Now in its 29th year, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has long been chock-full of terrors that will have the most hardened soul quaking in their combat boots. This year is no exception. With a whopping 10 terrifying haunted houses, HHN29 is a horror-lover’s nightmare come true.
The 80s have made a massive comeback over the last couple years and they’re alive and well at Halloween Horror Nights. Most of the houses fit solidly into the theme while a few require you to sort of squint to see the connection. In any case, it’s always a blast to step into the “decade that just won’t die” and there’s plenty of nostalgia-bait here.
Taking center-stage is the Netflix series that arguably launched the latest 1980s revival, Stranger Things. This is the second year the show makes its way to HHN and it does not disappoint. Covering the events that took place during seasons two and three, the haunt does a great job of transporting fans into the world of Hawkins and its mirror-world, the Upside Down. The scareactors chosen for this house are just perfect, bearing a more-than-passing resemblance to their TV counterparts. The puppetry and props are also on-point, including the largest puppet ever created for the event- a massive, totally realistic Mind Flayer that takes three people to operate. This house is the longest of the 10 and will likely be the one with the longest lines on any given night.
Another hugely popular house this year, and my personal favorite, is Ghostbusters. As a massive fan of all the films (yes, even the mostly-panned 2016 version), this haunt was the one I was most looking forward to and it exceeded my expectations. The maze is a love letter to the 1984 film and perfectly brings it to life with a chronological walk through the movie’s major scenes. Once again, the cast is spot-on. I was particularly delighted by the Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver look-alikes toward the end of the maze. It’s a stunning house with practical effects that will blow your mind. Don’t miss this one!
Between the years of 1931 and 1954, Universal Pictures produced some of the most iconic and influential horror films in the history of cinema and HHN attendees will come face-to-face with all of those classic characters in the Universal Monsters house. From Dracula to Frankenstien’s monster to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the gang’s all here. It’s a lot of fun and another big crowd draw, so plan accordingly.
Three additional houses are based on films- Jordan Peele’s Us, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and House of 1000 Corpses. While all three are very different in tone- Us is brooding and dark, Killer Klowns is colorful and zany, House of 1000 Corpses is sadistically frenzied- they all have decent scares around every corner and are consistent with the way Universal Creative handles all the properties they use during HHN. Fans of these flicks will no doubt see the care and respect the team has taken in portraying these stories. Yes, the goal of the houses is to scare the pants off you. But wandering through each room you find yourself wanting to linger a little longer to take in all the details despite the creepy character lurking in the corner. Each drop of blood, off-center painting and dangling body part is thoughtfully and, dare I say, lovingly placed by a crew that clearly adores these films as much as you and me and it really shows.
If you’ve been keeping track, we’ve got four more houses to talk about. These are Halloween Horror Nights originals and should not be overlooked. Graveyard Games takes guests into a Louisiana cemetery where a couple of teenagers have angered the dead by vandalising their graves. The sets here are spectacularly detailed and the line even has a fun little easter egg- open Facebook Messenger to the Halloween Horror Nights page while you wait to interact with the haunt’s characters and learn about the spooky history of the cemetery you’re about to tour.
Yeti: Terror of the Yukon is set in the 1800s in Canada, but has a decidedly 80s creature feature vibe. Massive, angry yeti are around every corner and it’s a bloody good time for guests, though not so much fun for the fur trappers getting disemboweled.
Speaking of blood, Nightingales: Blood Pit lives up to its name. A race of bird-like creatures that feed on the dead and dying are terrorizing the gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome and HHN attendees get a front row seat to the gory carnage. It’s an intense, super bloody house and it was one of my favorites.
Last but not least is Depths of Fear. The premise is an underwater mining corp accidentally found the “Mouthbrooder,” a parasitic creature that spits their flesh-eating, acidic eggs at human hosts and drives them insane. Yeah, it’s pretty gross. But the anxiety is cranked to 11 when the ship’s self-destruct sequence is activated and the race is on to not only avoid the creatures and the infected but to evacuate the facility before it implodes.
While the houses are the main event, Halloween Horror Nights has so much more to offer. There are five heart-stopping scare zones, two jaw-dropping live shows, devilishly delicious new menu items and scary good specialty cocktails to be enjoyed throughout the park. Want to know more? Head over to www.halloweenhorrornights.com for all the details and to purchase your tickets.