First off: Due to the weather on Friday, our experience was hampered since most of the scareactors didn’t show up until the end of the event; so we really didn’t really get to grasp what the new “Street Experiences” had to offer. So we had no choice but to come back on Saturday.
Halloween Horror Nights 22 kicked off last Friday, and what now seems to be a tradition; it rained. Universal was kind enough to extend us an invitation to check out what Horror Nights had to offer this year, and while the rain made it a rather damp visit, it was still a great time nonetheless.
During the media event, Penn & Teller were on-hand to answer questions about their involvement with this year’s eponymous haunt, “Penn & Teller’s New(Kd) Las Vegas”. You can check out the Q&A in the video below.
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A couple things I learned about the event this year:
- The addition of Street Experiences was in reaction to guest surveys of the past couple years. According to the results of the survey, guests found that scarezones had become “predictable”.
- As if it weren’t obvious, the construction taking place did have an impact on this year’s event, including finding it’s way into the event’s backstory. For those wondering if Universal answered any questions about said construction, the official response is “At this time, we are planning new and exciting additions that we look forward to announcing soon!”.
- The Inquitus are the “ancestors” of the legion hordes. Unearthed due to all the construction taking place throughout the park. The cemetery rising through the streets were the warnings Universal “ignored” before unwillingly releasing the Legions from their captivity.
- The loss of a house and Jaws this year looks like it will affect wait times this year. Generally the first weekend, other than the initial rush of die-hard fans visiting Opening Night, is slow. However, this weekend saw waits in some hours hover for 60 minutes for most of the night. You should definitely look into investing in an Express Pass.
The houses this year were solid. Universal really outdid themselves with set design. Instead of rating each house with a number, I decided to touch on a few high-points. That way, I temper the expectations and you can judge for yourself.
Most Surprising – Welcome to Silent Hill
I had little expectation for this house as I have personally never got into the video games. I knew few of the characters, and the premise, but that’s about it. I ventured through the house twice, and each time was fantastic. The sound effects, the costumes, the scares, and set design were great and from someone who knew very little left me wanting to know more. The entrance to the haunt was great as well. Usually sound stage houses have the most elaborate entrances; however Silent Hill’s was the least elaborate of the 3, but was the best. The smell of burnt word filled the air as specks of ash greeted you into the “alternate realm”. Just perfect. This was by far the most intense house, which leads us into…
Most Intense – Welcome to Silent Hill
The smell, the ash, and the blaring sirens at the beginning set the tone perfectly. The scareactors seemed like they were firing on all cylinders, and the costume design definitely helped intensify it. The final scene was probably my favorite ending of all the houses.
Best Set Design – Gothic
From the moment the house was offiicially announced, I expected it to be one of the best houses ever constructed for Horror Nights. I was right. The entrance, the haunt itself, and several of the effects were the best I’ve ever seen. The “Walkway” scene was used once before for Dead Silence in 2007, however I felt it was better used here. Truly remarkable it was set up for temporary use, and such a shame that it will only be enjoyed for a month.
Best Gags – Penn & Teller’s NewKD Las Vegas
Was it any surprise? Don’t be fooled however. This house still packs plenty of scares for being the “Gag House”. Penn’s narration throughout the haunt was subtle, yet perfect.
Best Easter Eggs – The Walking Dead
With several houses being based off properties, you were bound to find several nods to their inspiration. The best use of it was in this house. Whereas you do not see any characters from the show, you can find little goodies throughout the haunt. Keep an eye out for Merle’s sawed-off hand, pink bunny slippers, and Rick’s bag of guns.
Most Confusing – Dead End
I liked this house, but I never really got the whole “urban legends come to life”. Don’t get me wrong, the scares were great, and design was killer; but I didn’t know if I was dealing with ghosts or not. The official synopsis for the house, as explained to me, is that it’s been abandoned for years, and people around the neighborhood have fabricated chilling stories on why the house has been empty for so long. As we venture through, the stories come to life. However the description on the site says that we revisit the horrific acts that transpired in the house.
Of course, every house can be a different experience than my trip. When I went through The Walking Dead, the zombies acted like zombies; but when several people I knew ventured through, they said it was most intense haunt they have ever been through. So keep an open mind, and always remember that your mileage may vary. One thing I do want to make clear is that Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare may require a bit of knowledge of his music/history. I really only know, as much of everyone does, “School’s Out”, so I was a bit lost on what each scene correlated with.
One of the newcomers to this year’s event was 20 Penny Circus. When they say “Magic for Questionable Tastes”, they mean it. Those who aren’t keen on sexual innuendo may want to skip this. Sex jokes aside, their performance was great and fits right into Horror Nights. Their last trick was one of the best I’ve seen performed, helped by the extremely funny competition between the two performers. Due to the rain on Friday, the lagoon show was used marginally. Saturday, that changed. Throughout the night, the lagoon had a dense mist float right above it, creating an eerie feelings as you peered across to the other side. Check out our video of one of the performances:
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The Street Experiences were the big change everyone looked forward to, to see if it translated well. It does. Although I seemed to have only encountered 3 of the legions for a majority of the night (Vampires, Traditionals, and Prisoners), they kept a high level of intensity throughout my 2 visits. Personally, I prefer set scarezones; however the street experiences are still a welcomed addition. Instead of relying on cool props and set-ups, it now relys solely on the actors and they do a fantastic job. When they said nowhere is safe, they meant it. I saw several actors go through Finnegan’s, hide near bathrooms, and go through stores looking to torment guests. Some even sat down with guests on benches and just gave them a cold, blank stare. Personally, my favorite of the Legions were the Vampires. They would walk very non-challantly, and when you least expect it; BOOM! Running after guests, as if it were truly lusting for your blood! As far as costumes, Traditionals win. I’m always a sucker for Pumpkinhead.
Overall, the event was was well done considering all the construction, and limitations due to the future expansions of the park; they utilized what they could perfectly. Again, every person may experience something different as weather, cast changes, and timing may impact your visit. Regardless, expect a fun time!
Enjoy the photos!