[Article] What We Learned Behind-the-Scenes About Halloween Horror Nights

Less than three weeks before the opening of the 2022 Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Hollywood, I was offered the opportunity to take a peek behind the curtain. An interesting way to build excitement for the upcoming HHN season, I was able to see two mazes: The Horrors of Blumhouse and Universal Monsters: Legends Collide. I’m excited to share my experience as well as some of the things you might be looking forward to this coming season.

First off, this has nothing to do with one particular house, but in general, I was able to see how much goes into these haunts. Creative Director John Murdy and his team go through hundreds of stills and pictures from films in order to match the right colors, textures, and tones so you can – as Universal would say – live in the movie. I also learned that many of these mazes are actually assembled and finished fairly late in the game. Many areas still weren’t complete by the time I saw them because so much has to happen before that stage. Between the writing, sound design, video creation, and prop making, so much is planned out months to even a year in advance.

This year they also wanted to up their production. The houses have more animatronics and special effects than ever before. Between the props that will squirt blood (really just a mist of water) to how actors will interact with the video, to how certain creatures will move, all of this is done to further immerse guests into the horror. From what I saw, I can tell you I’m very excited.

[Article] What We Learned Behind-the-Scenes About Halloween Horror Nights
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One thing I’ve been critical of Universal doing over the years is having too many actors in masks rather than makeup, but with last year’s maze about the Bride of Frankenstein, I was pleasantly surprised to see more faces with amazing prosthetics and makeup which allowed actors to be much more interactive, and that seems to be a priority moving forward. So much so, in fact, that one costumed actor within the Universal Monsters maze this year will be going through an hour and a half of sitting in the makeup chair just to get ready. That’s something I’m very excited about personally.

Guests who have visited Halloween Horror Nights in previous years will recognize the name Blumhouse. They’ve become one of the top production houses for horror. This year they’ve combined two of their more recent films for a maze – Freaky and The Black Phone. Your journey will begin at the entrance of a VHS rental store in a run-down strip mall. Once inside you’ll jump into the story of Freaky, a horror comedy take on the classic Freaky Friday concept of switching bodies. Between Millie and the Blissfield Butcher, you’ll wander the high school halls, and Millie’s bedroom, and have a final showdown with the Butcher. The first half of this haunt should both frighten and give guests a chuckle.

The second half of the maze will take you through The Black Phone with a much more traditional scare as you are on the search for missing children. Having fun putting together this project, the crew for Halloween Horror Nights added “missing posters” of their own that feature younger versions of themselves, but there are plenty of great additions to this portion of the house where, if given some time, you might be able to read through and spot photos and details from the film. No stone was unturned for this. There are so many details they added which only add to how special the Blumhouse maze is. Look out for a grand finale that will definitely up the scare factor!

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As a classic Universal Monsters fan, I’m always excited when they bring these characters to life and go all out. This year we’ll see Legends Collide as the Wolfman and Dracula battle the Mummy, but here is an interesting addition. This maze is being created at both Universal Hollywood and Orlando this year, but they are not replicas. Instead, they are two parts of a larger story. While Orlando’s maze will take place in Egypt, the Hollywood story will take place in a shipping warehouse in London as the Mummy and all of his belongings have sailed across the ocean to display in a museum. Tons of research went into creating this maze. Egyptian mythology, maps of Victorian London, landscapes, and architecture from the period, all of it is true to the reality of this maze in order to give it authenticity. On top of that, because we’re in Hollywood, many of the Mummy “artifacts” are actually props from the Brendan Fraser Mummy films. As a fan of those films, I geeked out hard wandering the halls of this maze.

As guests pass through, they’ll be greeted by all of the monsters as they battle over an amulet for their own selfish reasons, and as you encounter each monster you’ll find that the nighttime sky outside of the “windows” will change. One effect for Dracula, in particular, is something I’m excited to see play out in real-time. By the end of this maze, you’ll also meet a new monster, one that will be large and menacing. I won’t give away the surprise, but there will be plenty of hints throughout the maze.

I was stunned by how much I was able to see on my behind-the-scenes tour, and despite being able to spend time in these spaces and see so much, I currently have goosebumps thinking about how these two mazes I saw will further come to life with the actors, sound design, and the mood of Halloween Horror Nights. This year truly feels like a major upgrade from previous years. I’m not stating that anything was bad previously, but I do feel like John Murdy and his crew of scare creators have really stepped up their game to make this the most immersive and thrilling experience Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood has ever had. Between 8 houses, the Terror Tram, and 3 scare zones, this year will be bigger and scarier than ever.

Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood runs September 8th, 2022-October 31st, 2022 on select nights. For more information and tickets visit universalstudioshollywood.com.

Josh Taylor
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