The Halloween season wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Universal Studios for a night or two of sheer terror and mayhem. Halloween Horror Nights is celebrating 25 years of scaring the pants off horror fans, and to celebrate this impressive milestone, the creative team has stepped up their game. The event features nine terrifying haunted houses, five deeply immersive scare zones (with chainsaw maniacs roaming the streets in between) and two outrageous live shows. HHN25 takes place on select nights until November 1st.
This year, HHN25 boasts more houses than ever before. Nine elaborate mazes can be found throughout the park, each filled to bursting with gruesome vignettes and blood-thirsty psychos. Wait times on opening night stretched beyond an hour and a half at some houses, so a certain amount of strategy may need to be employed to see everything worth seeing. The trouble is that each of the houses this year could fall into the “unmissable” category. That’s how good they are. If pressed, I’d say RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears is the safest to skip. The storyline isn’t as cohesive and there were slightly fewer scares. If you attended HHN in 2013, you can probably get away with bypassing An American Werewolf In London as well. The house this year is identical in nearly every way to its past iteration, with the exception of updated puppetry and more wolves.
Absolutely make time for Body Collectors: Recollections. Set in 1888 at the HHN-created Shadybrook Asylum in the midst of a blizzard, the house is a visually stunning gore-fest from beginning to end. Equally terrifying, Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem is the longest and is positively stuffed with a brilliant mash-up of monsters from both HHN’s past and Universal cinema classics. Carefully curated by HHN’s much beloved icon, Jack aka the Clown Prince of Pain, the maze is a must-see for newcomers and veterans alike. Asylum in Wonderland is another house that’s well worth the wait. The mind-bending trip through the looking glass is made even trippier with the aid of 3D glasses. It’s a colorful and gruesome assault on the senses.
The remaining houses are based on licensed properties and are an unparalleled way to fully immerse yourself into the worlds that terrified you on the big and small screens. Freddy VS. Jason, The Purge, and Insidious all put you deep into the heart-pounding, blood-drenched horror of the films. Now making its fourth appearance at HHN, The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead takes fans through each of season 5’s milestone moments, putting you face-to-decomposing-face with countless brain-thirsty walkers.
The Scare Zones
The houses may be the main event, but much like Universal’s attraction queues, getting to the maze is part of the fun. As you make your way from one haunt to the next, you inevitably find even more mayhem in the five scare zones that have taken over areas of the park. Each has a storyline all its own and a host of uniquely creepy characters at the ready to make your journey a memorable one. Be sure to spend some time in New York, where the criminally insane inmates of Shadybrook Asylum have taken over a quaint neighborhood block party in the aptly named scare zone Psychoscareapy: Unleashed. Evil’s Roots, located down the pumpkin-filled path through Central Park, is where this reporter found the most frights. Twisted fairies, massive tree monsters, and creatures from what surely must be the Devil’s swamp will ensure you won’t come through the other side without a scare or two. Fans will love Icons: HHN and All Nite Die-In: Double Feature, which both include memorable characters from both cinema and Horror Nights past. Last but certainly not least, Scary Tales: Screampunk combines classic fairytale characters with sinister steampunk style for some truly creative, absolutely wild costuming that needs to be seen to be believed.
Oh, and one more thing: just because you exit a designated scare zone doesn’t mean you’re safe! The much beloved Chainsaw Drill Team is back this year in a big way. They’ve clearly been recruiting during their downtime. They are out in force and are seemingly able to get to you anywhere, even in line!
You’ll want to carve out some time to catch one or both of the terrific stage shows presented this year. The Carnage Returns is Jack the Clown’s twisted game show featuring acrobatics, pyrotechnics and buckets and buckets of blood. For a little humor with your terror, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure is back and is full of silly (and sometimes spot-on) impersonations, sexy choreography, and plenty of laughs. The pop-culture send-up is an HHN classic and this is by far one of the best installments to date.
If you need a break from all the terror, HHN is a great time to visit some of Universal Studios Florida’s biggest and best attractions because the lines are typically under five minutes. Transformers: The Ride- 3D, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, and The Simpsons Ride are all open during the event. Additionally, Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley is accessible this year, so you can grab a butterbeer or hop on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts with virtually no lines, no waiting!
Halloween Horror Nights 25 offers a wide range of ticketing options, from basic single-night entry to multi-night “Frequent Fear” passes. Florida residents get a fairly substantial discount, of course, so consider dropping a few extra bucks on the “Frequent Fear” passes so you can truly experience all that HHN25 has to offer. If you’re a huge fan, only have one night to see it all, or just really want the VIP treatment, consider the RIP Tours. These top-of-the-line tours let you skip the lines at all of the haunted houses and give you a few extra goodies like valet parking, a commemorative lanyard, reserved seating at Bill & Ted’s, and more. For a complete look at all of your options, head over to www.halloweenhorrornights.com.