This time last week I was preparing for the first haunt of the Halloween season, and one of the biggest events of the year, Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. This year promised an event unlike anything else and man oh man did it deliver! Guests could expect everything from their favorite slasher treatment to upholding the sacred traditions of Halloween, along with Universal Monsters, the NFFA, and everything in-between. What follows is a break down of each maze, in the order that I went through them, as well as accompanying highlight reel from the red carpet and our walkthrough of the Trick ‘r Treat maze and Poltergeist maze. So sit back, relax, and enjoy our recap of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood!
TRICK ‘R TREAT – MAZE
Description: Experience Halloween night like never before with Trick ‘r Treat, the anthology horror film from writer/director Michael Dougherty that has become a modern horror cult classic!
It is said that Halloween is the night when horrifying creatures roam free, but there are rules devised to protect us from their evil. Every year, one small town is taught a terrifying lesson: that some traditions are best not forgotten.
Welcome to Warren Valley, Ohio – a sleepy suburban community that masks many dark secrets. A blood thirsty visitor has come to uphold the sacred traditions of Halloween and is itching to punish rule-breakers with bloody acts of vengeance! When the tricks and treats of Halloween turn deadly, you must attempt to survive the scariest night of the year. You either live by the rules, or you die by them. (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: If you know me at all, you know that Trick ‘r Treat is one of my all-time favorite films and that I have quite the collection dedicated to my favorite horror icon, Sam. This has been a maze that I have anxiously been waiting years for and though I got a taste of what was to come when I went through Murder House Productions’ rendition last year, I was giddy to see what Horror Nights would bring to the table. For the most part, I was really impressed with what I saw, as I got to travel through different vignettes ranging from the house belonging to Emma and Henry, to the quarry where the School Bus Massacre took place. It was all beautifully designed and for the most part, incredibly immersive. My only complaint has to do with the incessant use of black walls for transition scenes. They are incredibly jarring when going from one room to the next especially since it takes you out of the experience. I understand that some would argue that they are used to wipe the slate clean before the next scene, but as an interior designer by trade, I would argue that there are better ways of going about that. As a whole, I did love this house and I was beyond pleased to see Sam throughout, even though that little guy scared the ever-loving shit out of me a few times.
TOXXIC TUNNEL – SCAREZONE
Description: There’s been a terrible industrial accident deep inside an underground utility tunnel. The noxious vapors that were released have transformed the emergency workers into radioactive monsters, filled with an uncontrollable rage and hell-bend on our destruction! (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: I’m sorry, I really dislike this scare zone, and I hate writing anything negative but every time I go through it I just end up becoming annoyed. I think the concept is cool and the scare actors definitely go the extra mile when it comes to scaring and getting all up in your face; however, I think my issue stems from the overuse of strobe lights and loud music, along with the much younger crowd over-exaggerating their fears of the actors. But hey, what do I know, every time I go through this scare zone I see people having a blast, and isn’t that all that matters?
HOLIDAYZ IN HELL – SCAREZONE
Description: Every day is Halloween in this irreverent send up of the Holidays of the year. Encounter creepy Cupids, lecherous Leprechauns and evil Easter bunnies as you take a terrifying trip through these psychotic seasonal celebrations…screaming all the way! (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS SCARE ZONE. Seriously, it’s so great and honestly, it’s like the horror gods gifted us with a maze disguised to look like scare zone. I highly recommend taking your time going through this scare zone as there is so much eye candy to enjoy as well as lots of scares. I probably got surprised more in this scare zone than I did in any of the mazes, thanks to a dude (or dudette) hiding in some foliage. If you have ever wanted to see what all the holidays would look like with a Halloween / horror overlay, than you are going to have a hell of a good time in Holidayz in Hell.
POLTERGEIST – MAZE
Description: Based on the classic 1982 film by director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist will take you inside the iconic ghost story that set the bar for paranormal thrillers ever since.
After moving to their new home in sunny Southern California, the Freeling family discovers that dreams can come true – and that nightmares can too…
One stormy night, their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, begins talking to strange, ghostly voices through a dead signal on the television set. When Carol Anne disappears, the family slowly comes to realize that she has been abducted by vengeful spirits occupying the spectral plane between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. What the Freeling family doesn’t know, is that their house was built over an old cemetery and they are in mortal danger! (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: Poltergeist is another heavy-hitter for me, as it is in my unholy trifecta of favorite horror films (which also includes The Thing and The Exorcist). From a design standpoint, this maze was probably the best out of all the others and I have to admit, I was taken aback by the amount of detail that went into the creation of this maze. Though I didn’t hit any of the scare notes, that didn’t take away from my overall experience, especially since the maze started with the iconic scene featuring Carol Anne facing a television filled with static and repeating her infamous line “They’re here…”. The rest of the maze is filled with other iconic scenes from the movie and don’t you worry, that god-forsaken clown shows up numerous times. As with Trick ‘r Treat, the overuse of black walls was also prevalent in this maze which took me out of the experience a few times. Putting that issue aside, I can easily see why people love this maze so much as it is designed beautifully and, from what I understand from friends of mine, gives plenty of scares.
THE FIRST PURGE – MAZE
Description: Get ready for The First Purge, a terrifying new maze that tells the story of how the blockbuster franchise all began. The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) have instituted the inaugural Purge, a 12-hour period on Staten Island, where all crimes, including Murder, are legal. Try to survive the NFFA’s experiment and make it through the night. Your government thanks you for your participation! (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: Up until The First Purge movie came out, I wasn’t the big fan of the Purge franchise. As a whole I think the concept is fantastic but for whatever reason I’ve just never thought the execution was done well. Aside from the films, The Purge has been a constant staple these last few years at Halloween Horror Nights,whether that be as a scare zone or as a haunted maze. However, I think it’s fair to say that the time has come to close that chapter as The First Purge did not deliver in the way that I had hoped. For a film that takes a blatant stance on the current political landscape, it did not translate well into a haunt. Sure, the design, for the most part, was cool with vignettes pulled from scenes of the film, but the overall experience fell short of being scary while also missing the entire point of what the film entailed.
THE HORRORS OF BLUMHOUSE: CHAPTER TWO – MAZE
Description: Blumhouse Productions is back again with new suspense-filled moments from Blummhouse’s Truth or Dare, Unfriended and a nightmarish surprise ending that will leave you screaming for more!
Enter the “Horrors of Blumhouse” film festival, where horror movies come to life. Pack your bags and get ready for the spring break trip of your nightmares. A group of college kids have unwittingly unleashed an ancient curse, forcing them to play a never ending game of Truth or Dare – but this time the rules are a little different; the stakes are life or death!
Next, enter the familiar world of cyberspace with Unfriended. A chatroom session amongst high school friends has turned into an endless night of terror! Exactly one year ago, fellow student, Laura Barns, committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying. When an unknown user assumes control over Laura’s online account, the group of friends attempt to expose the infiltrator’s true identity – forcing them to face their darkest secrets and lies. Soon they realize, this is no ordinary hacker. Let’s hope you make it out of cyberspace alive… (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: I’ll be honest, this was one of those mazes that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going through; however, in a weird turn of events, it ended up surprising me the most. Though I wasn’t a fan of the film, I absolutely loved the first part of this maze. which featured the film Truth or Dare, especially since we got to go through the Mexican church that was prevalent in the film. If you are familiar with the movie you’ll remember that the characters faces change, an aspect that worked to its advantage in this maze. The portion I was most concerned with not being done well was Unfriended, as I wasn’t sure how that would translate into a haunt as the film is done through the use of webcams and such. However, the designers pulled off this portion of the maze rather well and even featured one of my favorite scenes from the film which deals with a rather gory encounter with a blender. However, the biggest surprise was the third act which featured a fictional film called The Girl. I have no idea what this was in relation too, I don’t know if this is something that Blumhouse is thinking of making into a movie, but let me tell you, I’m here for it. The demon that appeared throughout this portion was fantastic, but the image of the girl transforming into…. God I don’t even know… was the cherry on the top. All I can say is, Blumhouse, please make this into a movie, all of us would really love that!
STRANGER THINGS – MAZE
Description: Step inside the hair-raising world of Stranger Things and prepare to brave the Upside Down of this pop culture series phenomenon!
Journey to small town Hawkins, Indiana – a seemingly peaceful community with dark, unnerving secrets. When a young boy goes missing near a secluded government laboratory, his faithful friends begin a quest unfolding a series of increasingly bizarre and frightening events. With the threat of flesh-eating creatures in the shadows and the help of one very strange little girl, their world is about to be turned “Upside Down”! (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: It was clear when it was announced that the bell of the ball was going to be the Stranger Things maze and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. In terms of consistent designs throughout, the Stranger Things maze definitely takes the cake with very minimal black walls and over-the-top set pieces. Guests had the chance to experience everything from Hawkins Laboratory, Joyce Byers home, and of course, the Upside Down. What I really loved about this maze was that the creative team went with live actors to play the demogorgons instead of falling back on static figures. I think I would have liked to have seen more of the kids from the show sprinkled throughout the maze, but at least we got to see Eleven battling it out with a demogorgon, so I can’t really complain. Overall, this maze hit all the major notes from the scares to the designs and everything in-between. Word of advice though, if you are going to Halloween Horror Nights and are not getting a Front of the Line pass, make sure to hit this maze up first as it is bound to have 2-3 hour long wait time.
TERROR TRAM: HOLLYWOOD HARRY’S DREADTIME STORIEZ – MAZE
Description: Hollywood Harry, the phantom clown infamous for terrorizing the Universal Studios backlot, has returned to Terror Tram as host of an all new bloodcurdling experience. Brace yourself for the unspeakable horrors depicted in this demented rendition of Harry’s 1950s television show. As you journey through five spine-tingling bedtime stories, attempt to survive the chainsaw wielding monsters, bloodthirsty cannibals, rotten corpse scarecrows, homicidal clowns, and a merciless torture factory. You better get some sleep while you can because after you experience Hollywood Harry’s Dreadtime Storiez, you’ll never sleep again… (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: Terror Tram is one of the mazes that seems to be a continuously missed opportunity, which is a damn shame because they have such amazing backdrops to utilize. This year, we were once again treated to Hollywood Harry, which we were first introduced to last year. This maze doesn’t bring anything new to table, instead focusing on well-known horror tropes such as cannibalism, clowns, and scarecrows. Though I could have done without the reuse of the cannibalism and clown scenarios, I did like what the designers tried to do with the scarecrow area. However, that section was so short that guests didn’t really have the chance to experience what it offered. I would have liked to have seen that section of the maze stretched out longer with a better focus on the design to really amplify how terrifying those scarecrows were. One thing I did notice this year was it seemed that Universal Studios was able to handle the crowd control better as opposed to years past when it’s been a shit show trying to get through it the massive conga line back to the tram. I also really loved the animation they used on the Tram when showcasing Hollywood Henry’s bedtime stories. I haven’t lost all hope for the Terror Tram cause I know one of these years they are going to blow my mind with a design that I never saw coming.
TRICK ‘R TREAT – SCAREZONE
Description: The frightening characters from writer/director Michael Dougherty’s anthology horror film Trick ‘R Treat have descended on the small Midwestern town of Warren Ohio during their annual Halloween celebrations. Lurking in the fog are vampires, werewolves, zombie school children and Sam, the vengeful spirit of Halloween who will stop at nothing to ensure his rules for the season are being upheld. (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: If you ever want to know what my happy place is, this would be it. I completely forgot that there was going to be a Trick ‘R Treat scare zone so imagine my surprise when we stumbled upon it. I was in heaven and absolutely loved the set up that the design team did, especially by having the rules of Trick ‘R Treat spelled out for those who passed by. There is also a school bus filled with the characters from the infamous School Bus Massacre which is a perfect place to get a picture of you and your group. Sadly, I didn’t run into Sam here (which broke my heart a little) but in the end that wasn’t so important because I was just so in love with the entire aesthetic.
UNIVERSAL MONSTERS – MAZE
Description: Inspired by Universal’s legendary horror films, the Universal Monsters maze – featuring an original score produced and composed by GRAMMY Award-winning musician, SLASH – will shake horror fans to the core with a petrifying modern rendition.
After decades of rot and decay as they lay mouldering in their graves, the Universal Monsters’ disdain for the living has risen to a bloodthirsty, all consuming level! Invade their eternal resting place and witness the bone-chilling resurrection of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera and The Wolf Man, among others. As they rise from the dead, thirsty for revenge, you will fall victim to the terrifying images and stories that helped invent the horror film genre. (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: The Universal Monsters maze was easily one of my favorite mazes of the night and I’m so glad to see that John Murdy’s baby was executed so well. I appreciated how this maze didn’t just focus on the most well-known of the Universal Monsters (i.e. Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein), but also showcased the ones that people don’t talk nearly enough about such as Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Bride of Frankenstein. Each vignette that accompanied the universal monster was designed beautifully and thoughtfully, with some bringing guests not just inside the maze but allowing them to venture outside as well. It was very apparent that a lot of heart and passion went into this design, a treatment that I wish a few of the other mazes had. Alongside the monsters was an incredible score composed by the one and only Slash, which gave the maze a more modern feel, allowing for a really interesting juxtaposition between old school monsters and Slash’s score. This is definitely a maze that you will not want to miss if you visit Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood.
MONSTER MASQUERADE – SCAREZONE
Description: Step into the fog-enshrouded streets of old Paris and enter “The Danse of the Dead,” a macabre monster masquerade ball inspired by the original Universal Classic Monster movies The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: What I really enjoyed about this scare zone was that you had to go through the Universal Monsters maze in order to access it. This means that it wasn’t overcrowded and guests could actually take the time to take in the sights of skeletons dancing, beautiful vignettes, and ominous music. My only critique is that I wish I got to actually see The Phantom of the Opera and/or The Hunchback of Notre Dame walking about.
JABBAWOCKEEZ – SHOW
Description: Jabbawockeez, the acclaimed, award-winning hip hop dance crew, returns to “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood with an all-new performance. With their signature white masks, the diverse group of dancers will perform a repertoire of innovative, synchronized choreography accompanied by a stunning laser lights display that will come to life in a full spectrum of color. The group’s signature moves and brand of humor will create an exclusive experience for guests in which the Jabbawockeez crew defies space and time in a pulse-pounding, action-packed performance to save the planet from a society obsessed with social media. (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: I don’t understand why the Jabbawockeez show gets so much hate as it’s one of my favorite things to do at Halloween Horror Nights. I get that it’s not Halloween themed, which is something that I think they should do, but it still is a great performance nonetheless. This year, the Jabbawockeez took on the theme of social media and performed a dynamic and high energy show, something I needed so desperately at midnight. Haters can keep hating this all they want, but I will continue to love it every single time I go.
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS – MAZE
Description: Fall victim to the silver screen’s most deplorable slasher with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Based on the cult-classic horror film franchise, Halloween, this new maze will truly have you edge…of Michael Myer’s knife that is.
October 30, 1988, a seemingly comatose Michael Myers is being transferred back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. It has been a decade since his last killing spree in Haddonfield, but the townspeople know pure evil never sleeps. Michael awakens and slaughters the medical personnel transporting him, escaping into the night. Fortunately, Michael’s former psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, knows exactly where he is heading; unfortunately for you, no one is safe from Michael Myers… (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: I have a confession to make. I just watched Halloween 4 for the first time two weeks ago and though I know that’s somewhat sacrilegious, at least I can finally say I’ve seen it. That said, I was looking forward to experiencing this haunt with a fresh view after having just watched the movie; however, this maze did not live up to what I was expecting. When a maze is based off of a movie or a show, you expect it to have an overall semblance to that which it is paying homage to. Though the maze starts off that way, with a scene from the garage where we first catch a glimpse of Mike Myers, the remainder of the maze is a mash-up between parts of Halloween 4 and Halloween 3. The most alarming aspect was the absence of Danielle Harris’ character, Jamie Lloyd. Though I was told she was in one scene, I never saw her and what was even more surprising was that they didn’t use the iconic image of her dressed as a clown. All in all, I felt this maze was a lost opportunity.
HELL’S HARVEST – SCAREZONE
Description: Enter a pagan harvest festival where the dark spirit of Halloween was born! The streets are filled with strange bewitched dolls, brought to life through dark magic. This army of evil dolls are looking for the next victim for their human sacrifice…will it be you? (via Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood website)
Thoughts: I didn’t get to experience a lot of this scare zone due to not being able to see it till we were leaving the park. However, what I was able to see I really enjoyed, as the design reminds me a lot of Fall on the East Coast – just without the killer dolls. Also, these scare actors are no joke, and even with it being almost 2am when we left, the actors were still going at it with all the enthusiasm in the world.
All in all, Halloween Horror Nights definitely exceeded my expectations this year. Though I still have a lot of issues with the overuse of black walls in transition scenes, I still found the designs to be really creative and immersive. I can easily say that this is one of the best years for Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood, and I truly believe it will continue to get better in the coming years. If you are looking for something to do this Halloween season, then definitely head to Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood. For more information visit www.hollywood.halloweenhorrornights.com.
Latest posts by Shannon McGrew (see all)
- SXSW Review: PET SEMATARY (2019) - March 21, 2019
- [News] Venture Through the Queen Mary with Chad Lindberg March 30 - March 21, 2019
- What the Fest!? Interview: Writer/Director Larry Fessenden for DEPRAVED - March 21, 2019