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Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 17

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UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Resort
Orlando, Florida
Universal Studios Theme Parks

 

Halloween Horror Nights 17 (2007)

Following in the bloody footsteps of last year’s Sweet 16, Jack is back once again but instead of associating himself with previously Halloween Horror Nights icons, he’s moved up in the world and joined forced with New Line Cinema’s deadly trio: Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Jason (Friday The 13th) and Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare On Elm Street). Together they have transformed Universal Studios Florida into the Carnival of Carnage, featuring 8 haunted houses and 4 big live action shows.

With that much to do, it’s kind of become impossible to still see all of the haunted houses, explore the park and still see all of the live action shows, so my review will only obviously cover the items I was able to experience myself, all the haunts and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. As for the other shows: Freak Show, Jacks and Rocky Horror… I wanted to see them, there just was no time.

art_Bill and TedLike last year, Bill & Ted are back home again in the Fear Factor venue where their story began all those years ago. I’ve got a ton of sweet show photos for you, but since those are bound to include SPOILERS for the show, the photos will be posted on a separate Bill & Ted page. The show itself was fun as usual, but a slight letdown compared to last year. The cast is wonderful as usual, but the show falls a little short with it’s section of Villains this year, focusing on celebrity bad girls: Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan who spends half of the show either in a substance enduced stupor or sleeping on part of the stage when the action is taking place. For some muscle they bright out Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four) and Sylar (Heroes) and that was about it. With Freddy, Jason and Leatherface roaming the park, it would have been nice if they could have dropped in to play and dice up a few whiney heroes, like the angst ridden black-costumed Spiderman. It was still a funny show as usual, and I really enjoyed the creative way they were able to bring Transformers into the mix as well towards the end. Speaking of the ending though… I’ve got to confess total confusion over the various musical personalities they were trying to use… other than Weird Al. I had not a single clue who they were supposed to be, so either they were vague or I’m just really out of touch.  (Update – I’ve been told that the mystery musical guests seen in the show that I couldn’t identify were Beyonce, Gwen Steffani and Gerard from My Chemical Romance)

After we entered the park, where the entrance is decked out impressively in a twisted carnival fashion, our first stop was to venture down to the Hollywood stage, avoiding the crazy clown bikers riding escaped carousel horses. Here our Media group was taken to a short performance on the Hollywood Stage where Jack warmly welcomed us all and introduces us to his three-ring circus… Jason, Freddy and Leatherface.

From here it was on to the haunts, but I’m going to touch on the Scare Zone issue briefly. Technically there only seemed to be one ‘official’ Scare Zone on the pathway between the Hollywood stage and the Animal Actors show which kind of had a sort of London Fog look to the people lost within. Now while there were not other official Scare Zones, there were various creatures roaming the park, though most seemed to be tied to specific locations. The chainsaw maniacs all stayed fairly close to the front of the Earthquake building, there were a few dancing vampire girls on a stage near their maze, and some other odd characters wanderings through the foggy NY area streets as well that I wasn’t sure about. Unfortunately, I never did encounter one of those crazy bumper cars, so I don’t know if they were put into use or not on opening night.

Now while I like the idea of no where in the park being safe, there is something to be said for having more scare zones, and after how well done Deadtropolis was the year before, I really found that I wanted to see something like that done again this year. Deadtropolis wasn’t just a scare zone… they actually managed to create a micro-world environment over a large area, complete with many characters: The military guarding the perimeter, zombies roaming the inside, hapless tourists who appeared to only recently have been turned into zombies scattered in the crowd, and zombie hunters on bikes roaming in and out of the area at will. The lack of a follow up to Deadtropolis would probably be the only weak spot in the entire night’s lineup.

action_250Before I review the mazes, lets take a quick look at the general photos taken all around the park. I want to thank my good friend Michael Fettig of Action Shots Photography (based in Orlando) who served as my photographer for the evening. If your in need of an excellent photographer while in the Central Florida area for whatever reason, please do check out his services.

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Now it’s time to move into this year’s eight haunted mazes. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ll rank them 1 to 5 (5 being the best) on their overall creepy “Atmosfear”, the “Story” they were trying to tell and just an overall “Fear Factor” level of how scary it was. These are just my impressions, based on my own reactions, personal fears and dislikes, so your own experiences may vary.

Dead Silence: The Curse of Mary Shaw
art_DeadSilenceOne of three haunts held in soundstages, the scenery and set designs were just over the top and realistic looking. I kind of know the overall story of the film this is based on, but I have to admit I haven’t see it yet. (It’s on my Netflix list…). However, the environment was rock solid as you moved from room to room, creeping people out not only from the fear of Mary Shaw jumping out, but some rather gross looking victims and the ever present creepy ventriloquist dolls everywhere. This is not one to be missed.
Atmosfear - 5
Story - 4
Fear Factor - 5


A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dreamwalkers
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I’ve always been a fan of Freddy Kruger, but unfortunately I think that stardom comes with a big price when it comes to how scary Freddy can be. I find myself ready to cheer when nabs a victim rather than turning away to run in fright. The haunt, built in a soundstage, has solid visuals with several rooms you will recognize from the films which was a great touch as Freddy pops in here and there to scare you or kill another victim. Again, this is not one to be missed.
Atmosfear - 5
Story - 4
Fear Factor - 4


Psychoscareapy: Home for the Holidays
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The final of our three soundstage haunts, I just loved this one.  The unique storyline, mixing carnage and Christmas just really worked for me, while the overall themeing and set design was just brilliant. The only downside to this particular haunt was that I was so busy enjoying myself and taking in all the visual eye candy, that I didn’t find it frightening at all. Despite this, I still recommend you experience this house, because it’s a great mix of fun and carnage that will appeal to you dark side.
Atmosfear - 5
Story - 5
Fear Factor - 2


Vampyr: Blood Bath
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There’s just something about Vampires and Nightclubs that goes together like peanut butter and chocolate, and while this wasn’t the most scary house and it didn’t have the best sets, it was a lot of fun. The only downside here was the kind of odd second act… where you venture outside for a moment into the alley before entering a final building with an entirely different theme going on that just felt like a let down to fun rave/club atmosphere you started out with.
Atmosfear - 3
Story - 3
Fear Factor - 3


Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds
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I’ve got to admit, I thought this haunt was a bit on the weak side for some reason. There is gore aplenty inside, but I felt the maze was just too dark to really appreciate the environment. Perhaps the biggest problem inside however was Leatherface himself. The psycho was everywhere, and in some cases you were actually able to view more than one of him at the same time, which was kind of distracting. That kind of supernatural teleporting works for Freddy, but not for Leatherface I’m afraid. The finale here just fell very flat because of this very reason.
Atmosfear - 3
Story - 3
Fear Factor - 3


Friday the 13th: Camp Blood
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Built inside the Jaws queue building, the site works well as Camp Blood. The big shortcoming of course was the fact that this maze was a little on the short side. There was also the problem of running into more than one Jason at a time in here as well, but the cramped quarters helped prevent this most of the time. I’ve got to hand it to the casting people too because the people hired to sit behind Jason’s hockey mask will get right in your face, up close and personal, and really fit the physical requirements needed to stare down anyone.
Atmosfear - 3
Story - 4
Fear Factor - 4


Jack’s Funhouse in Clown-O-Vision
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In one of the two “tent” style buildings backstage next to Men In Black was Jack’s Funhouse, which actually worked quite well for the theme of the house. The 3D effects were some of the best that I’ve seen in a haunted house, but I have to admit I’ve never been a huge fan of 3D haunts. As for the house itself, as the name implies, it’s more a freaky fun house than a slaughter-house, so take that for what you will.
Atmosfear - 3
Story - 3
Fear Factor - 2


The Thing: Assimilation
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Hands down, this was my favorite house of the night. The sets in here are just as good as the ones you’ll find in the soundstage haunts, and Universal Orlando’s storytelling side really did itself proud in here by adding another chapter to the story told in The Thing that works perfectly with the ending of the film. You actually do get to find out what ever happened to MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) as the story from the 80’s continues in the 21st century. This house mixed a wide assortment of mechanical effects, high tech looking scenery, puppets, huge creature models, and live actors. There were several big “scares” and creepy moments to be had all around, and by the end it started to take on the atmosphere of a horror action film as you are rescued by soldiers armed with weapons who are fighting back against the various “Things” you encounter room to room. I only wish it were longer, and I’d love to see the next chapter of The Thing told next year inside one of the soundstages.
Atmosfear - 5
Story - 5
Fear Factor - 5

 

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