Last year, we here at UL were lucky enough to have Larry Talbot contribute a review of Halloween Horror Nights 21. This year, Larry is back for more and this time he brought a friend with him. Peter V. and Larry first met while exploring the Nile River in the deepest, darkest part of Africa many years ago.
Both Larry and Peter provided their opinions and details of their visit to Universal Studios Florida for the Sneak Preview of Halloween Horror Nights 22.
From Peter V.:
I’ve never actually visited HHN before. This was my first time and it was quite an experience. Arriving in the main plaza outside the security gates was sure an eye opener. It was super busy. There were several thousand people all waiting around to be put through a metal detector. There were maybe twelve places to get checked out, leading to a very long wait out front. I asked Larry, an HHN veteran, if it was busy like this every year and he told me that it is.
Once through security and into the park, we made an immediate right and went through Hollywood. Though there were set pieces in place and plenty of giant fog machines, there was not a Scare Actor to be seen. We weren’t overly concerned about this as it wasn’t quite 7:30 yet and still very much daylight. This was the same as we walked through central park on our way to Kidzone.
We arrived in Kidzone and got in line for the House of Horrors. According to the map, this particular house was scheduled to open at 7:30. Due to apparent queue issues, this venue didn’t open till almost 8:00. Knowing that the houses were set up in a way similar to last year, Larry knew that starting here would give us the best chance to see all the houses. So we waited until it opened.
House of Horrors
Though it was only the first house of the night, I already knew that this was more than likely going to be one of my favorite houses. Though it wasn’t overly scary, it was entertaining and neat to look at. All of the Scare Actors and all of the sets were in black and white, illuminated by black light. This maze featured characters like the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This house was a great place for a chicken like me to start. Since it wasn’t scary, it gave me a sense of security that would continue to grow though the evening.
Peter’s Scare Factor: 2/10
Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare
According to Larry, this house is where the best house of HHN 21, the In-Between, was located. This is the first year the Alice Cooper house has been featured at Universal Studios Florida, though it’s been an HHN standard at Universal Studios Hollywood for nearly a decade. With these two facts in mind, I had high hopes that this house would rock.
And rock it did, though not in the way that it should have. The best part of this house was the rock and roll Alice Cooper soundtrack that blasts one’s eardrums throughout. Though it certainly featured more gore than the previous house, it was actually less scary.
Peter’s Scare Factor: 1/10
It was at this point where we got distracted from the UL touring plan. According to Larry, the Alice Cooper house exited right next to the entrance of the Penn and Teller house, which would have been the next logical choice on our list. Instead, they too were having issues and, at nearly 8:00, they still weren’t open. We made a pact to come back before the night was over.
AMC’s Walking Dead
This was the house that I was looking forward to the least. I’m not a Zombie fan. They really scare me. And this house was the first time we actually had to wait in line. It took nearly an hour, but we were able to enter into the derelict Emergency Room featured in Season One of the television series. Larry got his first good scare of the night when the iconic “Don’t Open – Dead Inside” door moved when he wasn’t looking. Other than that, this was a standard house.
I think the main reason that this house failed to thrill me was that I was expecting much more from the Zombies. In the movies, Zombies are unstoppable creatures, slowly lumbering after you only to catch and kill you. As you go into the house, this is what you have in mind. But as you walk through, you realize that the Scare Actors aren’t going anywhere. They pop up, get their scare, and return to the shadows to await their next victim. Needless to say, I was generally unimpressed with this house.
Peter’s Scare Factor: 2/10
This house redeemed my faith in HHN as being a place to be entertained. As we entered the ancient cathedral, a giant gargoyle rises from a crouch position right in front of us. All this guy did was stand up, and it was the coolest thing I had seen all night. I’m a big guy, about 6’0, but this Scare Actor must have been close to 7’ tall. After that, it was one awesome sight after another. Bat creatures were hanging from the ceiling, and would flap their wings and fly around the rooms. At one point, the scene was us walking across a scaffold 70’ above the church sanctuary. Here’s the deal with this: we were not any higher off of the ground than when we entered the building. This illusion was so well done that I stood there as long as I could trying to figure out how they were doing it. It was obviously a bit of forced perspective, but it was so perfectly done, I couldn’t see the reality of it.
Though, again, I wasn’t overly scared (maybe I’m not the chicken that I thought I was?), this house was so much fun to go through it ranks high on my scare factor. I wanted to go back and do it again as soon as we exited the building.
Peter’s Scare Factor: 7/10
I had high hopes for this house. While preparing for my first visit to HHN, I found that in years past there was a house that wasn’t a traditional haunted house. The house I read about used special effects to cause things to happen like they would in an actual haunted house. It was designed to be more of a psychological scary place, than a physically scary place. This house, designed after a “real” haunted house in Ohio, was a traditional haunted house with Scare Actors jumping out and giving the guests a good start. The best part of this house was the usage of the “Pepper’s Ghost” effect. As we came around a corner, in front of us was the image of a bloody spectral woman. Larry, thinking he was clever, tried to figure how the effect was being preformed by sticking his head around a blind corner. He figured out the effect, all right. As soon as he looked around that corner, the Scare Actor performing the illusion was immediately in his face, screaming like a banshee. We all had a good laugh, and, yes, Larry would eventually change his soiled pants. All in all, though it wasn’t what I was hoping for, it was entertaining and scary.
Peter’s Scare Factor: 8/10
Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas
Going in, I knew this house wasn’t designed to be a terror fest. Designed by the comedy magicians Penn & Teller, this house was expected to be this year’s “joke house.” And, let me tell you, it was a joke alright. The 3D was very poorly done. The Scare Actors were neither scary nor funny. The house was itself was too short, especially considering the very large line that we waited in to see it. Speaking of the line, the queue was a total wreck. The line was huge, reaching all the way down to a service road. However, as we were waiting the line grew shorter by the minute, which made those entering the line feel the need to jump over the ropes, rather than walk all the way down to the end. This caused the ropes to droop and sag, which didn’t look very good. Anyway, bottom line, this house wasn’t good in any way, shape or form.
Peter’s Scare Factor: -2/10
In years past, there were clearly designed areas called “Scare-Zones” that were well themed and filled with terrifying Scare Actors. That was not the case this year. In this incarnation of Halloween Horror Nights, the Scare Actors were advertized as creatures freely roaming the grounds, causing panic and mayhem wherever they went. The reality of the situation was that, yes, the Scare Actors could freely roam… but only in the area to which they were assigned. And the groups of Scare Actors, ranging from creepy children in Halloween costumes to Vampires to Walking Dead Zombies (more on them in a second) would rotate around the park throughout the night. Larry and I had a good time sitting at Mel’s Die-In watching the women from the burned down prison chase people with chain saws. Otherwise, these creatures were more or less boring. Or, in the case of the Walking Dead “Walkers,” confusing. See, the Walkers outside the exit of the Walking Dead house didn’t do a whole lot of interacting with the other people. The area was dark, and small, which meant that it was very crowded. Because of this, it was difficult to tell who was a zombie and who was simply walking with cheap shoes on. I enjoyed playing the game “Zombie or Hipster,” even if it was only with myself.
Overall, I found the event entertaining and had a great time hanging out with Larry again. Will I visit Halloween Horror Nights again? Maybe not this year, but I see myself going back in the years to come to see what sorts of vile creatures Universal Orlando can roll out during the month of October.
Written by guest blogger Peter V.