UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
Universal Studios Theme Parks
Review by: Steve Rowin
Halloween Horror Nights 2013
I’m convinced the team at Universal Horror Nights Hollywood has perfected the art of horror maze design, building and execution! (pun intended!) Wow, I was really impressed with everything this year. I especially enjoyed the Walkers from the hit TV series “The Walking Dead”.
Black Sabbath 13 in 3D - This maze replaced last years Alice Cooper Maze and I have to say it blew it away! Stunning 3D effects! Maybe it’s just me, but hearing the song Iron Man blaring with devil like creatures crawling around in 3D just goes so well together. I’m sure the prince of darkness was proud of this incarnation of evil. Like trying to describe a spectacular piece of cake we all know there are some things you just have to experience for yourself and Black Sabbath 3D is one of them. Not to be missed I’d be ok with seeing this one again next year.
What made the Walkers so great was that these things were crawling everywhere and they looked so real. Just as you see on the TV show, not only in looks but in how they move, sound and act. I’m not one to jump and scream in “scream zones” but with the walkers I was inspired. Inspired to buy into the idea that they were real and we needed to avoid them as if we had been beamed into the show or better yet living in a world with walkers! I think HHN nailed it by having the walkers in their “first season” mode. Not too fast, not too hungry yet, avoidable.
The walkers were in the traditional scare zones, on the tram tour with a long forest walk up to the bates motel, crawling all around the bates motel and the airplane wreck set. All great backdrops for a zombie apocalypse. In addition to those spots with walkers we were treated to The Walking Dead maze and the new Black Sabbath maze deep down on a part of the studio back lot we’ve never seen at HHN before.
The Walking Dead - If you follow the show you know the gang has made the prison their home. In this maze, we are on the run and the walkers have infested every inch of this place. The rooms were very realistic and grand as a multi level prison would need to be to convince you it was a real prison. One major difference in this maze was that the Walkers were definitely in season 3 mode, very very hungry. While most of the haunt was in the prison we did enter the Governor’s apartment with the fish tanks full of walker heads! While most were mummified, the one looking around and following me with his eyes was especially creepy. The only thing that could have made this maze better is running through it all alone with nobody else around except the walkers! If Universal is listening maybe a raffle to win a solo maze tour would be a home run to benefit a charity.
El CuCuey - The Boogie Man - This maze replaced the multi year running of La Lorena which was featured in Orlando this year. While La Lorena was great in being that spooky gothic haunt and a favorite of mine, I didn’t connect as well with El Cucuey. Both based on Mexican folklore, El Cucuey comes and gets children who misbehave. Sort of the opposite of a well known fellow who brings gifts to good children in December, El Cucuey is feared by children all over Mexico. In the haunt we walk through lots of terrified children’s bedrooms where El Cucuey is all so ready to visit. I think if you had grown up hearing about El Cucuey you might have connected with this haunt. Set quality was good but this maze lacked some of the techniques used in La Lorena to surprise you. Funny enough the El Cucuey reminded me a lot of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character Rom. Of all the mazes I’d have to say I wouldn’t be sad if I didn’t have time to see this one next year. Although as always in my reviews of Universal they set the bar high, El Cucuey as a stand alone at your local mall would blow you away!
Insidious - Every year it’s pretty evident that two haunts seem to get the big budget. Insidious was one of the two. Creepy! Creepy! Creepy! I think it’s hard to avoid the bone chilling fear a storyline line like Insidious invokes. Even if you have never seen the movie the bizarre nature of the characters is enough to make you jump out of your skin. Very much the same way last year's Silent Hill sucked you into a strange world, Insidious does the same and is a winner. Incredible detail has gone into every inch of this maze. Complete rooms with crown molding and all to give you a truly chilling experience.
Evil Dead - The second full budget haunt was Evil Dead. Wow that book unleashing everything evil in the cabin and the trees from the forest were like being on the original movie set. As a matter of fact just like the House of a 1000 corpses from last year Universal seems to do one maze that is a complete storyline of a movie from beginning to end. In Evil Dead we travel through all the classic scenes from the movie. The bit I found most memorable was near the end when we see a girl kneeling down, mouth wide open and another girl standing above her pushes a running chainsaw into her mouth and out the back of her neck with blood spurting everywhere. Awesome and in no way to be missed!
Monsters Remixed - This one seemed the same as year’s past as we walk through a classic monsters maze with the pinnacle being a huge laboratory with a dead DJ spinning insane dubstep. The music goes very well with monsters as it just makes you want to run! I think this haunt is a lot of fun, less scary, great to do if the line is not too long. It’s hard to describe the scenes as some parts are industrial building halls, others in a forest of sorts, the giant two story laboratory and lots of strobe lights! the vibe is fun, the music works with it all and its a nice break from all the hardcore spookiness we get at all the others.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure - This pop culture based, twisted horror plot thing hosted by the goofy Bill and Ted is such an unexpected thrill! Without spoiling the surprises, this year Bill and Ted drop into OZ where they meet the witches of the east, west, etc. As goes the formula they all must die but how? You’ll have to go see it to find out. What makes this show is the quality and skill of the performers! Wow, it may have been 1:45am but they acted like this was the most important performance of their lives. Sexy, funny, raunchy humor, acrobatic star studded show sums it up best. Great sound, music, pyrotechnics and killer lighting along with the unique content is something not to be missed. You won’t see another show quite like this one anywhere else. Don’t underestimate Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure!
Reporting for Screamscape.com - Steven C. Rowin