Halloween Horror Nights 26: You Won’t Stand a Chance!

Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios, HHN26, EU Jacksonville

Event: Halloween Horror Nights 26
Location: Universal Studios, Orlando
Date/Time: select nights through October 31st
Tickets: prices vary
Contact: www.halloweenhorrornights.com

If you attended Halloween Horror Nights last year, you experienced the grand and gruesome return of one of the event’s most beloved original icons, Jack the Clown, a homicidal spirit originally unleashed on the park in 2000 when someone foolishly toyed with his creepy music box prison. He and his trusty sidekick Chance wreaked havoc on unsuspecting guests during their HHN 25 show, The Carnage Returns. There was blood. Lots and lots of blood.

“People were killed on stage,” said Michael Aiello, Director of Entertainment Creative Development for Universal Orlando’s Entertainment Division. “People died. Jack the Clown, he’s a ghost. He’s not an actual person. He’s a demon, an entity, so he can come and go as he pleases. So he goes back into the box. Chance is a person. She has learned from him. She’s also the one that’s taking the fall for the events that happened last year. So, the authorities showed up, they imprisoned her. She goes to Shadybrook [HHN’s prolific asylum] and Jack’s box goes on the evidence shelf.”

Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios, HHN26, EU Jacksonville, Photo by Richard Abrahamason
Photo by Richard Abrahamason

Since then, Chance has been stewing in the sanatorium, biding her time and plotting her escape. Her dark thoughts are made real for the guests who dare to step through the gates of Universal Studios this month. This year’s Horror Nights are entirely her own twisted creation. “All of these horrors—our IPs, our originals, the scare zones—all live [in her mind],” Aiello explained. “She’s all about just getting you to be a part of her world.”

Chance’s world, it turns out, is one terrifying place. Made up of nine nightmarish haunted houses and five freaky scare zones, not to mention mobs of chainsaw-wielding maniacs lurking behind every corner, Chance’s “theater of the mind” isn’t for the faint of heart. You can experience all the terror on select nights through October 31st.

Universal went all out this year, creating some seriously scary houses based on iconic horror films as well as a hot newcomer to the genre. Since it was announced in April, fans have been eager to experience the head-spinning, vomit-spewing terror of The Exorcist for themselves. The house does not disappoint. You enter the same doors as Father Merrin and Father Karras, walk down the same hallway and enter Regan’s bedroom where you’ll see, hear, and even smell the chaos wrought by the demon. It’s an intense and, at times, disgusting encounter fans won’t soon forget. Similar thrills can be found while dodging Leatherface’s chainsaw in The Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "leatherface-texas-chainsaw-massacre-iii-to-appear-at-dungeons-scream-park" and hiding from Mike Meyers in Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield. Rounding out the film-based offerings is Krampus, which Aiello described as “mixing two cups of horror with humor, a tablespoon of trick, with a dash of treat.” This is another house that employs most of your senses; you feel the cold winter air, hear the giggles of demented elves, see the hulking figure of Krampus himself, and smell the pleasant aroma of burning gingerbread man flesh. It’s everything fans of the 2015 film could hope for.

Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios, HHN26, EU Jacksonville, Photo by Richard Abrahamason
Photo by Richard Abrahamason

Small screen horror has become a big deal in recent years and that’s reflected in this year’s Horror Nights with not one, but two houses based on TV shows. The Walking Dead returns once again for more zombie mayhem. This time around, the creative team pieced together some of their favorite moments from the series as a whole and have created what I feel is the best Walking Dead house yet. The final scene is guaranteed to get your heart pumping as you scramble for the exit. Much like The Exorcist, fans of FX’s American Horror Story freaked out when it was announced earlier this year that it would be coming to HHN in house form. The series is a personal favorite and getting to walk through some of the most iconic and creepy scenes from seasons one, four and five was both thrilling and disturbing in the best possible way.

In addition to IPs, there are three original houses this year. Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch takes you to a dusty, seemingly abandoned settlement haunted by miners with gold fever. You might remember Lightning Gulch from HHN 14. New to the mix is Tomb of the Ancients which puts you face to face with immortal being hellbent on ruling mankind. Finally, get a firsthand look inside Chance’s head at Lunatic’s Playground 3D: You Won’t Stand a Chance. This mind-bending house lets you see how the asylum looks through the eyes of our demented hostess, and it’s a bloody good time.

While Lunatic’s Playground 3D is Chance’s delusions at work, the scare zone Chance in Hell is her reality. You’ll get to walk among her adoring cellmates and see the horrors they have wrought upon the Shadybrook staff under Chance’s watch. Deadman’s Wharf is an absolutely gorgeous zone filled with the spirits of long-dead fishermen. The creative team crafted a downright stunning shipwreck right in the middle of San Francisco and it’s one of the more impressive sights to behold this year. Another high point for me was Vamp 55, a vampire-infested version of Hollywood High School’s 1955 Homecoming Parade. The scareactors in this zone are amazing and a lot of fun to interact with. Survive or Die Apocalypse puts you on the ruined streets of New York City right in the middle of a desperate battle for resources after a global catastrophe that ruined Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a bleak experience that taps directly into our darkest fears for the future. Last but not least is Lair of the Banshees, where dark forest spirits and evil ancient creatures roam free to torment all who dare to enter. But don’t think you’re safe just because you’ve exited a scare zone. This year the roaming hordes are back and ready to leap out of nearly any darkened corner with one job: to scare you silly. Regardless of where you may be in the park, be prepared to be scared.

HHN wouldn’t be quite the same without Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. The Wyld Stallyns have been providing comic relief by skewering the biggest names in pop culture since 1992 and this year’s show continues the time-honored tradition. Academy of Villains: House of Fear is HHN 26’s other stage show. It combines music, dance and death-defying acts for an incredibly entertaining spectacle that is not to be missed.

Tickets for Halloween Horror Nights range in price depending upon when and how you want to experience the event. Discounts are available for season passholders and Florida residents. You may want to look into multi-night passes if you want to experience all the terror at a slower pace or go all out and book an R.I.P Tour, where one of the super knowledgeable guides will give you front-of-the-line access to all the houses so you’re guaranteed to do it all in one night. To take a peek at all of the ticketing options and for more info on HHN 26, visit www.halloweenhorrornights.com.

About Kellie Abrahamson