Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights preview with Creative Director John Murdy

September 10, 2014, 8:56 PM · This afternoon at Universal Studios Hollywood, Halloween Horror Nights Creative Director John Murdy walked us through two of the mazes under construction for the annual Halloween event: The Walking Dead: The End of the Line, and Clowns 3D Music by Slash.

John Murdy

"The Walking Dead is by far the biggest property in the world horror, and continues to be, year after year. It's transcended the typical horror genre. And we know that from our guests. We know that when we ask, 'what brought you here?' property-wise, there's nothing that compares with it," Murdy said.

Scareactors portraying walkers will roam outside and inside the Walking Dead maze, attacking all visitors within. But fans of the show will be rewarded with a stream of references to the current season in this year's maze.

"Each year is a new season, and we get to pick and choose what we want to do," Murdy said. This year, fans will get to walk through Cell Block D, then into homage to Carol with a pair of burned bodies ("they should look like hot dogs that have been left on the grill for four hours," Murdy said). "This as far as we go with the prison this year. Now we want to go to new places that we featured in season four, and we start with the Big Spot store."

Inside the Big Spot

A trio of scareactors will be working inside the store. But if you've got a moment to spare while they scare, check out all the fake labels that Murdy's team created for the props.

Fake labels

"It's not like I can just go to BevMo, and buy bottles to put on the shelves," Murdy said. One of his team's fake products especially pleased him, however.


After exiting the store, it's on to an encounter with Moss Walker, then it's through the hedges for another walker attack, before getting to the funeral home. "There's a great scene in the mortuary where all the walkers attack, and that's what we're doing here, as multiple walkers attack you," Murdy said.

"And then, the whole last section of the maze is the train tunnel. That was my personal favorite moment on the show this year, when Glenn had to go to the train tunnel, and you remember that the roof caved in, with big piles of concrete and walkers trapped in the concrete. That's what we are doing."

Here's Murdy setting up the maze, and a few selected highlights from our walk-through:

Before our trip through The Walking Dead, Murdy took us through Clowns 3D Music by Slash, featuring the work of the former guitarist for Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver.

"We'd never done that before, to have a famous rock icon score a maze they way you'd score a movie," Murdy said. "The music changes room by room and it's all in sync with the beat, so it's a pretty complicated maze. When he first played me his first demo, I immediately went, 'awesome,' because not only did he get the vibe of this clown maze that we're creating, but it sounds like Slash."

"Clown mazes have been done a million times," Murdy said. "Clown 3D mazes have been done a million times, so we needed to give our unique twist and spin on it. So what if somewhere on Route 66 there was this ice cream emporium, and over time it evolved and they added a little family fun center and funhouse? And for a long time it flourished, and it was really popular, but then people hated clowns as the years went on, and nobody wanted to be a clown anymore, so they couldn't get clowns to work in their ice cream factory or their funhouse. These people have fallen on hard times, and they need to come up with a unique way to drive business again."

Clowns 3D entrance

The result is "Sweetlicks Family Fun Center and Ice Cream Emporium," where the clowns aren't just giving away free ice cream to get new customers — they're luring victims to be butchered into their next batch of ice cream. In addition to the 3D effects, the maze will employ a progression of scents, from ice cream and cotton candy to urine and vomit, as, say it with me now, "things go horribly wrong."

The cutting board

The maze's finale was inspired by, of all things, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Murdy said, with a clown car barreling toward visitors for one final collision.

Clown car

The car wasn't loaded with the clown characters this afternoon, but they were waiting outside to be installed. And, in a tribute to the maze's composer, one of the finale clowns will be modeled on Slash himself.

Clowns finale

Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights opens September 19 and runs for 22 evenings through November 2.

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