The Halloween Season is officially here. On the west coast we're starting off with Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. Over the weekend we enjoyed two evenings at the event, the first during media/fan preview night and the second on Sunday night using our Frequent Fear Passes.
We'll start off with saying that in our opinion, this is a VERY strong year for the event. One of the main reasons is that it seems they've actually learned how to have fun. More on that below. Let's get to it.
Written by Gregg Condon
Our media night started right at park opening as we made our way all the way from the entry plaza to the backlot.
On Sunday we used our Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood Survival Guide utilizing early entry and no express passes with some success. Make sure you check it out prior to heading to the event.
We stopped by the Universal Store to check out some of the amazing merchandise. They've really upgraded their merchandise game this year.
Slideshow of some of the awesome merchandise
The amount of mazes available for Early Entry is kind of insane, and is all of them except 2 (and Walking Dead)
Quickly pointed out that Ghostbusters is not on this, but still some amazing artwork.
Let's go to the mall!!! Today!!!
Scoops Ahoy, wouldn't mind if this was a permanent addition
These Universal Monster murals by Tristan Eaton are seriously amazing. We love, love, love them so much.
So let's get on with our maze reviews. We'll preface with this ... we think that overall this is one of the best line-up's of mazes in HHN Hollywood history, if not the best ever. There is a great mix of horror, comedy, pop culture, IP's and great scenery.
We'd been considering getting the frequent fear for years and are very glad this is the year we finally did.
Let's head into the mazes!!
We are huge fans of the show, in fact, after Season 3 we re-watched all 3 seasons again. And even enjoyed Season 2 (that this maze is based off of) more than the first time. So we were pretty excited about this maze.
Unfortunately the maze didn't really translate from screen to maze.
The maze suffered from a lot of duplication of scares, with Demigorgon's, Demidogs at pretty much every turn surrounded by a lot of black walls.
The maze started off strong however.
One of our biggest concerns was the scene depicted in the artwork for the maze not being included in the maze itself. Not sure if the budget was smaller this year due to all of the other IP and extra mazes.
We're very much hoping this one improves over the next few weeks as it's a great IP, a popular IP and we'd love to see it back in the years to come. But with it being a very strong year, something has to be last, and sadly it's this one.
House of 1000 Corpses
House of 1000 Corpses sufferers from being compared to the amazing 3D maze that was at HHN previously, and it's really not fair. Because this maze is great fun.
The talent in here is fantastic and really understands the source material.
Curse of Pandora's Box
The first of the original mazes for 2019 this maze has some amazing scenes, amazing talent and a great score. Also, probably our favorite opening scene of any maze at the event.
Lots of props from last years Universal Monsters and House of Horrors in here, which we absolutely don't have an issue with. Just a fun maze that has a high repeat factor.
I'll be honest, I didn't really find Us, the movie, to be scary. Disturbing, absolutely. Interesting story, for sure. Amazing directing and acting, without a doubt!!
The maze however, probably had the most amount of "scares" and creepiness. We absolutely loved this. Not only did it tell the story of the film, not only did it capture without flaw the feel of the film, but the talent really seemed to enjoy bringing these characters to life. It was just great.
Frankenstein meets the Wolfman
A continuation of last years amazing Universal Monsters maze, this one definitely takes a more Gothic feel than last years maze, but is still just as great on the characters, talent, scenes and scares.
The music definitely sets this one apart and is just such a part of the legacy of these two characters.
Holidayz in Hell
Our absolute favorite scare zone at this event last year, and maybe one of our favorite of the entire year, this year it was brought to life as a maze. And it didn't disappoint AT ALL.
So much so, somebody (me) forgot to hit record when we got in the maze, so sadly no video. But seriously, check this one out. The line has been very manageable during our first two visits. Not to be missed.
I'm a HUGE fan of the original two Creepshow movies, they were kind of my first foray into horror when I was growing up. So I had really high expectations for this maze. And I absolutely LOVED it.
It really is kind of a love letter to the films with a bit from the upcoming series thrown in. And if the walk-through is any indication, the new series will definitely capture the look and feel of the source material. Can't wait to see the show and go through this maze again.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Remember when I said at the beginning that Universal finally figured out how to have "fun" with their mazes? Well they did. It's no coincidence that our top two mazes of this year are based on 80's horror comedy movies (and one pure comedy if we're being honest).
Are you going to get huge scares in this maze? Probably not. But you're going to have fun. And the talent in the maze knows it. You always know when the scare-actors at any event know they've got a good time going on, and it definitely shows in this one.
That leaves our absolute favorite maze of Halloween Horror Nights 2019. And that's Ghostbusters. To say that we were all looking forward to this maze would be an understatement. And that's usually when a maze doesn't live up to expectations. That's not the case with this one at all.
This maze isn't exactly a literal retelling of the film, and has some typical HHN effects, but it has so much more than that. It has a lot of dedicated talent, some really cool effects and again, just a lot of fun.
Well that wraps it up for this HHN Hollywood update. Since we have Frequent Fear so we'll be back a few more times including one night for the amazing Chainsaw Chaseout.
Be sure to share your thoughts on the event below. We'd love to hear what your rankings are.
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: In years past have made changes to our Survival Guide after opening weekend, and that will likely be the case this year.
September: 13-15, 19-22, 26-29
October: 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 31
If you want a bit more info about this years event, check out John's panel from Midsummer Scream
Early Entry Mazes
The line-up for Early Entry Mazes is kind of ridiculous, ridiculously awesome.
The times for early entry are as follows:
In addition to Fan Preview Night they are also doing 80's nights this year on Thursdays. Thursdays usually are pretty good days to go so we're not sure if this will change things. We'll definitely be checking out at least one of them.
We used our strategy below on Sunday Night September 15th, a few notes:
There are two scenarios for this maze, one for Early Entry, one if you missed it.
Early Entry: As mentioned above, early entry will begin at 6:00pm. Stranger Things is one of the mazes available (we have heard that this can actually open at 6:15). If this is the case you should absolutely head here first.
No Early Entry: If you do not get there in time for early entry but are there at opening check the wait time for Stranger Things. If it's 45 minutes or more, head to the Metro Set Mazes first. The line will be there all night. Better to wait in some shorter lines and come back and wait for Stranger Things later.
Front of the Line tip: If lines are short when you get to the lower lot (or if you are there for Early Entry) DO NOT use your Front of the Line Pass for Stranger Things. Go through once with the GP and use your FOTL pass later in the evening when it's busier.
Once you have walked through Stranger Things we suggest skipping Killer Klowns for now and heading to the Metro Set.
Frankenstein vs Wolf Man: We suggest to begin here, as the flow of the Metro Sets takes you in a natural progression.
Ghostbusters: Frankenstein vs Wolf Man exists at the entrance to Ghostbusters. The time posted may be longer than what it actually is. If there are 3 full switch-backs full it's about a 30-40 minute wait.
Creepshow: Finish here before doing the mini scare zone and heading back to the Lower Lot. This line moves pretty quick.
Front of the Line tip: 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.
Once you have finished the Metro Set mazes and made your walk back to the Lower Lot, we suggest doing Killer Klowns prior to heading back to the upper lot.
Note: If the line seems really long and some of the upper lot mazes are shorter, skip this (for now) and head upstairs. The longest this line was during our visit was in the 8:00-9:00 hour.
Front of the Line tip: If the line for Killer Klowns is 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 the line is long use your FOTL for Killer Klowns and Stranger Things (if you didn't use it earlier).
Jurassic World: This is usually the part of the survival guide where we tell you to skip Jurassic Park (now World). But we're not heartless. We realize many of you will not have ridden Jurassic World yet. So this once, we're going to give you a pass. But seriously, do single rider, and only if you haven't ridden it yet. Because it's truly awesome.
But even with that, we'd suggest coming back down to do it later in the evening, after you've finished all of the mazes.
You are probably going to need to rest by now, feel free to stop by one of the eateries and get a snack, a meal, etc. Sit around the upper lot scare zone and watch the talent do their thing.
If you've followed the strategy at this point you'll have four mazes (and Walking Dead) left and plenty of time to do them.
Us and Pandora's Box: Since there is no Terror Tram this year they are utilizing the Studio Tour queue area for these two mazes. The line will likely move slower than the Terror Tram simply due to capacity. But there's always nice video clips and more here so enjoy that while you wait.
Holidayz in Hell: This maze is right in the middle of the upper lot so will probably be rather popular. That said, in years past this maze has had a shorter line in the 10pm-12am timeframe simply due to the fact that everybody is on the lower lot or backlot during this time.
House of 1000 Corpses: The last new maze is located near Waterworld. Many people will go here first when getting to the event, because it's the first thing they'll see. Don't make that mistake. Head over here last.
Walking Dead: If there is no line or you don't visit the park much then go for it.
Front of the Line tip: Same as Lower Lot and Backlot. If the lines are on the short side go through once with the GP and once using your Front of the Line. You always see different things on each walk-through.
Like the last few years, there is only one show at HHN this year. 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.
Alright, that'll do it for this years Survival Guide. We will be attending 2 nights over the first weekend (once with Front of the Line and once without) so we'll be updating this for sure early next week.
The announcement yesterday wasn't really much of a surprise to anybody. Much of the information had leaked already and even when pressed, no details about specific lands or attractions was revealed.
Of course, that doesn't mean that a lot can't be seen from the image below (click for larger versions of each picture).
So from looking at this, the general consensus is the park will contain the following lands:
There is also a dual racing coaster that is unclear where it would go as well as some other smaller attractions. So let's move around the park.
This is widely believed to be the entry to the park, not a whole lot of details to be seen here, but definitely looks like it will be fantastic.
Looks like some pretty good sized stores, restaurants and maybe some kind of attraction here.
How To Train Your Dragon
Moving to the right, this is believed to be for How To Train Your Dragon. Can see at least one coaster here (the dual launched coaster doesn't seem to be a part of that land).
Would imagine some other family friendly rides in this area as well. Looks like maybe some water play area's and some kind of "training " facility on the bottom left.
About that that dual racing coaster. This looks a LOT like West Coast Racers. Like a LOT a lot. Rumors are that WCR was originally being designed for something with Universal that was a few years out, so read into that what you will. We have no idea if that is accurate or not.
While no theme is readily apparent for this it looks like it will be amazing.
Below are some pics from our West Coast Racers tour a couple of weeks ago for reference.
Wizarding World/Fantastic Beasts
Next over is the Wizarding World. I have to admit, this is the land that has me scratching my head the most. Yes, the Potter Universe is amazing, all of the theme park additions have been amazing. But the Fantastic Beasts films have been failures both financially and creatively (especially the last one).
While, granted, you don't have to have a good IP to have a good attraction **cough** Transformers **cough** it kind of helps. It's also kind of interesting how the fireworks cover a lot of this area of the artwork. Will have to see how this plays out.
Around the corner is what is widely believed to be a Universal Monsters area. Now there have been rumors of a Universal Monsters Dark Ride coming to Universal Hollywood for YEARS. The location where Secret Life of Pets is going was rumored to be the location. This has been a huge dream of John Murdy's for years, and it seems that maybe now his dream is becoming reality, bigger than he thought.
If this is a Universal Monsters area I'd imagine that John, Chris Williams and Michael Aiello are at the very least consulting, but I'd imagine much more. If you are going to Midsummer Scream this weekend, don't ask them about it. They aren't gonna answer.
Of course, as soon as the announcement was made thoughts of Halloween Horror Nights coming to this park were eventually shared by lots of people, including us. I think the idea has merit. Just because there are no "soundstages" shown in this art doesn't mean they don't exist. I think it's definitely in the realm of possibility of having two HHN events in the next decade. But we'll see.
Just a warp pipe away is Nintendo Land. No surprise here AT ALL.
No need to get into this too much, but Mario Kart, Donkey Kong ... going to be epic.
Heart of the Park
There's a large area in the middle with lots of water (a theme in this park). Looks like some restaurants, a gorgeous looking theater or attraction building, fountain shows and different levels of walkways underneath waterfalls.
There's also some kind of amphitheater (near Universal Monsters) and other show area's which is good for those who enjoy that type of thing. Perhaps major concerts coming to Universals new park?
And last and certainly not least, the hotel. All those bloggers gotta have somewhere to stay right?
This looks fantastic.
Overall we didn't really get a whole lot in the way of "surprises" with yesterdays announcement. Lots to examine over the next few years for sure.
As to why they didn't announce it all at once? Why make one announcement vs dragging them out a bit and having 5 or 6 separate announcements.
Or could it also be that not everything in the park is 100% set in stone. Again, referring to the Wizarding World section here.
Going to be very interested to see if that happens or if they go in a different direction. Would imagine any ride systems they have created for that area would remain, but perhaps with another IP. Will definitely be an interesting few years.
What are your thoughts on Epic Universe? Be sure to share them below.