The Halloween season has officially been kicked off by Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. We got a chance to attend the opening day of the west coast haunt and experience their mazes first hand as if we were thrown into the worlds of this year’s properties. From Halloween’s Michael Myers to the ghosts of Crimson Peak, we’re running down what monsters reign supreme at HHN 2015!
The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far
After a few consecutive haunt seasons, AMC’s hit zombie show continues to pull in attendees at HNN with a maze that takes fans to Terminus. As someone who stopped watching the show because of zombie fatigue and lack of interest in most of the characters, this maze seemed to sum up the latest season of the Walking Dead: now with cannibals! The makeup (likely still overseen by Nicotero) is still very much true to the outstanding design on the show and with the enthusiasm of the actors makes you have some excitement as you go through it. It’s just the layout feels like the repetitive story line of the fake safe haven overrun by zombies with cannibal cameos. And without the fun scares the set pieces are people being eaten.
This is the End 3D
This campy maze inspired by the Franco/Rogen dark comedy, plays almost like a twisted version of MTV Cribs: Apocalypse Edition. We enter James Franco’s house right after The Rapture starts, immediately seeing moments like Michael Cera impaled by a light pole on the way in. Wearing 3D glasses the bright, ultraviolet lighting disorients you to basically make you feel like you’re on drugs and throws you off when the jump scares start. With vlogs from the film leading you through the story line we come across an ax wielding Hermione, the hilarious Jonah Hill exorcism scene, the crazy cannibal gang with a cool surprise, going into the light and reaching ‘Heaven’. The maze was great with the exception a couple elements lacking in the ending but that’s likely more to do with copyright than anything.
While this had hands down the most beautiful sets and costumes, it was not the scariest. From the trailers you can tell the ghosts aren’t necessarily aggressive but with the fantastical Del Toro character designs, the creepy factor does come through in a subdued way that’s a huge contrast to most mazes. There is grotesque beauty in the way the ghosts move throughout that is intriguing but not necessarily adrenaline pumping. You more or less wander through the rooms of the estate without a present plot which is confusing. The film’s release isn’t until October and it being shrouded in mystery is probably perhaps why.
Insidious: Return to the Further
This mazes takes you through all 3 films in the Blumhouse franchise as linked together by the realm of ‘the further’. It hits all the fright notes of each film’s central demons as you’re guided through by ghost hunters Specs, Tucker and Elise the medium. With cool gadgetry and special effects, attendees come face to face with the spectral happenings that materialize and get too real. The room sets create a tone that feels like the normal world but haunted by the movie’s scary creatures which is that gives this maze it’s power. Definitely not to be missed.
The Purge: Terror Tram
Making the tram ride into a trip into the Purge is really clever. The back-lot is given the feel of the second film in the franchise as you’re let loose to fend for yourself among Purge street celebrations. You get to see homages to the films while also losing track of where the movie world ends and the real world begins. It’s super eerie set to patriotic music and people having an evangelical zeal as they kill people. Wish they did more immersive things with it though, to make you feel like you’re participating in it. Would have been great if somehow they could have merged the Blumhouse interactive experience with this in a pick your own adventure kinda way.
Alien vs. Predator
Okay, so cardinal movie sin admitting time: I’ve never seen any of the Alien or Predator movies–AVP clearly included. I have seen enough iconic moments from them to be able to get by in this maze. So as this was my first introduction to the monsters of Alien vs. Predator, I have to say that this maze was really impressive in the sheer scope of making these creatures come to life. They’re the most non-human looking of all the HHN monsters and being hunted by them in this strange mash up of both worlds was terrifying! There were chest bursting aliens, face huggers, and lots of crazy gross out moments. What stands out about this maze is that unlike ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Crimson Peak’ mazes, this one is effectively scary even if you come in blind.
Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home
From the outset, the ambiance of this maze is felt as you walk up to the dreadful house of evil, where the first scene unfolds before you even enter. Once inside, you find yourself becoming apart of the film as iconic scenes are displayed and reenacted right before your very eyes. And when you’re not witnessing, you’re living it like when you leave the Myers house section and walk through the linens which are hung out to dry. That’s one of many moments that remind you that you’re not watching him, he’s watching you. It’s scary as hell. Fans of the franchise will also spy a fun Easter egg on the tv in the kitchen section and amazing actors playing out classic scenes. Michael’s presence is felt everywhere and its gets to you at every turn in very unexpected ways leading to a thrilling ending that just reinforces the film’s theme.
These are our ratings of the mazes for this year’s HNN, let us know in the comments below if you agree or disagree, want to see different mazes next year or which should return. Seriously, with the addition of the newly opened Springfield area and future Harry Potter expansion, we’re hoping to see those lands become a part of Horror Nights. Wouldn’t you want to do a Treehouse of Horrors maze and Tri-Wizard Tournament maze?
This years haunt runs till Sunday, November 1. Tickets are available here: www.halloweenhorrornights.com/hollywood/2015/tickets.php
Pro-Tip: Get Front of the Line passes as the event gets crazy packed!