Few theme park attractions elicit as widely ranging reactions as Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Each year, it seems, some fans dismiss the event as a failure when compared with previous editions, while others hail it as the very best one yet.
Obviously, people’s opinions differ, as they do for almost all entertainment. But I feel the divergence of opinion over HHN is exceptional. A couple of comments from John Murdy and Michael Aiello - from my recent conversation with the creative directors from each coast - provide some perspective that might help explain why some fans adore this event while others pine for years past.
Aiello, who oversees the event in Orlando, mentioned that anthology houses typically get higher ratings in Universal’s surveys of event guests than single-instance IP houses do. That surprised me because it runs against the consensus I’ve heard from fans online, who typically rail against houses that combine multiple movies or series into one installation.
Fans who feel strongly enough about themed entertainment (or anything else for that matter) are not typically a representative sample of the larger population of consumers. So it’s possible that those who feel a stronger than typical reaction toward anthology houses are more likely to dislike them than those whose reaction is not strong enough to prompt them to share that reaction online.
Or... it’s just possible that haters love to hate more than lovers love to love. Whatever. But Aiello’s comment remind us that online consensus does not necessarily reflect true popular consensus. (I haven’t taken one of Universal’s HHN surveys so I can’t comment as to whether their questions tend to lead respondents to one conclusion or another about certain houses.)
But what drives the public displeasure toward recent editions of HHN, whether that displeasure is representative of a broader consensus or not? That’s where a comment from Murdy, the creative head of the Hollywood event, informs.
Murdy was speaking about the evolution of HHN IP line-ups since Hollywood revived its event in 2006. During that time, the focus has shifted from the slasher-driven franchises and jump scares that once defined Halloween Horror Nights to a broader focus that welcomes IP that many fans would not consider “horror,” including Stranger Things and this year’s Ghostbusters.
Mazes just aren’t collections of jump scares anymore, either, with ever-advancing puppetry and stage effects making Halloween Horror Nights something that many people who never would consider themselves horror fans now queue to enjoy.
And that, I think, fuels much of the resentment with the modern HHN. I suspect that many of its most vocal online critics miss the event’s previous focus on old-school horror.
What was once a sharply-focused event catering to a devoted fans of a specific genre is now a much more crowded event that accommodates a pastiche of franchises loosely connected with the supernatural.
Of course, the counter argument here is... look at all those people in the queues, packing an event that offers more entertainment options than ever. The people have voted, and they voted yes on the ‘new’ Halloween Horror Nights... regardless of what a smaller selection of once-passionate might feel.
So... what do you think?Tweet
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