Last Friday was the grand kick-off of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and we were there to experience the entire event and to get some great pics and video for you all to enjoy.
Overall this is definitely one of the stronger years for Halloween Horror Nights and we've also included our maze and experience rankings below.
Keep in mind our rankings (as with anybody's rankings) are purely subjective and only reflect our personal experience. Enjoy!
Pictures, Video and Written by Gregg Condon
Additional Pictures by Richard M Johnson
Welcome to Halloween Horror Nights (look closely and you may spot a celebrity)
Overflow queue for The Walking Dead that they didn't need opening weekend. Will be interesting to see if this is still here this weekend.
Our full walk-through and 360° video of The Walking Dead from the opening earlier this year.
We had heard from multiple people that there would be more talent in TWD than there is during the day, we didn't notice any additional people from normal park hours, and we did the walk-through twice.
If you read our Survival Guide you'll know that you should start your night on the backlot mazes.
Mmmm ... Fog.
This year there is no tram to the backlot mazes which means 3 mazes down there instead of 2. It's not a bad walk at all.
Note to the girl in front of us ... after stopping and asking the 20th actor to take a picture with you and they don't, it's time to just give it up. =)
Which leads into a Purge scarezone
Video of the Purge tunnel, scarezone and Gauntlet of Fear (more on that below)
Our first maze of the night was Krampus and it didn't disappoint at all.
The movie is a LOT of fun and the maze is as well. Since the movie was made by Mike Dougherty (who made the classic Trick R Treat) hopefully that means we'll get that maze one of these years.
Full walkthrough of the Krampus maze.
Beautiful tribute to the late Wes Craven
Really loved the setting of Freddy vs Jason but we got stopped for about 4 minutes in one spot so decided not to post the video.
Overall the crowd control was much better at HHN this year than previous years, this was the only maze we got stopped for a long time (other than Terror Tram ... more on that below)
Next up was American Horror Story. Now I'll freely admit that neither one of us were familiar with the show. I've tried getting into the show multiple times but somehow just haven't been able to.
That being said, we both enjoyed the maze much more than we thought we would.
Will add that as a non-fan, if the entire maze would have just been the "Freak Show" season we may have enjoyed it much more. That section was a lot of fun.
Below is our full walkthrough of American Horror Story.
Those who know me know that the original Halloween maze back in 2009 is one of my favorite mazes ever, not just at Halloween Horror Nights, but at any event. It wasn't just based on a single movie but had lots of great stuff from multiple films.
Last year Michael Myers came back and it was just based on the original Halloween. And it was AMAZING. There were some liberties taken with the ending of the maze which was totally fine because it worked.
Fast forward to this year, and Michael Myers is back again, but this time the maze is based on Halloween 2. There are so many touches from the movie here and it's amazing. But again, there are some liberties taken with the last 1/4 of the maze and it simply WORKS. And works well.
Below is our full walk through of Halloween ... maybe next year we'll get a Halloween 3 maze? (Guessing the fans of that one would be very small, but we'd love it)
Our last maze on the lower lot was The Exorcist.
Now, I've been doing Halloween events for close to 30 years. My first memory of doing an event was at the old "Factory of Nightmares" that used to be at Devonshire Downs in the San Fernando Valley (aging myself here). So it takes a LOT for me to get scared in a maze.
When I was about 10 I remember watching The Exorcist at a friends house, and I remember it scaring the crap out of me. So that certainly could have contributed to my anticipation/the amount of times I got freaked out in this maze.
Safe to say, this was the most I've ever screamed in any maze ever. We decided not to edit this at all so you can enjoy all the screams that we got in this amazing maze. This was definitely our favorite of the night.
Next up was the Terror Tram. Because they hadn't tried to shoehorn an existing franchise into the area we were very much looking forward to it.
A look down at the backlot mazes and Purge scare zone
Some great talent as you head down the escalator
As you head down to the Bates Motel you are treated to an amazing introductory video that sets up the story for you. And it's absolutely fabulous.
As you reach Whoville the theme starts to take shape and the first part of Terror Tram was pretty amazing.
Unfortunately once you reach the Psycho house the amazing set up is forgotten due to some small area's where you are herded through the rest of the area like cattle.
We love the idea of having walk-through maze parts of the Terror Tram but the bottleneck here is so severe that it makes it hard to get scared through the entire 2nd half of the experience.
Overall, this is EASILY the best "theme" for Terror Tram ever, unfortunately the execution is a bit lacking in a few parts. Let's hope they figure out the crowd control and bottleneck issues before this weekend. Because we'd love to see it be successful.
Be sure to check out some great pictures below of the Terror Tram
The Deer are the scariest part
We didn't get a chance to check out Jabawockeez this year, but our good friend Richard did so be sure to check out the amazing pics below.
Photos: Richard M. Johnson
Note: The Purge isn't scary ...
That being said, the Gauntlet of Fear was probably one of the more pleasant surprises of the event. Again, not scary, but a great utilization of the area and something that they should definitely keep in mind for future years and different actual scary themes.
Be sure to check out our slideshow of The Purge Gauntlet of Fear
Obvious movie cross promotion ...
The entire park scare zone had one theme this year, and was all The Purge. Nothing really different here than previous years, lots of Chainsaws and fire and girls ... not like those are bad things AT ALL.
But it would be nice if The Purge would get purged next year. We love the original scare zones they've had in years past and would love for those to come back.
Some more awesome pictures of The Purge scare zone on the upper lot
Our last maze of the night was Texas Chainsaw Massacre which was located near Waterworld.
I'm not the biggest fan of TX Chainsaw Massacre but it was a decent maze. This one did suffer from "repeated scares syndrome". Hallway, Room, Chainsaw, Hallway, Room, Chainsaw ... but it's TX Chainsaw Massacre so ...
Overall we had an amazing night at Halloween Horror Nights. The good definitely outweighs the "ok" (there is nothing really BAD this year) and are hoping we hear about some of the crowd control issues in Terror Tram being addressed soon. Because we really did love the theme of it.
Below are our maze rankings
We want to thank Universal Studios for having us out to enjoy the event, we can't wait to hopefully get back towards the end of the season for another go-round.
Did you experience HHN over the weekend? Be sure to share your thoughts below.
It's finally here!!! Well actually, it feels like it came on faster than ever, but it's here!!! Halloween Season, where over the next month in a half we get to bring you all of the scary stuff we all love so much.
So what better way to kick off the season than with Renée at HHN 26 in Orlando.
Written by Renée Girard
Click any of the pictures below for a larger version
Tonight we're checking out this year's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort
Airport style metal detectors are now at the entrance to CityWalk
Crowds for #HHN26 are huge! Get here early. We're finally almost in!
Our first house of the night at #HHN26 is Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
The scare actors have lots of fun with guests entering the park
Academy of Villains: House of Fear is a stage show 4 times nightly
We are about to enter Tomb of the Ancients
There is no shortage of bars
Ready for a viewing of the #HHN26 signature show, Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure!
Love this shot every year
Wandering through some of the scare zones at #HHN26 . Vamp 55 is pretty cool.
Have we been naughty or nice? Let's find out in the Krampus house
The specialty merchandise store at #HHN26 offers lots of souvenirs as well as characters from their houses
You can get some cool photo ops in the #HHN26 store too
Really like the theme of the Dead Man's Wharf scare zone
Let's see what Michael Myers has in store for us in Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Definitely got some good scares in the Halloween house!
A Chance in Hell scare zone has some fun scenes set up
Survive or Die Apocalypse scare zone is very interactive!
Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch was really well done and one of our favorites!
Due to lack of time and exhaustion we're missing these 3 houses at #HHN26 but we've heard good things!
Time for our final house of the night, and the one we're most looking forward to, American Horror Story
They seemed to be prepared for long queues at the American Horror Story house
Our favorite house of the night was American Horror Story. If you're a fan of the show, you'll love it!
We had a blast at #HHN26 tonight! One of the best I've seen in years. Goodnight!
Every year Halloween Horror Nights seems to get bigger and bigger, and so do the crowds.
Below you will find some of our tips for making the most out of your Halloween Horror Nights experience. Some do's and don'ts and most importantly, what should be your "plan of attack" for the night.
You can also check out the HHN site for more information on tickets, hours, etc.
Note: Last year we did make changes to our Survival Guide after opening weekend, and that will likely be the case this year.
Note: We've learned that there will once again be no shuttle from the lower lot to the metro set mazes. With this in mind we've modified our Maze Order below.
Update from John Murdy (@horrornights) regarding early entry:
At HHN we reward the Early Bird by allowing guests to enter early and get a jump start on the mazes before the event "officially opens".
Three will be 3 mazes available for Early Entry. The Exorcist, American Horror Story and Freddy Vs Jason. Early entry usually begins around 6ish. Listen for announcements at the main gate. I believe Exorcist opens 6:15, FVJ & AHS 6:30.
Metro Set Mazes:
Most people assume that you should head to the Terror Tram first. And if you don't show up when the event starts then this is probably your best bet. But if you have followed the instructions above and are at the for Early Entry you should follow the Early Entry instructions above.
If you do not get there in time for early entry but are there at opening first thing you should do is head down to the Metro Sets and go through American Horror Story, Freddy vs Jason and Krampus.
We are also assuming that American Horror Story will be one of the most popular mazes this year, if not ever as it is extremely anticipated.
Front of the Line tip: If lines are short when you get to the Metro Sets (if you are there for Early Entry DO NOT use your Front of the Line Pass at that time) go through once with the GP and use your FOTL pass later in the evening when it's busier. If you don't want to make the walk back to the Metro sets later in the night, go through them once with the GP and then use your FOTL privilege right after to get two trips through each maze.
Lower Lot Mazes:
Once you have finished the Metro Set mazes and made your walk back to the Lower Lot, we suggest doing Halloween and Exorcist prior to heading back to the upper lot.
Front of the Line tip: If the lines are not long go through once with the General Public and then use your FOTL pass later in the evening. Getting back down to the lower lot mazes is easy to do later in the night.
If you don't have a Front of the Line Pass, don't be tempted by "Jurassic Park: In The Dark". It's just "Jurassic Park: At Night". But if it's hot and there isn't a line, by all means go for it.
At this point you've already completed 5 of the 7 mazes so it's time to head over to the Terror Tram.
Depending on the night, you may have a bit of a wait if you don't have a Front of the Line pass, so be sure to use the restroom and get a snack/drink before getting in line. Even if the line seems long it's always moving unlike maze lines.
Front of the Line tip: If it's an unexpectedly slow night and there isn't much of a line, feel free to go in with the GP and go again with your FOTL pass. But more likely than not you are only going to be able to do one trip on the Terror Tram.
You are probably going to need to rest by now, feel free to stop by Springfield or Mel's and get a snack, a meal, etc. Sit around the upper lot scare zone and watch the talent do their thing.
Upper Lot Mazes:
If you've followed the strategy at this point you'll only have two mazes left and plenty of time to do them. Obviously The Walking Dead is a year-round attraction so we'd recommend doing Texas Chainsaw Massacre first.
Like last year, there is only one show at HHN this year. If this is a priority for you then you may want to flip this with The Walking Dead or even the Terror Tram. Once we get showtimes we'll update this with recommended times to go.
Once you have completed all the mazes you can hang around the scare zones and watch the talent, check the wait board to see if there are any short maze or ride lines or if you have a Front of the Line Pass use up any trips you haven't already.
Do some shopping, grab a t-shirt, hang out in the scare zones and drive home safely.
Pro Tip: If you are at the event until it closes you may get to experience the amazing "Chainsaw Chase-Out". It's a great HHN tradition.