Universal Studios Hollywood’s 2019 Halloween Horror Nights features an intriguing and ambitious line up of mazes.
If you’re like most of us, you probably have a “to-do list” with special projects you’ve been meaning to do that keeps haunting you year after year. Hell, we still have past trip reports, haunt profiles, and haunt reviews to post! It seems like time isn’t always our friend, but for the HHN creative team and fans, the time has finally come to check a few “wish list” mazes on the to-do list.
In the past, there were usually only a few maze themes that really pique our interest and get us excited for another year of HHN. There also were the predictable announcements of Terror Tram, Walking Dead, and Jabberwockeez (ZZZ). Well, better than a Dj Figure remix of the Universal Monsters, things got mixed up for HHN 2019! First off, Terror Tram is parked, since they’ve thankfully opted to add additional mazes in its place. There’s also be a couple of original themes that aren’t tethered to a movie or TV show, which fans have begged for.
Aside from the intriguing mazes, HHN still suffers from being overcrowded with terribly long lines. There’s also the ridiculously long distances to walk with hills, cramped spaces, and some hostile and intoxicated people. The scare zones and overall park decore are also very sparse. Unlike Knott’s where it feels like you’re at a true Halloween event, Universal is more like visiting the regular park at night with the addition of scary mazes and much more people. It’s these things, which we report about year after year, that have hindered HHN Hollywood from being a perfectly enjoyable event.
Our visit was made somewhat better with the decision to upgrade with the express pass. Yet we couldn’t imagine how much fun it really could be for those who can’t upgrade and end up spending the entire night in lines over two hours long. We also realize that it’s the express pass that ends up making the lines longer and even with the pass we still had to wait around twenty minutes for a few of the mazes (we know ‘aww poor us’), which obviously means they are selling to many passess. Perhaps Universal should just do select ‘Express Nights’ where they only sell a third of the normal number of tickets and then on other nights don’t offer it at all. We don’t know what would work but how they’re running it now isn’t working for the enjoyment of all guests.
Anyways, the main stars of HNN are the mazes and those are always some of the best in the industry. So let’s review the line up….
“Classic” Movie Mazes
We’ve been waiting for this one and it scared up to our expectations! For many 80s kids, the Creep on the video box was one of the scariest yet fascinating things to look at on the video store shelves, and the movie itself had some very terrifying tales. We think Creepshow is by far one of the best and scariest horror anthology movies ever made, and with a new TV series, now is the perfect time for HHN to reintroduce it to today’s horror fans. The best part is that it includes some of the original stories like “Father’s Day,” “The Crate,” and “They’re Creeping Up On You.” Newer tales include “Gray Matter” and “Bad Wolf Down.”
The maze did have some great scares, especially in the beginning. As it went on, the scares in the numerous story transition rooms with The Creep popping out from behind a curtain became repetitive but still were fun. The actual story scenes were shorter than expected. We wished that they each has at least one or two additional rooms per story. There also were more static character props that could’ve been live scareactors like the “Father’s Day” zombie. But we are thankful that there were no real roaches crawling around in ‘They’re Creeping Up On You”. We also love how the maze effectively captures the feeling of going through a comic book and perfectly matched the camp and terror of the movie.
While not quite a horror movie in our book, the Ghostbusters fan base is a very dedicated and hardcore group of movie
nerds… fans. Just like Psychomagnotheric Slime, it keeps growing worldwide. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the classic movie, so with that and a new movie on the way, it now makes more sense than ever as an HHN maze.
Ghostbusters is really a comedy movie with some spooky scenes and the maze follows suit with some cool visual effects but minimal sacres. However, this is the kind of maze where the HHN creative team really goes all out. It was great to see them bring the Stay Puft Marshmallow man to life, watch Slimer fly around, and see some ghosts get blasted by proton beams. The book aisles of the NYC Public library and encountering the Terror Dogs provided some startling moments too. It was a great tribute to the movie and as fans we were very pleased with it. We give it an additional five skulls for nostalgia.
KILLER KLOWNZ FROM OUTER SPACE
The first haunt maze we ever went in had a clown theme, and it’s a haunt standard that will never cease to exist. So why not do it a little differently and incorporate one of the most bizarre and campy horror movies of all time? With a lot of fan requests and speculation over the years, the Big Top Space Ship has finally touch down at HHN.
inside we experienced one of the best clown mazes we’ve seen in years. Like Creepshow and Ghostbusters this maze is a great tribute to the movie following it nearly scene by scene from the beginning to the end. All the top horror gags from the movie were displayed such as the diabolical klowns making cotton candy cocoons from their victims, killer shadow puppets and balloon guns. The majority of the sets were very impressive with some different and very effective scare tactics. However, towards the end it’s like they ran out of time or budget and resorted to using the generic dark hallways with light up scares, which has become overly common here at HHN. Still, this is one of our top mazes.
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN
Last year’s Universal Monsters maze was incredible and one of the top-rated mazes for the year. While we like Universal to switch up themes, we kind of hoped it would return, so we’re glad to see that a new iteration of the classic Universal Monsters theme is featured this year.
“Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” delves deeper into the Universal Monsters’ lore. Loosely based on Universal’s 1943 horror movie of the same name, it’s a pretty terrifying journey. The scares kept coming and the sizes of both creatures makes them intimidating to encounter. The atmosphere of the maze was fantastic as we followed in the footsteps of the Frankenstein Monster who is lured to a gypsy encampment where he meets the Wolf Man. The design and thematic elements made it feel as if were walking through the actual sets of an early Universal Horror movie. The lighting and projection effects enhanced the elaborate settings which included the murky moors, a gothic cemetery, and the smoldering ruins of Castle Frankenstein. The literally chilling final scenes inside the ice caverns beneath the castle not only seales the monster’s doom but this as our favorite maze.
Modern Movie & TV Mazes
There probably isn’t a more popular sci-fi/horror series right now than Stranger Things. To us, the potential of last year’s maze, which was based on season 1, was better than the maze itself. Nonetheless, we easily predicted that it would come back to continue the storylines of the subsequent seasons. This year’s maze combines seasons 2 and 3 to make the maze current with the series.
The second season was rather dull and confusing while the third was very fun to watch, especially with the 80’s mall setting and larger than life monsters, so we were very disappointed that most of the maze was really just season 2 with just a couple scenes at the end from 3. There was no Starcourt Mall or secret Russian intelligence center.
Like a Netflix series binge this maze was long. Unfortunately, it lacked much substance. The sets were low budget with a lot of static props. We liked some of the demogorgon puppets but that was about it. The maze is also inside a soundstage but instead of giving any dark covering you can clearly see all of building’s pipes and wires when you looked up, which was distracting. The line was also ridiculously long which resulted in a conga line inside. Sadly, Stranger Things was a big let down for us. You’ll likely have a better time just staying at home to Netflix and chill than spending the night waiting for and going through this maze.
JORDAN PEELE’S US
We knew there would be a Blumhouse maze, but we never saw this one coming! With the social and political commentaries that underscore the storyline of the recent horror hit from Jordan Peele and Blumhouse, it’s bold and great that HHN is utilizing it as a theme.
The thrills are untethered from the screen into a maze that is more creepy than scary as it linearly follows the events of the movie. It begins in the funhouse where a young Adelaide Wilson has a disturbing encounter with her own doppelgänger. From there, we were thrust into the chaos of the Tethered uprising as they emerge from their tunnels into the family homes to murder their privileged doubles. The recreation of the movie’s key scenes were well done. Especially the inside of the funhouse, Wilson’s living room, and the underground tunnels. The finale delivers the best scares of he maze as you make your way through a room filled with the Tethered. Overall, this was a good choice for a maze as it offered something rather different and diverse from anything we’ve seen before at HHN.
HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES
It’s been a while since Rob Zombie has brought his cast of degenerate hellions to HHN. Well, he has a new movie coming out called Three from Hell that continues the bloody saga of the savage Firefly family. We should note that this actually will be the fourth time they’ve done a version of this maze at HHN! In 2000, they had a version of HOTC, which we remember as being very terrifying. Then in 2010 and 2011, it was reincarnated and presented in Zombievision (3D), which diminished some of the scare potential. Now we’re back inside “Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters & Madmen” and it’s deja vu all over again.
Universal has some great storage facilities as this maze was well preserved. We looked back at videos from 2010 and realized that this version is practically the exact same as 2010 and 2011. There were a few startling moments but the terror we felt in the previous versions was nearly non-existent this time. The scareactors had good energy but they just didn’t have the best timing. This maze also suffered from having too many black hallway and curtain transitions. All this to say that we hope this is the last of The House of 1,000 Corpses we see at HHN.
THE WALKING DEAD
The year-round haunted attraction is open during HHN with the promise of some “extra dead inside” but we didn’t notice anything special versus the regular attraction. Well, with the minimal amount of zombies and no big scares we guess you can say it was dead inside.
Just like the show this maze has waned and it soon may be time to put a knife in it’s skull. Perhaps Universal should convert it to a Halloween (Michael Myers) maze since there are still more movies coming out over the next couple of years. To us that would be terrifying.
HOLIDAYZ IN HELL
Is there really anything more terrifying than spending time with friends, family, and loved ones over the holidays? Last year’s Holidayz in Hell “scare zone” was really an outdoor maze on Universal’s lower back lot themed to all the holidays gone bad. It was a fun walk through with a very interesting concept. This year, the theme gets an official maze treatment.
The story of the maze is pretty clever starting with New Year’s and then sequentially going through all the major holidays. This is the most originally themed haunts with scenes that are sadistically imaginative. It is actually pretty grotesque in parts and it never sacrifices the horror for the dark humor overtones. There were some decent scares but we strongly suggest you wait until it’s completely dark before going in as there’s no roof so the daylight can significantly impact the effects. Ater going through, we now hope that in the future they make an actually Leprechaun maze. That could be wonderfully more terrifying.
THE CURSE OF PANDORA’S BOX
One of the most terrifying places to go to is a Pandora store on the day before Mother’s Day or Black Friday. This maze will bring those horrors to life. Just kidding, but imagine that. Seriously, greed is the underlying theme of this all-new maze, resurrected from Universal Studios Hollywood’s vault of storytelling that transports guests from the land of the living into the nightmarish netherworld of Hades.
The maze begins inside “Pandora’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” a dilapidated modern storefront that’s eerily reminiscent of a structure that belongs in the back alleys of Victorian London. As guests pass through the shop, they enter the living nightmare netherworld of Hades, populated by the most fearsome monsters in Greek Mythology. This maze reminded us of 2013’s ‘Black Sabbath 13’ maze with some very familiar settings. This this a pretty scary maze with the most intense pacing of all the mazes. There’s something around every corner, ceiling, and wall. This is also a very colorful maze. If you have a pair old three glasses they probably would be effective in here. To us this was the best of the original mazes and far more exciting than looking for charms inside a Pandora jewelry store.
DATES & HOURS
Open select nights September 13th through November 3rd from 7:00PM – 2:00AM. Open from 7:00PM – 1:00AM on September 15th, 19th, 22nd and November 3rd.
Find your tickets and more event info HERE