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Scottland Jacobson

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Thursday Evening Trip Report

Published: October 11, 2008 at 8:51 PM

We wandered into the park around 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, October 9th and found that the houses and rides were already open for HHN even though the posted opening time was 6:30 p.m. I won't give you every detail of our evening - but I will outline some key tips and opinions below:

Get the Express Pass!
Even having this killer front of the line advantage still did not permit us to do everything!! Lines on Thursday evening were averaging 1 hour for the houses - I cannot imagine not having Express - especially on a Friday or Saturday night.

My Disappointments...
There were only two - the park decorations and the constant entry into the houses.
After having visited Six Flags Great America last Sunday where their park was decorated to the hilt at every turn, I was let down by Univeral's decorations. Only the "Scare Zones" were decorated and even then, it didn't even come close to Great America's all encompassing Halloween flair.
And the houses just let people line through without stopping them at the entrance and letting them enter in groups. Entering in groups allows each 'scene' to be reset so that everyone can get a good scare. Of course, the crowds were so intense there's no way they could do separate groups entry without severely impacting wait times.

The Lines...
OMG! I could not believe how intertwined the lines were. You could be in line for one house and pass by long lines for at least two other houses. People kept asking me "what line are you in?" and I would forget what house I was waiting for! Their line system is just incredible! How they keep track I'll never know!

The Scare Zones
For the most part, interesting, but fairly ho hum. The entry "Path of the Wicked" was fun with "flying monkeys" literally gliding above your head on cables. And the Wicked Witch greeted you at the entrance. Fractured Tales was just...interesting. The Skoolhouse was a bit scary with the kids running around in spooky masks and banging against the iron fences. Asylum in Wonderland was creative, but not scary. American Gothic could have been scary with the pumpkin head creatures, but they chose to go after the young girls instead of 2 forty-something men. Streets of Blood was the best with the Body Collectors (who looked exactly like "The Gentlemen" from the Buffy episode "Hush") gliding across the pavement on roller tennis shoes. The guys with chainsaws were fun as well. But, the Scare Zones never really get me.

The Shows
We only got a chance to see Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure and we missed out on Rocky Horror and Brian Brushwood (which we will make a point to see when we return Sunday evening). Bill & Ted was good, cheesy fun. The McCain/Obama/Clinton impersonations at the beginning were the best. It's a fun, fast paced show skewering everything from Hannah Montana to Predator.

The Houses -
In order of "worst" to "best" - here they are:

#8 Creatures - Hillbillys are not scary! And the supposed AtomiComics "Strange Tales" creatures were few and far between. It had a good set, but you could tell the crowd was not interested as the house had a 5 minute wait time all night and they were begging folks to come in. They grabbed people at the exit to complete a survey. I gave it a 'D.'

#7 Interstellar Terror - I'm never very scared by space horror with the exception of Alien and the chilling Event Horizon. Most of the "monsters" in this house were bloody astronauts. Not really scary at all. Although they had good sets and a few good effects at the end.

#6 Reflections of Fear - Psycho doctors? Kinda scary. But overall, more gross than anything. Barely scared me at all. Funniest scare was the maintenance guy vaccuming up water that had leaked from the roof. Everyone thought he was part of the show!

#5 The Hallow - Your typical horror walk-through. Some good use of strobes and a great final scene with cow skull creatures. Very creative sets but again, not really, really scary.

#4 Scary Tales - This was JT's second favorite but I rated it fourth. It's a great house taking a twisted turn on classic fairy tales. Wait until you see what Alice is doing to the White Rabit! There was an excellent hall of mirrors that scared me so bad I slammed into the adjacent wall after getting spooked and bruised my arm! Watch out for the "bear" in the Goldilocks room! I left JT in the dust after that one!

#3 The Body Collectors - This one was creepy, creepy, creepy! As mentioned earlier, these Body Collectors were exactly like "The Gentlemen" and they were everywhere in the maze. They didn't speak - just appeared out of the shadows in several inconvenient places. The sets were old England "Jack the Ripper" era. They kept playing a swinging blade sound that would make you jump every time! Really, really, really scary. Loved it!

#2 Doomsday - Surprisingly my 2nd favorite and JT's 3rd. I'm usually ho-hum on the post-apocolyptic stuff but they did really good with this house. The guys working it knew how to get you scared. One even whispered "one for me" after scaring me so bad I jumped into the air screaming. The hall with hanging heads was quite fearful. Lots of screams - incredible sets - it's a good one!

#1 Dead Exposure - JT and I agreed that this house was phenomenal! JT was so scared he was actually shaking the whole time as he clawed into my back so he didn't lose me in the dark. There was a great plot (camera pictures turn the population into zombies), a beginning and an end (you seem to end up in the same exact precinct that you entered - but things have changed!) and incredible use of the dark and occassional flashes of light. Those zombies knew how to take advantage of the surprise and both JT and I were yelping throughout, anxious to get out. The "hanging zombie" room was just terrifying. If you can only see one house, don't miss this one!

If you're short on time or don't have Express, make sure you do the top 4 above. Dead Exposure is just not to be missed!

Overall, the houses themselves are what make HHN superior. The sets are amazing and the fact that you can walk through 8 different scary adventures is incredible. Get there right when it opens and hit as much as you can before the crowds pour in. We were able to hit a few rides on the Mummy and MIB, walk through Reflections of Fear and see Bill & Ted without needing our Express Passes, but after that, Express was a lifesaver.

It's an awesome experience and I'm looking forward to returning on Sunday. If you're in the area, don't miss it!

Replies (8)

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: October 12, 2008 at 10:19 AM

I was actually kind of disappointed in Six Flags Great America due to the lack of many scare actors out and about. Necropolis was great, but that was about it.
Scottland Jacobson

Published: October 12, 2008 at 2:09 PM

But their decorations are awesome! I wish Universal would have done more. They did have one lane with lit up pumpkins that was really cool. They should have done more of that. Guess the park being open during the day as a "non Halloween" park gets in the way.
Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: October 12, 2008 at 5:21 PM

Yeah, the decorations were pretty good at SFGA. Wow, thats pretty bad for Universal.
Joshua Counsil

Published: October 12, 2008 at 7:01 PM

Even though I have never gone to a HHN, I badly wanted to go this year. Why? Because Universal did such a fantastic job with the website. The Orlando site's "Enter Reflections of Fear" animation was amazing, some of the best advertising I've seen for any event/attraction.

But it left me wondering ... how are they going to live up to the hype when the advertisement was so immersive? They make the event seem as if the park will look nothing like it does during the regular season. And then, sure enough, when I previewed the scare zones on YouTube (specifically the Orlando Attractions Magazine videos), the sets looked rather empty. A couple of props here and there, but really not as I had pictured it.

It seemed that there were an unnecessary amount of houses, as well. I understand that more houses limit the lines at each attraction, but it seemed that a lot of them were just thrown together as last minute ideas. I think I would prefer more time put into the scare zones and have fewer, more focused houses.

On a final side note, "jumpy" horror has never been as good as truly creepy, psychological horror in my eyes. The best horror movies rely less on blood and gore and more on suspense and timing. I always wonder, then, why some houses can't just use creepy visuals, rather than hidden scare actors, to create a great Halloween experience. Anyone with me on this?

Scottland Jacobson

Published: October 12, 2008 at 9:34 PM

Sunday Update - Went back to HHN on the 12th. The crowds were even more insane! Plus, the park turns into "drunk fest 2008." There were so many obnoxiously intoxicated people that the scares existed more outside of the houses than in. We witnessed a domestic dispute, a shoving match and a passed out girl pulling a Lohan/Spears wardrobe recommendation.

Express was once again a lifesaver. Even with Express, Dead Exposure was still a 30 minute wait (and still the best and totally worth it!).

I must correct myself on the "hanging heads" in Doomsday - they were actually in The Hallow. And The Hallow really was strong this evening - moving up in my ranking. Don't miss it!

Reflections of Fear and Interstellar Terror continued to disappoint although Creatures ended up besting the two of them - but still not great compared to the other 5.

Also caught Rocky Horror and thought it was fabulous - great performers with good voices.

But why do people bring small children to this event???? Kids were crying as they were being dragged in and out of the houses. And a family of 4 left Rocky Horror midway through in disgust due to the sexual content. Hello people! Do they not know what they're in for!?!?

The sets in all the houses are still amazing, but I agree with Joshua that a bit more attention to the outside would make the event even better.

Todd Houts

Published: October 13, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Any idea if the Wednesday nights will be as crowded from past experience? We're traveling from Missouri to Florida this Friday and have tickets to the Wed Oct 22 HHN. I haven't spent the extra on the express pass (already dropped enough for week passes plus HHN add on) but if someone closer to the event strongly recommends it, I probably will. (Of course that will be the first time in 2008 it is on Wednesday - so I realize it is pure speculation I'm seeking.) Help anyone?

BTW, thank you VERY MUCH for the review of the houses. I'm sure it will help guide us.

Scottland Jacobson

Published: October 13, 2008 at 12:08 PM

Todd - Based on Thursday's crowds, HHN is THE event of the year in Orlando and the locals come out in droves regardless of "school night" or not. This was my first time, but I was kissing my Express passes both nights I was there and I treated them like precious gems that needed protecting in my hands. I would imagine that Wednesday may be a bit lighter than Thursday, but expect long waits. Take the IOA cross over in Seuss Landing at 5:45 p.m. as they'll let you in to HHN prior to the official 6:30 opening. Run to The Hallow, Scary Tales and Dead Exposure first - then work yourself back around to Doomsday and Body Collectors.
Crystal A

Published: October 14, 2008 at 6:17 AM

We went to HHN in Orlando last Saturday Night and we were overall pretty happy with this year's event. The biggest disappointment for me was the supposed "Bloody Mary" house- Reflections of Fear. The video at the entrance of the park was fabulous.... Mary looked a lot like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. After seeing the video we were compeltely excited for her house but she was in VERY FEW scenes within the house itself. In fact there were so few scare actors in the house it seemed like we were going through at breaktime or something. My favorite houses this year were Body Collectors and Scary Tales.

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