Event Review: Halloween Horror Nights 26 at Universal Orlando

September 17, 2016, 11:19 AM · Roll the dice and take a Chance. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has been the example of Halloween done right, and it's no different this year with its strong-yet-frightful female figurehead, Chance. HHN26's theme is "You Won't Stand a Chance" and it proves true when this insane character invites you to experience her “reality.”

HHN26 has nine haunted houses, five scare zones, and two stage shows. Most of the houses are based on major horror movies, but Universal brings three of its own original concepts for houses, too. And all the scare zones are original concepts, where “scareactors” will try anything to scare you. Lastly, the two shows will have you laughing, cringing... or both.

Haunted Houses

American Horror Story – From the hit FX television show, this house recreates scenes from seasons including Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel. The house that had the most lighting, you clearly can make out Lady Gaga’s character from the show. Scary, but not too scary, as this house tries to highlight some of the show’s best characters and sets.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Experience scenes from the hit horror movie with your host, Leatherface. Did you think you were safe from the chainsaws outside in the scarezones? Well, think again as some of the tallest people Universal come at you inside the house with chainsaws, as well. (Yep, there's still as loud.) As someone who doesn’t jump too often, this house got me good. I might try out for the jumping events at the Tokyo Olympics now.

The Walking Dead – Although you’re not going to find out who Negan kills, you will see some of the most recognizable scenes from seasons past — such as from the hospital in the first episode, Terminus, the prison, and Alexandria. Some people think The Walking Dead house has been around for too long, but this house was really done well this year. The attention to detail is great and scenes are true to form. I legitimately was scared when I passed through the room full of mirrors, which made it feel like you were being enclosed by a zombie horde. Definitely not a house to be missed this year.

The Exorcist
Photo courtesy Universal Orlando

The Exorcist – One of the most famous horror movies of all time, you will experience all that this possessed little girl goes through. Done well for a movie that was predominately shot in one room. Are you going to see the girl with the spinning head? Absolutely. Another very scary house.

Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield – Mike Myers is back and more murderous than ever. Another house like Chain Saw Massacre where Universal has some of their tallest employees as their murderous main character. Just as frightening as Texas Chain Saw Massacre.


Krampus – Misbehaved before Christmas? Well, the Austro-Bavarian legend won’t let you down as last year’s movie monster comes to life to take away those who misbehaved for Christmas. This house will assault all of your senses, including your sense of smell. A totally fun comedy-meets-horror house to visit, with little Krampuses jumping out everywhere.

Lunatics Playground 3D – A Universal original, be prepared to take a visit through Chance’s mind as you visit her in the insane asylum. Her boy, Jack, fled from the police back into his box and left poor Chance to be locked up. This house is visually stunning, but not for those who hate being disoriented. Will Chance make it out and recruit others? You know she will.

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch – Another Universal original, the theme is set to the late 1800’s in a town where gold miners and townsfolk bring death and destruction. A great set themed to the Old West, this house brings you through a dilapidated ghost town and all of its past residents. A fun house to take a gander.

Tomb of the Ancients – Universal’s last original haunted house, immortal beings of the past are ready to rule the living. Experience creatures from the ancient Egyptians to the Mayans as you take a trip through the beginning of civilization. Probably Universal’s best original house this year, it had me jump a couple of times.

Scare Zones

Survive or Die Apocalypse – This post-apocalyptic scene has you in the middle of a gang war, fighting for clean air. The scareactors are great in this one as they have the entire New York City to follow you around.

Lair of the Banshee – Find yourself in a centuries-old habitat where an evil comes to life. This zone aims to scare with its tight spaces and elaborately dressed scareactors. Probably the scariest of all the zones.

Dead Man's Wharf

Dead Man's Wharf – A ghost ship has returned to haunt the living. Set in another small area, old-school divers with brass helmets and barnacle-encrusted sailors surround you. Some of the most aesthetically stunning props and characters inhabit this scarezone.

Vamp '55 – Vampire greasers are ready to suck the living out of their 1955 Homecoming Parade. Located next to the “D-I-E”-In diner, this zone takes a comedic yet gruesome approach on a 1950’s homecoming parade where vampire floats display their latest victims. Another great place for a photo-op.

A Chance in Hell – Set in a prison, Chance is appearing to audition cellmates into her one of her acts. One of the first zones you’ll encounter you will see displays of Chance’s victims/auditioners. Sometimes Chance herself will be there, so make sure to try to grab a picture with this year’s host.


Academy of Villains: House of Fear – Take a gander at this standing-room only, cringe-worthy show. The insane asylum has taken over with a combination of dancing and “specialty” acts.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure – Nothing is safe in this comedy show. See Bill & Ted take on your beloved Pokémon Go and Stranger Things television show. This 45-minute show will have you laugh again as it did I. A great place to take a seat, but recommended for mature audiences.

With all the technology and wizardry of real-life horror movie experts such as The Walking Dead's Greg Nicotero, HHN26 is the closest place you can get to starring in your favorite horror movie. All of the senses are assaulted with all the sights, sounds, and even smells that make up this fright fest. When Jack’s away Chance will play, so make sure you visit her and all of her crazy friends this year.

What you need to know:

Rides that will be open:

Admission (prices vary):

And on the west coast:

Replies (9)

September 17, 2016 at 1:31 PM · I must of been at a different HHN...Scare Zones were lame compared to last year especially Dead Mans Wharf. That area last year had plenty of classic monsters who were available for selfies.
In the New York area looks like a poor remake of Mad Max where zombies have ruled for years.
There is no comparison to last years Jack the Clown show with this years Academy of Villains. The group I was with all looked at each other after that show and had the same reaction...what was that? Great dancing and acrobatics but not for an HHN. Scare me!
In the area of Springfield there were cheerleaders with chain saws. A poor substitute for last years clowns with chain saws. Lets face it clowns are meaner.
Yesterday was a walk through with my friends getting ourselves geared up for the houses tonight with the hope the inside main events will overshadow the disappointment of the outside scare zones.
September 17, 2016 at 7:09 PM · Nice article, Jeff.
September 17, 2016 at 9:25 PM · @ I do agree that this year's HHN doesn't compare to last year's, but last year was an anniversary year which had a seemingly higher budget. You may find that the houses aren't as scary as it was last year either. But, let us know what you think about the houses once you go through them.

@ thanks!

September 18, 2016 at 8:48 AM · I had the worse time at Halloween Horror nights last night. I do very much love it to death. I love the scares and the thrills. I believe it is done perfectly. However the lines are always so long, and you can't ever do all of it in one night. I never expected to, but I have medical issues and I can't stand in one spot for long periods of time, and every year I get the medical with no issues. This year I went and explain to them my condition and they refused to let me get one, and instead were going to make me pay for a wheel chair, but they said I'd still have to go through the regular lines with it. I went ahead and got the wheelchair because I had no other option. They couldn't care less about my condition. I went on with the night and by the second house I was kneeling over on the ground crying in pain waiting in the 75 minute line. The wheelchair didn't do anything expect let me rest which didn't help. I told them that I have to constantly be moving to prevent it from taking its toll on me. Also with previous year I was able most of what I wanted to with the medical and leave before it started hurting, but this year I had to stay the entire night to do only 3 things. I waited 20 minutes in the 3rd house and I couldn't take it and had to leave. I left the park in tears from the pain, and I only did 2 houses. It was a total waste of the $80 I spent. I am hoping next time it'll be better, but as of now I am extremely upset with universal for letting this happen to me. I believe they thought I was just some kid who didn't have any issue who just wanted to skip the line, but even when I showed them my xray they told me that my best option was a wheelchair and it obviously was not.
September 18, 2016 at 3:22 PM · This year has been a complete disappointment...so far. Last year, themed with Jack, has been on my mind for the last 11 months. Believing that Chance was to take the main stage and have a gruesome event of her own was genius. And it would have been, but the near sighted money grubbing executives at Universal don't know what makes the guests happy. Putting Chance as a talking head in the middle of the road to slow down people walking and causing a traffic jam of confusion is just poor planning. The dance show was terrific, if you are an old school break dancer like myself, but has no place in a horror show environment. I do not intend to editorialize the whole experience, people do enjoy the overall show and it is not fair to attempt to dissuade anyone. However, the Bill and Teds show has been my favorite part of every year. I can always count on them for current event parodies and slap stick humor. This show just outright sucks. First time I have ever walked out during the show. After 20% of the people had already cleared out before me. My group and I tried real hard to stomach the stupidity on stage, but 18 minutes was way too long and time I will never get back. I am really hoping the rest of the houses are good. I've been unimpressed so far. Exorcist house was decent enough. The line times are not accurate. I don't mind waiting, it is to be expected. But if you put 45 minutes, I shouldn't have to wait 122. That math is terrible and there is no concession, not even a complimentary bottle of water. What I expect from Universal is way more than this attempt at collecting my paycheck. I hope they continue to take outside advice and make adjustments through the next 30 days and bring back the fearful charm that HHN is supposed to have. I was a 10 year employee of Universal, so i tend to take their side on these matters. But, they have missed the mark...so far.
September 18, 2016 at 5:12 PM · ^ keep boo hooing and crying cause you have to wait in a line like the rest of the paying customers and don't get special treatment.
September 19, 2016 at 9:37 AM · I wouldn't want to do this event again without a FOTL pass. I was there in 2012, and while the houses were great, the most frightening thing was the wait times. I think my average wait was about 80 minutes, and then they rush you through the maze.
September 20, 2016 at 6:48 AM · What medical condition can someone have where they cannot wait for an attraction (even with a wheelchair)? No sarcasm, I'm genuinely curious.

September 20, 2016 at 6:50 AM · Jeff, I apologize for posting and not complimenting your articular. Well done! Thanks for not spoiling it for those of us going in a few weeks.

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