As fans of RexandtheBeast.com know, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida (HHN) is one of the highlights of the year for us. So, of course, we headed to HHN on October 9, 2009 as part of the Festival of Fear Tour 2009. We were just coming off of a great experience at Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa, and were pumped to see what HHN XIX had to offer.
We entered Universal Studios well ahead of the closing of the park for HHN so that we could partake of the Stay and Scream option. This allows people with HHN tickets to stay in the park between the day and the HHN attraction. We spent out Stay and Scream time hanging out at Finnegan’s Bar and Grill (one of the holding areas for the Stay and Scream option). This is a great perk and one that we highly recommend you take advantage of, if possible. You are also allowed to enter HHN from the holding areas 30-45 minutes before the main gates open.
So, we started HHN XIX:
Dracula: Legacy in Blood
This was a great house to start with because it had one of our favorite things, which is great theming. You walk toward Dracula’s castle and enter a courtyard when Vlad the Impaler has been hanging out, because there are various persons impaled on stakes in the courtyard. A nice reference to the original Dracula legend. The house walked you through various portions of the castle and had strong theming through (a staple of the soundstage houses at HHN). There was a good scene of a bat turning into a vampire that was easy to miss if you didn’t pay attention in that room.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 9.0 out of 10
While we were over in the soundstage area, we went ahead and hit the second of the three soundstage houses:
The Wolfman was another of the soundstage houses, and as such, had the great theming that we mentioned above. You had indoor and outdoor scenes that worked well together. Some of the better props from the soundstage houses were used in this house and it captured the feel of the Wolfman’s prowling well. There were a lot of snarling sound effects, sometimes to the point of losing the effect they were going for. The scareactors had good makeup jobs and acted well, but certain parts of the house felt like they were set up more for Dracula than the Wolfman. Overall a good effort.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 8.0 out of 10
Chucky: Friends to the End
We went into this house interested to see how it compared to the “toy“ house entry at Howl-O-Scream, Nightshade Toys, which we loved. Although this was an okay house, it did not bring the same kind of creepiness and scares as Nightshade Toys did. It did have a bit of a decent story (Chucky creating havoc, basically), but overall not as creepy or scary as we hoped. Rex was never a big fan of Chucky anyway, and this did nothing to change his mind on that one. A decent house but one of the lesser entries this year.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 6.5 out of 10
We did not go into this house with high expectations. We felt like this concept was not going to work well and just felt like it would be one of the worst houses. We were wrong. We enjoyed this house and the concept, though simple, worked well. We found this to be a creepy house with good scareactors working the concept. Probably the surprise of the night.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned
The final soundstage house was another classic Universal monster house. Continuing the theme of the soundstage houses, the theming was great. We did not enjoy this house as much as The Wolfman and Dracula, however. The story was a little muddled and did not have the kinds of scares we would like to see. Always nice to see the original monster (not Frankenstein remember, that‘s the doctor!), but overall a little disappointing.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 7.0 out of 10
Leave It To Cleaver
This is the now classic type of house, which is a butcher shop/restaurant/whatever that serves “specialty“ meats, which end up being human parts. We are a little tired of this concept generally, and didn’t find it particularly effective in any event. It did have a odd little mascot character and the humor it had with itself was well-placed, but we had no desire to “meet me at Meetz.” The weakest house of HHN this year.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 6.0 out of 10
As we started this house, we were very excited and thought it might be one of the best of the night. Jigsaw talking on TVs. A nice scene with the toy/kid on the tricycle coming at you. You did get a few of the Saw apparatuses, but not in any really scary way. Overall, a good house, but it was a little short and we found ourselves disappointed from the great start.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 7.0 out of 10
This was the house of the night. As you enter the theater, you meet the usher (basically the mascot for HHN XIX, although not in as much use as previous mascots), and then see that the theater is rundown as the marquee flickers from showing Phantom of the Opera to a dilapidated theater. Each room then has a movie poster stating what is going to be “showing” in each room. You get My Bloody Valentine, the Thing, Phantom of the Opera, Shaun of the Dead and probably some others that we forgot! This house fit in great with Universal and was a lot of fun. So far, our favorite house on the Festival of Feat 2009 tour.
RexandtheBeast.com Rating: 10 out of 10
We did not feel that the scare zones were as good as in past years, but still add a nice atmosphere to the proceedings.
We also thought that the Bill and Ted Show was below the last few years in quality as well. It still was a pretty good show and made us laugh a number of times, but just not up to past year’s standards. Of course, we could be getting old and the “hip” references are going over our heads—nah, that couldn’t be it!
Our final thoughts on HHN XIX: Universal still sets the standard for haunted attractions in the country. As much as we have enjoyed other stops on the Festival of Fear Tour, no one can match the overall effect that HHN is able to create. If you are a fan of Halloween and haunted attractions and have not made it to HHN in Orlando, you must do so–it is the premier event in the country.
Rex’s Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Beast’s Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10