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Universal Studio Hollywood taking a 'shining' to Halloween Horror Nights

September 15, 2017, 8:42 PM · Halloween Horror Nights has returned to Universal Studios Hollywood, featuring a new line-up of mazes inspired by some of the most popular and enduring franchises in the horror genre.

The highlight this year is The Shining, which you will find in the Revenge of the Mummy queue on the Lower Lot. Inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film of the Stephen King book, this is Halloween Horror Night's first maze based on a King property. Creative John Murdy and his team have tried faithfully to depict the impossible-to-physically-create Overlook Hotel, creating a experience that leads visitors through all of the top moments from the film, including Jack's descent into madness in front of his typewriter, the creepy woman in the bathtub in Room 237, the Redrum door, and of course, the defining (and much parodied) "Here's Johnny" scene.

But the most impressive bit in the maze might be the Grady Twins, which (spoiler alert) are created by Horror Night's first use of a Pepper's Ghost effect. The Shining illustrates that a great maze doesn't have to be an endless procession of jump scares (though, to be fair, The Shining includes many), but — like a great horror film — it can offer a mix of creepy, chilling, and disorienting moments, as well.

Murdy and his team have cultivated relationships with many of Hollywood's horror directors and producers, which this year has paid off in three houses that are based in part on movies that have yet to come out.

Insidious: Beyond the Further, which you will find in the Jurassic Park queue on the Lower Lot, confounded fans watching its construction over the past month as its facade depicts a home from the upcoming Insidious: The Last Key, which won't hit theaters until January. Featuring moments from all four Insidious films, the maze leads visitors through the life of the films' parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainer, starting with her childhood and her mother's death by demon. From there, it's into "The Further," the film's netherworld, with visitors walking through portals that take us from one film moment to the next, each defined by the HHN's typical misdirection — the set design of the moment lures your attention, allowing the scareactor to "hit" you from other direction.

It's not just creative storytelling. It's brilliant operations work, too, as the jump scares inevitably push people into the next scene, keeping the flow of guests moving. Which HHN needs, as crowds typically push wait times for the mazes far over an hour. (We'll get to some strategy for managing that, in a bit.)

Another maze featuring an upcoming film is SAW: The Games of Jigsaw (on the Metro Sets on the Backlot), which includes a sneak peek of moments from the eighth Saw movie, Jigsaw, which opens next month. As fans of the enduring franchise should expect, it's one trap after another in this maze.

Finally The Horrors of Blumhouse (on the Upper Lot) mashes up three franchises from the studio that is on course to becoming the 21st century's most popular horror factory: The Purge, Sinister, and the upcoming Happy Death Day. Here's how Universal describes the new flick, "You will encounter the deja vu scenario, forced to relive the last day of your lives over and over again, trying to escape a mysterious masked killer."

Trying to escape a mysterious masked killer, over and over again? That's not just deja vu — that's the TL;DR of Halloween Horror Nights. Other mazes at this year's event include:

American Horror Story: Roanoke (on the Metro Sets on the Backlot) brings the latest completed season of the FX anthology series to Halloween Horror Nights. Instead of rushing though multiple seasons of AHS, as this maze did at last year's event, the Roanoke installation can take the time to develop the tone of of a single season, allowing visitors to feel more convincingly immersed in the experience. Set in a farmhouse in the backwood of North Carolina, haunted by the lost colony of Roanoke on the site, the maze takes you through a litany of Horror Nights staples, including demonic spirits, sacrifices, and cannibalism. Yummy.

Ash vs Evil Dead also plays with the trope of a rickety old building in the woods, before bringing us into the modern day and the Starz network series of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise. Ash Williams has screwed up and summoned the Evil Dead again, setting up another chainsaw battle for visitors to walk though, without becoming collateral damage. This maze is also on the Metro Sets.

Titans of Terror (on the Upper Lot) is this year's All-Star maze, recreating top moments with Leatherface of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th, and Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The park's The Walking Dead Attraction in the Upper Lot also will be open for the event, featuring additional scareactors from the normal, daytime allotment.

This year's scare zones include Hell-O-Ween on the Upper Lot, Urban Inferno on the Backlot's Metro Sets, and on your way to those from the Lower Lot, the Toxic Tunnel.

The Titans of Terror return on this year's Terror Tram, joined by everyone's favorite demonic toy, Chucky from Child's Play, who serves as "host" for the Halloween Horror Nights version of the park's Studio Tour. And Las Vegas' Jabbawockeez are back for another hip-hop dance show in the Upper Lot's Castle Theater, this time with a 1950s twist.

Okay, let's talk logistics now. Halloween Horror Nights is hard-ticket, after-hours event that officially begins at 7pm, but early entry is available at no extra charge starting at 5pm, with select mazes opening at 5:15. Here's the early line-up from Murdy, himself:

Be sure to follow Murdy @HorrorNights on Twitter for time-saving tips and insights, as well as the occasional give-away. If you want to see mazes instead of the backs of the parties in front of you in line all night, getting there for early entry is a must. Start with those early-entry mazes, but if you can't get through all of them before the big crowds show up, keep with the mazes on the backlot, then work your way through the Lower Lot mazes, then to the Upper Lot mazes, the Jabbawockeez show, and Terror Tram. Watch your watch, though. The Terror Tram line closes at 11:45 on Friday and Saturdays and 11:15 on other nights. Don't get caught in an other maze queue and miss that cut-off.

If you are successful and get through all the mazes, The Simpsons Ride, Transformers, Jurassic Park, and Revenge of the Mummy are open during Halloween Horror Nights, too. All other attractions, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, are closed. For a couple of nice extras to make up for that, there is an Opening Scaremony in Production Central on Upper Lot at 7pm, and if you stay to the end of the event, you can run for your life to the exit in the nightly Chainsaw Chase-out.

If you can't make it for early entry, your best option for seeing everything in one night might be the Front of Line ticket, which allows you to skip the wait one time on each of the event's mazes (and the open attractions, too). Prices range from $199-219 a night, and include event admission, but some nights have sold out already. You other option to see everything is to buy a Frequent Fear Pass for $159, which gets you into 16 nights of the event — plenty of opportunities to see it all over multiple visits, but at the cost of still waiting in a lot of lines, unless, again, you get there early. So... spend money or time. Your choice.

Halloween Horror Nights runs through November 4 this year. It runs every Friday and Saturday night, Thursday nights starting September 28, Sunday nights starting October 1, plus Wednesday, October 25, and Halloween night, Tuesday, October 31. Tickets, after tonight, start at $69 at halloweenhorrornights.com.

Replies (5)

September 16, 2017 at 8:25 PM · I will say that front of the line is totally worth saving up for. I've done it the past two years and it takes a lot of stress off of your day/ evening. I refuse to wait 2+ hours for a maze/house these days. Front of the line allowed us to experience all mazes, and then some. Highly recommended especially if you're not staying at a hotel, or if this is your only visit to the park for years.
September 18, 2017 at 5:56 AM · "Highly recommended especially if you're not staying at a hotel"

A hotel stay does not get you Universal Express for HHN (not even for the rides). The only way to get front of the line access during HHN is to purchase it individually or as part of an RIP Tour.

September 18, 2017 at 9:45 AM · Russel, you're misunderstanding my comment. What I mean is if you don't get front of the line, expect to stay late. Having a hotel may make it easier to make the call to stay until close especially for people who drive from San Diego or Santa Barbara or any other nearby drivable city to try to get through more than 3 mazes. Never said you get a front of the line for staying at a hotel.
September 18, 2017 at 10:08 AM · Understood. It is a common misconception, especially for HHN at Universal Orlando, that guests staying at on-site or partner hotels receive a front of the line/Universal Express perk for HHN (some hotels do occasionally offer discounted express passes). For certain properties that is true for daily operations, but is not applicable to HHN. Honestly, I would never recommend attending a late night park event if you plan on driving more than 2 hours. We live just a hair over 2 hours from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and I can attest that trying to drive home after walking around a theme park all day and staying through a nighttime event until closing (after midnight) is less than ideal.
September 20, 2017 at 12:04 AM · Agreed. Staying all day and then doing a late night event is fun but dangerous for the drive home! Hotels are there for a reason.

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