Midsummer Scream presents Awaken the Spirits event Saturday, Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Creative Director John Murdy talked fans through this year's Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives maze.During his presentation at the
"When you look back in horror history, especially some of the older films, there's not a lot of great female monster characters," Murdy said. "The Bride is one of the most iconic ones there is, and she's in it ['The Bride of Frankenstein' movie from 1935] for like this much. We thought she deserves her own story, and she deserves her own maze."
Murdy credited former Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights Creative Development Show Director Patrick Braillard for the idea to bring the Bride to Halloween Horror Nights, though both Hollywood and Orlando have developed their own takes on the concept.
At this point, we enter Spoiler City. So, much like the foolish future victims walking into the killer's lair in every horror movie ever made, you've been warned.
"This is us creating a sequel that never existed," Murdy said. "So you have to think about how to do that storytelling wise in the context of the maze, because a maze is a lot different than a movie or TV show. We can't just stop and do a bunch of dialogue in the middle of it. It's loud. It's a chaotic environment. So early on I kept coming back to Mary Shelley's book, which actually included the Bride - it is part of the book. I thought, well, this would be cool if this [The Bride of Frankenstein Lives] was a book that came out later that nobody knows about."
Murdy also cited Bernie Wrightson's illustrated version of Frankenstein as an inspiration for the look of the maze, whose facade artist Lucas Culshaw created in the style of a Victorian novel's title page.
"We wanted you to literally walk into the story. We wanted to use the idea of a book's chapters as a reoccurring transitional element that you encounter as a guest as you walk through the maze, with imagery, with pictures, with a little bit of writing and also with voiceover. In this maze, the Bride talks, just like Frankenstein learned to talk in 'The Bride of Frankenstein,' in 'The Bride of Frankenstein Lives,' the Bride is going to talk."
Murdy also revealed an Easter egg on the maze facade - a listing of the "book"'s publishers that namechecks the creators of the maze, including Culshaw, Chris Williams, and Slash, who is referenced by his birth last name, Hudson.
"I didn't feel good about putting my last name up there. It just felt wrong, so I changed to Murdoch. [Murdy] didn't sound English enough."
"And then there's the illustration. This moment captures the end of 'The Bride of Frankenstein' from 1935. The Monster has just thrown the switch. The explosion's gone off. The castle is starting to crumble, and you can see the Bride in the distance. We hear her out front as you're waiting to go inside. She says, 'My story begins where his story ended. But monsters never truly die.'"
"The Bride has survived because she's awesome. She can do that. But the Monster has been trapped underneath all this rubble, huge beams have fallen from the ceiling. His legs are completely shattered, and she sees him. And in the prologue is called 'Something Survived," and then she has to make decision. The decision is does she save the monster or not? She decided to save him, and the reason is because even though she got a little freaked out and screamed at him, he's the only one in her short, short life that showed her any kindness, so she decides that she has to save him."
"You see that prologue images, then you walk inside, and we reproduce that scene three dimensionally for you. You see the Monster trapped underneath the huge pillars. The Bride screams primally, and the scream turns into the word, 'Dead.' So, the Monster is almost devoid of life at this point."
"The next chapter is called Saving the Monster. At this point, you see the Bride and she's got the Monster over her shoulder and she's carrying them through the woods. You can see the smoldering castle away in the distance, but you see something else in the foreground. You see three figures.
The Bride goes through four different costume iterations and some makeup iterations throughout the course of this maze, because we're telling the story of her adventure from the beginning versus to her assuming the role is doctor at the end of the maze. So each of these iterations has a different wardrobe touch. One side of her costume is badly burned. On her face, she's got this horrible scar from the fire. And she says, 'I have to save him, but the world outside the castle walls was full of monsters.'"
'And what monsters are that? The Brides of Dracula, from 1931. Each of them is going to have a distinct look. One of them will have red hair, and blonde hair, and one of them will be a brunette. The Bride has to get the Monster somewhere, but she doesn't know where she is. She's lost in the woods when she comes across the ruins of an old cottage that's completely ravaged by fire, and it's very bad. There's a couple of throwbacks in this maze, nods back to 1935, and the classic film 'The Bride of Frankenstein.' This is the old blind man's cottage, but he's long gone. It's a charred wreck. So she takes the monster here, this is her sanctuary, initially."
"In 'The Bride of Frankenstein,' there's that scene where he lets him go to sleep in his bed, and he's praying, and there's a cross on the wall. So for the scene where we come in, the Monster is laid out again, devoid of life. Across the way, you see the burnt imprint of the cross on the wall. The Bride of Frankenstein is using the cross. She's trying to protect the Monster and then the vampire brides come busting in, and she uses the cross to repel because vampires don't like crosses. We're building this special effect hand prop cross that has burning embers and everything, so she can activate it what she does her action in the scene."
"Then she takes that cross that she sharpens the ends of it and turns it into a cross/stake. Her next iteration is vampire hunter. As the story goes on, the Bride of Frankenstein is constantly being pursued by these vampires. The name of this chapter is The Hunted Becomes the Hunter. She still has the remnants of her original gown, but it's been shortened, and each time we see her, she takes a different step forward on her journey of becoming empowered and becoming the doctor.
"At this point, she says, 'I hunted them, and others like them across the land, and then across the years, for they held the secret to eternal life.' So the Bride is trying to figure out what she could do to bring the Monster back, and she eventually realizes that the secret to life is in the blood of all these vampires, right, because vampires have eternal life. Like Dracula says in 1931, the blood is life. So she realizes that she needs to harvest the blood of these vampires in order to bring the Monster back to life. So there's a lot of killing that takes place at this point."
Once the cottage is overrun, the Bride seeks a new refuge. Murdy, who now lives in Ireland, found visual inspiration for the next scene in an ancient church he found in the Irish countryside.
"If I was the Bride, and I'm being pursued by vampires, I'm going to take the Monster to a sanctuary that the vampires aren't going to want to go into. It's gotta be a church. This is where the first Dracula's bride bites the dust. Because the Bride says, 'The world hated us, so we left the world behind. But evil soon followed.' Even though she thinks she's safe in this church that she's going to turn into her new lab, evil will still follow her."
"The next chapter in the story is called The Creation Becomes the Creator. Now the Bride this time has assumed the role of Dr. Frankenstein, and she's doing all these experiments. She's trying to figure out the secret to eternal life. She's trying to bring the Monster back from the dead. And there's all these bottles and jars of blood, so she's harvesting the blood of these vampires and pumping it into the Monster."
"When you first see her in the lab, she's got the Monster on the table and it's still missing his legs, and she starts pumping all this blood. She's literally draining it out of one of the vampires that she's caught and pumping it into the Monster and there's boiling blood and there's all of this different kind of lab equipment. They're still in the church, but she set this place up like her lab."
"Also in this lab, as you get to the end of it, there's cages, and there's vampire brides in the cages - the two other ones that we saw in the very beginning. Only now, the Bride has been doing a lot of experimentation on before she got around to figuring out, 'Ah, it's the blood,' she did a lot of exploratory surgery. So one of [the brides] we call Stitches, and one of them we call Crosses."
"So Stitches, she just cut open her head, like 'What's in here? Let's see, let's pull this out and cut another piece.' So this one, part of her hair is missing, and she's got stitches all over the place. The other one, obviously, she just didn't want to deal with her and just stuffed [the cross] against her forehead - burned it in."
"This is where it gets dark, because she's still a monster, and as much as we're celebrating and saying we are powering this character for the first time, she's a monster. Monster to do bad stuff. She's captured all these vampires in order to drain the blood to bring the Monster back to life. That means you got to feed them. You've got to feed them blood, because that's the only thing that vampire subsist on. So, there's a place called the feeding cages that you have to go through, and there's all these vampires in there with bodies everywhere, blood everywhere, and the vampires eventually break out."
"The night she's going to bring the Monster back to life, she's got a problem. There are still two vampires running around trying to get her. Now as we go under the church and into the catacombs, this is very much inspired by the catacomb scenes from 'The Bride of Frankenstein.' You're going to be going underneath here. You go through the feeding rooms, the deeper into the catacombs, and it's kind of a cat-and-mouse game at this point between the Bride and the vampire brides. But another one bites the dust. Stitches gets a stake through the heart and the Bride has a great line for this one. The vampire brides are getting cocky at the point and they're doing their snake-like voices, saying, 'You know, we are immortal. We can't be killed.' They're taunting the bride. So when she gets her, she says, 'The devil can have you back.'"
"Then we get to chapter five, which is called Live Again. It's the night the Bride of Frankenstein is going to bring the Monster back to life so there's another, second part of the lab - big, huge gurney - and now the Monster has been fully reassembled. Well, maybe not fully reassembled. She gets to do a recall to 'Bride of Frankenstein' to Dr. Pretorius' line, 'In the name of God, now I know feels like to be God.'"
"This meant the Monster needed a bit of a revamp. She's in the middle of trying to reassemble him when these vampire brides crash the party. So she doesn't quite finish everything up, so she hasn't finished the top of his head, so his brain is partially exposed. Some of the electrical bolts have been replaced by catheters in places that you can hook up the blood."
"And we made him a stilt walker, so he's eight foot tall. She put the legs back on him, so he's taller - eight feet tall in this maze."
"Of course, once you close the switch and brings it to life, she gets to say the classic line from the original Frankenstein, 'It's alive.' But there's still one more vampire out there. This is the coda at the end, chapter six, The Monster Reborn. So before you get to the end of the maze, Crosses gets it. And that is 'The Bride of Frankenstein Lives.'"
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs Thursdays through Sundays starting September 9 and continuing through October 31. The event starts at 7pm each night, with early admission beginning at 6pm. Tickets are now on sale at Universal's website.
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