Rex and I have been attending Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) in Orlando, FL at the Universal Orlando Resort since 2003. In 2006, the event began constructing mazes (haunted houses) in two “sprung tents” that apparently were built specifically for HHN. This year’s event, HHN 24, is bringing one of the most anticipated houses in recent HHN history – a maze based on John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. This maze will be housed in one of the aforementioned tents, so I thought it would be appropriate to quickly review (and remind myself) the mazes that have come and gone since 2006 in the sprung tents. Since HHN 16, I have seen all but 4 mazes in these tents, so I have a decent perspective on the overall quality of the “tent houses.” Here we go…
2006 – Sweet 16
PsychoPath: The Return of Norman Bates
As a huge original Psycho movie fan (not that vomit of a remake mess), I had high hopes for this maze. So much could be done with the atmosphere and creepiness of Psycho. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. The first part of the maze was nothing but a bunch of “jump scares” from Norman and the last part of the maze was an attempt to “get inside” Norman’s mind, but all that really entailed was a bunch of funhouse elements, such as the vortex tunnel, etc. Thumbs down.
The People Under The Stairs: Under Construction
This was one of the worst mazes of all time. Supposedly the maze was going to be illuminated by helmet lights, the kind you might see on a miner’s helmet, but the whole concept failed miserably, you couldn’t really see anything, no detail to the house at all, and everything was a disappointment. Thumbs down.
2007 – Carnival of Carnage
Jack’s Funhouse In Clown-O-Vision
I’m not partial to 3D mazes and I am sick to death of clown 3D houses. Having said that, this was as good as you are going to get if you are into those things, but I’m not. Thumbs down.
The Thing: Assimilation
Being a Carpenter fan, I was pumped about this house, but weary since I was brutally let down at HHN16 and Psycho. Although The Thing was much better than PsychoPath, it still lacked the quality I was hoping for from this epic film. The sets looked brilliant, but the storytelling element of the maze did not appropriately gel. Nevertheless, The Thing remains one of the strongest tent houses to date. Thumbs up.
2008 – Reflections of Fear
This was one year I missed – Rex attended and could comment on these tent houses, but I have nothing to say. It is a shame for I heard that Dead Exposure was a pretty good effort.
2009 – Ripped From The Silver Screen
Chucky – Friends Till The End
Child’s Play has never been one of my favorite horror film franchises, but this house wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t anywhere near great. They at least gave Chucky a little twist by having him be the mastermind behind creating more serial killing monsters, but I left feeling underwhelmed. Thumbs down.
Just kind of boring…the theme of an evil lurking in the underground sewer systems is cool enough, but this maze fell flat. Something just wasn’t there. Thumbs down.
2010 – Twenty Years of Fear
Catacombs: Black Death Rising
This house told the story of a plague where the infected were locked down in the catacombs. Well, they have found their way out and are seeking revenge. All I really remember about this maze were the doctors who had some whacked out masks. Nothing great here. Thumbs down.
Havoc: Dogs Of War
HHN loves military-based post-apocalyptic themes (especially in scare zones). Havoc was pretty decent and created an atmosphere of chaos, noise, and destruction. Not really scary, but entertaining. Thumbs up.
2011 – Lady Luck
Rex and I missed this year unfortunately.
2012 – HHN 22
Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare
This is another “enter into the mind” house (similar to PsychoPath from 2006). Alice Cooper ranks at the top of my least liked tent houses. Classic rock hits were blaring at the entrance and through the maze, but this simply is not a haunted house. Thumbs down.
Penn & Teller: Newkd Vegas
I love Penn & Teller and I loved the concept for this house. It was different, bright, detailed, and fun. However, it was not creepy, scary, or memorable in the sense of ranking it among the great houses, which was disappointing. Thumbs down.
2013 – HHN 23
For some reason I liked this house despite its weaknesses. I found the set and design to be gorgeous and would have been happy simply to walk through it without any accompanying scares. The urban legend of La Llorona was chilling and I thought this worked fairly well. Thumbs up.
After Life Death’s Vengeance
Another 3D house, but of all the capital punishment mazes I have seen, this one was a bit better than the rest. The 3D elements were not carnival style and there was a cool vibe throughout the maze. Thumbs up.
So, out of the 12 tent houses I have experienced, I give a marginal thumbs up to only 4. None of them were fantastic. This, of course, is disconcerting when considering that the Halloween maze will be housed in one of the tents. Nevertheless, I am very optimistic that Halloween is going to break the trend of mediocre tent houses and set a new standard for excellence. Here’s hoping!