Well, as readers of RexandtheBeast.com know, I (Rex) went to Halloween Horror Nights 18—Reflections of Fear without my partner in crime, the Beast. The Beast has been joined by a great new baby girl, so I went with Rexette. The fun part of this is that Rexette hates being scared and had not been through a haunted house since she was in high school! Before I start in on the day and the night, I am going to go ahead and rate the houses (I’m not really going to rate the Scarezones, but just give my thoughts on them below). My ranking of the houses is:
1. Scary Tales: Once Upon a Nightmare
2. Interstellar Terror
3. The Hallow
5. Body Collectors: Collections of the Past
7. Reflections of Fear
8. Dead Exposure
I will also say that this is probably one of the best bottom-end houses HHN I have ever attended. By that I mean that in the past there was always one or two houses that were clearly the worst and not very good, even the bottom couple this year were still enjoyable (which explains why I have seen so many different ranking of the houses this year). In addition, HHN had the best Scarezones I believe I have ever seen, really great atmosphere throughout the park…and you were never safe, the edges of the Scarezones seemed to morph and extend more than ever before, which was great. Although this will be a fairly long blog, I am going to save most of the detail of the day and night for my Podcast with the Beast, but I wanted to let you know some of my initial thoughts. So, onward.
We cruised into Universal at about 11:00 on Sunday, October 26. The day was perfect and, after spending the day enjoying Universal, we waited at Finnegan’s for HHN to start.
At about 6:00 they let us out of the holding area and we headed straight to Creatures.
Creatures House Ranking: #6 (out of 8 houses)
Creatures was an interesting house in one of the soundstages. The concept was rednecks versus sci-fi aliens, and the house felt kind of like a B-movie set. You start outside a redneck bar and Rexettte got her first good scare there. One of the scareactors was standing to our left and Rexette was staring him down…but since Rexette doesn’t have a lot of haunted attraction experience (as mentioned above), she stopped paying attention to him once we passed him. He then circled around behind us and came up behind her on her right and gave her a huge scare. It was the beginning of a great night, since the scareactors picked on her all night. As we walked through the house, one of the things I liked was the smell of the house, it had a great dank, musty smell that really matched the mood of the house. As you walked through one corridor, you could see one of the aliens lying on a grate above you. Overall, the aliens were seldom seen, but the boom of shotguns as the rednecks were fighting let you know they were there. There was also a creature shooting water at you at one point that worked fairly well. Overall a good house, and a great one to start the night with. We then ran right over to Body Collectors.
Body Collectors: Collections of the Past House Ranking: #4
This is what I generally call an atmosphere house. It was not a startle effect house or huge scare house, but a very good house for atmosphere. This was one of the goriest houses and had what I consider to be one of the best effects at HHN. In one of the early rooms, there was a woman on a table and a collector was working on her back, and he then ripped her spine out…she let out a bloodcurdling screen. There were gentlemen watching from above and when the spine was ripped out, they all applauded. Pretty good room. My big complaint with this house was there were too many dead zones where there were not really any scareactors or even decent tableaus. I expected more from this house.
At this point, it was still light, but dusk was beginning to fall, and with dusk came the livening up of the Scarezones. As we walked toward the back of the park to hit Scary Tales: Once Upon a Nightmare, we walked past the Skoolhouse and Fractured Tales. These were two great Scarezones…I loved the jack-o-laterns that were strewn about everywhere. There are some great pictures of them up in our pictures section of the site, so check them out. The Skoolhouse was actually a quick walk-through of a school, with a couple of crazy teachers/principals, and was nothing big, but effective and different from most Scarezones from the past.
Scary Tales: Once Upon a Nightmare House Ranking: #1
This was one great house. I always love the idea of taking things that are comfortable or sweet and turning them on their head; Scary Tales delivered for that.
Some of the highlights were the Wizard of Oz scene where you have Dorothy tied up and bleeding in the corn…really effective scareactor when I visited, walking around was the Scarecrow and the Tin Man squirting us with his “heart” and lunging with his ax. There was also a great Alice in Wonderland room that was very disconcerting—strobe effects abounded–and really made you feel that things were askew. Also Goldilocks had killed the three bears and was quite maniacal in her room.
We also go to see Little Red Riding Hood ripping her way out of the bear that ate her, well done and quite effective. But…
The highlight of the house for me was Cinderella. Cinderella had been captured by the evil queen, who had stolen her glass slipper…with Cinderella’s foot still in it! Cinderella was in stocks with her feet hanging out of the stocks and her foot cut off, with blood pouring into the floor. A good scare, but a fantastic eerie set-up. Cinderella looked absolutely amazing in her pain, and the queen was having a great time. Just great.
Dead Exposure House Ranking: #8
This was another house that disappointed me. I had heard some great things about it, and saw that some people had it ranked near the top of the list for houses, but for me it didn’t work. The opening scene was pretty interesting, an office, with the photographer milling about, answering the phone, etc., but once we entered the house, the constant strobe effects and the theme of the house didn’t’ do it for me. I didn’t follow the storyline and found it more annoying than anything.
Doomsday House Ranking #4
This house surprised me, because I expected it to be fairly poor. You are in with a bunch of infected people who are trying to get out or simply trying to infect you as well, and they all played their parts pretty well. A lot of chainsaws in this house and good make-up effects. The scene that stayed with me from this house is at the end, where you have someone chained up (reminded me of the Gimp from Pulp Fiction) and another person just walking around and watching him and you. Although nothing was done to the chained person while I walked through….you knew it was coming at some point, and that was pretty freaky.
The Hallow House Ranking #3
This was a very detailed house (set up on one of the temporary structures), that was based around the history of Halloween. Out in front of the house were some claws coming out of the ground from a creature, and that let you right into the house. Once of the creepy effects here were heads handing from the ceiling that you had to walk through and push out of your way to move forward. There was a wild strobe effect with a decapitated head that looked really good. There were a couple of demon ram-headed creatures that did a good job of looking creepy (if a little like the P.A.G.A.N. costume from the movie Dragnet), but my favorite effect was in a long hallway there were statues attached to the wall, and a couple of them were scareactors that jumped out as you went by. This resulted in another one of the biggest screams of the night from Rexette when one of them came after her (again, she didn’t realize that many statutes are not typically statues at HHN!
Reflections of Fear House Ranking: #7
This was the Bloody Mary house and was not really as bad as some people were claiming. It had a pretty strange atmosphere that I thought worked pretty well. It was far and away the shortest house of the night, and apparently had inflatable walls that you had to push through earlier in the month, but were taken down to speed up the lines by the time I visited. They had the classic electrocution guy in this house and the Bloody Mary’s did a pretty good job—not a great house, but the mirrors and the Bloody Mary’s worked pretty well.
Interstellar Terror House Ranking #2
This house was the biggest positive surprise of the night for me. I expected this to be similar to The Thing from last year, which I thought was disappointing, but this was great. You walk in to a spaceship after seeing its exterior (Columbus 1492 is the ship’s name and number), and enter a room where the captain is giving a video warning to get out and save yourself. You then enter a walk through, where you can see underneath the catwalk to what seems to be a pretty good ways down. You really felt that you were in a spaceship that had something horrible happen to it. This house used the classic spinning tube walkway, which works great for me and Rexette and was really disorienting, and that led you to a final room where there was a scareactor walking around and mumbling “I never killed anyone, I never killed anyone” who was really creepy. Just a well-built scary/atmosphere house. Really enjoyed it.
My favorite HHN (HHN 13 is really close), and Rexette enjoyed it so much she is considering joining me and the Beast for HHN 19 next year!
Check out our HHN pictures, our HHN Podcast, which should be up shortly, and a HHN video, which should be up soon as well. Until then, Join the Journey!