Universal Studios Hollywood unveils its 2007 Halloween Horror Nights2007-10-06
By Robert Niles: Tonight, the west coast had its turn.
One week after Halloween Horror Nights kicked off at Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood unveiled the 2007 version of its annual Halloween affair.
The evening started off with actors congratulating one another during an awards show. (Hey, it's Hollywood, folks. This is what they do.) Film director and rock star Rob Zombie held court, recalling stories about horror directing legend Roger Corman...
Rob Zombie kicks off Universal's Halloween Horror Nights
David Arquette showed up in full Halloween garb, a Zorro get-up fresh off of Castro Street...
Actor David Arquette gets a rare chance to be the most famous person in the room.
But Child's Play director Don Mancini stole the show with a politically-charged speech that accurately summed up the horror genre's appeal.
"There is a code in the horror genre. Jason [from Friday the 13th] kills people who engage in premarital sex. Hannibal Lecter kills the rude... but no one dies who has committed no wrong."
"If I could borrow a line for Sally Field... if Freddy, Jason and Leatherface ruled the world, there would be no more goddamn wars. These characters, unlike some governments, always insist on having reasonably plausible motives for killing people."
So let us accept this reasonably plausible motive for a Blog Flume entry, and get away from the made-for-media photo op and into the park.
Full disclosure: This was my first Halloween event. Yep, your TPI founder and editor has managed to avoid Halloween events up until now. So I've got nothing for you in terms of context to pass judgment on tonight's entertainment. I'll just lay out what you've got here:
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal has a different look -- a darker look -- than a normal night at the theme park. Walking through the upper lot, blue smoke swirls down the street, and a ghoul in a top hat comes out of nowhere to get uncomfortably close to certain guests walking by. A tattooed guy in a skeleton shirt thrusts a chainsaw at people, giving it a menacing whir just to make them jump. There are sirens and spotlights, and blinking red horns atop people's heads.
Whach-you lookin' at?
I did a lap around the upper and lower lots, to get a feel for the place and the scare actors, then hopped on for a spin on Mummy and a walk through the Friday the 13th maze in the old western stunt show space. Mummy, as usual, paled in comparison with its far superior Orlando sibling, but I had fun in the maze and with the scare actors. (I am officially setting 79,840 as the over/under on the number of times guests will say "Don't Tase Me, Bro" to scare actors at various theme park events this Halloween season.)
With a bat like this, maybe the Angels wouldn't be down two-zip.
I can't tell you if Universal's mazes or actors were any better or worse than those at other parks. But I will say that, for an event so well themed to death, what struck me most about Halloween Horror Nights was how the event seemed so utterly alive.
Unlike most theme park entertainment, there's a competitive element available at a Halloween event: Can you scare me, or not? And it is a competition between you, the visitor, and the scare actors in mazes and scare zones. It's not like testing yourself against the twisted metal of a roller coaster or the seeing if an animatronic can make you laugh. This is mano a mano, person to person, totally alive.
I always play close attention when walking through a theme park. (Heck, it's my job.) But I felt my senses more alive than ever walking through HHN, as I tried to initiate eye contact with every scare actor I could find lurking in the fog and shadow. I'll stare you down before you can make *me* scream, bub!
And I did. So let's take off, perhaps, for a crew in early season that couldn't get the best of a Halloween rookie. But I'm giving Universal credit for helping me enjoy USH in a way I never had before.
Halloween Horror Nights runs Friday and Saturday nights in October, as well as Sunday, Oct. 28 and Halloween, Oct. 31.
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