With an eclectic mix of themes ranging from popular TV series, classic movie properties, and sadistic original themes, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) 2014 fired on all cylinders. Not since 2009, had we experienced such a full line up of terrifying mazes at HHN. The HHN team of John Murdy and Chris Williams managed to create some of the most intricate horror maze designs and effects we’ve seen… anywhere! While other Theme Park haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm celebrate the spirit of the Halloween season with creepy and spooky styled themes, HHN differentiates itself as being a true Horror Show. Here we take on the leading roles encountering monsters, zombies, and psychos inside a the vast landscape of Hollywood’s top horror settings.

The park operations, which has been a nightmare in the past, were running smoothly in the night of our visit; with great line control, calm crowds, and helpful employees. Everything that has exasperated us in our past visits to HHN were non-issues this year. Even without a front of the line pass, we made it through 6 of the 7 mazes and experienced The Terror Tram with our longest wait being only 35 minutes. The only minor complaint we have is the amount of walking guests had to do with the walk from the front gate down to the backlot mazes being 1.2 miles (we checked on Google Maps) each way. By the end of the night we felt like the Walking Dead ourselves. On the positive side, the spread did help to keep the crowds fairly dispersed throughout the park, especially earlier in the evening. Universal did a good job at making the walk to backlot an entertaining and scary experience with an army of zombies from the “The Walking Dead” populating the walkways themed as the journey to ‘Terminus”.

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We’ll now take you through our maze and scare zone reviews with highlights and opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.

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The Walking Dead: End of the Line 

This is where we follow in the footsteps of the human survivors on the show as we flee the overrun prison and enter a nightmarish landscape searching for a promised new safe haven (Terminus) that may not be all that it seems. After escaping the dark and murky prison sets that were featured in last year’s Walking Dead maze, we find ourselves fighting through even larger hordes of walkers in new scenes inspired from the show’s 4th season.

This year was the best reincarnation of the Walking Dead with the Walkers getting uncomfortably close to us. The makeup on the Walkers was on par with what you’d actually see in the show. Seeing the Walkers in their various stages of decay was very unnerving as the zombie makeup was a little more than realistic. Being in the scenes from the show also created an odd sensation mixed of fear and nostalgia. The infamous scene from the series where the store ceiling is collapsed by the zombies was just as awe inspiring as it was scary. We liked that the walkers were actually running at us and there were quite a few surprise scares that took us off guard, providing some pretty terrifying moments. Towards the middle of the maze we were starting to hope that Rick and Michonne would show up to protect us and guide us to safety. Yet no luck, and we had to bravely make our own way through the zombie infested scenes in a failed attempt to get to the safety of Terminus. 

With a maze of this caliber we won’t necessarily balk at HHN for continuing to bring out the dead, but we also feel that all good things should come to and end and perhaps after 3 years it’s time for HHN let the dead rest in peace.


  • Haunt Design: 4 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 4 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls



AVP: Alien Vs. Predator

Two rival alien species fight to the death with Earth as their battleground. In this menacing maze guest uncover a dangerous alien spaceship carrying a race of hunter aliens known as Predators and a threatening new alien life form that uses human hosts to propagate its species. After crash landing in a remote section of America and escaping to the countryside, the alien and predator become hunter and prey with guests caught in the crossfire.

HHN14_AVP-1-300x240This maze (and an American Werewolf in London) had the most detailed sets and high-end effects we’ve ever seen at HHN. We have to loudly applaud the HHN creative team for bringing the AVP settings and monsters fully to life, to scare us to death. On top of the detailed sets, this maze was just downright terrifying. The Alien and Predator attacks were relentless. Coupled with HHN’s signature lighting and sound scares, every time the extraterrestrial monsters made an appearance, widely swiping and thrashing at us, even the bravest of haunt stalkers were screaming and ducking for cover.

This maze cleverly used it’s spaceship, forest, and suburban house settings to create unique hiding places for the scares. This maze  had diversion and new scare tactics having the Aliens, Predators, and victims appear from some of the most unexpected places. In addition, many of the live and animatronic scareactors were larger than life making every encounter with them even more foreboding. There was a lot to see in this maze and we wish we had time (and nerves) to go through it more than once. If anything, this is one maze we definitly would not mind seeing come back for a second year.


  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 skulls



From Dusk Till Dawn

We can’t believe that original movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn” came out 18 years ago (in 1996) and now it has been transformed into a TV series on the the El Rey Network that has become a maze. HHN fans have expressed interest in a maze based on this movie for many years so it seems that the timing is now perfect for this theme as it not only utilizes a very popular horror movie that has a unique spin on the vampire lore; but it also has themes of hispanic folklore (Mesoamerican) that Universal has been exploiting… err exploring, over the past few years (La Llorona and El Cucuy) and it helps to promote the new series. A win-win all around.

This maze was fun and worth seeing but it wasn’t one of the best for 2014. The scareactor makeup was top-notch with the vampire demons looking relastic from head to toe. The sets were also well detailed to look like the forbbidden lair of the blood sucking demons but since the maze tried follow the linear story of the movie/TV show there were a few scenes that were repeated so it started to feel redundant was we went further through. There were a few good scares but the layout with wide open rooms allowed too much time for us to scan and scope out the potential scareactor hiding places.

It was good and fun to finally have a From Dusk Till Dawn maze but it didn’t fully meet our expectations.


  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 2.5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skull
  • Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls


An American Werewolf in London

After year’s and year’s of begging, this maze was finally unleashed upon HHN guests in Hollywood. This maze recreated all the legendary scenes from movie using gruesomely convincing props, chillingly authentic music and mind-blowing special effects. Throughout this maze it was hard to tell who was howling louder, us or the wolves.

HHN14_American-Werewolf-4-Copy-300x240In this maze the horrifying journey begins in “The Slaughtered Lamb,” the English countryside pub introduced in the beginning of the movie. After venturing through the overgrown wasteland known as the “Moors,” maze-goers are forced to traverse through dense fog amidst sounds of savage growls and unknown peril ahead. Before long we find ourselves face to jaws of the larger than life werewolves who are fully built animatronic beasts that bite and claw at us from unexpected darkness and corners. In addition to the werewolves, we are further terrorized by the nightmarish zombie nazi soldiers who ambushed us in a forcibly convincing machine gun attack.

Just like AVP, this maze featured the best sets and effects we’ve ever seen at a haunt. With the diversity of sets ranging from the wooded countryside to the underground tube station it’s obvious that no expense was spared in designing this maze. The makeup was also phenomenal as they even included a transformation scene that stopped people in their tracks as they watched David’s painful transformation from a man to lycan. For fans of the movie this maze accurately depicted everything they love about it, scene by scene, making it really feel as if we were being stalked by the wolves all the way from the English country side to London’s red light district.  This maze fully reflects everything HHN Hollywood is about in bringing the movies to life.


  • Haunt Design: 5 skulls
  • Theming: 5 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 5 skulls


Clowns 3D Music by SLASH

This maze was no laughing matter as it seemed to unmask the psychological disorder known as Coulrophobia, a disturbing condition affecting those with an extreme and irrational fear of clowns. The psychedelic 3D maze featured sadistic clowns taunting and tempting victims with terror and treats as they parade through “Sweet Licks Frozen Clown Pops Family Amusement Center” (that’s a real mouthful).

HHN14_Clowns-5-300x200As we all know the killer clown theme is not a unique find at a haunt. Even HHN has featured different variations of killer clowns throughout the years. The uniqueness of this maze was the soundtrack written Slash from Guns & Roses fame. Along with his screaming guitar riffs, his likeness was also featured throughout this dilapidated ice cream factory run by the deranged clown Sweet Licks. The story is Sweet Licks has lured us to his factory only with the intentions to use us as the key ingredients in his ice cream concoction.

The clown makeup was very sinister and widely creative. Perhaps the clowns looked a little too monstrous thus detaching them from the actual fears people have of the traditional looking clowns of days past. These monster clowns were very high strung delivering some of the most energetic performances we saw the whole night. The thing with this maze though, is the fact that it reused a lot of sets and scare tactics we had seen in previous HHN mazes such as House of 1,000 Corpses and Black Sabbath. All in all it was a fun maze but it was pretty typcial as far as clown themed mazes go. We do give thumbs up to Universal for not reducing itself to charge guests $1 for the glasses, which is the practice at other parks (looking at Knott’s).


  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 4 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 2 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3 skulls


Face Off: In the Flesh

This is the last maze that will ever be featured inside the former House of Horrors attraction. This venue has never featured the scariest or best HHN mazes as it has a prefixed set-up that doesn’t allow for much change year over year aside from having new characters running around. However, the Face Off creations were a real nice addition to this maze that usually features Universal’s classic horror monsters.

Some of the Face Off creatures we encountered included insect-human hybrids and creatures from Alice in Zombieland. While we’ve usually been big critics of this maze and its disjointed layovers, we could tell that HHN really went all out to give this maze a final layover that sends off the attraction in gruesome style. Not only were the costumes and makeup incredible, the maze was packed with Face-Off monsters who were very talented at utilizing the tight spaces of the maze to surprise us with new scares we didn’t expect, after going through this maze over and over during the past decade. We were genuinely scared and after the first few scenes it was clear that they were determined to scare the shit out of us and were not going to hold back. The intensity seemed to build as we made our way through the familiar pathways and when it was all over we couldn’t believe that they “got us” so many times. As hard as it may be for for us to admit, we may now actually miss The House of Horrors.

Oh, for you dubstep fans, have no fear as house music DJ Figure was back again to provide the soundtrack for this maze.


  • Haunt Design: 3 skulls
  • Theming: 2 skulls
  • Scare Factor: 5 skulls
  • Overall Rating: 3 skulls



Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead

Like last year, the 2013 Terror Tram features The Walking Dead and covers the same ground as all years before. As you exit the tram, a line of chainsaws greets you, ushering you up the path toward the Bates Motel. Walkers stumble around, attempting to scare but moving just too slowly to really cause anyone alarm. The trail takes you past the Bates house, through some zombie sets, through the War of the Worlds sets, and back onto the Tram. There is nothing really new this year, and we suggest that if you’re running out of time in your evening, this is the attraction to skip.




  • Haunt Design: 2.5 skull
  • Theming: 2 skull
  • Scare Factor: 2 skull
  • Overall Rating: 2 skull

Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood


Unfortunately we ran out of time to experience this maze. Perhaps we should have skipped the Terror Tram but it was hard to pass the opportunity to sit for 15 minutes while riding the tram up and down the hill. The line for this maze was listed as the longest of the night, which probably had to due with it’s location near the entrance plaza. Early reviews we heard said that this maze was not a hit. The movie wasn’t very good and so we didn’t feel too bad about not being able to experience it.

Here’s how Universal described it: Guests will witness the harrowing transformation of Vlad the Impaler to the monstrous Dracula. We know how the story ends, but what terrifying blood drenched journey brought Vlad into the darkness that is Dracula? This is it — every visceral and feral scare will grab guests by the jugular.

Scare Zones

The Purge: Survive the Night This year, the main entrance into HHN is taken over by The Purge scare zone. This was a fantastic use of a movie as a scare zone, as its placement is perfect at the beginning of the park, where most of the mayhem and disorder take place. This area is always the most chaotic, so The Purge is a great setting for that. The opening “Scare-amonies” feature a line of sinister-looking folks (“purgers”?) with chainsaws, wearing those creepy expression-less masks from the movie. There’s also an actor portraying the “Polite Leader” at the head of the scare zone, and one of these actors looked so much like the guy in the movie, we had to watch him for several minutes to decide whether or not the real actor had joined the ranks of HHN this year. 4 skulls


The Walking Dead: Welcome to Terminus  With no end in sight for the zombie apocalypse, the only hope for survival lies in taking the road to Terminus, a rumored sanctuary for the living. There may be hope, but it’s a journey fraught with unimaginable horrors as you make your way through a gauntlet of flesh-hungry walkers. This scare zone was a creative way to distract us from the fact that we’re walking over a quarter mile across the backlot. The path is loaded with walkers, show set pieces, lighting and fog effects. It even includes a tunnel where walkers blend in with the crowd and get very close with guests. 4 Skulls 


Mask-a-Raid featured hordes of blood thirsty cannibals masquerading as French aristocrats. This was a fun scare zone with some great looking set pieces and costuming. The masquerading monsters were very in your face aggressive as well. Worth a stroll through this area, just watch your back. 4 skulls 


Dark Christmas a Pagan-themed area where demonic creatures hunt disobedient children and drag them to hell. We loved this scare zone! Forget The Nightmare Before Christmas, this is truly the place where holidays collide. Going through this scare zone made us wish for a real Krampus movie or other X-Mas themed horror flick, that is NOT Silent Night Deadly Night.  5 Skulls

Skullz based on the Native American legend of Wendigo, a malevolent supernatural half-beast monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. It’s hard quantify this as a scare zone as all we saw were 2-3 scareactors on stilts walking around in the area between The Mummy ride and Jurassic Park. There was no supporting set pieces or anything to further distingiush this as a real scare zone. The stilt walkers did their best an interact with the crowd but there was nothing overtly scary about them. 1.5 Skull

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights Overall Fright Value: 4.5 Skulls

Overall Rating of HHN Hollywood 2014: 5 Skulls