It’s that time of year again, when the sound of chainsaws and screaming guests is music to our ears. As Halloween approaches, one of California’s biggest events, Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, opened its gate for fans and horror enthusiasts on September 16. Heralded as one of the best years for Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, I couldn’t wait to feel that sense of fear and excitement creep back in. This year's mazes included TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN II, KRAMPUS, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, FREDDY V JASON and the return of the TERROR TRAM presented by Eli Roth. Also, guests would be able to experience THE PURGE as a scare zone throughout Universal Studios as well as welcome back America’s best dance crew the JABBAWOCKEEZ. In this review we will be focusing on four of the mazes as well as the JABBAWOCKEEZ show, but make sure to look out for our part 2 review on Icons of Fright. Without further ado, let’s get to the reviews!
PURGE SCARE ZONE
I have always had a love/hate relationship with THE PURGE movies. I’ve always thought it was an incredible concept but never executed properly. I’ve experienced THE PURGE mazes at both Halloween Horror Nights Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood and have always left feeling unsatisfied. However, as a scare zone, I think THE PURGE works fantastic. Throughout the entirety of Universal Studios Hollywood were areas designated for THE PURGE with different scenes straight from the films. A part of me didn’t like the idea when I first heard about it as I really do like seeing the creativity that different scare zones offer, but all things considered, I really enjoyed seeing THE PURGE played out in different scenarios. The scare actors were terrific, extremely interactive, and focused on giving you the best scares humanly possible. The set designs were way better than I thought they were going to be and I enjoyed seeing the differences that each location had. Overall, having THE PURGE throughout Universal worked in its favor as it was able to combined three of the films throughout the entire event.
If there was one house I was looking forward to the most, it was THE EXORCIST. Ever since I saw the film many many many years ago, it has always struck a nerve with me and has embedded itself as my favorite horror film of all time. When it was announced that John Murdy and Chris Williams were going to be doing a house based around the movies, my excitement level peaked as I also knew it was a dream house for Mr. Murdy. Before entering the maze, I was struck with how incredible they made the facade of the building look. I felt like I was in the movie standing right outside the door of Reagan’s home. The strongest aspect of this maze is the set design, special effects, and even the smells. However, what the maze lacked was proper scares and unique hiding spots for the scare actors. It’s a challenging maze to do as the majority of the movie takes place in one room but I felt like there could have been more. The weakest aspect of the maze was the transitional period between major scenes as it was apparent where all the scares would be coming from. I felt like overall this maze was on the brink of being one of the best I’ve ever seen but with the hindrance of most of the action taking place in one room, it fell short with delivering the scares that we really could have seen. As a side note, if pea soup makes you sick, then you are in for quite an experience.
As a fan of Michael Dougherty’s work (TRICK R TREAT, KRAMPUS), this was another maze that I was very much looking forward to experiencing. Like THE EXORCIST maze, KRAMPUS’ exterior, which was the house seen in the movie, was breathtaking. Out of all the mazes that I experience at Halloween Horror Nights, this was by far the best designed. The transitions between each room were flawless and it was incredible to see how the main room, the living room, changed throughout the maze as Krampus made himself known; however, the highlight of the maze was the attic. If you have seen the movie you will be floored with how much detail went into recreating this scene and if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly suggest renting it before going. One of the highlights of the movie, that was translated perfectly to the maze, was the creature designs. Not only do we come face to face with Krampus himself, but we also run into snowmen, gingerbread men, and more! The only critique that I had with this maze was I would have liked more scares; however,I may not have been as scared due to the fact that I just didn’t hit the scare actors at the right time. Overall though, this is one of the best, if not best, designed mazes that Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood has ever done.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
When I arrived at the AMERICAN HORROR STORY entrance I was underwhelmed with the facade in front of me. It was a giant box with red curtains on either side and a sign with some prominent figures from AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s past. However, what the facade lacked on the outside was made up ten folds by the inside. The design of this maze was done in a seamless fashion that allowed guests to experience three seasons of the top rated FX’s show. The transitions between Season 1, Season 4 and Season 5 were impeccable and the entrances to each season were mind blowing. Along with using design techniques, the music that was played was straight out of the television show and helped move the pacing of the line. I’m always a stickler when it comes to scare actors hiding, and in this maze the scare actors had an incredible amount of space to be hidden from view to the point where I honestly didn’t know where some of them appeared from. I really enjoyed how interactive the scare actors were and there were a few times I found myself screaming my bloody head off. Overall, this is one of the better mazes that Halloween Horror Nights had this year.
I know it seems to be out of place to have America’s top dance crew at a Halloween/horror event, but I would be lying if I were to say that I didn’t look forward to seeing the Jabbawockeez show this year. Like last year, they wow’d the audience with their characteristic dance moves and over the top show. It’s hard to not enjoy it when you have so much to watch and loud rhythmic music playing. The only thing I could have done without was the flatulence joke that the Jabbawockeez did. It took away from the scene that they were setting up and it felt like a childish gimmick. Besides that, I have nothing bad to say about the show. They had the audience participating, clapping, cheering and more and I left feeling just as satisfied as I did the year prior.
Overall, I think Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 26 was a blast. This is only my second year going so I don’t have much to base it off of but I enjoyed everything that I went through and am looking forward to attending again at the beginning of November. For fans of the event, I would suggest getting there early as lines were extremely long (around 140 minutes for AHS). My only concern is that guests won’t have the opportunity to experience everything unless you get a fast-pass so my advice to you, start at the end, all the way at the end of the park, and work your way forward. You want to make sure to hit AMERICAN HORROR STORY, FREDDY V JASON, KRAMPUS, and THE EXORCIST early on and worry about the other attractions later on in the evening. If you are wondering where the rest of the maze reviews are, make sure to check out Icons of Fright for my part 2 review which includes HALLOWEEN II, FREDDY V JASON, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and THE TERROR TRAM and you will also find out what I deem to be the best maze at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood this year.