Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) at Universal Studios Hollywood continues to put out the scares and pack in the crowds.
This year’s buzz about HHN has reached an all new high with a lineup of mazes featuring some of the most popular movie and TV franchises in horror history. It’s slashers gone wild in mazes featuring Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason, and Freddy. Demonic destruction in “The Exorcist” and “Krampus” mazes. You will also experience terror vision in mazes based on TV’s top rated horror series “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead”. Plus murderous clowns roam the backlot and Purgers have taken over the rest of the park. With all of this horror greatness we have to agree that Universal Studios Hollywood’s HHN is a blockbuster Theme Park Halloween event.
Freddy, Jason, Michael, and Walkers are probably some of the biggest draws that keeps people coming back year after year (along with all their friends and family). People truly love being able to see their favorite horror icons and experience their terrifying worlds. On the other hand, for us, there is also the desire to have new experiences. While Universal has created new story lines for some of the repeat horror franchises they’re presenting we have to wonder where can HHN go from here and how can they continue to raise the bar if they remain locked into producing mazes solely tied to movie and TV franchises?
Listen, to their credit, unlike Knott’s and other parks that usually run the exact same mazes for three to six years straight, Universal seems to operate under a plan where they rotate the themes in and out over the years; freshening them up with new layouts, sets and effects when they come back. This makes every year somewhat different (expect for Terror Tram) and also allows for horror fans to have ongoing experiences with their favorite horror movies. It’s not a coincidence that sequels and remakes are popular in the horror genre as the fans can never get enough. Nonetheless, as frequent haunt stalkers who have experienced HHN at Universal Orlando where they also have a few unique mazes every year, we think if Hollywood included more original concepts into their mix then they would have the perfect collection of mazes in one park.
Overall, HHN continues to reign as the scariest Theme Park haunt in Southern California. In comparison to Scary Farm and Dark Harbor, we still rank the mazes at HHN highest in overall design, theming, and scare factor. The other parks may just have an edge when it comes to the park wide experiences and value.
We think that park operations have also improved slightly this year with early maze openings and easier security and entrance procedures but it still gets uncomfortably crowded as the park has small walkways and its over a mile to walk from the front gate down to the back lot where most of the mazes are. We also believe that it will be nearly impossible to experience everything without paying the absorbent cost for a front of the line (FOL) pass. The sad reality is you are more likely to NOT have a have a good time if you don’t have a FOL but we also know that paying over $200 bucks for a haunt isn’t the reality for most people either. We think if they opened up the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter and maybe even incorporated the Death Eater attack, like in Japan, then that would help further disperse the crowds. Of course we also would prefer if they would add at least two to three more mazes.
With a FOL we were able to see all the mazes and get on a few rides in just under 4 hours. We didn’t bother seeing the JabbaWockeez show as we still don’t get their connection to Halloween aside from wearing white masks and aren’t fans of watching shows when we can be going through mazes instead.
Now as Dr. Loomis said “It’s time, Michael” so let’s get to business and review all the mazes, Terror Tram, and Purge scare zone at HHN 2016 featuring videos from our friends at ThemeParkHD.
Based on the “scariest film of all time” this maze takes guests inside the MacNeil house, where we get to witness firsthand the violent battle of a demon trying to take the soul of a little girl. There are some cool animatronic and special effects used in this maze. The settings are redundant as the path just goes back and forth between dark corridors filled with demonic creatures to various recreations of the movie’s bedroom scene where we see lil Regan evolve into a demonic monster.
There are some pretty intense and startling scares in the maze but they pretty much stick to one scare tactic that gets used over and over again, though ever so effectively. We easily caught on to the rhythm of the maze a few rooms in. There was a noticeable similarities between this maze and last year’s “This is the End” maze that was in the same location and featured a demonic invasion using similar scare tactics.
The recreation of this movie is no easy feat and what they managed to do with The Exorcist was pretty impressive. We think that this is a not to be missed maze and is a good one to start with to get your heart pumping for the rest of the night at HHN.
Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 4.5 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4 Skulls
As a movie Krampus may not be one of the scariest. It’s fun but not scary. However, as a maze, Krampus offers a real treat of elaborate set designs and unique scares. It’s an early Christmas present to haunt fans. This maze has the best looking facade at HHN and as soon as you step into this holiday house of horrors the sweet scents of spice, pine, and gingerbread cookies fills the air.
As guest make their way further into the home it doesn’t take too long for Krampus and his nasty little helpers to get into action attacking from every corner and angle imaginable. There are non-stop scares with the creatures coming out of the most unexpected places, above and below. This maze does a great job recreating the best scenes from the movie and it truly stands out as one of the best designed mazes in recent HHN history.
Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 4 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls