Haunt Review: Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Scare Zone

Photo by Darren Schmidt

Photo by Darren Schmidt

As promised here is part 2 of our review of Halloween Horror Nights 27 at Universal Studios Orlando:  The Scarezones and the shows!  If you haven’t attended HHN before, you may be confused about what exactly a scarezone is.  Scarezones are different than houses or mazes because they are in common walking areas of the park.  You do not wait in line and are able to move freely, as do the scare actors.  These areas can be extremely immersive, placing you into the story they tell.  A lot of people rush through on their way to houses or restaurants, but I feel it is very much worth checking these out for a while.  Watching the scare actors in these zones scare others is one of my favorite pastimes! 

THE PURGE

Photo by Travis Terrell 

Photo by Travis Terrell 

Located in the New York area of the park and last featured in 2014 at HHN 24, The Purge makes for an awesome scarezone.  While not much has changed from it’s original iteration, this scarezone is still very visceral and can feel quite real at times as the “bad guys” in this zone are just regular humans.  Most sport masks, from Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to the familiar Gentlemen and even dirtbike and paintball masks to hide their identities as they cleanse their souls in the annual purge.  There is a much more political edge to the zone this year, coinciding with Election Year, the third film in the Purge franchise.  You will also see the christmas light cars and characters from that film as well.  Also new this year is the Purge Cleanup Crew, a nasty woodchipper to get rid of all the mess after the event each year.  Be warned, there is a splash zone. 

FESTIVAL OF THE DEADLIEST

festival.jpg

The Festival of the Dead scarezone is located in the Hollywood area of the park and has been evolving over the length of the event so far.  This area has felt the effects of Hurricane Irma and is slowly building back up.  There is no real cohesive storyline for this zone that has been provided or is evident.  There is a lot of bone in the set design and the armor that the scareacors wear.  The zone also features scantily-clad women on poles dancing on stages down the street.  Whether to draw your eye as minions try to scare you below or just because that sort of thing sells,  I really don’t see how it contributes to the zone personally.  

INVASION

Photo by Darren Schmidt 

Photo by Darren Schmidt 

This zone is in the San Francisco section of the park, in front of the in-progress Fast and Furious show building.  Set in 1955, this zone is a campy but fun take on an alien invasion. There is an incredible crashed UFO set piece complete with a MIB style car crashed into it.  On the other side of the lane, military trucks and equipment are scattered with soldiers begging you for help or ordering you out of the area.  The aliens themselves are definitely skewed to the comical side.   On the first night of the event, they seemed to be trying to be menacing, but by the second weekend they had embraced their campiness and have been treating guests to fun, unique experiences.  In one instance, we heard about an alien beckoning people over the the crashed car, listening to the music coming from the car and trying to understand how to move to the beat.  In another, we have seen aliens shy away from selfies, assuming that the cell phones they see are weapons of some sort.  This is a fun zone to observe, but also to interact with.  Talk with the soldiers and aliens and have some fun!

ALTARS OF HORROR

Photo by Travis Terrell

Photo by Travis Terrell

Altars of horror, sadly, is the weakest scarezone in the lineup this year.  Featuring some of the more iconic characters from the Saw, American Horror Story, Sinister, Insidious and Ash vs. Evil Dead franchises and the twins from The Shining, this zone just does not live up to the high standards Universal has set for scarezones.  There are no props in the zone, just large signs stating which movie or TV show the characters are from.  Also absent are some very iconic characters, such as Ash Williams and Jack Torrance.  The reasons for the sparseness of the zone could be attributed to the fact that this is the main pathway from the park entrance to the biggest houses of the year, but in the past universal has been able to incorporate stages and set pieces to make this area feel more complete. 

TRICK 'R TREAT

Photo by Travis Terrell

Photo by Travis Terrell

We saved the best for last in this amazing representation of the cult hit of 2007.  The zone is beautifully lit in purple and orange and features almost all of the characters from the movie. You will meet the principal, his neighbor, the unfortunate souls of the school bus and the wolves in disguise just to name a few.  Don’t fret, Sam is there too, in a couple different forms. I can’t put into words how beautiful this scarezone is.  Be sure to visit earlier in the night and again later on, as this change closer to midnight…

All in all it is a sort of missing year in regards to scarezones with some amazing one and some that didn’t quite live up to expectations.  Zones like Trick 'R Treat and Purge more than make up for some of the weaker ones.  

In regards to the shows, this year we have two:  Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure and Academy of Villains : Afterlife.  This year is Bill and Ted’s last year at the event, dubbed the Farewell Tour, after 26 long years of entertaining at the event.  While the show is not always my cup of tea, I love the Bill and Ted movies and the characters and will miss them being a part of the event.  This year’s show is much milder politically than previous years, remaining lighthearted throughout.  You will see some skewering of modern pop culture and Disney parks as usual, but there is a lot more focus on the movies and this being the final show in this long run.   I recommend checking it out.  

Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma has affected the Academy of Villains show the most out of everything at the event.  Their stage is still down as of this writing and it is unclear when or if it will be back in it’s full capacity. In the meantime, they have created a 10 minute show to try to fill the gap, but it does not feature any elements from the Afterlife production that was intended for the event.   I still recommend checking them out as they are an amazing dance crew and they live to entertain, I just wish we were able to see their full show.  

Thanks for joining me for part two of this article and be sure to check out HHN for yourself! Tickets are available at halloweenhorrornights.com