more heavily based on the actors than on the scenery with some zones having a substantial amount of scenery as opposed to the more minimalistic spreads of some. Costume design and character appearance is certainly strong, but I also noticed a large decrease in the number of active actors per zone as opposed to last year. What were once crowded pathways in previous years seemed far more open (and safe) as a result of the lessened cast. That being said, the three standout zones for me would have to be Cirque du Freak, Horrorwood Die-In and War of the Living Dead.
Overall, the media event and Halloween Horror Nights were excellent once again. As Erik mentioned earlier, with an event this strong, its hard to pick favorites and less favorites. The bar has been raised to a new level in terms of quality thanks to the extraordinary studio houses and the line between reality and nightmare has been blurred thanks to the immersive houses like Saw. There was nothing I didn't enjoy about this year's event and will gladly return with my Frequent Fear Pass over the course of the next month.
To the team responsible for this year's Halloween Horror Nights, I thank you for putting together another amazing event and look forward to all that you have to offer in this and future events under the Halloween Horror Nights label.
And so it begins...
Doubling the signs. Doubling the goodness.
As a passholder myself, I am certainly glad that I didn't have to wait in this line...
Another great entrance setup adorns the Universal gates for this year's event.
Much like what was done with the Carnival of Carnage, posters hang over each arch, announcing a different house within the year's catalogue.
It is all about the Hallowen Orror Nihts!
In't his col?
People are lining up just to experience the terror that is the turnstile security!
The cool kids stand in front of the stage almost two hours before a guest appears.
That's how we do it here in Orlando.
Just so you know, John C. Reilly will be visiting today.
Just so you know.
Theme Park Review received several shout outs throughout the night from guests in transit--we appreciate the support! As three teal lanyard-wearing horror fans, it means quite a lot to be recognized as such.
Matching the theme of this year's event, we will be acting out roles of our film-ready counterparts. In this epic, Erik Johnson will be playing the role of Robb Alvey. Adam Roth and Eric Johnson will share the role of Guest. I swear, we thought of it before Dr. Parnassus did.
Two guests do the bump in hope of winning prizes not related to Twilight.
"Mine just says Participant..."
Would it ever be an "Roth Report" if it didn't have a "sun shot?"
Two excellent houses that scared the fear straight out of my bones...
"We've been spotted!"
Michael Roddy is truly an entertainer as well as an innovator, and his presence on stage received a well-deserved ovation.
Roddy explains the work that was done to bring Cirque du Freak to life at Halloween Horror Nights 19...
Much to my dismay neither words "shake" or "bake" were uttered during the presentation.
Despite the lack of references to the almighty Ricky Bobby, the 30 minute session was extremely fun to watch.
Reilly soon announced that he has an obsession with clowns. I'm sure he'll love Chucky's house...
What have we here?
To help recoup the damages of the recent issues on Isla Sorna, InGen has loaned its Jurassic trappers to the military for use in an undisclosed "aerosol testing."
"Bear with me here... I'm just waiting for Jeff Goldblum to make his way out of the telepods in Castle Frankenstein..."
I'm not exactly sure what the inflatables were supposed to represent, but they were certainly different.
"Is there something on my face? I knew loading my sandwich with extra spicy mustard was a bad idea!"
"I am Box Man! This is my realm of boxes. Don't enter my box or I'll box you straight in the face. This is my personal box space, so don't box it up by stepping in the box. Box. Box. Box. "
"To give you an idea, this compares to how I felt at the end of I Am Legend. I can show you my happy expression next if you'd like... I've been practicing with the help of Emotion Eric."
"No I don't want a Coke! I'm a mutant! I want to eat your feet! Stop filling my deformed brain with images of demand-filling teens and some strange niche web show!"
I believe standard war attire has been adjusted to include jean shorts, odd gaits and fanny packs.
A truly extraordinary house that debuts long before the movie on which it is based will make its way to theaters. Based on the house alone, I'll definitely be seeing this one!
Now that Rockit is complete, the midway games have returned...
This form of public transportation is known as a "party bus."
I promise you that the placement of the stop light was hardly intentional...
I like my cheesecake with a side of worms... Don't you?
This screen played a nice compilation of footage from previous years of Horror Nights. It was definitely nice to see some highlights from the year's I've missed.
"Yo. I'mma let you finish, but Asylum in Wonderland was one of the best scarezones of all time! Yeah. Sorry!"
It isn't Horror Nights without blood bag jello shots...
Cirque du Freak had an impressive setup for a scarezone.
This thing nearly bit me... From what I could tell, he's a vampiric version of Mini-Me.
"Hao Ald Awr Yoo?"
I found Box Man's wife: Grassy Box Girl!
You know the deal, so just stay away from her grassy box.
I didn't even know Fangoria had a radio station... But then again, I don't really listen to XM Radio...
Among the guests for the radio presentation were Brian O'Halloran (of Clerks fame) and Doug Jones (Hellboy, Buffy and much more). Michael Roddy and Michael Aiello also appeared during the night to share information with listeners.
We even got a chance to interview Michael Roddy before our tour began!
Here's a fact I didn't know before yesterday: Michael Roddy not only created Jack, but played him (at least in image) for the first year that he was featured at Halloween Horror Nights. Take a look at the first image of Jack and you'll notice how close their "wicked smiles" look...
Erik channels his "Robbness" by holding his badge. You ask what "Robbness is? Its Robb's name plus -ness.
You've obviously not watched You, Me and Dupree. Lucky you.
This year's event brought forth another installment of Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. For me, the show was definitely funny, but of the three that I have seen, last year's was definitely the best.
One of the best ways to go about enjoying Halloween Horror Nights!
We were told that flash photography was not allowed, so the following photos are both flash-free and stability-free...
Pop culture characters ripped from the silver screen into Bill & Ted in the Land of the Lost.
The boys are back in town!
Megan Fox seems far less tempting in this scenario...
The creature from Land of the Lost becomes a pet/sidekick to the ultimate fanboy.
It is time for Shatner!
You knew this was coming...
And yes, he actually did take the tunnel!
Billy Mays returns from the grave to share a new product with you...
Love at first Twilight.
The original Kirk helps kick off the "I'm on a ship" song...
And an appearance by Michael Jackson received much applause and excitement from the audience.
And then I thought of Tyler.
She's performing just for you my friend...
Another great end to another fantastic year of Halloween Horror Nights--this won't be the last time I visit during this year...
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
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