The most popular cable TV show in America, The Walking Dead has become a staple of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, both here in Hollywood and in Orlando. With this attraction, Universal is giving The Waking Dead a year-round presence in its Hollywood park, allowing it reach more casual fans who don't make it to the annual Halloween event.
Universal's also plussed up the experience for this attraction. With the bigger budgets that full-time attractions allow, Universal's John Murdy and his team have taken advantage to create several visually stunning set pieces that far exceed anything fans have seen at Halloween Horror Nights.
You start, as Rick Grimes did, disoriented and walking through the halls of the Harrison Memorial Hospital. (Okay, let's just go ahead and nitpick that this rural Georgia hospital somehow is sitting on Baker Street in London's Westminster in the park.) After you turn the first corner inside the hospital, you are confronted by the iconic "DON'T OPEN DEAD INSIDE" doors, from behind which animated hands grasp at you.
From there, you'll hear a bit more set-up in the hospital before emerging into the walk-through itself. The first of the three main set pieces in the walk through is the burning cabin scene (from season four?), which employs what might be the best use of theme park fauxfire I've ever seen. And since this is a walk-through, you're just inches away from the effect, which is enhanced by a burning walker who emerges from the flames. I could have stood here in amazement for many minutes, taking in every last visual detail. But Universal's got to keep things moving, and whenever a guest lags, a walker will be there to jumpscare them into the next scene.
The second major set piece is the prison, the West Georgia Correctional Facility. Here, the wonder comes not from any single effect, as in the burning cabin, but in the combination of dozens of practical and visual effects. Gunfire, projections, lighting and sound all come together to convince you that you've stumbled into a firefight instead of the sanctuary you'd hoped to find. Pardon the pun, but it really is overkill with the level of detail that Universal has piled into this scene — with unique action in each upstairs cell, not to mention a museum's worth of props and icons from the TV series scattered on the ground. Again, you want to linger forever to catch all the references, but those walkers have other plans for you.
The final major piece is the warehouse, where you discover your fate. The highlight here is the amazing animatronic work by The Walking Dead director Greg Nicotero and his team at KNB Efx. Using the same molds as the TV series, the bodies in this scene both repulse and enthrall you with their graphic detail.
The finale is straight out of Halloween Horror Nights, with dark and claustrophobic switchbacks leading you into a mass of walkers, who welcome you with very open arms.
Here's the full walk-through video:
Universal's planning to double the number of scareactors in the attraction for Halloween Horror Nights, which should tell HHN veterans that they won't find the number of scares here that they've come to expect in a typical maze. Universal built The Walking Dead Attraction for its daytime audience, and the focus here is on detail and creating a richly immersive environment inspired by the show. Someone who's not a Walking Dead fan can push through and appreciate the impressive visuals in the burning cabin and prison scenes before hightailing it through the gore at the end. But a Walking Dead fan could easily spend hours walking through again and again, trying to pick up all the detail Universal has packed into this attraction.
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