Although we did our nice gallery report on Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights maze “Hostel: Hunting Season” doesn’t mean we aren’t curious to know about the other mazes that’ll be terrifying guests in a week’s time. After we were done touring through the Hostel maze, and after I was slightly scared by HHN Creative Director John Murdy at one point, we all made our way outside. I briefly got to converse with one of the main minds behind the horror about “The Thing: Assimilation” and the absolutely terrifying-looking “La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas.”
ShockYa: Earlier you were talking about how sometimes there’s certain ideas that don’t work. Did you have anything like that happen with the “Hostel” maze?
John Murdy: No, we didn’t really abandon any concept in this one. Everything was fine. I can’t think of anything — Oh, there’s a couple of things where we did. There’s sometimes pieces where we design the effect and then it appears to be a nightmare for the performer. Whenever we design something we put on all the costumes ourselves. We were working on “The Thing” the other day and Chris (Williams) and I were putting on all the crazy creatures that we’re building for it. But if we feel like it’s not going to be good for the performer then we’ll make it a static figure. So we had it a couple of times this year where we were like ‘You know, I’m not comfortable with asking an actor to do this so I’m going to change it.’ There have been two times this year where we did something like that.
ShockYa: And “The Thing” must have been the most exciting one for you to work on just because you can do so much with the design of the characters.
John Murdy: It’s the most exciting and the most terrifying because it’s something we truly haven’t done before. When you get into the level of these creature effects and you see these things it’s not just a guy in a mask. It’s a big risk for us to try and do something like this but we’re into trying to do crazy stuff so it’s a big gamble.
ShockYa: That and it looks like there’s been a lot more work put into La Llorona this year.
John Murdy: La Llorona, yeah… What we did last year, I didn’t really run it and I didn’t really like it. It’s extremely well-known that a huge percentage of our guest are absolutely terrified of her so you have to always keep an open mind. When I started to really get into the research on it I was like ‘Wow, this is huge. I’m amazed nobody’s made a movie about it.’
ShockYa: Well it’s a really terrifying story.
John Murdy: It is a terrifying story and pretty disturbing when you really look at what’s going on. Our challenge was to fill it out because it’s a really simple story, it’s really small. So what Chris and I did a ton of research and we started to do variations on the story. In one version she’s got a horse’s head and in another version she’s an eater of children. We brought other things to that story that kept us staying authentic to the story but we needed to make it a horror movie so we made it one. I’m pretty damn proud of it and I think this is some of the best scenic work that Chris has done. In one part you go into a church and Chris found a particular church, an old mission that when you looked at it you went ‘That’s a face.’ Setting it in a church, my mom’s going to get pissed.
Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights opens on September 23rd at 7 PM.