Another Halloween Horror Nights at the Universal Orlando Resort has come and gone for RexandtheBeast.com. In this article I will provide brief summaries of the 8 mazes, 4 scarezones, the Bill & Ted show, and general comments about the haunt. This is the event RATB most look forward to all year, so here we go…
Halloween Horror Nights 24 is one of the best haunted events Rex and I have ever attended. This is primarily because of the quality of the mazes (haunted houses) this year, so let’s begin there.
Rex and I experienced the annual passholders RSVP event this year, the first time we have ventured away from the Fennigan’s holding area, which has been a long tradition for us, so I was hesitant to sign up for the event. I’m glad we did. Our primary reason for trying out the RSVP event was so we might have a fighting chance to experience the Halloween maze twice during the course of the night. We wanted to get through it first as part of the RSVP event, and then return after the sun had set with our express passes. Despite getting absolutely soaked while in line for the RSVP event, we were among the first 20 people in line and walked directly into our first maze of the evening, Dollhouse of the Damned, with zero wait.
Our simple ranking scale for the mazes is: Excellent – Great – Good – Fair – Poor. The list below is the order in which we experienced the mazes.
Dollhouse of the Damned (Excellent)
Rex and I walked out of DOTD and were all smiles. Our two thoughts were: 1. Is this going to be the best maze of the night? 2. If the rest of the mazes are even in the same ballpark in terms of quality, we are in for a special night. The concept of the house was simple enough – enter this dollhouse and be in danger of becoming one of the demented toys within. The first room set the pace with an array of yarn, sewing machines, needles, and a nice effect of a “doll” impaled on a stake being created with a live actress’s head. From there, things just got weird, creepy, and demented. A room of cribs that housed “babies” with huge heads smelled rather disgusting. We were sprayed by an adult baby sitting in a high chair with an adult baby laugh. There was an eerie ballerina room, a depiction of a doll sawing off a man’s leg, Teddy Ruxpin hanging on the walls, and a marionette room. One of the creepiest parts of the maze for me was a disgusting looking mother who was loudly, and disturbingly, counting the number of strokes she was giving her baby with a hairbrush. But perhaps the most demented part of the entire house was a series of mummy looking figures hanging on the wall who were holding, cradling to be more precise, a small, newborn baby. The creep factor was off the roof on this house and it reminded me and Rex of just how incredible the original content of HHN can be as opposed to the IP mazes. A truly spectacular house.
We couldn’t help notice how Roanoke was getting mostly poor reviews from our friends and colleagues on Twitter. This is another original content maze and depicts the inhabitants of the famous lost Virginia colony turning to cannibalism. This maze was housed in the parade building, which has historically produced high quality houses. The quality of the sets were terrific, the theme was consistent and easy to follow, the smells (Reality based? Absolutely.) were noticeable and spot on, especially the tobacco room, and the whole maze simply worked. Roanoke relied heavily on what I call “cage scares” – the lining on the right and left of scareactors who are behind some sort of “cage” (in this maze, these were barn-like stables) and you have to worry about who can get out and who are locked in the cage. Several rooms used that technique in Roanoke. The finale was effective with two large wendigos stalking you. I especially liked how the religious angle was played toward the end, attempting to defeat the evil by burning down the villages and using sacrifices in order to bring things back to peace. We really enjoyed this maze and found the negative reviews to be a bit off base. On a side note, Rex and I walked through Roanoke the first time absolutely alone. Not another person was in the maze. That was a first for us at an HHN event.
The ultimate haunted house in honor of the ultimate horror film. Make no mistake, this maze was clearly designed to show honor and respect for the 1978 classic film directed by the legendary John Carpenter. Rex and I mentioned our excitement for this maze in podcasts and articles, as well as some concern we had that the house just wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. That was all forgotten when we stepped inside. From the wonderful Myers house as the facade to the final room of the immortal Dr. Sam Loomis, Halloween worked perfectly. Fair warning: The only way to truly appreciate the power of this house is to know and enjoy the original Halloween film. Much of the maze will be unappreciated by those who have not seen the film. By far the most awe-inspiring room was the kitchen scene when Michael stabs Bob, sticking him to the kitchen wall, and then famously tilts his head by and forth to admire his work. The scareactor playing Michael recreated the look with brilliance. I was near tears (and holding up the line) as I watched in awe. Small tributes to Halloween 2 and 3 were noticeable in the house. All I can ultimately say about this maze is….thank you Universal. Thank you.
Giggles & Gore INC (Fair)
Clowns are not born…they are made! We left this maze feeling the way we expected to feel – underwhelmed. This is really just because Rex and I do not enjoy clown houses, it’s that simple. Having said that, Giggles & Gore was the best clown house we have seen. The gore element combined with the theme of clowns creating other clowns provided a much needed change from the typical 3D clown houses with bright colors and vortex tunnels. In the first room, a man is strapped to a chair with his eyes forced open as cartoons are being “burned” into his conscience. From there, we see people getting smashed, gorged, tortured, mutilated, and transformed into evil clowns. A great scene of a clown ripping the intestines out of a helpless victim was effective. But there were some rather boring stretches of of the house and some uninspiring clown decorations which places this in the “fair” category. Nevertheless, the maze was still strong and worth seeing.
Dracula Untold: Reign Of Blood (Good)
This is the story of how Dracula came to be Dracula, but as is often the case in a haunted house that has a conga line, the story was very, very difficult to follow. The design was gorgeous, the scares were sparse but well done (including a wonderful scare of Vlad holding a decapitated head), and the costumes were impressive. I think we followed the story of how Vlad was conquering the world, burning villages, and making war only to be nearly killed himself. He then transforms into Dracula and we get to see his impaled victims and the general carnage that follows. There was no finale to this maze which was disappointing. We were impressed by the sets and the costumes, but underwhelmed by the story and the scares.
Alien vs Predator (Great)
This maze takes two great movie franchises and brings them together for a magnificent, effective maze. After entering the environment inspired by LV-426, I was wide eyed and amazed at the sets that perfectly capture the spirit and look of the Alien franchise. Then we saw our first Alien puppet, which was phenomenal. Universal has hit a home run two years in a row with their puppet creations – last year’s being the unbeatable werewolves from An American Werewolf in London. Then, we see the Predator in his terrifying, dominating presence. The two are not actually fighting, so the “versus” concept is a bit misleading, but who cares? This one is just so much fun to look at and soak in. Not many scares to be found, but plenty of atmosphere. A great maze.
The Walking Dead: The End of the Line (Great)
Raise your hand if you are tired of The Walking Dead themed mazes and scarezones at HHN? Everyone’s hand raised? Good. BUT…this maze surprised me. I was ready to hate it, the franchise, and Universal for bringing it back yet again, but I found myself delighted by the enormous scale of the sets and the scares. The first half of this house from very mediocre with single zombies lunging out for a scare. But in the middle of the maze, when we entered a grocery store, everything changed. A remarkable set of a crashed helicopter turned the maze around and I found there to be many scares and many inspiring sets from that point on. At one point, we entered a dark, strobe filled roam that was littered with walkers. It was an unnerving experience. The finale was a typical chain link fence, like you normally see at a local haunt, but still yet it worked fairly well. I’m glad to say this was the sleeper of the night for me.
From Dusk To Dawn (Good)
Rex was more of a fan of this maze than I was, but we both agreed that the opening barker and the first few scenes were very effective, immersive, and entertaining. The final shootout scene was equally impressive. Unfortunately, the middle part of the maze was repetitive and bland. The more of a fan of the franchise you are, the more you will enjoy this house.
Due to the heavy rain before and during the event, the Face Off scarezone was not operating at full capacity, so we really can’t provide a review that would be adequate. We spent the most time in the Purge scarezone and found it to be good, but not unlike the previous post-apocalyptic scarezones HHN has dished out – the notable exception being the auction and characters identified with the film. MASKerade was probably my favorite scarezone simply for the beauty and detail of the costumes. Bayou of Blood was fun as well, although we were unfortunately unable to witness the now defunct sacrifice scene. Scarezones are obviously not as important to the overall quality of the event as mazes are, but I found this year’s scarezones to be just fine, just not terrific. There have been better offerings in previous HHN years.
I don’t really have much to say about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure because the show has never done much for me. According to our colleagues, it was a great year for the show, perhaps one of the best ever. If that show was one of the best ever, then I’m not really motivated to continue to spend upwards of an hour of HHN time at Bill & Ted’s. Rex might disagree. Finally, we once again this year did not have time to experience The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
As I said at the beginning, the quality of HHN ultimately comes down to the houses and boy, did Universal ever deliver. We can only wait with great anticipation as to what will be in store for HHN 25.